My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 31, 2022

Coast Guard Announces 2022 Inspirational Leadership Award Winners

By Janki Patel, MyCG Staff

Every year, the Inspirational Leadership Awards recognize eight Coast Guard active duty, reservists, civilians, and auxiliary volunteers who best exemplify the Coast Guard’s Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. They recognize up and coming leaders whose actions inspire their shipmates while advancing the Coast Guard’s service to the nation.  

The Coast Guard’s Office of Leadership announced the winners May 23. Additionally, each winner received a personal phone call from either the Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl L. Schultz or Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden informing them they had been chosen as one of the 2022 winners. 

The 2022 winners are:  

  1. Lt. Cmdr. Roberto Concepcion (Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award—Active Duty)  
  2. Lt. Sara Cole (Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award—Reserve)  
  3. Chief Petty Officer Mike Rushane, marine science technician (Master Chief Petty Officer Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award—Active Duty)  
  4. Chief Petty Officer Rafael Ortiz, maritime enforcement specialist (Master Chief Petty Officer Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award—Reserve)  
  5. Charlie Coiro (George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award)  
  6. Auxiliarist Ralph Gregory Hendricks (Commodore Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award)  
  7. Commander Tom Przybyla (Captain David H. Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award)  
  8.  Petty Officer Third Class Bryan L. Beck, machinery technician (Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award)  

90 submissions were received from across the Coast Guard, and the eight winners were selected by a diverse panel that included active duty, reservists, civilians, and auxilarists. 

“Exceptional. Dedication. Leadership. Each of the 2022 Inspirational Leadership Award winners exemplify these descriptors in their own, unique way,” said Capt. Julie Kuck, deputy director, Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership. “And not only do their actions inspire their colleagues, but they serve as a model for the next generation of Coast Guard leaders.” 

This Year’s Winners  

Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award   

The oldest of the Coast Guard Inspirational Leadership Awards, the Captain John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award, honors both a Coast Guard active duty and reserve. Its namesake was the second African American officer to command a Coast Guard cutter and the first African American to command a Coast Guard shore unit. He was recognized as a leader, mentor and pioneer who commanded respect as a “do-as-I-do” leader. 

  • Active Duty Winner: Lt. Cmdr. Roberto Concepcion, Office of Specialized Capabilities 

Lt. Cmdr. Roberto Concepcion’s leadership philosophy is one of compassion, and guided by five tenants: visible commitment, humility, cultural and emotional intelligence, and effective collaboration. He tirelessly works to attract underrepresented minorities to this service by building relationships with key centers of influence to improve diversity within the Coast Guard. He meticulously looks for networking opportunities to build robust connections and expand collaboration opportunities among the Affinity Group Council, Coast Guard Recruiting Command, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  

Specifically, he uses his networks to foster strategic partnerships with schools that serve predominantly minority populations to help boost diversity in recruiting efforts for the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative Program. He helped formulate and implement key diversity recruiting strategies, which revitalized minority diversity recruiting initiatives service wide. This resulted in assigning more than 80 Minority Servicing Institution Ambassadors from around the Coast Guard to support the nationwide minority officer recruiting efforts prior to commissioned officer recruiting billets coming on-line. His efforts forged relationships with key centers of influence within these underrepresented minority communities that will have a lasting impact on the service. 

  • Reserve Winner: Lt. Sara Cole, Coast Guard Port Security Unit 305 

Lt. Sara Cole is someone who embraces our Coast Guard’s Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty in all aspects of her life. She is a respected officer at Port Security Unit (PSU) 305 because she rigorously adheres to the highest ethical principles, while providing compassionate leadership. She is a go-to resource for the command on any policy guidance. She provided members with counseling on enlisted evaluation reports, re-enlistment criteria, bonus eligibility, government travel credit card violations, and drug and alcohol abuse.  

With her integrity beyond reproach, she is known for doing the right thing regardless of the action being hard or unpopular and has been a staunch advocate for all. She ensured injured members received access to medical care, drafted 21 administrative remarks, and individually counseled members on the mandatory vaccine requirements. She processed two discharge packages, and assisted with a Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) investigation.  

