USCG changes Cutter Berthing to open more leadership roles for women
[By Daniel Henry, U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York]
When Chief Petty Officer Ryan Burger was appointed the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the 65-foot icebreaker tug Coast Guard Cutter Wire, he received several phone calls congratulating him on taking the reins of the venerable 60-year-old cutter as his first command. One call, however, was a little different from the others. It was Chief Petty Officer Ramona Mason, the Coast Guard Enlisted Women Afloat Coordinator in the Office of Enlisted Personnel Management (EPM), who had a question for him.
“I got a phone call from Senior Chef Mason and she asked if we could accept a female BM3 (Boatswains Mate Third Class) board, and obviously our answer was yes of course we can! Then she asked a follow-up question: Can you also accept another female advice? “
At that point, Burger stopped and they talked about it for a while; they could get the person on board, but they didn’t have a rack available for them and would have to find a way to accommodate them.
His ultimate answer? “Let’s see what we can do.
The women who previously served on one of New York’s 65-foot cutters were certainly not unheard of. In fact, the immediate previous OIC of the Cutter LineChief Petty Officer Holly Campbell and Chief Chief Petty Officer (XPO) Chief Petty Officer Barbara Elkins both served together as recently as 2020.
The difference would be that more junior female personnel could be assigned, thanks to a Coast Guard-wide policy change regarding the posting of women to platforms that were previously inaccessible to them, as well as a commitment from the service to organize a mooring modification for the cutters. And with three 65-foot “Class C”, all of which have aft space used as an administrative office or berth for the XPO, the New York area was the perfect place to turn the idea into reality.
“We have assigned women to these cutters in command management positions in the past, however, the assignment of a third class boatswain’s mate on board is new,” said Mason. “For the first time, a woman in a non-command post received orders from the Coast Guard Wire. “
To make the cutter’s berthing conversion a reality and get females on board as soon as possible, the area’s waterway management team worked quickly with their counterparts at headquarters and across the department to place two women’s racks in a space that previously contained a single fold-out convertible bunk.
Petty Officer Third Class Hailey LaRue, a Boatswain’s Mate who reported to the Wire last summer, immediately took note of the greater responsibilities she has acquired, as well as the expanded learning opportunities. She said those opportunities were not available to her on the 87-foot cutter on which she served as a non-fare in Port Angeles, Washington.
“I knew I wanted to get out of School A afloat to get some rated sea time so that would help me in my future career,” LaRue said. “It’s smaller and it’s a tight-knit team; there are tons of learning opportunities both on the bridge side and on the engineering side, so you will become a more complete person in your [rating]. There are opportunities that you will have here that you will not necessarily have on a bigger cutter, where you focus on a specific area.
For Singletary, who was previously a Boatswain’s Mate and the Officer-in-Charge himself, the experience LaRue gains is essential for junior women to have future leadership opportunities.
“Obviously for a boatswain (BM) you strive to be a responsible officer. To do this, you need the experience, you need the career path of a coxswain, a watchkeeping officer and to be in the command post as an XPO ”, emphasized Singletary. “Providing this mixed berth gives these members the opportunity to start their careers early. They can lead as BM3 or BM2. Ultimately, this path will lead to XPO positions on the new inland waterway trade cutters that will come into service at the end of 2024. “
The cutting team is now awaiting the arrival of the second woman stationed at Mason’s request in the coming weeks.
The conversion and outfitting of the 65-foot icebreaker tugs is not the only platform receiving attention as part of the Coast Guard’s commitment to increasing opportunities for women to serve afloat. The Coast Guard also authorized a structural conversion for a minimum of three 140-foot icebreaker tugs.
“Many of our old cutters were built before women served on afloat platforms in the Coast Guard. At that time, there was no need to consider housing for women, ”Mason said. “Now that these cutters are decommissioned and replaced with newer cutters, we are making arrangements for women to be part of their permanent crew.
Daniel Henry is the head of communications and public affairs for the United States Coast Guard Sector in New York, the largest element of the Coast Guard in the country. This article is courtesy of Coast Guard News and is reproduced here in an abridged form. The original can be found here.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.