My Coast Guard
Commentary | Dec. 8, 2021

Accessible opportunities for work, volunteerism as a Coast Guard spouse 

By Keisha Reynolds, MyCG Writer

Time, for many Coast Guard spouses, is in short supply. But the good news is that there are many options to use it to contribute to your families and your communities, especially while changing duty stations. As part of National Military Family Appreciation Month and throughout the year, MyCG is highlighting opportunities and resources for you to consider. And, we even spoke with three Coast Guard spouses to share ways they make the most out of their time.  

If you are searching for employment, consider using the Noncompetitive Hiring Authority of Military Spouses, which promotes authority-hiring of military spouses meeting specific criteria, by government agencies. There are also employment partnerships and that support spouses including Joining Forces, a blog resource sponsored by the White House and the Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership. Also, the FlexJobs site features part-time, seasonal and remote jobs. Additionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has the Hiring our Heroes program that provides meaningful employment opportunities to military spouses and veterans.  

For those wanting to explore entrepreneurship, strengthen their social networks or volunteer, here are a few resources for you. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and partnering agencies, drafted a presentation on starting a homebased-business, and other resources, as well as, free business counselingThe United Service Organization provides networking events to help military spouses develop professional, social and community networks. You can also take advantage of a partnership that the Coast Guard has with LinkedIn, allowing you free, premium access for a year and the chance to develop key relationships, as a military spouse. Contact the Family Services Division within the Office of Health, Safety and Work-Life to attain access and receive additional information on Coast Guard resources. 

Beyond the sampling of capabilities listed above, MyCG sat down with three Coast Guard spouses with the hope that their experiences will inspire you with new ways of using your time in support of yourself, your loved ones, and others.  

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Chelsea Hughes teaches a lesson to her first-grade class at W.D. Robbins Elementary school in Alabama, in Dec. 2019. (USCG photo)Teaching may not be the first career that comes to mind as a flexible profession allowing for easy transitions, particularly when you have to move regularly. However, it does have its perks. Chelsea Hughes, a licensed kindergarten to 6th grade school teacher, is a Coast Guard spouse married to Cmdr. John Hughes, the Logistics Department lead at Sector Mobile in Alabama. Hughes explained that although there are a lot of “hoops” to jump through, “there are two things that are in my favor: I have summers off while the move is happening and schools are looking to hire teachers for the upcoming school year.” 

Although the licensing part is always a challenge, Hughes has a system. “Every new station, I have to go through the process of getting a state license. This is quite a lengthy process because I have to prove every time that I received a degree and took the correct tests to receive my licenses,” she said. This is when her personal procedure kicks-in.  

“The moment we find out where we are going I start my state application process for my licenses, which begins around December or January and I will usually get my license, or a confirmation that I will be receiving my license, by the time we go to move in May or June,” explained Hughes. 

Once Hughes receives a confirmation about her state license, the second part of her journey begins. “Then I start applying to at least two or three districts near where we will be living. I also start looking to see which schools are going to be hiring in the grade levels that I have experience with,” said Hughes. 

“Then I research the school and principal where I apply online; I email my cover letter and resume to the principal, and if I don't get a response I will either follow-up with an email or, if we have moved to the area, I will take my cover letter and resume and drop them off at the schools themselves,” she continued. Hughes also mentioned she is usually simultaneously looking for a house during this time as well.  

Although this process seems rigorous, it is experienced by many Coast Guard spouses who require licenses in their field.  

Earlier this year in Connecticut passed a bill to ease licensing requirements for tradespeople, health care professionals, and other professionally licensed individuals in other states to attain a Connecticut credential if they reside there. Coast Guard leadership provided testimony at the hearing to help the bill pass, as well as, attended the bill signing. In general, it requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) or the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) to issue the appropriate license or other credential to a state resident, or a spouse of an active duty service member permanently stationed there. And, of course that person must meet the specified experience and background requirements. 

There is also licensing easement through the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which is an agreement between at least 26 states, allowing nurses to have one license to practice in multiple states without having to navigate different states’ administrative systems, as Hughes mentioned that are also present in her teaching profession. The NLC was started in 2000 but has grown as more states’ participation have increased, which has also increased the standards for the multi-license.  

Hughes offers sage advice for spouses considering the teaching profession, “I can't speak for any other professions, but if they [spouses] are teachers and coming up on their first PCS, it is a lot of work for many months, but I have always gotten a job, and at schools that I love, so the months of hard work does pay out in the end.” 

Rick Dollar, a retired civil servant and former contract manager for the Navy is married to Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Weeden, and spends a good amount of his time supporting other military spouses and their families through volunteerism. The couple is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.  Rick Dollar volunteers his time at an election polling station.

