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My Coast Guard
Commentary | March 21, 2022

LCDRs, GS-13 civilians: New leadership training is designed just for you

By Lt. Merrill Gutowski

The Senior Leader Transition Course (SLTC) is a newly designed leadership development opportunity offered by the Leadership Development Center in New London, Conn., specifically for lieutenant commanders (both active duty and reserve) and GS-13 civilian employees. Over four weeks of online work and two weeks in the classroom, students build their skills in strategic and systems thinking, decision making, shared leadership, and change management.   

Lt. Cmdr. Meg Peters, an aviator currently stationed at Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., is a recent graduate of the new course, and shared her insights on how her experience impacted her leadership development journey. After graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in 2009, she was assigned to a cutter before being picked up for flight school. The journey of establishing her career specialty was especially helpful in making the most of her SLTC experience. As she points out, “I do think it’s important to include the cutter aspect even if it was just for a year and half. I think a lot of those experiences are what drove me to be who I am today, and honestly it kind of drives me into understanding the different communities and how the different communities interact.” 

What is the main impact SLTC has had on your career since you graduated from the class in May 2021? 

PETERS: I think the highlight that really stuck with me is expanding my understanding of the Coast Guard in terms of the various missions and jobs that everyone does every day. It really opened my eyes to understanding communities that I didn’t know much about, and then through SLTC, your view opens up because there’s such a broad grouping of people that come through the class. You might come to class and sit across from a reservist for an entire week, and learn from them all about what the PSU does, or how their community’s promotion process works.  

I think bridging those understanding gaps with the communities we don’t have regular interactions with was certainly a blind spot that I didn’t really know I had until SLTC.  Having the opportunity to sit down and understand those communities, the struggles those communities are going through, and how they relate to the aviation community really opens up a broader perspective. The networking from this class helped me to understand how challenges in my community relate to others in the Coast Guard, and how that fits into the bigger picture.” 

You also attended Midgrade Officer and Civilian Transition Course (MOCTC-1) as a lieutenant. Can you explain how the two courses are different? 

PETERS: MOCTC does a really good job of helping you understand yourself. You do a deep dive into understanding how you view things. I think SLTC helps you understand how your messaging is received by others. MOCTC and SLTC are two parts of the same equation, and I think the beauty of SLTC is that you take what you’ve learned about yourself and your own leadership style back in MOCTC and then incorporate that on a larger scale. How do you impart what you’re trying to say in a way that is understood by someone from a different community that’s looking at the same problem through a different lens? How do you relate your message to their goal and then align both group’s goals? Transforming that individual understanding of leadership to a larger group level was a big difference.  

 Can you tell me about a specific time where what you learned in SLTC was helpful in your job? 

PETERS: A couple months ago, I reached out to a reservist in Colorado [who] I met in SLTC. I had a coworker [who] needed help with something that the reservist had talked about during our class. He was able to put me in contact with someone in his network that help with the problem we were working on.   

I think classes like SLTC truly solidify the Coast Guard network in terms of having people in various communities be able to reach out to and just say, "Okay, I don’t know where to start, but I know I can go to someone who does, and get to an answer within a day." SLTC has a unique way of being able to bridge communities together, and that’s something that is critical for the organization. That doesn’t necessarily happen organically outside of a classroom setting.

What would you tell other O4s and GS-13s that are thinking about attending SLTC? 

PETERS: The benefit of SLTC is that it gives you dedicated time to focus on leadership, which is not typically something we get in our day-to-day job. Of course you do leadership every day, but there’s something about being able to set time aside to focus on applying techniques, identifying blind spots and weaknesses, and growing your understanding of how to take care of your people better.   

You really learn a lot about yourself as you take on leadership roles, and having the time and guidance to mold yourself as you’re moving up in your career is crucial. You could find yourself as an O5 (commander) without having really done any formal leadership training, where you set aside that time away from your daily work and collaterals to focus on your leadership. We need this time as we move up in the organization to invest in ourselves and our people.

We caught up with Lt. Cmdr. Peters’ supervisor, Cmdr. Brooks Crawford, and asked his perspective the benefits of a member of his team attending SLTC.   

He told us, “Meg was already a gifted leader, but SLTC helped her to identify her blind spots and opportunities for growth. I can see that the course refined many of the things that already came naturally to her in leadership. When conflicts arise, she has gotten very good at getting everyone on the same page, inspiring a shared vision and empowering those around her to solve the problem at hand.  

Attending courses like SLTC are ways for an O4 to demonstrate that you’re interested in personal professional development, but more importantly - you should go because you truly want to become a better leader, learn, and refine your skillset. The tools you learn in the course are truly valuable to yourself, your unit and to the Coast Guard.”