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My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 16, 2024

Coast Guard recognizes innovators of the year

By Kathy Murray, MyCG Senior Writer

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2023 Capt. Niels P. Thomsen Innovation Awards!  

Much like the legendary Capt. Thomsen, who dramatically improved the safety of buoy tending operations by inventing the chain stopper, this year’s winners used their creativity, talents, and collaborative nature to boost the efficiency, productivity, and overall mission success of the Coast Guard.  

The winning teams were recognized in a ceremony held on May 2, 2024. Here’s a list of the 2023 awards by category: 

​Science or Technology​  

Dark Vessel Detection at Scale 

The Commercial Analytics Assessment Team collaborated with National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to develop satellite imagery solutions that automatically identified dark vessels in vast ocean areas, enhancing maritime security and situational awareness. This technology played a key role in detecting narcotics smuggling, resulting in the largest cocaine seizure in a partner country’s history. 

Team members: Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Taylor, Lt. Cmdr. Nikea Natteal, Patrick Richmond, Lt. John Pope, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Patrick Jackson, Chief Petty Officer Samuel Hammond, Petty Officer 1st Class Drew Logan, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jocelyn Miller, Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Gadd, Petty Officer 2nd Class Clifford McRorie II, Lt. j.g. Alaric Stone, Lt. j.g. Bonni Hartman, Mathew Frank, David Newberry and Mark Winding. 

Operations or Readiness 

Innovation in Migrant Interdiction Operations 

Brainstormed during Operation Vigilant Sentry, the ENFORCE Migrant Interdictions Operations application is a technology tool that speeds up the manual process of managing migrants from embarkation to repatriation. By capturing identification information and consolidating it in a database, the app improved productivity and reduced the need for surge staffing in District 7.  

Team members: Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Antonelli, Lt. Kailee Evereteze, Lt. Garen Anderson, Lt.j.g. Jarett Woodbury, Lt. Victoria Martucci, Lt. Cmdr. Nick Phillips, Lt. John Roddy, Lt. Benjamin Arocho, Lt. Ryan Major, and Lt.j.g. Casey Whitehead. 

Coast Guard Network Modernization: Starshield and 5G Cellular Technology 

The C5I Service Center Networking Team revolutionized the capability and resiliency of the Coast Guard network by deploying Starlink, which boosted underway cutter network speeds to match home levels, boosting connectivity and morale, and making critical Coast Guard applications usable around the world. 

Team members: Lt. Asa Jawahir,  Lt. j.g. Alex Tschida, Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Garcia, Lt. j.g. Mark Wood, Lt. j.g. Thomas Espinal, Lt. j.g. Lee Francis, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Allen, Senior Chief Petty Officer James Stewart, Eric Woynaroski, Jeff Tschiggfrie, Russ Watkins, Ed Soliven, William Vanden Houten, Allison Britton, Nak Chong, Keith Whelpley, Gary Kloss, Darryl Lewis, Kalvin Baker, Ken Schiro, Dennis Hyde, Andy Weber, Eric Rozon, Michael Locke, Lt. Michael Kenyon, Ensign Leland Wilson, Chief Petty Officer Abidenas Neves, Isaac Baiden, Juan Colon and Josh Hockenberry. 

Administration, Training, or Support 

Robotic Process Automation in the Coast Guard 

Team Talos implemented robotic process automation (RPA) solutions to streamline processes and reduce repetitive tasks across the Human Resources, Intelligence, Finance, and Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information Technology Directorates. To date, the Coast Guard has deployed over 62 tailor-made automation bots that are saving the organization around 85,000 manhours per year, helping transact more than $2 billion worth of Coast Guard funds and are being used in every district. 

Team members: Capt. Shannon M. Smith, Cmdr. Jonathan White, Cmdr. Lukas Spurrier, Lt. Drew Cheneler, Lt. Hessamoddin Shafeian, Lt. j.g. Alaric Stone, Petty Officer 3rd Class Theodore Sherrill, Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan De La Pena, Shamara Wilkins, Jessika Hunt, Celestina Budovec, and Devon Gunter, PhD. 

Culture Change 

Naval Engineering Structured Assignment Program 

The Office of Naval Engineering developed two new talent management systems to support cutter readiness, which provide substantial incentives to qualified applicants in exchange for obligated service. The afloat engineer officer 2-4-2 program helps officers develop skills and establishes a pipeline for filling critical billets. The major cutter engineering technician (MCET) 2-3-2 program for enlisted personnel targets E4 and E5 paygrades for damage controlmen, electricians’ mates, and machinery technicians, providing cutter and geographic stability for two afloat and one shoreside support. 

Team members: Brian Ellis, Capt. Thomas Lowry, Cmdr. Matthew Smith, and Lt. Cmdr. Nathaniel Dufresne. 

Auxiliary Achievement 

Emergency Management Transformation in District 8 

The 8th Western Rivers Region (8th WRR) Emergency Management Team developed an agile organizational structure which improved responsiveness during hurricanes. They also integrated GIS data to enhance situational awareness and decision making during critical events and advanced the qualifications and readiness of emergency response teams with new training. 

Team members: Commodore Richard Lawrence, Shawn Steadman, Bernard Weston Morosco, Jesse Scott, PhD., Commodore Robert Tippet, Dennis Pearson, Frank Harrison Merrill, Harvey Siegal, Commodore Jackson Gumb, and Barclay Stebbins. 

Cmdr. Joel Magnussen Innovation Award for Management 

Short-Range Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SR-UAS) 

A year after starting the SR-UAS program in January 2023, the team created the first ever SR-UAS Training and Standardization Division at Aviation Training Center (ATC) Mobile. The team fielded 212 aircraft, qualified over 400 SR-UAS pilots, participated in cutting edge efforts for water mapping, and assisted in saving lives, interdicting migrants, seizing drugs, and emergency response.  

Team members: Lt. Cmdr. Sammy Hill, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hardgrove, Lt. Zachary Speck, Lt. Kevin Deininger, Lt.j.g. Jacob Cheeseman, and Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Riemer.