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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 22, 2022

Awardees build inclusion through policy change, innovation, authentic conversation 

By Office of Diversity and Inclusion

The Coast Guard Office of Diversity and Inclusion recognized three members who have demonstrated excellence in growing healthy work environments wherein every member is empowered to lead, succeed, and enhance quality of life for all members.  

The award recipients were:  

  • Lt. Cmdr. Marguerite “Maggie” Champlin (Captain Dorothy Stratton Women’s Leadership Award)   
  • Petty Officer Second Class Leanne M. Rensch (Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie Women's Leadership Award)  
  • Lt. Jacob Brown (Captain Edward R. Williams Award for Excellence in Diversity)   

A nine-member panel of U.S. Coast Guard officers, enlisted members, and civilians deliberated over 20 nominations submitted across all three categories of awards.  

“Each award recipient showed practical ways anyone within our workforce can build a culture of excellence and belonging within their teams. One person can really make a positive, lasting difference,” said Dr. Donna Mischell Navarro, acting assistant commandant for human resources and senior advisor to the Commandant for diversity and inclusion, U.S. Coast Guard.  

A closer look at the winners:   

Captain Dorothy Stratton Women's Leadership Award    

This award is named in honor of Capt. Dorothy Stratton, the first director of the U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve. All women of the rank of chief warrant officer through lieutenant commander who have demonstrated inspirational, innovative, and imaginative leadership, and made lasting improvements in the working conditions and quality of life for Coast Guard members are eligible for nominations.   

Lt. Cmdr. Marguerite “Maggie” Champlin, winner of the Captain Dorothy Stratton Women’s Leadership Award. Photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Marguerite Champlin.Winner: Lt. Cmdr. Marguerite “Maggie” Champlin, currently stationed at the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville, Florida.  

Like Capt. Dorothy Stratton, Lt. Cmdr. Marguerite Champlin began her military career in the U.S. Navy. Champlin is a graduate of the Naval Academy and a former MH-60S Seahawk pilot. She is a qualified flight examiner and instructor pilot.  

“Maggie Champlin is an exceptional leader and role model in all facets of her Coast Guard career, yet it is her sincere desire to care for those around her, in both their personal and professional lives, that make her a standout candidate for this prestigious award,” said Capt. B.L. Knutson, commanding officer, Sector North Bend. “She set the tone for a strong safety culture and was the primary advisor for all safety related matters at a five aircraft unit with six surf station sub-units in a rugged and treacherous Pacific Northwest operating environment.”  

Champlin has saved many lives during dozens of search and rescue operations. After many severe surf, vertical surface, and inland search and rescue cases, the Sector North Bend command recognized the need for creating new, high-risk scenario training designed to give flight crews the best chance of saving lives during the most grueling conditions. In collaboration with the air operations officer and rescue swimmer chief, Champlin built a program designed to train pilots, flight mechanics, and rescue swimmers in optimal techniques for the night inland and vertical surface environments. In February 2021, Sector North Bend conducted its first dedicated night vertical surface training flight resulting in a new training waiver and training syllabus allowing flight crews to conduct overland hoist training with night vision goggles (NVGs). Champlin worked closely with senior flight mechanics and rescue swimmer instructors to conduct a full risk assessment and create a training plan to reduce risk to the maximum extent possible.  

Champlin credits her mom, a high school teacher who she also describes as her best friend, as encouraging her to pursue her goal of becoming an aviator.  

Another quality Champlin possesses, which she credits to her mom, is always seeking to help others whenever possible.   

“At one point my mom was teaching children in five different high schools. She was absolutely always finding a way to help her students achieve.”  

When seeking to help others achieve; when seeking to create opportunity and inclusion, Champlin recommends one simple habit— “Go talk to people, daily. Get out from behind your desk and actually ask people what they need. Honestly listen to what they have to say. As a safety officer, getting out from behind my desk and getting to know people; asking them everything from what it is they’re working on— on the aircraft— to just asking them how their day was going built connection and trust. Go talk to people and listen to what they have to say.”      

Captain Edward R. Williams Coast Guard Award for Excellence in Diversity  

Lt. Jacob Brown, winner of the Captain Edward R. Williams Award for Excellence in Diversity. Photo courtesy of Lt. Jacob Brown.Named in honor of Capt. Edward R. Williams, who, in the 1990s, was instrumental in reestablishing the Minority Recruiting Branch, implementation of the Diversity Staff, and creating the Coast Guard Mentoring Program, the award is presented to the Coast Guard officer or chief warrant officer judged to have been most supportive of initiatives to achieve, value, and manage diversity in the Coast Guard.   

Winner: Lt. Jacob Brown, currently stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. 

“Lt. Jacob Brown’s vision, enthusiasm, and energy have accelerated conceptualized initiatives to fruition, resulting in lasting positive impacts which current and future generations will greatly benefit from,” said Capt. Michael Fredie, Coast Guard Academy admissions director. 

