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My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 25, 2023

2023 Inspirational Award Winners

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG staff writer

The Coast Guard takes great pride in announcing the winners of the 2023 Inspirational Awards. The Commandant, Adm. Linda Fagan, and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Heath Jones, called each winner on May 23 to inform them they won.  

The 2023 winners are: 

  1. Lt. Cmdr. George MacDonnell, Coast Guard Leadership Development Center: CAPT David H. Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award  
  2. ​Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Champagne (AET1), Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Douglas Munro Inspirational Leadership Award 
  3. William Carter, Coast Guard Sector Maryland – National Capitol Region (NCR): George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award  
  4. Flotilla Commander Buford Ridgeway, District 8-Eastern Region (8ER), Division 24 (North Alabama Area), Flotilla 4 (Florence): COMO Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award  
  5. Cmdr. Leah Cole, Coast Guard cutter Bertholf: CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award - Active Duty 
  6. Lt. Margaret Connolly, Port Security Unit (PSU) 301 Boston: CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award - Reserve 
  7. Chief Petty Officer Bradley Haines (MEC), Coast Guard Sector Mobile, Alabama: MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award - Active Duty 
  8. Master Chief Petty Officer Kirstin MacLean (BMCM), Chief Petty Officer Academy, Petaluma, California: MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award - Reserve 

“These individuals best exemplify the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty,” said Capt. Russ Mayer, chief of the Office of Leadership. “They are exceptional leaders, outstanding role models and committed mentors whose leadership and passion for service inspires their shipmates while supporting Coast Guard missions around the world.”  

Read more about the winners’ impressive achievements and learn about the history of the awards below. 

CAPT David H. Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award 

During the winter of 1897-1898, a whaling fleet of more than 300 men became trapped in the ice near Point Barrow, Alaska, and faced starvation. David Henry Jarvis, then a first lieutenant in the Revenue Cutter Service, led a small rescue team and a herd of about 400 reindeer across 1,500 miles of tundra to the stranded men. This feat remains the longest rescue mission ever in Coast Guard history and was heralded as a “victory of peace” by President McKinley as he awarded Jarvis and his team Gold Medals of Honor in June 1902. 

The Navy League presents the Jarvis award recognizing a Coast Guard officer who has made outstanding contributions to the high standards of competence and leadership traditions in the Coast Guard. 

  • Winner: Lt. Cmdr. George MacDonnell, Coast Guard Leadership Development Center 

Lt. Cmdr. George MacDonnell serves as the Senior Leader Transition Course school chief within the Officer and Civilian Leadership Continuum. He created and implemented the VADM John P. Currier Award for graduates of the Midgrade Officer and Civilian Transition and Senior Leader Transition Courses. The Currier Award honors a student in each class who most embodies the spirit of inclusive, positive and effective leadership. Despite limited in-person time for his courses, he inspired long-lasting behavior changes in his students by using a revolutionary cognitive reflective framework to maximize student engagement.  

While going through an incredibly difficult personal situation, he courageously and effectively delivered exceptional leadership training by being vulnerable with his students and authentically modeling values.  

Douglas Munro Inspirational Leadership Award  

Having volunteered to evacuate a detachment of Marines who were facing annihilation by an unanticipated large enemy force, Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro safely extricated them and in doing so was mortally wounded on Guadalcanal on Sept. 27, 1942. Munro maneuvered himself and his boats into a position to cover the last groups of men as they headed to the boats. In doing so, he exposed himself to greater enemy fire and suffered his fatal wound. At the time it was reported that he had remained conscious long enough to utter his final words: "Did they get off?” 

The Navy League presents the Munro award recognizing a Coast Guard enlisted member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and professional competence to the extent of their rank and rate. As a result of their selection as the Douglas Munro Inspirational Leadership Award Winner, E-6 and below members receive an automatic meritorious advancement. 

  • Winner: Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Champagne, avionics electrical technician, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts 

Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Champagne serves as a flight mechanic examiner, the highest aviation qualification in Coast Guard helicopter operations. As an examiner, he is the local authority on operations, standardization and flight safety and is entrusted with the most demanding training scenarios.  

He was exactly the right flight mechanic to have aboard when the aircrew launched for a search and rescue case off the Maine coast with poor weather conditions. He felt a vibration in the airframe that no other crew member could feel. The aircraft commander respected and trusted Champagne implicitly and promptly returned to base. Upon inspection, the crew found an external fuel tank only partially secured, which could have led to a significant mishap.  

Champagne was hand-selected for a six-week intensive assignment to train other flight mechanics in their transition between airframe types, enabling Air Station New Orleans to transition to the MH-60 airframe with a fully qualified cadre of flight mechanics. He led 10 other instructors and examiners at Air Station Cape Cod to streamline the unit ground school which reduced the basic aircrew training time from 11 months to eight weeks. His improved syllabus accelerated junior members’ professional progression and boosted their morale and sense of belonging in the service.  

Outside of work, Champagne volunteers weekly to restock shelves at the local Empowerment Center, a non-profit which provides programs, services and good for veterans, active duty members and their families. 

