The Inspirational Leadership Awards recognize service members, civilians and auxiliary volunteers for their accomplishments in innovative and people-focused initiatives across the country. The eight individuals selected for the 2021 awards were announced on July 20 by the Coast Guard Office of Leadership.
"Leadership is the cornerstone of the Coast Guard's ability to fulfill our missions," said Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, when reflecting on this year’s selections. "The individuals recognized by these awards have made extraordinary contributions to their units and their communities. They are exemplary representatives of the Coast Guard's core values in action and demonstrate that leadership comes from all levels within our service."
The winners are:
- Lt. Cmdr. Kyra Dykeman (Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award—Active Duty)
- Lt.j.g. Avery Lowe (a Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award—Reserve)
- Chief Petty Officer Raymond K. Coleman (Master Chief Petty Officer Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award—Active Duty)
- Chief Petty Officer Travis Roberts (Master Chief Petty Officer Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award—Reserve)
- John L. Bragaw (George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award) Auxiliarist Alexander R. Rico (Commodore Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award)
- Cmdr. Stephen Bor (Captain David H. Jarvis for Inspirational Leadership award)
- Petty Officer 1st Class Kristin F. Melgar (Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award)
“Leadership is the retention tool of the future, so it is crucial we have good leaders who can serve as exemplary role models,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden. “And these individuals are a prime example of the outstanding leaders we aspire to have in our service.”
Since its inception in 1995, the Inspirational Leadership Awards have grown to include six separate awards. An eight-member panel deliberated over 108 nominations submitted for the awards. Bravo Zulu to the eight winners of the 2021 Coast Guard Inspirational Leadership Awards.
A Closer Look at the Winners
Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award
The oldest of the Coast Guard Inspirational Leadership Awards, the Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award honors both a Coast Guard active duty (AD) and reservist (RSV) member. Its namesake was the second African American officer to command a Coast Guard cutter and the first African American to command a Coast Guard shore unit. He was recognized as a leader, mentor and pioneer who commanded respect as a “do-as-I-do” leader.
- Active Duty Winner: Lt. Cmdr. Kyra Dykeman, Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach, California.
“I am humbled to receive this award from Admiral Schultz, who was my first commanding officer, and an example I have looked up to because of how he puts people first and continually strives for organizational improvement,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kyra Dykeman. “I was also privileged to work for Capt. Rebecca Ore and Cmdr. Marshall Newberry, two inspirational leaders who saw more in me than I did in myself, who mentored me and taught me how to be a leader who cared personally and challenged directly.
“Most importantly, I want to thank my husband and kids for sacrificing so much to support and understand the importance of the Coast Guard to the nation. Strength and resiliency at home speaks volumes for what we can accomplish at work.”
As Chair of the Unified Leadership Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC) serving all units in the greater Los Angeles area, Dykeman promoted a monthly Leadership Conversation Series that served as a touchpoint for all members to come and learn from one another’s perspectives on some of the most challenging issues facing our society today.
Her efforts reinvigorated the unified LDAC, built a leadership team and empowered junior members to share their perspectives and embrace a culture that is dedicated to building stronger teams by having difficult conversations in a safe place.
She assisted in the national Academy Minority Outreach Team effort in enlisting the aid of numerous officers to become mentors for new academy recruits. Additionally, she developed, drafted and implemented a local mentoring program. In this program, Dykeman created a path for both formal and informal mentorship across mission sets for junior enlisted and junior officers.
This program filled a gap that was exacerbated by social distancing and remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic and tightened bonds across all of Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach even as individuals were working remotely.
Both of Dykeman’s children (Finn and Kai) have names with a water/ocean theme to them. Kai’s name is Hawaiian for “Sea.”
- Reserve Winner: Lt.j.g. Avery Lowe, Kiln, Mississippi
“A one-size-fits-all leadership style will not set you or your team up for success,” said Lt. j.g. Avery Lowe, Port Security Unit Mississippi. “To really have an impact on the mission and the future of your people, it is important to learn how THEY want to be led. Talk to your team. Learn their strengths and help them hone those to build confidence and trust. Mission success comes easily when those you lead know they are your priority, because the people you serve are really what it’s all about anyway.”
Lowe is responsible for more than $2 million of communications gear and for organizing 15 highly successful morale events downrange, including fundraisers, deployment coin creation and outreach to schoolkids. Lowe is editor and content creator of PSU Mississippi newsletter, which was crucial during deployment and was available to family members back home.
Lowe is an expert pastry chef trained in France. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Astrobiology.
Master Chief Petty Officer Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award
The award is named after a pioneer for women and African Americans. Admired for her devotion, exemplary leadership and professionalism, she was the first African American woman to be promoted to Master Chief Petty Officer and she had been slated to become the chief of Yeoman “A” school prior to her death. She was an inspiration to those who trained under her and left a lasting impression on everyone who knew her. This award honors a Coast Guard active duty and reservist member.
