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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Sept. 18, 2020

Lessons from the Coast Guard’s Award Winning Leaders  Announcing the Annual Inspirational Leadership Award Recipients

By Janki Patel, MyCG Writer

Leadership is a cornerstone of what makes the Coast Guard run smoothly. Annually, the Office of Leaderhsip recognizes individuals who exemplify these qualities and inspire others to achieve greatness. 

Following their selection, several awardees of the Annual Inspirational Leadership Awards share their insights into what’s made the difference in their work.. 

For the 2019 awards season, the Office of Leadership received 107 nomination packages for eight categories.  

“The eight winners consistently exhibited exceptional actions and leadership skills that motivate and inspire personnel to strive for excellence and achieve measurable results that contribute to the Coast Guard’s success,” said Michelle T. Smith, the program manager within the Office of Leadership. 

Award winners include:

Lt. Cmdr. James Thach
U.S. Coast Guard Reservist
CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award

“Being selected for the Witherspoon award is truly humbling and the outreach has been even more inspiring,” Thach said. “I never imagined that watching the HH-52s and HH-3Fs flying over when I was a child, would have inspired me into this amazing career and I look forward to continuing to serve, leading our team into the future. Being a member of the reserve, I have found that the experiences outside the service can greatly impact ongoing missions or challenges and excellent leaders have respected that background and leveraged that expertise.”     

Master Chief Petty Officer Christopher Connolly
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bollard 
MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award

“I am very grateful for receiving the award as it has reinforced my leadership style and encouraged me to continue working towards being better,” Connolly said. “Turning behaviors into the habits that make up my leadership style did not happen overnight or by accident, and I continue to be a sponge for all sorts of media or books that focus on leadership development.”

Ms. Kathleen M. Daddona 
Director of USCG Child Development Center at Base Cape Cod
George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award

Her philosophy is to “create exceptional, supportive, positive and lasting experiences for students, families, and my associates, alike. Enthusiasm, creativity, commitment, and energy are among the values that I try to impart. I also try to encourage others to bring their own brand and style, within our established parameters, in a collaborative effort.”

Lt. Cmdr. Megan L. Drewniak  
USCG Marine Safety Unit (MSU) Toledo, commanding officer
CAPT David H. Jarvis Award for Inspirational Leadership

“I am humbled to receive this recognition as it ignites a sense of excitement in me to keep striving to be the best Coast Guard member I can for those I work for.”  Additionally, she added, “I am grateful to be supported by talented and diverse individuals who elevate their greatness as a team. People can relate to leaders who seem more human because they feel supported, are mindful of inclusion and possess many personal and professional qualities to emulate as a leader. With humility as a core leadership trait, you build not character but also inspire others along your professional journey.”

Petty Officer Third Class Erin Kinne
Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 104
Douglas A. Munro Award for Inspirational Leadership

“Leaders with exceptional character earn a lot more respect and admiration.”  Kinne has a simple motto which she follows by setting a positive example, others will take positive attributes from everyone’s leadership style and use them with their own. She puts an emphasis on listening to others, having open communication and feedback, standing up for and looking after her team, and more importantly, give others the opportunity to try something on their own.”  Such leaders inspire people and align them to their vision. 


Each award recipient has either received one of four annual awards sponsored by the Office of Leadership, or they received one of two Navy League leadership awards, also managed by the Office of Leadership.  Here are the winners for each different inspirational awards. 

The complete roster of those selected: 

CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award

  •  Active Duty: Lt. Dana Dougherty, Coast Guard Academy
  • Reserve: Lt.Cmdr. James Thach, Port Security Unit (PSU) 301

MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award

  • Active Duty: Chief Petty Officer Christopher Connolly, Coast Guard Cutter Bollard
  • Reserve: Chief Petty Officer Derek Chase, Port Security Unit (PSU) 301

George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award

  • Ms. Kathleen Daddona, Base Cape Cod

COMO Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award

  • Jim Bell, Unit 095-35-10

CAPT David H. Jarvis Award for Inspirational Leadership

  • Lt. Cmdr. Megan Drewniak, Sector Detroit

Douglas A. Munro Award for Inspirational Leadership

  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Erin Kinne, Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 104

The Office of Leadership solicits Inspirational Leadership Award nominations via an ALCOAST message each November with a two-month application window.  Eligibility requirements, specific guidelines, and nomination procedures are outlined on the office’s website.

Tips for Inspirational Leadership package submissions.