My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 6, 2020

Training Center Cape May Receives Coast Guard Unit Commendation while operating pandemic conditions

By Janki Patel, MyCG Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly changed how Training Center Cape May (TCCM) trained more than 300 new recruits at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, while following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. As the pandemic continues into November 2020, TCCM continues to operate safely under the modified recruit training schedule to lower the risk of any potential COVID-19 transmission within the recruit companies. To date, TCCM has safely trained nearly 1,400 recruits since March 2020 after implementing COVID response measures.

Rapidly responding to the pandemic, TCCM received the Unit Commendation for implementing innovative approaches and enhanced health and safety practices enabling continued delivery of mission-ready Coast Guard members to the fleet throughout the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020 through July 2020. 

“Since March, late February really, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of recruit training and how we deliver all facets of mission support to our staff, tenant commands and recruits,” said Capt. Kathy Felger, the commanding officer of TCCM. “The Unit Commendation was a wonderful surprise and well-deserved recognition for the more than 400 members of our dedicated staff who adapted and overcame throughout the first half of the pandemic. Since then, the amazing TRACEN Cape May team has continued to modify and improve the recruit training mission as we understand the prolonged nature of the pandemic.”

“As the birthplace of our Coast Guard’s enlisted corps, we are responsible for accessing and training up to 4,000 recruits annually to serve in the fleet. The impact to training and our reduced throughput during the pandemic was significant, which is why our mission is more important than ever to our Coast Guard workforce,” said Felger.

Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Duran was integral during the onset of COVID-19 that in part earned him meritorious advancement. Duran was humbled in receiving this recognition and said, “I always remember where I came from and know to respect subordinates, because I want to lead by setting example of commitment, passion, empathy, integrity, good communication skills and decision-making capabilities…all qualities essential to be looked up to as they play a dynamic role in success and failure of a leader and new recruits.” 

“Petty Officer Duran is one of many outstanding, professional company commanders who are instrumental in the training and development of our newest Coast Guard members,” said Felger. “Though he is humble in the recognition for meritorious advancement, he earned it through his commitment, professionalism and ingenuity in training while the pandemic environment was changing almost every day. I am proud of him, all of the company commanders and our TCCM staff who have endured and thrived in this challenging environment.”

Duran developed numerous safe teaching practices in order to meet the challenges faced in recruit training. Duran excelled in providing instructions and interpreting organizational policies and procedures to more than 865 recruits, earning the respect of his peers, subordinates and superiors. Overall, he lead and directed while demonstrating the initiative necessary to develop new methods, procedures and approaches to recruit training during the most stressful and difficult situations. 

“It is vital to have a contingency plan, and we did a lot of trial and error to have readiness at TCCM,” said Duran. “If we held training up, then it would be a pretty big dent and bottleneck as it would offset “A”-school, everyone would be shorthanded, no-back fill of those who advanced on to other enlisted workforce careers.”

Duran’s initial thoughts concerning his company – November 198 – were on how they could continue to operate the next eight weeks and what could they do to enhance the health and safety of recruits. 

TCCM staff recognized the importance of continuing to deliver mission ready Coast Guard members to the fleet throughout the pandemic as the Coast Guard continues to fulfill its vast portfolio of essential missions. 

The training center focused on preparing recruits for the fleet while maintaining a safe training environment just like pre-COVID-19. They restructured training including the following safety protocols:
Embedded medical personnel into each recruit company providing constant health assessment
COVID-19 testing protocols
Always wear a mask 
Reconfigured recruit training and berthing facilities to implement social distancing measures and acquisition of temporary berthing resources
Implemented more sanitation and cleaning practices
Implemented longer, extended time on breaks
Reorganized curriculum to focus on knowledge-based performance objectives during the two-week ROM period to maximize learning opportunity while operating under new protective constraints. 

“A recruit company commander is a person [who] every new recruit remembers and helps them with discipline, physical fitness, time management skills, work-life balance with family, overall understanding on how to prioritize and situationally adapt and overcome obstacles,” said Duran. “It is extremely rewarding to instruct and watch them for eight weeks, to see how hard they have worked…to be workforce ready at the U.S. Coast Guard.” 

The training center’s ingenuity, agility, and adaptive practices enabled the return to near pre-COVID recruit capacity in less than three months, ensuring the delivery of a responsive workforce ready to support the execution of Coast Guard missions worldwide. The staff at TCCM will continue to operate effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic and adjust and adapt plans while ensuring the safety of Coast Guard members aboard the facility.