A young woman, who grew up watching Coast Guard boats in action along the waterfront of her hometown, walked into her local recruiting office with a desire to serve.
The recruiter asked what she was interested in and she simply stated, “I want to handle boats, and I want to be in search and rescue.”
The young woman was Petty Officer 2nd Class Hannah Amos-McDowell who has grown from someone eager to serve into a shining example of leadership in America’s Coast Guard.
Amos-McDowell still finds herself performing the same duties she was passionate about when she joined in her role as the operations petty officer at Aids to Navigation Team Panama City, Fla.
Life at any aids to navigation team can be exhausting, with a constant stream of daily operations, and ANT Panama City is no exception. Amos-McDowell is responsible for planning and scheduling all operations for the unit; for a station responsible for more than 500 aids, that’s a lot of operations.
Adding to the complexity of the station’s mission, the majority of the buoys the crew works with are along portions of the Intracoastal Waterway – a 3,000-mile stretch along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.
The Intracoastal Waterway is vital for the nation’s commerce, with thousands of barges hauling goods through the waterway each year. The waterway is not just for commercial use however, and hundreds of recreational boaters transit its waters every day.
ANT Panama City watches over each buoy or aid, ensuring recreational and commercial boaters stay safe. The work is arduous and the hours long, but Amos-McDowell says the crew enjoys working with the small group of dedicated professionals in what she calls “a family atmosphere.”
“Our command really cares about our individual needs and our families. They take each of our situations differently to help us individually,” said Amos-McDowell. “As the command takes care of me, I take care of my people as well.”
Amos-McDowell follows the example set by her current leadership and reflects on inspiration from past mentors to lead.
“I try to be there for all of the junior enlisted because I remember when I was more junior and I remember looking up to my mentor and saying ‘I want to be that strong female for others the way she was to me,’” said Amos-McDowell. “I want to make sure younger women feel comfortable and can come to me with issues.”
“I try to take all my life lessons and experiences from within the Coast Guard – both good and bad – and turn it into a positive,” added Amos-McDowell.
While taking care of the mission and her people, Amos-McDowell also finds time to help out the local community. She has volunteered more than 320 hours with various local organizations, inspiring the entire unit to help out in their own ways.
“Helping the community is just as important in helping our unit at our everyday duties. We do everything from helping the Humane Society and local homeless shelter to outreach programs at the local high school and educating about boating safety,” said Amos-McDowell.
Amos-McDowell may have joined the Coast Guard to be a boat driver, but she has gone on to become something more meaningful – a leader.