Her actions are done with genuine kindness that make her approachable for all ranks. Even when members didn’t agree with the Coast Guard’s final decisions, each member ultimately felt valued, appreciating the time, attention and respect she gave them. Her innate desire to help others extended beyond the Coast Guard as she provided aid at a car accident in advance of emergency services and assisted fellow fire academy recruits with difficulties while providing them support and encouragement to persevere. 

Master Chief Petty Officer Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award  

The award is named after a pioneer for women and African Americans in the Coast Guard. Admired for her devotion, exemplary leadership and professionalism, she was the first African American woman to be promoted to master chief petty officer and she had been slated to become the chief of yeoman A-school prior to her death. She was an inspiration to those who trained under her and left a lasting impression on everyone who knew her. This award honors a Coast Guard active duty and reservist member.  

  • Active Duty Winner: Chief Petty Officer Michael Rushane, marine science technician, Sector Long Island Sound 

Chief Petty Officer Michael Rushane fosters an environment in which everyone feels valued and empowered to ensure effectiveness and timely mission execution, whether it is conducting a vessel examination to ensure oceangoing ships are fit for operation on the high seas, responding to a pollution incident, identifying critical safety or security issues at waterfront facilities, or executing Honor Guard and military funeral duties.  

Rushane has been a staunch advocate for the Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI), an organization created to foster diversity through inclusion. His work helped encourage others to speak up about injustices they see in the workplace and offered tangible solutions to create a supportive environment based on eliminating negative and unproductive behaviors from the workplace. His further showcased his dedication to the workforce through spearheading a Women’s Equality Day event which hosted a panel of speakers including the vice commandant, First District commander, retired Coast Guard admiral, City of Bridgeport Chief of Police and a Seventh District sector commander. 

Rushane’s enthusiasm for mentoring and coaching was evident in all that he did throughout the Chief's Mess and sector, and in his leadership of the sector’s marine science technicians (MST). He hosted several cadets from the Coast Guard Academy and Officer Candidates to offer familiarization on Coast Guard missions and Sector operations. He also managed the sector’s Prevention and Response Department professional development for members. Chief's encouragement and advice led to six junior members pursuing graduate and undergraduate degrees to further their professional competence and expertise, and to some of the highest service wide scores in the Coast Guard. 

  • Reserve Winner: Chief Petty Officer Rafael Ortiz, maritime enforcement specialist, Coast Guard Reserve Unit SOUTHCOM 

Chief Petty Officer Rafael Ortiz is a leader who unfailingly supports and guides the command and models our core values in all aspects of his life. His eagerness, passion, and insight are invaluable to the professional development for officers and enlisted. 

Ortiz demonstrated superior leadership volunteering to support SOUTHCOM operations for the August 2021 Haiti earthquake and subsequent humanitarian assistance / disaster response. Acting as the Coast Guard Liaison Officer, he prioritized capabilities and managed limited resources against mounting and competing demands, which directly impacted JTF-Haiti’s ability to mobilize 19 helicopters, six ships, eight transport aircraft, and approximately 1,200 response members. He was also instrumental in the delivery of almost 600,000 pounds of humanitarian cargo (food, water, medical equipment, and other critical relief supplies), and assistance or rescue of 477 people. 

Combatant Commands (COCOMs) are notoriously good opportunities for officers to gain proficiency in joint operations, making them diverse leaders capable of partnering and coordinating operations with Department of Defense (DoD) entities. Through Ortiz’s leadership and insight, enlisted members are increasing their footprint at reserve unit SOUTHCOM and gaining unprecedented opportunities to contribute to and benefit from the knowledge transfers associated with an assignment to a COCOM. Recognizing the skillsets and professional knowledge enlisted members offer, he researched and compiled the ideal E-PAL to maximize impact to SOUTHCOM operations and ensure opportunities for growth and advancement for the enlisted member. His dedication to diversity resulted in a 500% increase in junior enlisted assignments to SOUTHCOM. 

