This month’s commemoration of women’s history highlights the achievements of women in the Coast Guard and celebrates their qualities of character, courage and commitment. In this four-part series, we will be introducing you to women who are making an impact in the Coast Guard. Each of these dedicated officer and enlisted leaders embodies this year’s theme that has served her well in her career.
Written by Lisa Novak.
Family history can determine many things, and for Chief Petty Officer Tina Claflin, it wasn’t much of a surprise it guided her career path.
“I had two uncles who served in the Coast Guard. I never thought at the time I was hearing sea stories years ago that I would do anything, but I remember the stories,” she said. “It seemed natural to me to decide that route. I also had a grandpa in the Navy. My father told me, after I joined, that he had wanted to get into the Coast Guard. At that time, they restricted the number of dependents that someone could have and I was the ‘too many’ dependents.”
Claflin also had familial influence in the type of work she wanted to do in the Coast Guard.
“I knew I wanted to be a machinery technician and serve on cutters. There is family heritage there with my grandparents, who owned an auto parts store, and my dad is a machinist. I never really worked so much in that field but there is a familiarity with it,” she said. “Also, I wanted to do something different. In the service, I knew I could do whatever I wanted, versus the outside world where it might not have been as accepted.”
Her first assignment was Coast Guard Cutter Eagle in New London,Conn. Assignments at Station Barnegat Light and Atlantic Strike Team followed, then rounded her back to another assignment on Eagle. After working in Sector Long Island Sound and being on Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, she earned her permanent cutterman insignia. She is currently the Women Afloat Coordinator for Coast Guard Enlisted Personnel Management, where she is responsible for coordinating and facilitating enlisted assignments for women serving on cutters.
“I work with women who want to obtain sea time so they can excel in their career,” said Claflin. “A lot of what I do is career counseling. They’re aware of what type of assignments would match abilities and their career plans, and I work with assignment officers to ensure we get those people sea time.”
Claflin said not being able to get the women on cutters isn’t because of any restrictions on jobs, but at times it is because of berthing-area configurations,since many of the Coast Guard’s older cutters were built before women were in the service.
“I have to say ‘You can do a job as an MK anywhere in the Coast Guard, but just not on this particular platform right now due to berthing structure,’” she said.
Claflin said she came into the job with her own preconceived notions because she was told she couldn’t be on certain cutters due to berthing.
“I joined to serve on cutters, and that frustrated me in my career, so it felt like my purpose to take this job and try to make things better so we didn’t have to continue to tell someone they couldn’t go because there wasn’t berthing,” she said.
“The success story is getting the information out there,” she said. “This position is to be proactive in monitoring vacancies and berthing assignments; we’re meticulously monitoring it so nobody misses out. The combined effort between me, commands, members and assignment officers to work berthing arrangements into the assignment process …we just need to make sure we have the opportunities available and meet the cutter’s and member’s needs, also. That is the most important part of my job in the last four years.”
Claflin is also working in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office and will transfer into it full-time this spring. The office stood up last summer and is strategically focused to rapidly operationalize and implement the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Strategic plan. It is also aimed at meeting the objectives from Congress and aligning policy with the Defense Department. She is not a SAPR victim advocate but the work has been “very dynamic and I do everything from daily office duties to contribute to the subcommittees, so that we’re all on the same page. It’s my most important job in the Coast Guard and I feel that coming from being the Women Afloat coordinator I’ve developed important relationships in the field and I think that helps in this office,” she said.
As Claflin looks back on her career, she says she never intended to do 20 years in the service.
“I hear a lot of people say that,” she laughed. “Here I am at 19 years later. I’ve had great mentors and supervisors and in my field not very many were women. Anybody can mentor anybody else. It’s a matter of relating to that person. I believe it’s important to mentor junior people and be a role model to everyone regardless of your gender so that they know they can also achieve their own career goals. ”
What lies ahead for Claflin?
“I’ll be in this job until 2015 and then I hope to just take the next opportunity as it comes my way,” she said. “I feel so fortunate for what I’ve been able to do in the Coast Guard…anything else is just a plus. I’ll finish my engineering bachelor’s or master’s degree and continue to serve as long as they’ll let me or when my path changes direction I guess,” she added with a laugh.