My Coast Guard
Commentary | Oct. 25, 2021

Building inclusion through body armor, big-brother-big-sister volunteerism, flexibility for families

By Coast Guard Office of Diversity & Inclusion  

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion recognized three members on Sept.15 who have demonstrated excellence in fostering healthy work environments where all personnel are empowered to contribute to the success of missions and the quality of life. 

The award recipients were: 

  • Lt. Andre Jones-Butler (Captain Edward R. Williams Award for Excellence in Diversity)  
  • Lt. Cmdr. Kyra Dykeman (Captain Dorothy Stratton Women’s Leadership Award)  
  • Petty Officer 1st Class Kira Booke (Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie Women's Leadership Award)  

A nine-member panel of U.S. Coast Guard officers, enlisted members, and civilians deliberated over 22 remarkable nominations submitted across all three categories of awards. 

“One novel feature about this year's Diversity and Inclusion Award recipients is that each has demonstrated powerful ways anyone within our workforce can immediately start to build a culture of equity, engagement, and belonging within their local networks,” said Michelle Godfrey, director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership. “This year’s recipients have gone above and beyond in hours volunteered, partnerships established, and research and analysis provided to make our Coast Guard further reflect the diversity of the communities we serve, but they’ve also shown how anyone can contribute something so everyone feels valued and empowered. I invite more people to follow their lead,” she said.   

A Closer Look at the Winners:  

Captain Edward R. Williams Coast Guard Award for Excellence in Diversity 

Named in honor of Capt. Edward R. Williams, who, in the 1990s, was instrumental in the reestablishment of the Minority Recruiting Branch, implementation of the Diversity Staff, and creation of the Coast Guard Mentoring Program, the award is presented to the Coast Guard officer or chief warrant officer judged to have been most supportive of initiatives to achieve, value, and manage diversity in the Coast Guard.  

Winner: Lt. Andre Jones-Butler, currently stationed at HC-27J Asset Project Office (APO) in Elizabeth City, N.C. 

Lt. Andre Jones-Butler, currently stationed at HC-27J Asset Project Office (APO) in Elizabeth City, N.C.“Andre created multiple open forum communication platforms at Air Station Sacramento to facilitate diversity and inclusion discussions, including small, supportive groups geared toward unpacking difficult, but necessary topics,” said retired Capt. John McCarthy, Jones-Butler’s former commanding officer.  

Jones-Butler graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (CGA) in 2014. In addition to serving as Air Station Sacramento’s Leadership Diversity Advisory Council Chair, Jones-Butler, a pilot, volunteered with the CGA Minority Outreach Team (AMOT) and was a member of the CGA Equity Core Team, which pursues solutions to the Academy's diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. The team principally addresses communication, cohesiveness, and participation rates.  

Jones-Butler also met with some 1,200 students at 220 universities over three years to showcase opportunities for them within the Coast Guard. Outside of normal duty hours, he volunteered more than 300 hours as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Sacramento Area.  

“Although my dad (a commercial pilot) is present in my life now, I didn’t know him until I was 11,” said Jones-Butler. “Not having a consistent father figure in my early life was challenging for me.”   

This inspired him to deliver guidance, support, and mentorship to another young man.  

“In Sacramento, I saw a huge need for male mentors, so I put my application in (with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Sacramento Area) and I helped my little (brother/ mentee) push forward. He is beginning to secure a bright future for himself.” 

Jones-Butler credits his hardworking mom as well as mentors within the Coast Guard who invested in his personal and professional development for helping him envision a bright future for himself.   

Jones-Butler advises that one practical, immediate way personnel can begin increasing diversity, inclusion, and opportunity within their own environments is to make time to listen to diverse perspectives a genuine priority. For leaders, determine if that feedback received can be applied to make needed changes. He also recommends connecting with well-respected organizations such as professional societies, leadership organizations, and scholarship funds that have demonstrated knowledge and experience creating diverse and inclusive environments.  

Captain Dorothy Stratton Women's Leadership Award   

This award is named in honor of Captain Dorothy Stratton, the first director of the U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve. All female Coast Guard chief warrant officers through lieutenant commander who have demonstrated inspirational, innovative and imaginative leadership and made lasting improvements in the working conditions and quality of life for Coast Guard members are eligible for nominations.  

Winner: Lt. Cmdr. Kyra Dykeman, currently stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Alameda, Calif. 

“Kyra fostered a culture of diversity through inclusion and commitment by championing initiatives under the Commandant’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (DIAP),” said Capt. Rebecca Ore, commanding officer at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach.    

While serving in her then primary role as the chief of investigations at Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach, Dykeman also served as the chair of the local Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC). She and her fellow LDAC members identified common concerns among service members regarding career progression, the ongoing global pandemic, extraordinary pressures on working parents, and the implications of these challenges for retention.  

Dykeman led a workgroup to consolidate concerns, share policy proposals with leaders, and circulate resource documents to better support Coast Guard members and their families. She accelerated an initiative using Coast Guard-wide focus groups to explore service members’ concerns about starting and sustaining families while simultaneously developing careers in the Coast Guard.   

“There are members who feel they have to choose between a successful Coast Guard career and having a family,” said Dykeman. “I have seen so many talented people leave the Coast Guard because of family reasons, and I want to find ways to retain and support them.”   

