Written by Cmdr. Rick Wester
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp hosted Coast Guard senior leaders from the National Capital Region on June 17, 2013, at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss and make decisions on major personnel issues facing the service.
The meeting was attended by more than 50 admirals, civilian senior executives, master chiefs and spouses and focused on family support, alcohol misuse and abuse and sexual assault prevention and response.
Continuing the Coast Guard’s efforts to eradicate sexual assault from the service, the leaders discussed recommended changes to the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program and the role of senior leaders in ensuring accountability when offenses occur. The leaders also discussed how they can help foster a service culture in which all Coast Guard men and women actively prevent sexual assaults upon their shipmates. The Commandant recently testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that eliminating sexual assault is first and foremost a leadership responsibility.
“We will intervene to prevent or halt these acts when they are occurring, we will investigate and discipline those who have violated law and service policy and we will insist that all of our Shipmates live by our Core Values,” said the Commandant. “Duty demands courage, and there are no bystanders in the Coast Guard.”
Spouses of the senior leaders also attended this week’s meeting and offered their unique insights, especially in regards to communicating the service’s commitment to family support programs. Recognizing the link between service member readiness and strong support of families, the Coast Guard has placed a renewed emphasis on improving housing, child care services, the Coast Guard Ombudsman Program and other forms of family support.
“The strength and resilience of our family members on the home front provides critical support to our Coast Guard men and women,” wrote Mrs. Linda Kapral Papp, wife of Adm. Papp and Coast Guard ombudsman-at-large. “It allows them to successfully carry out critical operations every day ensuring the nation’s safety and security.”
The third area of focus discussed at the meeting was alcohol misuse and abuse. Alcohol-related misconduct continues to be the most prevalent cause of discharge from the Coast Guard, accounting for an average of 35 percent of all discharges during the past eight years. It can also negatively impact readiness and can threaten the well-being of Coast Guardsmen and their families.
To address this issue, the leaders discussed how they can lead a culture change to responsible drinking throughout the entire Coast Guard.
While the Commandant reaches out directly to Coast Guardsmen on these focus areas and other issues via Shipmates messages and during “all-hands” meetings at bases around the globe, getting senior leadership involvement is also critical.
“Leadership at the team, small unit and staff levels is vitally important and must succeed in thousands of places every day for the Coast Guard to function,” said the Commandant in an article last year. “Only leadership at each level ensures discipline throughout the force.”
The meeting was the final of three regional senior leadership meetings hosted by the Commandant and Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. John Currier. The previous meetings were held in Alameda, Calif., on April 25, and in Norfolk, Va., on May 15.