Ortiz is a servant leader, driven by our core values and dedicated to the betterment of the unit, reserve program, and the Coast Guard as a whole. In addition to his dedication to the service, Ortiz is devoted to his local community. As the president of his local motorcycle club, he spearheaded efforts to raise approximately $4,000 to purchase Christmas gifts for local families in need. 

George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award   

The George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award recognizes a Coast Guard civilian employee and is named for the first commissioner of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. He exemplified inspirational leadership and his accomplishments during civilian service have stood the test of time, including benefits such as annual leave, paid sick leave, and a retirement system for Lighthouse Service employees. He was known for his courage and conviction, innovation and dedication to serving humanity. 

  • Winner: Charlie Coiro, Leadership Development Center, New London, Conn. 

Charlie Coiro is a distinguished person of character, competence, conviction, and innovation. He continually inspires others through his personal leadership approach in answering – “What did I do today to positively impact Coast Guard leaders?” Coiro’s positive impact on other members, units, and the entire Coast Guard is unequalled, and he indisputably exceeds all elements of the award criteria. Examples of his organizational impact include competently developing Coast Guard leaders, acting on his convictions to create environments of more inclusivity, and delivering innovative leadership interventions to help units solve a myriad of problems and attain mission execution excellence. 

Coiro demonstrated superb leadership and initiative in executing 14 course offerings, delivering inspirational leader development content that enriched 276 members, cultivating a culture of respect and inclusivity. His ability to help leaders learn has positively influenced the entire organization with over 500 units’ leaders impacted by his expert tutelage. Coiro inspired leaders of all ranks and responsibilities in over 100 classes for five different Leadership Development Center (LDC) courses. 

Coiro delivered impactful interventions directly to units in the field. In the past year he led over 20 leader support efforts consisting of more than 300 hours of customized instruction and focus group meetings. These interventions focused on improving a unit’s workplace climate, developing unit leaders, re-energizing the unit Leadership and Development Advisory Council (LDAC), or conducting strategic alignment. 

Commodore Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award  

The Commodore Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award pays respect to Commodore Greanoff, a leader instrumental in shaping the Auxiliary into the organization it is today. He achieved the Auxiliary’s highest position of National Commodore, and his spirit epitomizes the criteria recognized by this award for a Coast Guard auxiliarist. 

  • Winner: Flotilla Commander Ralph Gregory Hendricks, District 7 

As Flotilla Commander (FC), Ralph Gregory Hendricks observed a critical need for boat crew qualification examinations (QE) this year. He rose to the challenge and provided leadership above and beyond his normal duties as FC to organize and coordinate division-wide preparations. The additional work included organizing patrol dates and training locations, coordinating surface facilities, and leading single and two boat on-water exercises. He led 24 hours of classroom instruction and 83 hours of on-water training for boat crew members who needed to re-certify their qualifications in 2021. 

In his role as Flotilla Commander and the Auxiliary Unit Coordinator, Hendricks strengthened the relationship between the local Auxiliary and the Station Port Canaveral command and crew. When it became known that there were urgent staffing needs within critical areas of the station, he took the initiative to reach out to all members of Division 7 for immediate assistance in understaffed areas. This included radio watch standers, culinary assistants, and rescue and survival system (RSS) personal protective equipment (PPE) inspectors. Hendricks quickly established a goal that far exceeded the station’s expectations. As a result, the station now has two auxiliary members working a regular watch standing shift each week, with three others nearing completion of their radio watch standing training. 

As a result of the excellent job performed by the Flotilla’s culinary assistants, the request for additional assistance has grown to include the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence. The Confidence’s commanding officer has since extended an offer for members to go underway due to demonstrated professionalism, skills, and rapport. 

Captain David H. Jarvis Award for Inspirational Leadership  

The longest rescue mission ever undertaken in Coast Guard history was led by Capt. David Henry Jarvis. He received a Gold Medal of Honor at the request of President William McKinley in recognition of this effort, now known as the Overland Relief Expedition. This award recognizes a Coast Guard active-duty member and is presented in partnership with the Navy League.      