She met with single parents serving as operational specialists required to stand 12-hour watches during the COVID-19 pandemic who could not locate childcare, members who would lose custody of their children if they remained assigned to Deployable Specialized Forces units, and female service members who shared stories of infertility and miscarriage, an unintended consequence of prioritizing an afloat career while delaying motherhood.   

“I want to find ways we can be more flexible, accomplish the mission, and retain these amazing people,” said Dykeman. “We are more aware of the need to create more inclusive opportunities.”  

She credits her leaders, including her former supervisor, retired Cmdr. Marshall Newberry, and Ore for creating environments where everyone’s input was valued.  

“I would often think about an issue and rarely voice my thoughts, but Cmdr. Newberry made space for sharing,” said Dykeman. “He never made me feel like my ideas were wrong, rather he helped me learn my ideas were worthy and had a place in our organization. Capt. Ore was also key in my growth and development. She was a huge proponent of feedback, sharing what insights you have to offer, and putting your ideas into practice.”  

Dykeman’s practical advice for creating more inclusive environments is to identify little things you can do—places where you can be flexible that are going to make conditions better for your people. Perhaps it’s something as simple as more flexible work schedules or locations. We can do little things that will help our best and brightest Coast Guard members lead more holistic lives so they will thrive and want to stay in the Coast Guard, according to her. 

Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie Women's Leadership Award 

Named in honor of Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie, the first female master chief petty officer in the Coast Guard, the award recognizes an enlisted woman who has demonstrated inspirational, innovative and imaginative leadership and lasting improvements in working conditions and quality of life for their peers, subordinates, and the Coast Guard. 

Winner: Petty Officer 1st Class Kira L. Booke, currently serving at Special Missions Training Center, N.C.    Petty Officer 1st Class Kira L. Booke, currently serving at Special Missions Training Center, N.C.

Ask Cmdr. Frank Florio III, commanding officer of the Tactical Law Enforcement Team- Atlantic Area, and he’ll tell you he has been the beneficiary of terrific mentorship by exceptional leaders who are women. As such, when the opportunity to nominate a standout enlisted woman who demonstrates technical and tactical excellence arose, Florio enthusiastically nominated Petty Officer 1st Class Kira L. Booke.  

“Booke is 100% value added,” he said. “You can ask her ‘brothers’ (fellow members of the Deployable Specialized Forces) and they consistently vote her MVP.” 

Booke is a maritime enforcement specialist whose impressive resume includes successfully disrupting nearly $300 million in contraband on one recent deployment, as well as possessing critical qualifications such as: boarding officer, tactical operator, water survival master/responder, law enforcement instructor, EMT, tactical combat casualty care instructor, and much more. Her capacity to meet or exceed standards required of Deployable Specialized Forces while also choosing to take on complex initiatives that make conditions safer and better for the maritime enforcement community, distinguished Booke. She is currently serving as an instructor at the Special Missions Training Center at Camp Lejeune, N.C.  

In 2020, Booke identified a need for body armor that is better suited for female anatomy and while also meeting National Institute of Justice (NIJ) rating level IV. There is currently no authorized standard or substitute for women serving within the Department of Defense Special Operations Forces or the Coast Guard Deployable Specialized Forces who need level IV protection.  

Booke reached out to subject matter experts in the Department of Defense (DoD) Women in Special Operations Forces program to review lessons learned, brainstorm solutions, and consolidate feedback from women operators in the field, not because anyone told her to, but simply because she saw the need. DoD counterparts are piloting new plate carriers that are designed to better fit the female anatomy without compromising safety or uniformity.  

The Coast Guard Director of Operational Logistics is now researching triple curve plate options to better fit females and broader-chested males and the Coast Guard Deployable Specialized Forces Equipment Program Manager is reevaluating policy to determine if the Coast Guard can follow the DoD's lead as it pertains to plates designed to better fit female anatomy. 

Booke offers practical advice for creating more inclusive environments. “Always look for opportunities to improve quality of life for everyone,” she said. “There is almost always something you can do to make conditions better for people and still accomplish the mission. When you see something that needs fixing, fix it. Always leave things better than you found them.”  

For Booke, leaving conditions better than she found them extends to her care and compassion for people at risk of self-harm. As an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills first responder, she has helped 12 people connect with the services and resources they needed to get well. She also helped improve unit policies as it pertains to mental health, victim advocacy, and sexual assault prevention and response.       

Deployable Specialized Forces provide numerous critical services including anti-terrorism and force protection for forward-deployed base camps and ports around the world; maritime drug interdiction and interception; oil spill, hazmat incident, Chemical Biological Radiation Nuclear Explosive (CBRNE) event response; and so much more. Booke wants to build awareness about the fact that anyone, regardless of gender, who can meet the tough, but realistic standards required of Deployable Specialized Forces, has the opportunity fulfill these high-risk, high-reward roles.  

Future Nominations  

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion solicits Diversity and Inclusion Awards nominations through an ALCOAST message in the spring, annually, with a 45-day application window. Eligibility requirements, specific guidelines and nomination procedures are described in the “Recognition Programs Manual: COMDTINST M1650.26 15 AUGUST 2016.”   

Resources 

  • Sep 2021 Leadership and Excellence in Diversity Award Winners ALCOAST 338/21 
  • Recognition Programs Manual: COMDTINST M1650.26 
  • You may also email questions about award nomination criteria, format, and endorsement standards to Lt.j.g. Molly Sternberg, COMDT (CG-127).