March is Women’s History Month. In honor of the many contributions women have made to the history of our service, we bring you the stories of the female leaders of the Coast Guard. This week, we are highlighting two of today’s leaders whose example of service has inspired those they serve alongside.
The stories and triumphs of military women throughout history are a constant motivator for the hundreds of thousands of women who serve their country in uniform. From the “firsts” of each service to heroic acts on the battlefield, each story serves as an example of courage and commitment to serve.
At the 2011 Women’s Leadership Symposium, the largest gathering of military women in the country, tales of the historic achievements of service women are the norm which makes this event the perfect opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of two of today’s Coast Guard women and the impact their leadership and mentorship has had on those who have had the privilege of serving with them.
The Capt. Dorothy Stratton Women’s Leadership Award is named for one of the Coast Guard’s most familiar names, and now the namesake of one of the service’s newest cutters, was presented to Lt. Kelly Deutermann, an aircraft commander at Air Station Miami for exceptional leadership by a female officer.
Deutermann, who flies the MH-65C Dolphin, plays a valuable role at her unit through her ability to connect with and inspire the men and women at the air station. Through her various volunteer hours, collateral duties and one-on-one talks she has formed strong ties with her co-workers and subordinates on an individual level. But, while honored by the award that acknowledges her leadership, she is more awed by what the award represents.
“It symbolizes an entire generation that Capt. Stratton started, and we need to be reminded that women have been doing an amazing thing for a very long time,” said Deutermann. “Women like her and the WASPs are my absolute true heroes and I just think it’s so important that we continue to hear about the accomplishments of women that serve as reminders of what it means to be a strong woman in the service.”
Like Stratton, another SPAR that paved the way for women to serve was Pearl Elinor Faurie. A yeoman at Headquarters, Faurie served on active duty until 1946. The SPARs were disbanded but Faurie was committed to serving her country and re-enlisted in the Coast Guard during the Korean War. In 1962 she was the first woman to advance to master chief petty officer – the service’s highest enlisted rank.
Faurie was a true trailblazer of her time, and is the namesake of the Women’s Leadership Award for enlisted personnel. Senior Chief Petty Officer Timaree Sparks, officer in charge of Station Oxford in Maryland, was the 2011 recipient of the award that bears Faurie’s name.
“To have the first SPAR integrated into the Coast Guard receive two stars from the enlisted side in a time where females weren’t recognized, and in some cases weren’t considered equal, really says something,” said Sparks. “I hope that I have just a little bit of her determination and carry her legacy with me.”
Sparks’ service is a testament to her strong belief in leading by example, and that example is credited with motivating her people every day.
“I didn’t know I was starting on a venture that was just starting to peak when I came in and I saw a lot of firsts and was part of a lot of history,” said Sparks. “I stayed in and stayed operational in my rating because I saw that there wasn’t a lot of operational women to look up to. There were no women that I wanted to be.”
Both Stratton and Faurie lead their people in different ways, and Deutermann recognizes the different ways leaders can inspire others in diverse ways.
“The role in which Senior and I have received these awards could not be further from each other,” said Deutermann. “Whereas Senior is the face of a unit, I am just a line pilot on a 450 person base. The only thing I really can do is seek out those opportunities that I can get to know people one on one. And so that’s why I volunteered to do everything I did. In doing that, and working with the men and women on the hangar deck, as well as deploying with them, I became someone that a lot of people would talk to about things that aren’t easy to talk about in our environment.”
Leaders are those who stand out through example or sacrifice and inspire those around them to rise to the occasion and be their best. Women like Deutermann and Sparks do our past proud while establishing their own legacy for the Coast Guard and may someday be the subjects of future gatherings of military women just as Stratton and Faurie are today.