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. Chief Warrant Officer Kimberly Angel served as a company commander at Training Center Cape May from 2005-2009, and as School Chief for Company Commander School from 2006-2008. Currently, she is the Communication Officer at Communications Area Master Station Atlantic, where she supervises 80 personnel in the daily operation of telecommunications services provided by the Atlantic Area Communications System.
Interview conducted by Lt. John Suckow.
1. What made you decide to become a company commander?
I love to teach; I always have. Being a company commander provided me an opportunity to teach and develop our organization’s future leaders. Boot camp is more than helping civilians transition from civilian to military life; it’s a prime opportunity to instill Core Values, the Coast Guard Creed and Ethos.
2. What did you find most motivating or rewarding in your role as a company commander?
Watching each recruit overcome their own obstacle. For some, it would be fitness; while others, academics; then there were those that had to break through their selfishness to actually become part of a team. Watching each recruit grow, overcome their own obstacle and watching them become proud of the new person they discovered inside themselves; all while becoming a part of a new organization – that was very motivating and rewarding.
3. What are some of the lessons you learned from the recruits?
Patience. Some recruits didn’t come together as a team as quickly. Each company had its own challenges, each different from the next. I also learned unique things from several recruits: for example, each recruit had their own story, a background much different from the others. This background often caused them to react to situations differently. After most of my companies, I would leave a log book on the yeoman desk starting in week 8. All the recruits knew I wouldn’t take a look at the book until after they graduated and departed, so they could write anything they wanted about their experiences during boot camp. Those log entries included everything from, “You are the most inspirational and patriotic woman I have ever met,” to, “One day I hope to be just like you.” The lesson in those log book entries? My interaction with recruits was critical; they have lifetime memories of their interactions with me, both good and bad. Those memories will continue to mold them into future leaders in our organization. I had a lifetime impact on many Coast Guardsmen and women. I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to lead and learn from every one of them.
4. How did the tour as a company commander help you in your career?
Being a Company Commander allowed me the opportunity to exercise various different leadership approaches to situations. Also, teaching Coast Guard history and various other subjects helped me memorize key points that later allowed me to ace the enlisted professional military education sections of my servicewide exam. Additionally, it provided spotlight leadership opportunities like Company Commander School Chief and section commander where I could excel. It was my performance in those positions that earned me the Officer Evaluation Report for my Chief Warrant Officer package. I made Chief while I was in Cape May and departed as a Chief Warrant Officer.
5. Share a memorable anecdote or “sea story” from your time as a company commander…or, describe the most significant challenge you overcame as a company commander.
The most significant challenge I overcame was leading Company Commander School as the school chief while only being a first class petty officer. Many of the senior students, Chief and above, had a hard time with a junior petty officer leading the school at first. There was only one person I would say that held a grudge after graduating the course. When it later surfaced, that person was removed from the regiment, so overall, the lesson of humility was learned by all….yes, myself included. I am thankful I had leaders who believed in my ability to lead in that challenging position and supported me when others didn’t agree.
6. Describe some new or innovative methods or equipment you used as a company commander.
During my tenure at Cape May, we introduced two new processes. The first was the pugil stick course; the second was the confidence course. We selected a group of company commanders to attend the Marine Corps recruit training and study the pugil stick and confidence courses, then create our own. After many weeks of design and lesson plan drafting, it was later accepted by the instructional systems branch and included in boot camp curriculum.
7. When you were a company commander, how did you keep current, teaching recruits the most up-to-date information and skills they needed?
I kept current on teaching recruits by teaching Company Commander School between companies. Reviewing Training Center rules and regulations and the Marine Corps drill and ceremonies manual kept me sharp on military drill and required knowledge for the regiment. When you are assigned to Cape May, it’s a lot like “Groundhog Day” every eight weeks. It’s hard to forget. You teach the same lessons every week, you teach the same drill moves, you run the same remedial drills. Sure, you try to spice it up here and there within your boundaries; but at the end of the day, everything is routine.
8. Were there specific experiences, skills, or knowledge you found particularly helpful in your tour as a company commander?
Networking, I found, was particularly helpful in my tour as a company commander. I made Chief there, so I went through chief’s call to indoctrination there. That, along with my two consecutive Summer Coast Guard Academy Cadre Indoc training weeks, seven recruit companies, four Company Commander School classes and over 2000 more recruit interactions as a Section Commander of Munro and James Hall…I would say I’ve met a lot of people in our organization. I always say, I bring connection power to the Chiefs’ mess and wardroom. If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who can get us the answer.
9. What would you say to someone who is considering a tour as a company commander?
Do it! I think it’s imperative you take into consideration your timing, career-wise, but don’t pass up the opportunity to mentor our future leaders. It is the most rewarding job I’ve done in the Coast Guard.
10. Who do you think would make a great company commander? What would you say to encourage them to pursue assignment to a company commander billet?
There are several people’s names that come to mind! I walk by squared-away Coast Guard men and women every day who, in my opinion, are ideal candidates to have at Cape May, training our future leaders. Two years ago, we even took a group up to Cape May for a behind-the-scenes tour and interaction with Company Commanders and recruits to give them a little taste of the action. They loved it! I think most people are scared of the unknown. Company Commander School is tough, but if you put your heart, mind, body and soul into it, you’ll pass. It’s physically, emotionally and mentally challenging, so take a big dose of humility and be prepared to be challenged. You will Not regret it!