Brown serves as an admissions officer at the Coast Guard Academy, where he graduated in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in government.    

“He works tirelessly to recruit talent, including within the highly diverse populations of the southern United States and Caribbean territories; all while overcoming the challenges of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic,” Fredie said.  

Brown also serves as the lead faculty advisor for the Genesis Council which provides the Corps of Cadets opportunities to learn about and experience the history, cultural nuances, and issues that characterize the African American/Black diaspora today. Brown also serves as the National Naval Officers Association’s New England Chapter vice president, the Coast Guard Academy’s Leadership Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC) vice chair, and as a liaison on the Academy Minority Outreach Team (AMOT). Members of the AMOT volunteer to share their educational, career, and life experiences with prospective cadets.  

“Sometimes we project who we will become based on the individuals that we see — be it political figures, Fortune 500 CEOs, doctors, professional athletes, family and friends, or even social media influencers. Observing people who look like you doing things you aspire to do makes all the difference in the world. Representation can alter the trajectory of one’s life,” said Brown.  

Having witnessed his older brother earn an appointment to West Point and play football, Brown believed he, too, could be a collegiate athlete at a service academy, he said.  

One practical, immediate way members can begin increasing inclusion and cohesion within their own work environments is through intentionally getting to know people in the workplace and putting a conscious effort toward understanding why diversity and inclusion matter, said Brown.  

“Education, training, and policies are important, but I also believe that deep understanding and acceptance of similarities and differences, ultimately resulting in more cohesive and supportive units, can occur when we engage in honest, organic conversations with each other,” Brown said.  

Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie Women's Leadership Award  

Named in honor of Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie, the first female master chief petty officer in the Coast Guard, the award recognizes an enlisted woman who has demonstrated inspirational, innovative and imaginative leadership and lasting improvements in working conditions and quality of life for their peers, subordinates, and the Coast Guard.  

Winner: Petty Officer 2nd Class Leanne M. Rensch, currently assigned to Aids to Navigation (ANT) Saginaw River in Essexville, Michigan.  

Petty Officer 2nd Class Leanne M. Rensch, winner of the Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie Women's Leadership Award, works on an air conditioner unit aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton Apr. 21, 2022. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sydney"[Petty Officer ] Rensch is an outstanding machinery technician who constantly seeks to improve, learn as much as she can, and teach others along the way. She motivates those around her and genuinely cares for her juniors, seniors and peers alike,” said Capt. Matthew T. Brown, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton.  

While serving aboard Hamilton, Rensch demonstrated leadership, diversity, and inclusion in several ways during her time serving aboard the cutter. She authored a white paper addressing gender transparency in underway billets to promote retention of women in the cutter community while also serving as the cutter’s victim advocate. She devised a means of improving cutter fueling for the National Security Cutter fleet. Her ability to maintain the operational boats on board the cutter led the team to execute their mission to stop suspected drug runners in the Caribbean. As the small boat engineer, she and her team rescued 199 Haitian migrants from an overcrowded sail freighter. All those migrants were safely brought aboard Hamilton and then repatriated to Haiti. While deployed to the Mediterranean and Black Seas, Rensch prepared and executed multiple training operations with naval and coast guard ships from NATO allies and regional maritime partners. 

Rensch offers practical advice for creating helpful and inclusive environments. 

“Stay curious, talk to people, ask lots of questions, hear what they have to say, and choose empathy. Really try to understand conditions for others before you make decisions and choose empathy,” she said.  

Rensch cites her dad, a retired U.S. Marine, for inspiring her to become a technical expert and leader who takes the initiative.  

“He has so much faith in me,” she said.  

Rensch enlisted in the Coast Guard at age 17 with her parent’s consent and has been in the Coast Guard for eight years.   

Three additional tips Rensch offers for accelerating one’s own competence and leadership are: 

  1. Choose productive work, not busy work 
  2. When those dream sheets come out, choose jobs that suck and challenge yourself. Jump in, admit you don’t know what you’re doing, ask questions, and be open to learning a new skill. Never let pride stop your progress. 
  3. If you see a problem, try to fix it. You have the power to make a positive difference.     

“Something moved these award winners to action. Their stories can inspire others to take action also,” said Hope Balamani, Coast Guard Office of Diversity & Inclusion (CG-127) chief.       

Future Nominations   

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion solicits Diversity and Inclusion Awards nominations through an ALCOAST message in the spring, annually, with a 45-day application window. Eligibility requirements, specific guidelines and nomination procedures are described in the “Recognition Programs Manual.”    


Recognition Programs Manual

You may also email questions about award nomination criteria, format, and endorsement standards to Lt.j.g. Molly Sternberg (, COMDT (CG-127).