Commentary | Sept. 15, 2021

Seaman at Petaluma becomes 1,000th enrollee in the Mentoring Program 

By Kathy Murray and Janki Patel 

When Seaman Breanna Johnson left her home in Aiken, South Carolina to join the Coast Guard two years ago, she had big career dreams, but wasn’t exactly sure how she’d get there. Then recently in INDOC, an instructor suggested she get a mentor.  

“For a while, I’d been wanting to get in touch with someone with a higher rank and more knowledge. Someone who had been through the hard parts and could give me input and critique to better my career. So many senior personnel have such inspiring stories to give you the push you need,” Johnson said in an interview from Petaluma, where’s she finishing up storekeeper “A” school. 

So Johnson, who is 22, immediately signed up for the Coast Guard’s new Mentoring Program. She just became the 1,000th Coast Guard member to enroll in the program -- a fact that stunned her and exceeded expectations for a program that just launched on April 20.  

“Reaching this 1,000 enrollee milestone four months before our goal date says a lot about our people and their willingness to “reach out a hand” and help a shipmate,” said Carl Boehmer, a reserve command master chief and current program manager of the Coast Guard Mentoring Program. “The Mentoring Program, which has removed geographic barriers and transformed how the entire Coast Guard can grow, is all about our people being able to connect with each other. SN Johnson and her career goals is exactly why the program was created."  

Said Vice Commandant Admiral Linda L. Fagan, “The Mentoring Program is an investment in our people. Reaching this milestone for mentoring enrollment signals that there is a strong need in our service to provide an avenue for our members to connect and grow. I look forward to the continued growth of the program as more Coast Guard members learn about how mentoring can help them connect with others in the Coast Guard and grow personally and professionally.” 

The Coast Guard Mentoring Program offers a variety of opportunities for those who are enrolled, both long and short-term. The most popular option is one-on-one mentoring, where a person can learn new skills from a senior leader on an ongoing basis. the program can also arrange for emerging leaders to share ideas with senior leaders in a group setting, set up peer groups focused on a particular topic or skill, or even let you do one-time “speed mentoring.”  

The mentoring program’s software automatically matches individuals based on career focus, life experiences, and interests that both parties indicate during the enrollment process.  

Johnson chose one-on-one mentoring and was excited, if a little surprised, to get a 95 percent compatibility match with Cmdr. David Vick at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “I told myself I would take on this challenge because if they matched me it’s meant to be.” 

She said she’s looking forward to their conversations.  The thing that impressed her the most about the commander, she says, was how he talked about learning from his mistakes in his bio. “I just felt him just already being upfront and honest, that shows a strong person,” she said, “someone who can be open and give good input to others.” 

Vick said he is looking forward to getting to know Johnson as well. He’s been fortunate in his career, he says, but remembers fumbling around early on. “I want to help people as they’re shaping their careers to do it with purpose and direction,” he said. “I want them to be able to see the opportunities and make the most of them.” 

Johnson is the first member in her family to join the military. Her first assignment was Hawaii, where she learned to deal with being homesick and seasick during long tours aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball. Once she completes her training on September 10, she’ll relocate to Alameda, California, as a petty officer third class handling financing and procurement. She said she wants to make second class within two years and go back to school to get a degree in financing or accounting. Her eventual goal is to make chief warrant officer. 

“But before I can lead others, I know I need to follow,” she said. “That’s why mentorship is so great.”  

Vick, who has mentored a number of Coast Guard members, says he’s definitely on board for that. “If her drive is to lead,” he says. “I want to be able to her do that and do it well.” 

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