Champagne will be meritoriously advanced to Chief on June 8 at the Navy League Convention in Dallas. Congratulations, Chief-select Champagne! 

CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award 

After three years in the Army, John G. Witherspoon enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1963. He rapidly advanced to quartermaster first class before attending Officer Candidate School. He went to serve as commanding officer of cutters Mallow, Valiant and Dependable. Retired Vice Adm. Manson Brown remarked, “he was an inspiring role model. He epitomized leadership by example. He exemplified poise and professionalism. And, he taught us that we could make a positive difference in the Coast Guard through commitment, hard work, and perseverance.”  

This award recognizes an active duty and a reserve officer, who best exemplify the Coast Guard's core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.  

  • Winner for active duty: Cmdr. Leah Cole, Coast Guard cutter Bertholf  

Cmdr. Cole personifies Capt. Witherspoon’s legacy by holding herself to the highest standards and taking a personal interest in each crewmember. In her new role as the cutter’s executive officer, she quickly earned the respect and trust of her crew and developed a new leadership team as she brought onboard three of four new department heads.  

Cole took positive actions in her first six months aboard to improve inclusion, most notably introducing “Request and Solution Coffee Table” where she and her Command Chief listened to and addressed crew concerns and ideas. She also brought together a “Women of Bertholf” group, empowering junior female crewmembers to bring forward concerns and share sea stories.  

As an experienced cutterman and only deck watch officer aboard Bertholf who had conducted a fueling at sea exercise, the cutter relied heavily on her instruction and leadership to conduct this complex operation. Cole thrives in creating opportunities for her crewmembers to gain experience and develop professionally and personally. She facilitated a one-month underway assignment aboard a U.S. Navy Destroyer for two junior officers to learn about electronic warfare, combat information center readiness and general quarters steaming operations that will advance Bertholf’s defense mission readiness. 

Cole serves as an inspiring example of how someone can maintain a healthy balance between being a mother of two young children and an exceptional professional. 

  • Winner for Reserves: Lt. Margaret Connolly, Port Security Unit (PSU) 301 in Boston 

Lt. Connolly is an extraordinary leader who yielded astounding results both in and out of the Coast Guard. Serving as the assistant operations department head, she developed and executed a unit-wide Tactical Action Officer College, consisting of 12 scenario-driven exercises, resulting in the qualification of six shoreside security officers, six waterside security officers, six tactical action officers and six communications watch standers. Additionally, she submitted 135 requests for training for her crew enabling 20 advancements and numerous qualifications. Connolly developed a comprehensive Boat Forces Insignia training program for the unit to standardize the internal process. 

Advocating for and taking care of her crews, Connolly created a lactation room for mothers and initiated quarterly leadership lunches to mentor enlisted members on career paths spanning A-school to Officer Candidate School applications.   

An ardent and dedicated member of her local community, she recently graduated her second ‘Little Sister’ from the Big Sisters organization and ran a Teen Employment Academy program providing 75 teens from low-income families the opportunity to work with local trade unions and develop life-long employable skills. Connolly also partnered with a ministry in Punta Gorda, Belize, her hometown, to raise donations to fund the education needs for five sisters whose father tragically died. 

MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award 

McShan was the first African American to be selected as an instructor at the Chief Petty Officers' Academy in 1999, and in 2000, the first African American woman to advance to Master Chief Petty Officer. Here’s how some of McShan’s former shipmates once described her: “Master Chief McShan is remembered as one of the Chief Petty Officer Academy’s finest instructors. She was an inspiring teacher and mentor, an expert communicator, an athlete and she had an infectious sense of humor. To her, attitude was everything. She truly believed that life was ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it.”  

This award recognizes an active duty and a reserve chief petty officer who best exemplify the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty.  

  • Winner for active duty component: Chief Petty Officer Bradley Haines, Coast Guard Sector Mobile, Alabama 

Chief Petty Officer Haines is an engaging, relatable and even-keeled leader who consistently enables his team to achieve maximum potential, personally and professionally.  

Taking initiative as the Sector’s recruiting liaison, Haines arranged a unit visit for underrepresented students from Moss Point High School’s Science and Technology Program, including an underway trip aboard a Coast Guard cutter and a tour of a Coast Guard H65 helicopter. He leveraged partnerships with a local news affiliate to get a Coast Guard feature that highlighted enlistment opportunities. 

Operationally, Haines mentored a petty officer second class during Operation Dry Water in conducting recreational safety boardings resulting in the most boating under the influence arrests Coast Guard wide. He was also the driving force behind Sector Mobile’s outstanding Comprehensive Law Enforcement Assessment of Readiness (CLEAR) inspection with zero discrepancies and the unit’s boarding officer test average of 93%, far surpassing the 70% national average.  

Haines recognizes that while many of our personnel desire to achieve their highest potential, there are times when life events can pose impediments to these desires. To that end, Haines’ engages directly with members to identify the impediments and work with them to identify resources to alleviate the impacts of those impediments. When a junior officer experienced a family tragedy, Haines was there listening intently, easing anxieties and normalizing the need to seek assistance.  

