Are you interested in joining an affinity group? Have you attended an affinity group event? Are you unsure of what an affinity group is?
An affinity group is a formal or informal group of individuals that join together for a shared interest or a common purpose. These groups gather together to support and advise each other on topics related to the main focus of the affinity group.
The Sea Service Leadership Association (SSLA) is just one of the many affinity groups that the Coast Guard recognizes. Established in 1978, SSLA is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing professional development through networking, education, and mentorship of women from all three maritime armed forces – the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
Coast Guard men and women recently participated in the 29th Annual Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium (JWLS), which is hosted by SSLA. The JWLS, which welcomes members from all five service branches, the National Guard, and allied forces of the U.S., recognizes, respects, and celebrates the strengths, unique talents, and competitive advantage that women bring to the Armed Forces.
The symposium runs two days, with the first day focused on joint sessions and panels, and the second day focused on service specific agendas. Senior officers, enlisted and civilian members from all services were present, as well as leading professionals from the public and private sectors. The theme this year was “Leading with Purpose: Impacting our Future.”
As Chair of the Board for SSLA, Rear Adm. June Ryan, commander of Coast Guard’s Ninth District, enthusiastically opened the event by telling the crowd that it “is the right time to be serving the nation.” She also encouraged junior members to interact with the senior leaders and to share their viewpoints during the symposium.
“People are here and want to have conversations with you,” said Ryan to those present at the morning session on the second day.
This is exactly what Senior Chief Petty Officer Tina Claflin had in mind when she helped establish the agenda for the Coast Guard’s second day. Claflin, who works in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office , is part of the USCG Women’s Leadership Initiative Governance Committee, which sponsored the Coast Guard logistics for the second day of the symposium.
“We wanted to give attendees a supportive venue to ask some of our most senior leaders questions on organizational and personal challenges,” said Claflin. “We also wanted to give them an opportunity to join together on these issues to create networks and feel empowered to take on these issues to help influence organizational change.”
The Commandant and MCPOCG spent time with the audience, listening to personal stories and sharing their own experiences with mentoring, organizational challenges, and strategies that are being implemented to guide the future of the Coast Guard.
After a member’s comment regarding high childcare costs in some areas where there is no government childcare facility and the lack of appropriate subsidy funds, the Commandant shared his commitment of Duty to People. He said that while childcare development centers (CDCs) are a federally managed program, he understands that the lack of CDCs also correlates into a retention concern. Therefore, it is something that he will continue to look into.
“CDCs are just as critical as the next National Security Cutter,” said the Commandant.
The remainder of the Coast Guard session was full of discussions surrounding the Human Capital Strategy, recruitment, diversity, and training, just to name a few topics.
To wrap up the symposium, Rear Adm. Ryan spoke about the redwood trees of California. She said that they are some of the tallest and strongest trees because of their ability to intertwine their roots with each other. They hold each other up. She said, similarly, this is what Coast Guard men and women must do to continue to bring further success and advances to the organization.
“It is though our connectedness that we gain our strength,” said Ryan.
The Coast Guard participates in many affinity events throughout the year. To learn more, about the various mentoring groups and ways to get involved, please visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion webpage.
* Check out the following videos that capture some of the discussion topics from the event:
- Blended Retirement – Senior Chief Petty Officer Laurie Kennedy, from the Office of Budget and Programs, talks about the Coast Guard’s new blended retirement system.
- Mentoring – Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft talks about importance of mentors.
- Recruiting – Capt. Robert Smith, commander of Coast Guard Recruiting Command, talks about Coast Guard recruiting efforts.
- Women Afloat – Rear Adm. June Ryan, commander of Coast Guard’s Ninth District, discusses women serving aboard Coast Guard cutters.
- Co-lo and Geographic Stability – Chief Warrant Officer Tracy Randall, from the Enlisted Personnel Management division, talks about co-locating with spouses in the Coast Guard.
- Leadership – Chief Warrant Officer Jennifer Bell, women afloat assignment officer at the Personnel Service Center, talks about why leadership events matter.
- Perseverance – Chief Petty Officer Jessica Montero from Coast Guard Recruiting Office Potomac Mills in Woodbridge, Virginia, gives advice to help Coast Guard members persevere.
- Take time to listen – Master Chief Petty Officer Steven Cantrell, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, talks about how listening helps you lead.