Editor’s note: This instructor profile is part of a series profiling some of the best instructors within the FORCECOM enterprise. Force Readiness Command will be featuring outstanding instructors regularly who go above and beyond to help shape the future of the Coast Guard. Petty Officer Keefauver is a class advisor and primary instructor for OS “A” School, teaching the Mission Operations and Capstone sections. He is a qualified Master Training Specialist, the highest level of professional achievement in the instructor corps. In addition to his primary duties, he is also a member of the TRACEN Petaluma Honor Guard, performing military honors at 130 events annually.
Interview conducted by Lt. Erin Chlum.
1. What made you decide to become an instructor?
Prior to becoming an instructor at OS “A” School, I always loved training and helping other people. I get a great sense of reward whenever I help develop others, and having the opportunity to train others was a chance I couldn’t ignore. Training Center Petaluma was my number one billet choice!
2. What do you find most motivating or rewarding in your role as an instructor?
Seeing people thrive in their Coast Guard career because of the training we provide at OS “A” School. I remember receiving an email from a prior student regarding their first Search and Rescue case – they said the training they received at “A” School is what prepared them to handle the case. It is instances like these that truly motivate me as an instructor.
3. What are some of the lessons you have learned from your students?
When you are the class advisor or instructor for a class that has a broad range of personalities, character types and motivation, you learn that you have to reach people in different ways. This dynamic environment has taught me how to lead others in a variety of ways, including knowing when to coach and when to mentor.
4. Where do you want to go for your next assignment, and how will this tour as an instructor help you in your career?
Since the OS “A” School curriculum focuses on Sector communications, I would like to go to a Sector Command Center for my next assignment. Through the years of preparing my students to become professional watchstanders, I am highly motivated and prepared to become a leader and supervisor in a Command Center.
5. Share a memorable anecdote or “sea story” from your time as an instructor…or, describe the most significant challenge you have overcome as an instructor.
Taking three students to Sector San Francisco to stand a break-in watch on a Saturday. This was a great opportunity to expose some of my highly-motivated students to the job they will be performing just a short period of time later. They got to witness, firsthand, how a marine casualty is handled in an actual Command Center. One of the hardest challenges that I have overcome as an instructor is learning how to deal with students’ failures. When you know that you have given everything for a student to be successful and they make poor decisions, you can’t take it personally.
6. Describe some new or innovative methods or equipment you are using in the classroom.
I use Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement to gather information on actual Coast Guard cases; then I recreate them in the Sector Lab for the students. Using MISLE helps me provide students with high-fidelity simulations and enables students to experience cases that are similar to what they will have to handle in the fleet.
7. How do you ensure that you keep current, teaching students the most up-to-date information and skills they will need?
Thankfully, OS “A” School has a Curriculum Development Team that does an excellent job of keeping the curriculum up-to-date with current policy and procedures. This allows me to focus my efforts on providing students with high-quality, performance-based training in the classroom.
8. Are there specific experiences, skills, or knowledge you have found helpful in this tour as an instructor?
Caring for my students’ well-being and for the quality of the training they receive drives my leadership style. Being able to communicate and relate with others are important skills for any instructor to be successful.
9. What would you say to someone who is considering a tour as an instructor?
I would share with them TRACEN Petaluma’s vision of being the best place to live, work and train. Also, be willing to be flexible with what you know; we strive to train to policy. Anyone considering to apply to become an instructor should be highly motivated and a self-starter.
10. Who do you think would make a great instructor? What would you say to encourage them to pursue assignment to an instructor billet?
Someone who is comfortable speaking in front of people or is willing to learn to become a better public speaker is a good candidate for instructing. A person who is striving to become an instructor should be a good learner themselves. As an instructor, there is an equal amount that you have to learn, in addition to the personal skills and experiences that you bring with you to the job.