- Active Duty Winner: Chief Petty Officer Raymond K. Coleman, Aids to Navigation Team Fort Lauderdale, Florida
“I am extremely thankful for this award and recognition,” said Chief Petty Officer Raymond K. Coleman, a boatswain’s mate assigned to Sector Miami, Florida. “Every day I am inspired by my family and fellow service members to step out of my comfort zone and achieve more. The professional and personal relationships that I have cultivated over the years is the secret to any success I’ve enjoyed. To be an effective leader is to realize there is no finish line. You will encounter great success as a leader but it must be understood that there is no perfect leader. That is OK. Effective leadership is a process which hinges on one’s ability to constantly reflect, absorb, and adapt.”
He acknowledged and thanked his wife Veronica and two boys, Maxton and Shane.
“Nothing is possible without their support. Additional gratitude to the people that have inspired me: Capt. JoAnn Burdian, Command Master Chief Rebecca Wyness, Cmdr. Justin Vanden-Heuvel, Boatswain Erik Watson and Lt. Eddie Oropeza.”
Coleman was instrumental in creating the first ever Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council event within the sub-units of Sector Miami. He coordinated a well-attended presentation about the story behind Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park.
The event successfully educated the local Coast Guard community on the struggles Dr. Mizell and many others faced in South Florida during the 1930s. Coleman’s efforts provided context around the experiences of others, and despite operating in an increasingly challenging environment, his dedication to an inclusive work environment improved cohesion and ensured all crew members felt valued and respected.
Coleman has inspired others through selfless leadership by volunteering to lead a select team of ATON professionals to support reconstitution efforts during the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season.
Recently, Coleman has taken to sport fishing off the South Florida coast. He caught his first sailfish this year and he is hooked!
- Reserve Winner: Health Services Technician Chief Petty Officer Travis Roberts, Port Security Unit Fort Eustis, Virginia
“I’ve always believed that most people come to work each day to do a good job,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer, Travis L. Roberts Port Security Unit Fort Eustis, Va.. “If you give them the right tools, look out for their best interests and empower them, most workers will be high performers.”
“It’s the responsibility of the Chiefs Mess to put these pieces into place by serving the men and women of the Coast Guard, and I consider it a privilege to be part of this team. Regardless of the situation – whether it be disaster response, a SAR case, law enforcement missions, etc. - members of the Coast Guard always seem to ‘make it happen’ when it really matters and I have always found that to be very inspiring. I am very thankful for the handful of leaders who have invested their time and energy over the years to help me get where I am today.”
Roberts served as the reserve senior medical executive to his unit, TRACEN Yorktown, clinic staff and other PSU medical divisions, regularly fielding requests for information or recommendations.
He created a 50-page Standard Operating Procedure to improve processes in the medical division to ensure all medical needs were met for the entire unit. This included developing a matrix of all routine and scheduled essential tasks for the medical division to ensure critical responsibilities were met.
His efforts resulted in the approval of PSU 305 to conduct lab collection in the sick bay, while still meeting all clinical laboratory improvement amendments requirements. This innovative solution significantly reduced time and travel for members and enhanced unit operational readiness by reducing absences from training to complete medical tests.
In his civilian life Roberts is a safety officer with BP in Charleston, S.C. and attends the Engineering Management Graduate program at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award
The George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award recognizes a Coast Guard civilian employee and is named for the first commissioner of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. He exemplified inspirational leadership and his accomplishments during civilian service have stood the test of time, including benefits such as annual leave, paid sick leave, and a retirement system for Lighthouse service employees. He was known for his courage and conviction, innovation and dedication to serving humanity.
- Winner: John L. Bragaw, Coast Guard Yard Baltimore
“All you have to do is care,” said John L. Bragaw, the production manager for the Coast Guard Yard. “That’s my mantra when it comes to my everyday work and when mentoring both junior officers and civilian supervisors. The overwhelming majority of the Coast Guard’s workforce are both dedicated and highly motivated. Remove the obstacles. Listen to their needs and ideas. Do everything in your power to respond with training, tools, resources, time, and mountains will be moved!
“At the Coast Guard Yard, it’s all about cost, schedule and performance in an extremely difficult and dynamic environment. If our young leaders care for the people executing the Yard’s mission, the quality, cost and schedule will take care of itself. This was proven repeatedly during COVID-19 as the Yard workforce adapted to working three shifts to deliver major maintenance projects on time despite a reduced workforce, significant supply issues and extensive demand for emergency work. All you have to do is care.”
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, he spearheaded a multi-faceted plan that implemented weather and safety leave for the Coast Guard Yard’s most vulnerable employees. He provided insightful feedback on leave policies to senior Coast Guard leaders. As a result, his suggested changes were implemented by DCMS, revising existing policies and establishing new weather and safety leave requirements, as well as return-to-work criteria.
Bragaw heavily recruited members from all levels of the production workforce to join the Coast Guard Yard’s Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council.
He loves being an outdoorsman. He enjoys hunting and crabbing, and recently bought a new boat.