  • Winner for reserve component: Master Chief Petty Officer Kirstin MacLean, Chief Petty Officer Academy, Petaluma California 

Master Chief Petty Officer Kirstin MacLean inspires and leads others with unwavering dedication, unlocking the potential of our workforce. Despite fulfilling three short-term activations totaling seven months, MacLean fully executed the responsibilities of the Selected Reserve Chief Petty Officer Academy (CPOACAD) Instructor billet, mentoring three teams across three classes to provide students with invaluable leadership training. As the first drilling reservist to be lead point of contact for a CPOACAD class, she coordinated over 40 hours of curriculum delivery to 25 students. Beyond her typical duties, she taught the Apprentice Leadership Program content to 80 students from five A Schools in a six-month period as a drilling reservist. 

A leader in the Chiefs’ Mess, MacLean is an administrator for the 375-member Reserve Chiefs’ Mess social media group where she routine engages on topics ranging from pay and benefits to various competencies and opportunities. 

MacLean dedicated over 50 hours to partner with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to publicize and coordinate the 2022 Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium. Upon a vacancy, she eagerly volunteered to temporarily take on the role of the Parental Leave Program Manager where she expertly guided units on procedures for requesting personnel and navigating the process of finding volunteers for crucial positions.  

George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award  

Putnam was first commissioner of the U.S. Lighthouse Service and led it through 25 years of modernization and expansion from 1910-1935. He exemplified inspirational leadership and his accomplishments during civilian service have stood the test of time. Putnam was known for demonstrating great courage of conviction by hiring most competent people, selected based “solely on their record and their merits” and without regard to patronage. He was also an innovator, championing the use of radio aids to navigation and significantly increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Lighthouse service.  

This prestigious award annually recognizes the Coast Guard civilian employee (appropriated or non-appropriated) who best exemplifies the Coast Guard's core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty. 

  • Winner: Mr. William Carter, Coast Guard Sector Maryland – National Capitol Region (NCR) 

As a command duty officer (CDO) and search and rescue (SAR) mission coordinator (SMC), Mr. William Carter led the sector command center in the prosecution of 154 complex SAR cases resulting in over 175 lives and roughly $1.3 million in property saved or assisted. His leadership and respect for others ensured the command center set a high bar for preparation and achieved superb results in both the Fifth District and Standardization Team Assessments. He also provided valuable feedback to the assessment team which resulted in a fleet-wide change in how the Coast Guard responds to flare incidents.  

Carter fosters a culture of diversity through inclusion and commitment working within the unit Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council and Chiefs’ Mess to action items from the annual command climate and equal opportunity survey. After volunteering to be the primary liaison to a committee of influential and at times contentious group of mariners, he advanced the partnership by patiently educating and nurturing unity of effort. His deep knowledge and familiarity with the local area strengthened critical ties with numerous entities and enhanced the reputation of the Coast Guard.  

Within the command center, he is passionate, patient and devoted to investing in developing each team member, modeling selfless service.  

COMO Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award  

As National Commodore 1958-1959, Greanoff traveled the country to support the new missions of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and testified before Congress on the importance of boating safety regulations. He was instrumental in shaping the Auxiliary into the effective organization it is today. Greanoff's spirit of leadership epitomizes the criteria established for the Auxiliary Inspirational Leadership Award through his 63 years of sustained service and dedication to the members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Coast Guard and the nation.  

This award recognizes the Flotilla Commander who best exemplifies the Coast Guard's core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty. 

  • Winner: Flotilla Commander Buford K. Ridgeway, of District 8-Eastern Region (8ER), Division 24 (North Alabama Area), Flotilla 4 (Florence) 

Under the strong leadership of Flotilla Commander Ridgeway, the Florence Flotilla not only recovered from its near disestablishment, but also made significant contributions to the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Several of his Flotilla members, now reinvigorated, serve as staff officers for Division 24 and three members hold national staff positions in the Auxiliary.  

Operationally, Ridgeway aided Flotilla 4 members in coordinating the deployment of over 150 individuals to the southwest border in support of the Department of Homeland Security. He fostered a partnership with the Alabama Marine Police to better educate boaters on marine sanitation device and captain licensing requirements and collaborated with Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Nashville to assist with uninspected passenger vessel examinations.  

Ridgeway exhibited extraordinary, sustained leadership in forming the Wheeler Detachment to the Florence Flotilla to better serve the local boating community and aid in the diversity and inclusion of Auxiliary members.    

Future Nominations   

The Office of Leadership (CG-1D2) solicits for Inspirational Leadership Award nominations each November. The deadline for submissions for the 2024 Inspirational Leadership Awards is Jan. 17, 2024. Eligibility requirements, specific guidelines and nomination procedures are outlined on the office’s website.   


In the News 

The Long Blue Line: John Gordon Witherspoon—leader, mentor, minority trailblazer, and cutter namesake! > United States Coast Guard > My Coast Guard News (  

The Long Blue Line: Master Chief McShan—leader, mentor, trailblazer and FRC namesake – Coast Guard Compass (