  • Winner: Cmdr. Tom Przybyla, Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star 

Cmdr. Tom Przybyla’s leadership was instrumental to the success of the Coast Guard’s first winter Arctic icebreaker deployment in 40 years. At his urging, the crew battled through hurricane force winds, constantly shifting sea ice, and weeks of unremitting darkness, including 11 days that the sun did not rise. They persevered through the 82-day deployment on a 46-year-old ship without the reprieve of port calls or liberty. He inspired the crew to brave these harsh and unforgiving conditions by invoking the words of David Jarvis as he set out on the Overland expedition: “you must never dwell too much on the dangers or sufferings, lest others question your courage.” 

Przybyla recognized the importance of COVID vaccinations to member health and unit readiness very early on. Starting in January, he worked closely with the wardroom and Chief’s Mess to align unity of effort to meet the crew’s needs. He has been instrumental in fostering a positive and inclusive culture aboard the cutter. 

Przybyla’s leadership was especially important during Polar Stars fifth consecutive dry dock away from homeport. Recognizing the toll that back-to-back dry docks and deployments were taking on the crew and their families, he worked with CG-1 and Pacific Area to refine and implement a “People Plan” to honor the sacrifices of the crew. Starting with feedback from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) survey, and leveraging the resiliency absence for major cutter crews, Przybyla addressed operational tempo by rotating sections of the crew back to homeport for four-week blocks. Advocating for the crew, he demanded an increased number of hotel rooms and dining options for the crew that remained in dry dock. 

Earlier this year, Polar Star participated in Operation Deep Freeze, supporting the U.S. Antarctic Program, enabling groundbreaking science for the betterment of humankind, and fulfilling presidential mandates to maintain an active and influential U.S. presence on the southernmost continent. Przybyla’s leadership has been crucial in preparing the ship and crew for the first Antarctic deployment in 21 months, and training 133 new crew members to accomplish the mission. More than 80 of the crewmembers aboard have never been to Antarctica. With international engagements planned for New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti, Przybyla’s leadership is advancing U.S. strategic policy to counter near-peer influence in Oceania. 

Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award   

The Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award recognizes a Coast Guard enlisted member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership. The winner of the award receives an automatic merit promotion. The award is presented in partnership with the Navy League. 

  • Winner: Petty Officer Third Class Bryan L. Beck, machinery technician, Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless 

Petty Officer Third Class Bryan Beck led a team of junior petty officers and non-rated members through an emergency turbo charger change on the number one main diesel engine. Working through the night during a port call, Beck’s technical ability and can-do attitude was key in replacing the 1,500-pound turbo. 

Following a catastrophe generator casualty in April 2020 Beck rallied the crew to remove and replace the generator set without the support of a local maintenance augmentation team (MAT) in Pensacola, Fla. Beck spearheaded the project using ship’s force saving the Coast Guard over $10,000 incomparable commercial cost and keeping Dauntless “Safe to Sail.” 

Beck consistently provides hands on training to all newly reported members, as well as facilitates pre-boards to ensure maximum support throughout the qualification process. Beck’s dedication to others directly contributed to multiple members receiving watch standing qualifications as well as other necessary underway, cutter-specific qualifications.  

Beck possesses the ability to create and maintain a positive culture where the differences of all members are respected, so that all could achieve their full potential and maximize their contributions to Coast Guard missions. Overall, Becks, enthusiastically serves as Dauntless’ command appointed lay leader leading divine services underway since May 2019. He has acted with strategic intent to ensure optimization of resources, influenced the success of major operations or programs, and achieved operational excellence.  

Outside of work, Beck is active with his local church mentoring high school and middle school age students. Additionally, his church involvement has given him the opportunity to provide positive guidance and be a role model for at risk youth through weekly gatherings and three recent weekend retreats. 

Future Nominations  

The Office of Leadership solicits Inspirational Leadership Award nominations through an ALCOAST message each November with a two-month application window. Eligibility requirements, specific guidelines and nomination procedures are outlined on the office’s website.  

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