This blog post is the fourth in a series titled “Dialogue with the MCPOCG,” written by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell. As the Coast Guard’s senior enlisted leader, Cantrell is responsible for advising the Commandant on workforce issues, and advocating for military benefits and entitlements. He will periodically use this platform to pass information to the Coast Guard workforce.
Nothing gives me greater joy than recognizing the hard work and accomplishments of the men and women who make up our Coast Guard workforce. In addition to our world-class personnel serving in operational, support and administrative positions, I love to take advantage of any opportunity to recognize and revere those special individuals who serve others. Those people … who help people.
I recently had the honor of watching one such group in action – The Guardian Spouses at Training Center Cape May, New Jersey.
The Guardian Spouses are a diverse group of dependents of active-duty Coast Guard men and women assigned to Training Center Cape May or one of the 12 tenant commands aboard the training center. They graciously volunteer their time to provide valuable information and lessons-learned to the spouses and future spouses (boyfriends and girlfriends) of Coast Guard men and women preparing to graduate Recruit Training.
I attended a Guardian Spouses presentation alongside my wife Janet. Janet, designated a Coast Guard Ombudsman-at-Large, has been providing information to spouses and other dependents for years, but even she said, “I was truly amazed at the important information and resources they make available to each new member’s spouse.”
“These ladies are to be commended for their knowledge, their compassion, and their volunteer service to our Coast Guard.”
We can all recall our entry into the Coast Guard’s system of structure and order. It was a big transition, and there was a lot of information to digest. And, much like your recruiters, instructors and company commanders were charged with “helping” you through this transition, the Guardian Spouses are there to help the spouses of our newest members with their own transition from civilian spouse to military spouse.
The group was established in 2008 and began as a few volunteers who would simply set out pamphlets about Coast Guard programs beneficial to dependents – finances, moving, family and medical resources, etc. – for the families who were present to attend a briefing the morning of recruit company graduations.
Over time, a more thorough presentation developed, and the Guardian Spouses moved their operation to the Training Center Cape May Chief’s Club. They meet there with spouses and future spouses the morning of every graduation ceremony while other guests attend a family breakfast en route to the ceremony.
Right now, the group consists of 12 volunteers, but that number fluctuates based on yearly transfers into and out of Cape May. The current lead Guardian Spouse is Jill Simcox, whose husband is Chief Petty Officer Robert Simcox, a company commander at Training Center Cape May.
Jill estimates the Guardian Spouses brief 325 plus spouses and future spouses every year. They contact them early on in their loved one’s recruit training to make them aware of the program and the opportunity for the presentation to occur on graduation morning.
In addition to presenting information on all manner of military opportunities and responsibilities – finance, healthcare, education, deployments, etc. – the Guardian Spouses are there to answer any and every question they might have.
And, people are definitely appreciative …
Savanna Dovin attended a Guardian Spouses presentation in January 2014 when her fiancé Jonathon Childress, who is now a Fireman on the Cutter Sawfish in Key West, Florida, was graduating with Recruit Company Delta-190. Savanna is currently attending college in Mobile, Alabama.
“I found the information helpful,” she said. “With the advice from the Guardian Spouses, we decided it would be best to wait to get married so that I can finish the semester and he could get qualified. I am thankful for that advice.”
Another recipient of a Guardian Spouses presentation was Allison Chocianowski, who is married to Seaman Apprentice Samuel Chocianowski, currently assigned to Station Curtis Bay, Maryland.
“I attended the presentation and am thankful that I did, as it even helped with communication between Samuel and me,” she said. “The pamphlets and fliers that I received from the Guardian Spouses have come in very handy!”
The program was originally modeled after a similar one that Marines administer. However, Jill Simcox plans to reach out to other branches in order to share how the Guardian Spouses take care of our newest members and their families – in the case the other services want to adopt any of their ideas, or vice versa.
“The Guardian Spouses epitomize that the Coast Guard is a family,” said Capt. Todd Prestidge, commanding officer of Training Center Cape May.
“Just like Cape May sets the standard for professionalism within our service, and establishes the Coast Guard’s cultural identity for our enlisted corps, so does the Guardian Spouses set a similar standard for the Coast Guard Family and what it means to take care of our own.”