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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 5, 2023

Announcing U.S. Naval Institute’s essay contest 

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG Writer 

The U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) is hosting its annual Coast Guard essay challenge. Open to all contributors, the contest is an opportunity to share your ideas on how to make your service more effective and better equipped to meet mission. No topic is too big or too small. Last year’s winners addressed sustainability for deployed cutters, “crowdsourcing” reporting on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and promoting Coast Guard history.  

The reigning and five-time winner of the Coast Guard essay challenge, Cmdr. Craig Allen, offers insight from his unique experience. “My advice for folks thinking about entering the contest:  Do it! Possible topics are everywhere. Think about something related to your job that doesn't work as well as it should. Describe how it could and ought to work, then analyze some of the reasons why it doesn't. Don't just define the problem though - imagine some possible solutions for making it better. Be creative!”  

The USNI awards $5,000 for first, $2,500 for second, and $1,500 for third place. The three winning essays will be published in the August issue of Coast Guard Proceedings. Even if your essay doesn't win, there's still a good chance it could be published either in USNI Proceedings or another forum.  

Essays must:  

  • Be no more than 2,500 words,  
  • Be original –not previously published online or in print,
  • Submitted to USNI directly no later than April 30.  

“On cutters, there's a long tradition of passing the midwatch by solving the world's and/or Coast Guard's problems with long discussions that make the watch go by faster,” Allen says. “Those conversations, smoothed out and organized a bit, can be a perfect inspiration for a USNI essay! I'm sure the same kinds of conversations happen at every kind of watch station all over the Coast Guard.”  

So, during your next midwatch or roadtrip or field day, start the conversation. How can we be more innovative? How can we leverage our partnerships and authorities? How can we overcome barriers and excel in this dynamic world? How are you going to make the Coast Guard better?  

Submit your essay as a word document online the U.S. Naval Institute's website.   

The Proceedings staff members will evaluate every essay and screen the top essays to a special Essay Selection Committee of at least six members who will include two members of the Naval Institute's Editorial Board and four subject matter experts. All essays are judged in the blind; the Proceedings staff members and judges will not know the authors of the essays.