Written by Chief Petty Officer Sara Pritchett
Recruitment, retention and professional development;
an EPIC change for the Coast Guard
In 2010, Petty Officers 2nd Class Amad Hankins and Shango Indomitus met for the first time aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman. They were both young petty officers with their whole careers ahead of them. Fast forward to 2016, Hankins and Indomitus met aboard Coast Guard Cutter Waesche. While on Waesche Hankins and Indomitus became well-known for their animated debates on military, social, and political topics. One topic in particular was a shared lack of feeling of networking within certain populations of enlisted members in the Coast Guard.
Hankins and Indomitus decided to organize their own network of enlisted friends and associates within the Coast Guard. They wanted to give everyone they knew an opportunity to connect with other people, who may not normally get a chance to meet otherwise. It was important to the two petty officers for their network to have a place they could go to feel a sense of family and community.
The first communication to this network was an email asking if anyone thought this was an idea people would be interested in. The response was overwhelming. “Enlisted Professionals in Connection” or EPIC was in its infancy and they did not even know.
Next, they wanted to find an event that they could all attend to build on leadership principles they already learned. They decided to network with the National Naval Officers Association by attending one of their leadership conferences. Their request to attend was denied because they were enlisted and not officers. At that moment they began the journey to starting the first ever affinity group for enlisted personnel. This was not an easy task!
While juggling underway law enforcement operations, duty days, and cutter life, they burned the midnight oil to get EPIC off the ground.
The spent hours emailing, calling, strategizing, and planning events. In January, they worked on EPIC’s Town Hall event featuring then Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell in Yorktown, Virginia, during Training Center Yorktown’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational Basketball Tournament.
Hankins and Indomitus will tell you that from that moment on, their lives changed. There was never a day spent without meeting or connecting other minorities to someone new.
From there, they realized they could use this powerful network of people to help create solutions for challenges facing under represented minorities in the Coast Guard.
“Looking back to when we first created EPIC, we felt that the title itself is empowering; it sends a message that we are bridging the gap between junior and senior members by providing professional development opportunities,” said Hankins. “Being a junior enlisted member, we do not always know proper resources – at least not right away. With EPIC, we no longer have this issue.
“We can only imagine the difference it would have made had we been given a mentor upon visiting our local recruiting office,” continued Hankins. “It would have been an additional tool for us to seek guidance on what rating will best suit each of us. It would have been a great way to learn more about the Coast Guard and all it had to offer before shipping out to Cape May. This is why ‘ReMAP’ (Remote Mentorship Assistance Program) is essential and a fortunate opportunity for all.”
The Coast Guard is consistently evolving and EPIC’s “ReMAP” program is the first of many projects EPIC has to offer.
Hankins and Indomitus self-funded and traveled to nine separate commands across the country to spread awareness of this new group with displays and presentations. They reached over 250 attendees and paired five recruit applicants from underprivileged backgrounds in the “ReMAP” program. For their initiative in promoting diversity and setting up the EPIC program, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen presented them with The Secretary’s Award for Diversity Management in early November.
To learn more about EPIC see their portal site.