“Course Made Good:” New podcast does deep dive on boatswain’s mate topics
written by Anastasia Devlin, Reservist magazine
When the newest rating force master chief for the boatswain’s mate rating came aboard in July, he was determined to ground his tenure in communication with the fleet.
“I needed to reconnect with the rating, with the BM3s,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ellis. “I wanted them to understand how the Coast Guard works, how all the units fit together. What’s a program? How does a station fit into the sector? How does a sector fit into a district? If I can get a BM3 to understand these topics, they’ll be light years ahead of me and ready for leadership positions much earlier in their careers.”
As a lifelong musician and audiophile, Ellis brings a new tool — the podcast. These short audio shows are Ellis’s preferred method for communicating complicated topics.
“I stopped watching the news about a year and a half ago,” said Ellis. “I found it very divisive. I don’t like making decisions based on soundbites from leadership. I want to dig deep, and I find that in podcasts, you can more deeply explore tough issues.”
Ellis, a 25-year veteran, came to the job fresh from four years afloat as the officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard Cutter Greenbriar in Natchez, Mississippi, and he draws equally on experience from a tour as the command master chief of Coast Guard Sector Guam. He became interested in listening to podcasts while working out at the gym, learning and lifting weights at the same time.
He recorded the first few half a dozen episodes of Course Made Good while on leave, using his recording software to add in sound effects including a bosun pipe, and he was surprised to hear how quickly the word spread about his shows. He received feedback in the first few weeks from junior enlisted members through senior officers, both through the podcast and via military emails. Between feedback from the field, interviews with petty officers, and reflections on his own quarter-century of service, show ideas are accumulating quickly.
More than half of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast, but Coast Guard shows are rare. Ellis recently worked with two chiefs from the Boat Forces Center in Yorktown, Virginia, on their podcast “They Had to Go Out.” As part of the show, Chief Petty Officers Philip Null and Bill Minnich interview retired Coast Guardsmen on their most dangerous cases and the resulting leadership lessons learned.
Upcoming topics for Course Made Good include physical fitness, the new BM A-school curriculum, and mental health. Ellis contacted a former shipmate from his days on the Coast Guard Cutter Sassafrass, Dr. Jeff Holguin, who is now a respected clinical psychologist who focuses on first responder trauma.
“There’s a stigma with reaching out for help, but we need to be talking about these things,” said Ellis.
He plans to do a reserve-specific episode of the podcast in November 2019. His experience training in his off-hours to become a part-time police officer, while still maintaining his active duty career, has given him a lot of insight into the challenges of being a reservist.
“This a grass roots initiative,” said Ellis as he closed his first episode. “This is your podcast, just as this is your rating.”
To find Course Made Good, search for it on iTunes or Spotify.