When MCPO-CGR George Williamson asked me if I was interested in submitting an article to the Reservist, I replied with an emphatic yes. My interaction with reservists dates back to 1991, well before integration.
While we often think back on our careers and days of old with nostalgia, we need to keep the fog of time from skewing our view of the present. Integration is a verb, not a noun, and integrating is synonymous with mixing, combining and assimilating. Verbs are actions and require effort. In this case, effort (action) is required by the reservist, the unit’s active duty members and the command cadre. Unlike today, the command structures in place before integration inhibited a Reserve member’s assimilation outside a few communities.
The effort you apply to your duties as a reservist contribute directly to our ability to remain Ready, Responsive and Relevant. Over my career I’ve met many strong Reserve leaders and a few immediately come to mind: Master Chief Rich Hines (ret.) and Senior Chief Julie Duncan from the Chief Petty Officer Academy, Chief Ed Poppe on Guam, Chief Wes Mundy and Chief Derek Foglesong from Hawai’i, and Senior Chief Stephen Davis who assisted me as the machinery technician (MK) rating force master chief at Headquarters. The common thread is deliberate integration. These leaders understood the mission of their unit, excelled at their trade, and shaped the outlook of their active duty counterparts by getting involved. The success of our units and my success in the Coast Guard is directly attributable to relationships with leaders in the Reserve Component.
I believe reservists are extraordinary people and we have a great opportunity to shape the future together. Modernization continues to shape the Coast Guard, and as our contingency framework matures, we will identify new integration opportunities. In order to take full advantage of the situation, I believe interaction between the reserve, active and civilian workforces needs to expand. The Coast Guard’s training system, cutter community and aviation community are nearly void of Reserve integration. Although exposure to reservists is limited in some communities, you have a chance to establish relationships with our organization’s future leaders through touch points like associations, working groups, and leadership and diversity advisory councils.
While important, we cannot rely on personal relationships alone to market the value of the Reserve. The most important thing you can do is qualify in your assigned duties, monitor your personnel record, and prepare yourself for future assignments. Maintaining your readiness has an immediate impact on the organization. Regardless of paygrade, you as a leader should also consider how to improve or introduce opportunities for integration. We’ve got some talented reservists as part of the Coast Guard’s bench strength. Let’s harness those abilities to support missions, which leads to more agile Responsiveness.
A few years ago, I wrote an article in Reservist magazine on how, as an organization, we don’t recognize, track and use the full capacity of our workforce. As an exercise, I’d have people list rate/ rank, units, evals, training, and quals on a note card. Then on the flipside, they’d list everything else they brought to the table (civilian job skills, volunteer experience, board positions, advanced education, languages). Leaders are normally aware of many of the “back of the card” items in their teams, but, organizationally, we don’t take the same view. The skills and experience on the back of the card hold far more relevance during complex contingency operations.
The potential to tap into civilian occupation experience, credentials and volunteer experience is coming to fruition via the Coast Guard’s Credentialing Program. In the coming future our workforce will have the opportunity to list their industry and government recognized certifications, licensing and certificates in their electronic records. The Credentialing Program, which is one of the Commandant’s early action items, will also enable or expand the attainment of external credentials through existing Coast Guard training.
This capability will greatly improve our understanding of the Reserve Force and individual reservists, enable expanded opportunities for integration, and enable our workforce to access professional credentials. Combined with organizational competencies and qualifications, the Coast Guard will have improved access to a member’s capability which will make the Reserve Force more Relevant to all future operations. Preparing for contingencies and executing our missions is an everlasting endeavor requiring effort. Your leadership and support are appreciated. The future is bright, and I look forward to meeting you during my travels.
Master Chief Petty Officer Edward F. Lewis
Command Master Chief
Deputy Commandant for Mission Support
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