Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Corinne Zilnicki
Applause rumbled to life at the San Diego Convention Center and heads turned as one woman rose and approached the stage, wading through a patchwork of white, khaki and blue military uniforms.
With all 1,200 attendees of the 2018 Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium watching, Elizabeth Haworth climbed the stairs to accept the Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie Leadership Award, a distinction that had taken her by complete surprise only a couple weeks prior.
“To be honest, I didn’t know I was even put in for it,” said Haworth, a machinery technician aboard Coast Guard Cutter Northland. “I’m not the type to do things and look for recognition.”
The crowd continued to recognize the Coast Guardsman with claps and cheers as she shook presenter Rear Adm. William Kelly’s hand, grasped her plaque and smiled into cameras’ flashing strobes.
“I wasn’t nervous, really,” said Haworth. “I just like to take in all around me and appreciate what I have.”
Haworth’s shipmates aboard Cutter Northland said it is largely her humble, giving attitude that earned her the award, which is annually bestowed on one enlisted Coast Guard female who demonstrates exceptional leadership on and off the job.
“MK2 Haworth leads from the front,” said Ensign Caleb Tvrdy, head of the cutter’s auxiliary division and Haworth’s supervisor. “She delegates well to the division and honestly runs the daily operations.”
Daily operations for Haworth and her six-person team include monitoring, maintaining and repairing the chill water system, fueling systems, emergency diesel generator, and other vital shipboard auxiliary systems. At times, the workload aboard the 34-year-old cutter transcends routine maintenance and demands more from Haworth and her crew.
“Engineering as a whole has our work cut out for us since these boats are so old,” said Tvrdy. “Machinery is constantly breaking down and we work long hours to keep the ship operational.”
“We need to know a lot about many different pieces of equipment,” Haworth agreed. “Being on different platforms and units, I try to absorb as much information as possible to better help the Coast Guard and my future units.”
Haworth said she acquired hands-on skills and sensibilities from her mother, who taught her how to lay tile, install drywall, replace dishwashers and make other household repairs. The Savannah, Georgia, native put her versatile skillset to good use on a larger scale during the Northland’s Eastern Pacific patrol in 2017.
While inspecting the reverse osmosis plant, she noticed water intruding into the high-pressure water pump’s oil, which immediately rendered the cutter unsafe to sail. While this type of casualty is typically contracted out for repair, Haworth rebuilt the pump and replaced all the water seals herself, saving the Coast Guard $5,000 and allowing the Northland to remain fully functional.
“I love getting dirty and repairing equipment,” said Haworth. “Knowing that I had a part in getting a vital piece of equipment up and running is amazing and rewarding.”
Streamlining her team’s workflow and optimizing their efforts is another of Haworth’s ongoing goals. She learned and adopted a new task-tracking tool which enabled the auxiliary division to surpass maintenance completion levels of 90 percent, then helped the rest of the cutter’s divisions implement the tracking tool, too.
Learning new procedures and teaching them to her shipmates comes naturally to Haworth, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education before joining the Coast Guard in 2011.
“You are only as good as the people around you, and I try to teach everyone else around me all that I know,” said Haworth. “That’s how I try to live my life every day.”
She has made it her personal calling to help newly-assigned Northland crewmen get acclimated and qualified, regardless of their rank or level of experience. She said she finds it rewarding to set others up for success and ease the stress that comes with tackling a new job.
“MK2 Haworth was one of my go-to resources as I was learning all about the systems on board,” said Tvrdy. “She helped me tremendously in my qualification process.”
The contributions she makes to the unit extend far beyond making crucial repairs and familiarizing her co-workers with the ship’s internal systems.
In her pursuit to empower and enrich the lives of her co-workers, she took on the role of the unit’s Leadership Diversity Advisory Council president and established monthly training sessions, meals and activities to recognize different cultures.
“I love making others aware of the all the diversity we have on the cutter and in our world,” Haworth said.
She also set up multiple events for the crew, including a “speed mentoring” session during which mentees shifted from mentor to mentor, receiving condensed helpings of advice and insight on everything from Coast Guard career paths to balancing work and personal life.
One of the ways in which Haworth said she finds balance in her life is through frequent volunteering.
Whenever Cutter Northland ties up to a pier, whether it is at home in Portsmouth, Virginia, or at a far-flung foreign port, Haworth’s desire to help others does not dwindle upon descending the cutter’s ramp.
“I try to do as much volunteering as possible, but it is hard with the schedule of a 270-foot cutter,” she said. “I am fortunate to do what I can and give back to the community. I think giving something is better than doing nothing at all.”
At home in Hampton Roads, Haworth often channels her machinery technician skills into projects to benefit the community. She has volunteered at a local children’s hospice doing yardwork and maintenance, constructed props for a local civic league’s haunted house, and built doghouses for Norfolk Police Department’s K-9 units.
Much farther from home, she led a group of 50 volunteers in cleaning and painting the aged buildings and leading educational activities at a local orphanage in Panama City, Panama. The U.S. Embassy in Panama recognized her efforts and praised the Northland crew’s community outreach as the most effective ever conducted by a U.S. military ship.
Since that initial visit, Haworth has repeatedly rallied her shipmates to gather and send toys and clothing to the Panamanian orphanage.
“MK2 Haworth is a very hands-on, caring leader,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Aaron Nye, one of Haworth’s subordinates on the Northland. “She goes out of her way to check up on people and their personal lives.”
But Haworth said she doesn’t see her actions as anything extraordinary.
Even while standing on the stage in San Diego and accepting a prestigious award for her positive impact on the Coast Guard and beyond, Haworth considers herself “the quiet person in the corner” just trying to do her best every day.
“I go above and beyond because that’s what I was taught at an early age by my family,” she said. “I love what I do and hope I will always have an opportunity to be a mentor and role model.”
Her Northland co-workers said they are glad to have this chance to officially celebrate their teammate’s accomplishments.
“I am very proud of MK2 Haworth for getting this award and am grateful that I have had the opportunity to serve with and under her,” said Nye.
“She really deserves the award because she showed me how to become a leader,” said Fireman Apprentice Wilfredo Vergara, another of Haworth’s subordinates. “I aspire to be like her.”
When the time comes for her to leave her Northland team, Haworth said she would like to revisit her educational roots once more as an MK class “A” school instructor and help mold future Coast Guard machinery technicians.
“I would like to pass on my knowledge to the next generation of MKs,” she exclaimed. “Afterwards, the sky is the limit! I want to break down barriers, and who knows – I may be the first female master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard someday.”