Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall
Tucked under the east span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge lies Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. Hugging the shoreline of Yerba Buena Island, the campus is home to numerous sector departments, patrol boats, an aids-to-navigation team, a small boat station, and a buoy tender, among other units. Like a central hub, bringing all of these spokes together, is the galley.
Knowing outside eating options are few without colossal effort to leave the island and battle traffic, the galley crew consistently goes above and beyond to prepare quality, innovative meals for the sector crews.
The award, presented once a year, recognizes Coast Guard enlisted members who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities and professional expertise.
Meister, a Chicago native, came to the Sector San Francisco galley two years ago, after completing a tour with Patrol Forces Southwest Asia in Bahrain.
Shortly after her arrival, the galley crew found itself with a leadership void following the removal of their chief. As a first class petty officer, Meister stepped boldly into the role of food specialist officer (FSO), assuming all of the duties of that position, while continuing to fulfill her duties as lead petty officer.
“I basically had to rally the troops and bring them together, motivate everyone and let them know that we care,” said Meister. “I truly care about them.”
On top of the hard-to-quantify, invaluable mentoring and leadership Meister provides her crew, she also manages an operational budget of $240,000, coordinates many high-profile events, stands watch as a qualified officer of the day, serves as the sector’s Leadership Diversity Advisory Council secretary and mentors Job Corps students.
Meister also serves as a primary victim’s advocate, leading efforts to decrease sexual assault in the Coast Guard, and to increase awareness of resources for sexual assault victims.
Meister has certainly acquired many accolades, but for her, its simple. She loves her job.
“I look forward to every day,” said Meister. “It’s something new. It’s something different. It’s creative. Our possibilities and opportunities are limitless.”
Throughout her recognition, Meister remains humble, acknowledging her crew in everything.
“I got this because of how wonderful they are,” said Meister. “This really reflects on them.”
Finding fulfillment in her work, Meister plans to continue serving in the Coast Guard and encourages others who are interested in the culinary arts to follow their hearts.
“Becoming a culinary specialist ended up being the best choice I ever made,” said Meister. “It’s a tough rate and not for the faint of heart, but incredibly rewarding. We’re getting thank you’s all the time. Three times a day someone is saying thank you to us for feeding them. It’s a wonderful sense of community and you bring about morale to the crew.”
“All her efforts underscore a common theme: commitment to the best interests of others,” wrote Rear Adm. Todd Sokalzuk, former 11th Coast Guard District commander, in her citation.
The Inspirational Leadership Awards are sponsored by the Coast Guard’s Office of Leadership and serve to recognize the active duty, reserve and civilian Coast Guard men and women who demonstrate proficiency in leadership and best exemplify the service’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.