Coast Guard women leading by example

Women's Conference

NEW YORK - Senior Chief Petty Officer Andrea Martynowski, top left, a guest speaker at the Women's Leadership Conference, addresses a group of Coast Guard and civilian women about her career in Staten Island, N.Y., April 26, 2012. Martynowski is the Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Cutter Ridley, homeported in Montauk, N.Y., and one of two female enlisted OinC€™s afloat. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta H. Disco.

Written by Petty Officer Jetta Disco

NEW YORK — There’s something to say about a roomful of Coast Guard women of all ranks and experience attending a women’s leadership workshop. It would be a rare occurrence just a few decades ago, when the service began to allow females to attend the Coast Guard Academy and basic training. Now women make up more than 15 percent of the active duty workforce and serve in a variety of leadership positions.

“I was hoping that everyone would get some good training and to get the stories from the mentors,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Mary Valle-Endicott, a member of Sector New York’s Leadership Diversity Advisory Council. “I wanted the junior enlisted women to know that they are not alone and there are women they can reach out to if need be. I think that it is important for us to stick together in this organization and have someone to talk to.”

The workshop guest speakers consisted of strong female role models in leadership positions; Rear Adm. Linda Fagan, Commander of Coast Guard Sector New York, Lt. j.g. Katherine Ustler, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Cutter Sailfish, Senior Chief Petty Officer Andrea Martynowski, Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Cutter Ridley, and Chief Tina Claflin, the Women Afloat coordinator. Additionally, Ms. Sharon Adams, from Work-Life, was also on hand to discuss sexual harassment and diversity in the work place.

“The most important topic I wanted to cover was the sexual assault/harassment,” said Valle-Endicott, the coordinator of the Women’s Leadership workshop. “I believe that it is very important as women in a male dominate field to know our rights and to know that it is important to speak up.”

This important topic proved to be beneficial as many junior members, not just women, may find it difficult to discuss and ask questions, especially in larger training and group environments. By having a small, intimate workshop, attendees felt more comfortable to inquire about specific topics and understand available resources.

One of those valuable resources, and inspirational role model was Martynowski. Throughout her 15-year career, she has endured many challenges, including a rating merger and limited billet choices. Martynowski, a former quartermaster turned boatswains mate, has served both ashore and underway serving on large cutters and leading the Coast Guard’s newest recruits as a basic training company commander. She is one of only two enlisted female officer’s in charge afloat.

Throughout her career, Martyinowski has felt it was important for each person, regardless of his or her gender or whether in an operational or support role to know their job is just as important to completing the Coast Guard’s missions.

“People in the Coast Guard think that in order to be operational that means jumping into the waves and saving babies,” said Martynowski. “Sometimes operational is jumping into the weeds and helping out your shipmates when they need it and doing it well.”

During the two-day workshop, the members received training and mentoring from strong, successful Coast Guard females in leadership positions with in the goal of creating a support network. Through a series of speed mentoring exercises, open discussions and introduction questioners, the women were able to walk away from the workshop knowing they were an integral part of making their Coast Guard experience better.

“The feedback from this event was extremely positive from the most junior member in attendance to the most senior,” said Valle-Endicott.

Coast Guard women attend leadership workshop

NEW YORK -€“ Petty Officer 1st Class UZeralanai Bynum reads a list of facts about herself during a group exercise at the Women’s Leadership Conference in Staten Island, N.Y., April 26, 2012. More than 25 Coast Guard and civilian women attended the event, which was designed to improve the mentorship program for junior female members. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta H. Disco.