Commodore Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award
The Commodore Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award pays respect to Commodore Greanoff, a leader instrumental in shaping the Auxiliary into the organization it is today. He achieved the Auxiliary’s highest position of National Commodore, and his spirit epitomizes the criteria recognized by this award for a Coast Guard auxiliarist.
Winner: Auxiliarist Alexander R. Rico, Upper Manhattan Flotilla, New York
“I am humbled and grateful to receive this award,” said Alexander R. Rico, Coast Guard Auxiliarist. “I had the privilege of serving as the Flotilla Commander of the Upper Manhattan Flotilla for over two years, in which time we contributed to community landmarks such as the Little Red Lighthouse, Baylander IX - 514, the Alexander Hamilton Grange National Memorial and more. I focused our efforts on better serving the diverse Upper Manhattan community through my guiding principles of compassion, planning and team building. Our success was in no small part due to the perseverance and commitment of each member within our flotilla. I am immensely proud of what we accomplished together.”
Rico provided an in-depth analysis of the Upper Manhattan Flotilla, incorporating content from his NYU Wagner Executive Master’s Program. He led a team to diagnose challenges, analyze competitors, and establish a strategy for change. He provided structured guidance and background to the team, directing their recommendations to develop a new outreach strategy focused on grassroots methods for the flotilla.
Rico also implemented a three-pronged strategy focused on recruitment, community relations, and adherence to the unit’s traditions. By launching a number of recruitment drives and encouraging prompt response times to inquiries about membership, flotilla membership increased by approximately 20% and had zero members in pending status during the first year of his command.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the flotilla has continued to recruit new members, many of whom contacted the flotilla after reading of the unit’s successes.
Rico lives in the same neighborhood he grew up in and supports the Auxiliary activities in that area. This affords him the opportunity to participate in events at places that he cherished as a child. Of particular importance is the annual festival at the Little Red Lighthouse which his flotilla supports and is a great way of reconnecting with his community.
Captain David H. Jarvis Award for Inspirational Leadership
The longest rescue mission ever undertaken in Coast Guard history was led by Capt. David Henry Jarvis. He received a Gold Medal of Honor at the request of President William McKinley in recognition of this effort, now known as the Overland Relief Expedition. This award recognizes a Coast Guard active-duty member and is presented in partnership with the Navy League.
- Winner: Cmdr. Stephen Bor, Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach
“I’ve been blessed with great examples and strong mentors that demonstrate that leadership takes practice, effort, and intentionality,” said Cmdr. Stephen Bor. “From Capt. Ore, I’ve learned to speak with radical candor; to never say ‘it’s easier not to’ from Capt. John Dewey and retired Capt. Jason Hamilton; and Capt. Anita Scott taught me to always keep a box of thank you cards. I’m inspired to continue the practice of leadership from my shipmates at Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach that rallied together as we showed up for one another through the tragic losses of Kenny, Ben, and Sam. Without the accountability and support from my peers and shipmates, I would have no business leading anyone.”
Bor concluded, “for all the Coasties that selflessly show up for one another, thank you. You are what makes the Coast Guard the best Coast Guard in the world.”
Bor was the direct liaison to the local Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention quarantine station and by extension to the CDC’s Maritime Director. He played an instrumental role in development of the majority of the Coast Guard and CDC COVID-19 policies to prevent the spread through the nation’s first direct arrival port from Asia.
At the beginning of the pandemic, he was the incident commander for two high-profile COVID-19 cruise ship cases on the same day, restricting the movement of 9,000 passengers and crew. His leadership and guidance through this emotional event strengthened his team and unit through a difficult investigation of CG-wide and unit inspection policies and procedures.
Bor is a huge Seattle Sounders fan (professional soccer). He speaks fluent Mandarin and Spanish.
Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award
The Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award recognizes a Coast Guard enlisted member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership. The winner of the award receives an automatic merit promotion. The award is presented in partnership with the Navy League.
Winner: Petty Officer 1st Class Kristin F. Melgar, Sector Jacksonville, Florida.
“The key to leadership is genuinely caring for and investing in the individual,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Melgar, a marine science technician. “A great leader creates opportunity and actively participates in the professional and personal development of others.”
“I have been lucky to have known many good leaders, but the ones that have made a significant impact on me are those that have taken the time out of their day to get to know me, not only as a shipmate, but as an individual. I am forever grateful for the mentorship I have been given throughout my career, as I know it has provided me with the fundamental tools to overcome challenges and inspire others. It is my goal to become one of those great leaders for the next generation of Coasties, and perhaps do something that can have an everlasting positive impact on someone’s life,” added Melgar.
She worked with the Port Canaveral Pilots Association to mentor an aspiring Coast Guard Academy (CGA) applicant, where she planned and facilitated mock interviews and one-on-one counseling with senior officers, ultimately resulting in the applicant’s acceptance to the CGA.
Melgar was recently selected to attend Coast Guard Officer Candidate School. She is an avid community volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Veterans Homes for Veterans, Wreathes Across America, and Restore Our Shores Program.
The Office of Leadership solicits Inspirational Leadership Award nominations through 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.