My Coast Guard
Commentary | June 14, 2022

Special assignments with lasting impact

By Patrick Ferraris, Civil Rights Directorate

Equal Opportunity Advisors (EOA) play a vital role in assisting unit commanders with building a respectful work environment within the Coast Guard. The EOA position is a Special Assignment requiring no prior civil rights experience. The comprehensive training provided to those who are selected prepares them to serve as specialists who provide advice and guidance to military and civilian members. EOAs can come from many backgrounds and experiences, but they share one goal: support the Coast Guard workforce. They help inform employees about their rights, educate members on policies and procedures, counsel individuals, and provide training. EOAs help managers understand their roles and responsibilities and are critical members of the Coast Guard team.  

“The EOA role is important to the Coast Guard because many military and civilian members do not know what resources are available to them when they experience discrimination or harassment in the workplace,” said Master Chief Ben Westerfield, EOA, Civil Rights Directorate (CRD) Region 1, Zone 1, Boston, Ma. “We have experience and knowledge regarding the military side of the Coast Guard and I believe this is helpful to commands and military members,” he continued.  

Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Fischer EOA, CRD Region 3, Zone 12, Kodiak, Alaska, always had a calling to help those in need. As a Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician and Helicopter Rescue Swimmer serving out of rating, Fischer’s duty was to rescue and render medical aid to individuals in distress. As his career progressed, he saw the opportunity to apply for the EOA position via the Special Assignment process and was selected. “The EOA position is a nice change of pace from my primary rate,” said Fischer. “I support an organization, the CRD, with an excellent mission and I’m very proud to help individuals and Commands that are working through civil rights and command climate issues at their units.” Serving as an EOA has been an opportunity for Fischer to expand his skillset while still helping those in need, just in a different capacity. 

Master Chief Lazaro Lopez, EOA, CRD Region 4, Zone 10, Cleveland, Ohio., adds that this assignment allows service members to broaden their careers while also building on skills and receiving valuable professional development opportunities that will transfer over to the civilian sector. “This has been the best job experience of my Coast Guard career,” Lopez stated. “I can travel to many locations, visit dozens of Coast Guard units annually, and also receive professional training. This role allows me to grow as a mediator and equal opportunity advisor which can come in handy for future employment,” he added.  

In addition to enhancing career skills, serving as an EOA provides the opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the future of the Coast Guard, says Chief Mary Evans, EOA, CRD Region 1, Zone 2, Cape May, New Jersey. “I love training the recruits. For many of them, I am their first impression of our Civil Rights program and I am grateful to be entrusted with that,” she said. “It feels great to tell the newest members of the Coast Guard that they are empowered to report and prevent harassment and discrimination at all levels of the organization,” Evans added. For more information on becoming an EOA, please visit the Special Assignments Portal Page. 

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