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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 28, 2022

Creating a more diverse academy class through mentoring

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Abban, Coast Guard Academy External Affairs Office

Inclusivity is the key factor in the Coast Guard’s excellence. The myriad of backgrounds from thousands of Coast Guardsmen and women operating under the same core values, reinforces strength and reflects the diversity of the people and country they serve. 

“In order to be the world’s best Coast Guard, we must be the world’s most inclusive Coast Guard, valuing the strengths and talents of every member of our team,” says U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, the 42nd Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy

Having the courage to stick to and actualize these service goals is easier said than done. With cadets from all over the world attending the Coast Guard Academy, acclimating them into a military lifestyle can prove to be a difficult, yet achievable task. This challenge may be further complicated for cadets of a minority background who could find it difficult to assimilate by virtue of the fact that they, at first glance, might not see themselves reflected in the group they’re becoming a part of. 

For the Academy Minority Outreach Team (AMOT), their goal is to ensure that none of these cadets feel excluded in their service by offering mentorship and guidance throughout their Academy experience helping forge them into officers ready to lead in the fleet. 

That mission statement is actualized through AMOT’s real impact on the Corps of Cadets. Take Cadet First Class Olivia Kamwela, a government major at the academy and co-president of the Genesis Council, for example. Her experience with the team has played a pivotal part in her career development over the years. 

“I was first introduced to AMOT after I received my appointment. My mentor reached out and gave me a very warm welcome to the Coast Guard family,” she said. “My initial impression of AMOT was that it was a network full of people [who] were very accessible and more than willing to help as I began my cadet career… whether I needed words of encouragement, or just a kick in the right direction. I owe much of my success here at CGA to them.” 

Now less than 100 days out from her commissioning into the Officer Corps, Kamwela is ready to join her brother Nicholas in the fleet, reassured by the preparation provided to her by the centuries of accumulative service from her AMOT mentors.

With AMOT playing such an important part in the development of the future leaders of the Coast Guard, it’s important to understand its origins and how, despite their initial success and altruistic intent, the team was almost disbanded before it had the chance to flourish. 

“I started AMOT around 2006 while I was at Coast Guard Air Station Miami,” stated Capt. Marcus Canady, a current fellow at the Naval War College. “The intention behind starting AMOT was to simply increase the diversity in the Corp of Cadets by using minority alumni to assist admissions with recruiting and mentor the prospective cadets from application to graduation.”

Though, when Canady was assigned to graduate school, the program went dormant for a few years. Largely because at the time AMOT wasn’t actually a formalized program aboard the Academy’s Admissions Department, and therefore lacked the resources to continue operating. However, it wasn’t long before senior leadership noticed the absence of AMOT’s impact on minority cadets and revived the program for good.  

“AMOT was restarted in 2013 at the request of Vice Adm. Manson Brown, the deputy commandant for Mission Support at the time, when the recruiting numbers at the academy fell to historic lows for African Americans,” he explained. 

Upon its revival, AMOT immediately became affiliated with the Admissions Department. The Class of 2018 was the first class that AMOT was used as a coordinated outreach method. This new approach toward minority outreach proved to be a successful endeavor because by the time of their commencement, the class had 18 African Americans, the largest number to commission into the Coast Guard’s Officer Corps. Their success didn’t stop after graduation either, once they arrived to their first duty stations, the new ensigns hit the ground running.

“Those ‘Amazing 18’ as we call them, thrived at CGA and went on to a great start to their careers. After 18 months, 100% of those individuals were selected for lieutenant junior grade and we recently saw great results on their lieutenant boards,” said Cmdr. Andrea Smith, the executive officer of Coast Guard Recruiting Command. “That will have a lasting impact on our service and I am so proud to have been a part of that.”

Since expanding to include outreach geared toward Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders, today, AMOT continues to play an integral role in facilitating support for cadets of a minority background. And as another enrollment season approaches its end, AMOT has begun preparations for the incoming class of 2026. By April 3, AMOT mentors will be connected with their new mentees, thus establishing a foundation of inclusivity and strength for a future generation of Coast Guard leaders. 

If you are an Academy alumnus interested in volunteering as an AMOT mentor, visit their program overview page for more information.