My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 12, 2021

Celebrating excellence: BEYA names Capt. Judge as the U.S. Coast Guard Stars & Stripes Award Winner

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

Capt. Warren Judge will receive Coast Guard’s Stars and Stripes Award during the 35th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference, held Feb. 12-13, 2021.

Now serving with the Engineering Service Division (ESD) Division Chief at the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber and Intelligence Service Center (C5ISC), Judge began his Coast Guard career in 1986, enlisting and pursuing what was then the radioman track. Always interested by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects, Judge was excited by opportunities the Coast Guard offered in a STEM-related career. 

While his list of professional accomplishments is extensive, Judge is the first to admit his path to success has not always been smooth sailing. His decision to enlist in the Coast Guard came from one of the hardest moments of his life— an academically unsuccessful college experience. Worse than an academic failure was having to explain the failure to his mother and admitting to himself, and to her, that he wasted her hard earned money.

“It’s tough to have that blur on your record,” explained Judge. “I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’, the one defined by his mistakes. I took responsibility for my actions and was determined to succeed the next time.”  

Judge was encouraged to join, after seeing his brother’s career with the Coast Guard. “The day I enlisted, I made a promise to my mother that I would graduate from college and make her proud,” said Judge. “My promise to her is what’s kept me going through the hardest times of my career.” 

Judge applied for and was accepted into the Pre-Commissioning Program for Enlisted Personnel in 1995, after previously applying eight times. His determination for excellence and persistence in the face of adversity would pay off in 1997, when he graduated from both Elizabeth City State University and the Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School.

With a career spanning over three decades, Judge has held many notable assignments. Of distinct note is Judge’s time serving as the presidential response officer executive tier one communications lead for President Barack Obama as well as the senior executive staff from 2009 to 2012, having his own seat on Air Force One.

Through it all, Judge identifies as a public servant. He sees his work as integral to helping everyday citizens be safe and secure. He’s particularly proud of his role in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina rebuilding the Coast Guard's lower gulf coast command and control infrastructure, which resulted in saving more than 34,000 lives.

Currently, Judge, who has developed an occupational specialty in C4IT (command, control, computers, and communications), leads a team of more than 200 people daily and is responsible for delivering innovative engineering rigor to the Coast Guard.

Judge, as a leader and as a human, is wholly focused on others. He is deeply involved in mentoring young adults, giving back to his alma mater regularly. It is important to Judge, both personally and professionally, that students of color and other minorities see that positions like his are achievable. 

“I don’t consider myself to be anyone special,” said Judge. “I’m just someone who kept pushing himself to the next limit. I want our younger generation to know that you can achieve whatever you believe plus some, so long as you have the right attitude about it.” 

Mentorship is a crucial aspect of Judge’s career and his ultimate success. Judge himself credits where he is today to his mentors, including Capt. John G. Witherspoon “Captain Witherspoon was the first person who really took me under his wing,” said Judge. “He especially helped me stay motivated throughout the officer candidate school application process.” 

Nurturing a successful career requires multiple mentors, for every phase of a career. Rear Adm. Keith Smith also supported Judge, helping Judge to stay focused on future goals instead of being bogged down by more immediate challenges. 

Judge’s current commanding officer and mentor Capt. “Rusty” Dash has encouraged Judge to remain steadfast after Judge was passed over for promotion.

“Captain Judge is an outstanding officer and engineer, and the perfect recipient of this award,” said Dash. “He brings overwhelming positivity and infectious enthusiasm. His commitment to growing and empowering the next generation of engineers and leaders sets the example for all of us.”

Judge’s technical expertise guides the implementation of the Commandant’s Tech Revolution, empowering the Coast Guard with reliable, mobile, and integrated technology, while leading his team 200 strong in the Engineering Services Division. 

While even he admits winning this award feels surreal, Judge will be celebrated in the 35th and first fully Digital 2021 BEYA Stars and Stripes Event on Feb. 12, 2021, followed by the BEYA events on Feb. 13, 2021. Retired Rear Adm. Stephen Rochon is a BEYA founding member.

BEYA is founded by the Career Communications Group, and will honor high ranking African American service members and civil servants, including the Coast Guard’s Commandant for Acquisition & Chief Acquisition Officer Rear Adm. Michael Johnson, Coast Guard Director of Civil Rights, Dr. Teri Dickerson and Deputy Assistant Commandant for Engineering & Logistics, Albert Curry.

Other Coast Guardsmen and Coast Guardswomen to be honored at this year’s BEYA STEM Conference include: 

  • Second Class Cadet Katharine Stroh: Winner of the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award, currently studying at the Coast Guard Academy.
  • Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear: Winner of the Modern-Day Technology Leader Award, currently detailed to DHS, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • Officer Trainee Nicholas Walker: Winner of the Student Military Leadership Award, currently studying at Florida A&M University. 
  • Ensign Brandon White: Winner of the Student Military Leadership Award, currently aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stone, a National Security Cutter.
  • Dr. Richard Freeman: Winner of the Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award, currently teaching at the Coast Guard Academy.