Sector San Juan is responsible for all Coast Guard missions in the Eastern Caribbean. From national defense and counter-narcotics operations to fisheries management and the protection of natural resources, the men and women stationed in San Juan have a slew of missions to perform.
But with Sector San Juan and its subordinate units removed from the mainland, the 650 active duty, reserve and civilian men and women are often far from the support structures so vital for military members and their families.
“The importance of a stable personal life to mission effectiveness anywhere in our Coast Guard cannot be overstated,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, commander of Sector San Juan. “This is especially true in Sector San Juan where we have families serving our nation in Puerto Rico and the U. S. Virgin Islands.”
As sector commander, Pearson must ensure servicemembers get the support they need so they can accomplish the mission, and among his team of leaders helping him to achieve this is Lt. Cmdr. Kurt Michaelis, the unit’s chaplain.
Michaelis’ role as a chaplain transcends traditional boundaries as he supports the Coast Guard community in countless ways. He recognizes the challenges of families living apart and constantly focuses his effort to help servicemembers and their families adapt.
“His selfless service reduces the personal stress on our members so they can fully focus on mission excellence,” said Pearson. “He gets down to the deck plates by getting underway with our people and ensuring he understands the demands they face so that he can help them overcome any and all adversity.”
One of Michaelis’ most impactful initiatives was instituting a money-management and debt-paying course. Since the inaugural class, Michaelis has led more than 48 families through the course.
Incredibly, these Coast Guard families have paid off more than $200,000 in debt from credit cards, car loans, student loans and more. Not only have the families paid many of their debts, but they have also increased their savings and investments by almost $196,000.
As a true testament to the program’s success in supporting families, of the 48 families part of the program, 13 have already achieved the primary goal of being debt free.
Michaelis has also established a myriad of other programs touching different aspects of servicemembers’ lives. He started a weekly Bible study to help fulfill spiritual needs of military families. Additionally, he facilitated marriage retreats, allowing servicemembers to strengthen their personal relationships. Michaelis even extended his efforts to the broader community and energized the unit’s community outreach with local orphanages, making life better for those less fortunate in the region.
It is not uncommon to see Michaelis off duty, supporting members and their families through difficult medical situations as well. Michaelis and his family will deliver meals or assist with child care. He has also taken a leadership role at the unit as they work to ensure continuous improvement with childcare and educational services to meet the needs of local families.
From financially stability to removing unneeded stressors that come with the military way of life, Michaelis has truly improved the quality of life for many families. His work has established a more effective team of servicemembers ready to perform Coast Guard missions. And for Pearson, that is what support is all about.
“People’s ability to focus on the mission is directly impacted by the quality of their personal life, said Pearson. “The emotional and spiritual support that Chaplain Michaelis provides on a daily basis helps our members maintain a healthy balance so they can be productive over the long haul.”