Over 1,300 military men and women are attending the 2011 Women’s Leadership Symposium this week. From sailors who returned from deployment just a week ago to two-star admirals, the conference’s attendees are all here to “Connect. Empower. Succeed.” Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz was one of the attendees at the conference and the Compass sat down with her to discuss her unique leadership experiences, her hopes for the future of our service and her perspective on the ways in which gatherings to relate the seemingly disparate experiences of America’s armed services makes each of us stronger.
Coast Guard Compass: Over the past couple of days, women from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have been given the opportunity to share stories of serving at sea, in the air and on foreign soil. As we discuss both the similarities and differences of each of the services, what do you think we can learn from each other?
Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz: It is a necessity that this conference includes all branches of the armed forces because no more are any of the branches operating in the means that our services were born. We are all interoperable and I saw this on a recent visit to a Coast Guard RAID team in Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
At Camp Arifjan there are Coast Guard people wearing Army uniforms, with Army personal protective equipment, being flown by Air Force pilots. If we are all operating together and continuing to strengthen our partnerships, there is no way we can have just a few entities here at this conference.
Another thing we can learn is diversity and what exactly it means. We always think of diversity in certain terms, and you wouldn’t think this group is diverse, because we are all women. But this is a diverse group here today, and bringing in women from the different services is where our strength comes.
Compass: As the former commanding officer of Cape May, current Director of Reserve and Leadership and the future superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, you are poised to have a significant impact on the next generation of Coast Guard men and women. When people discuss your career of service, what kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Stosz: I would like to leave the next generation in the long, blue line of officer and enlisted leaders and followers with the character, culture and core values needed to selflessly serve the Coast Guard and nation in an increasingly uncertain world.
It’s a volatile world and I think of what kind of new people – new seamen and new officers – do we need. You know, you can teach knot tying to a recruit and math to a cadet but in the end, getting a person who can understand a bigger picture is an essential.
I’ve always been the kind of person who has been an incremental person. I don’t have too many moments of inflection or ‘Aha’ moments. I take a steady approach and learn something new everyday to achieve an outcome. I would like to be known as a steady, strategic leader who kept pushing in a direction so that the service and its people can succeed and get the mission done.
Compass: Earlier in the conference you spoke about leadership to 1,300 men and women on a general officer panel. This is the largest gathering of military women in the United States, and members from each service are collaborating to talk about issues each service faces. What do members gain from coming together at events such as this?
Stosz: I go away with from this conference once again reminded of the power of the people. The power and the passion of the people is really what makes our Coast Guard great. It’s why we all stay. And when you come into a room like this with all the services present, you realize yes, you are part of the Coast Guard, but you are also part of the armed forces.
The more senior I get, the more I realize it all derives from the passion of the people who are serving for a common cause. I think its just a wonderful opportunity and will continue to support these kind of events.