Dollar recounts when his spouse first received orders to Washington D.C., from 2015 to 2019. While there, he helped to start the U.S. Navy Marine Thrift Store in Anacostia. “It was a lot of fun to work with Coast Guard, Navy, and submarine wives and even the spouse to the assistant commandant of the United States Marine Corps was part of that crew—they were genuine and did things like taught yoga classes,” said Dollar.  

“When they were struggling to get the thrift store open, I popped-in and offered to help and became a dynamic fundraiser for them. They [the store] survived COVID and they are headed back up to 1,000-dollar days in proceeds,” stated Dollar. The store raises money for the Navy Marine Corp Relief Society and the US Navy's air, submarine and surface communities.  

Dollar’s efforts to give back where he lives have been extensive. When COVID vaccine shots became available, Dollar volunteered for the vaccination distribution run from out of the local department store. He did odd jobs including, directing traffic inside the building, and manning the door. Outside of vaccine duties, he acts as the building superintendent for the Ocean View Masonic Lodge in Norfolk, Virginia, where he is a member and donates his time to building maintenance. Seasonally, he serves as a poll chief for the Norfolk Office of Elections and stuffs boxes at the food bank.  

He credits his Alcoholic Anonymous group as the catalyst that stirred his desire to give back. “I was rededicating my life for all of the years that I took,” he said. “That’s where I found true happiness in giving back.” Dollar serves as treasurer for a chapter and also joked that he often gets the job as treasurer in many organizations because of his last name. 

Whether its treasurer duties, fundraising, or stuffing boxes —Dollar believes in keeping busy in service of others. “One of the shock of things that woke me up into this epiphany was that one third of the people who retire, die in the first six months, another third goes back to work, and the rest dedicate a significant amount of their time to volunteering. I am just hoping that I have become too busy for the grim reaper to catch me,” he said. 

On top of all of that, Dollar serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and has been in the role since July 2019. He helps approximately 70 families find resources such as housing, child care, TRICARE, gifted and special needs resources for family members, crisis intervention information, local area familiarization, as well, where to get legal help.  

In his limited free time, Dollar and his husband have joint custody of his grandson and of his spouse’s daughter—her step dad works at the Navy Ship Yard, extending the military influence in the family. “We do a great job co-parenting with three dads and a mom,” he laughed.  

Dollar offers his wisdom from a life of lessons-learned stating, “Happiness is directly related to helping others. As I’ve gone through the epiphanies in life, I’ve determined that the only way to find true happiness in life is in the service to others and on the front lines of social service.” 

Paulette Fryar wearS pieces of her jewelry from her business as an independent distributor. Fyar has been in the business for four years and has been able to continue working as she has relocated throughout the country with her spouse.Paulette Fryar, the reigning Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, 2020 - 2021, has taken a creative path to employment—one she says she can take with her as she moves around the country while PCSing with her husband, Cmdr. Troy Fryar. Four years ago she started as an independent distributor for a jewelry company, and as she explains, “I haven’t missed a beat, there hasn’t been a break in income for me, and this is the third place we’ve lived since I started with this company.” Fryar and her husband are living in the St. Louis area, and her spouse is assigned to USTRANSCOM on Scott Air Force Base.  

Fryar refers to her employment experiences prior to being an independent distributor. “It usually takes a better part of a year to get a job—because as the spouse, you’re the last one that you take care of. You have to figure out schools for the kids, get the house organized and make sure everyone is situated first. So, there is a loss of income, often times, for six to eight months after a move.” said Fryar.  

Flexibility is one of the major reasons Fryar is leaning into and growing her business. “I can work on my own time and fit it into my schedule in ways that make it possible to keep volunteering and doing the good work I love to do to support Coast Guard spouses, which is very important to me,” said Fryar. She also mentioned that her work is probably one of the big reasons she was selected to the title of Military Spouse of the Year, because she had time to volunteer and contribute in such a way that made her stand-out to those involved in the selection process.   

“It’s kind of like my own business,” Fryar said, “but with a parent company, and it gives me a lot of freedom, which allows me to fundraise as well. I was able to do that for the Coast Guard’s Spouses Club of Washington DC. We [the spouses’ club] own the rights to our amazing logo and we were able use it for custom ornaments. Having this type of business affords me the opportunity to donate my proceeds to fundraising. I’m thankful for the option to do that for groups I care about.” 

Perhaps most importantly for Fryar, her jewelry business allows her to be part of the local area where she lives—no matter where that may be, it engrains her within the community. “It’s multifaceted that way,” she explained. My business allows me to meet people in the area where we live that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I’m participating in the local economy when I get booths at places like farmer’s markets, craft fairs, and various vendor events.”  

Fryar shares her ultimate intention saying, “I don’t want to just survive in each community I’m in. I want to thrive and have ownership in the community where I am, and I want this for other Coast Guard spouses too.” 

For more resources on employment and volunteer opportunities, visit MyCG’s Family Career page ,or, reach out to CG SUPRT to learn about additional resources for your family. 

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