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My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 21, 2024

Strengthening service culture – Full speed ahead

By Vice Adm. Pete Gautier and Master Chief Jahmal Pereira

Editor’s Note: Vice Adm. Pete Gautier is Deputy Commandant for Operations and campaign coordinator for the Strengthening Service Culture initiative. Master Chief Jahmal Pereira is Deputy Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard and leader of the Strengthening Service Culture Through Our Core Values initiative. 

In March, the Commandant announced “we are embarking on a long-term initiative to strengthen our service culture. We do not approach this work lightly or with the belief that it will be quick or easy. Strengthening our culture demands consistent work and long-term commitment.” 

Culture is the bedrock of our service. It defines who we are, where we have been, and how we think about ourselves. Each day culture and our core values inform our behaviors – how we interact with each other and the people we serve, both on and off duty. When we are at our best, we are unequaled.  

We understand that not all members, past and present, have experienced a workplace where they feel safe, valued, empowered, trusted, and connected. Some of our members have experienced harmful behaviors – ranging from sexual assault and harassment to hazing to offensive and degrading language. These and other behaviors are inconsistent with our core values. They have no place in the Coast Guard. We can and will do better.  

“We must ensure EVERY Coast Guard workplace has a climate that deters harmful behaviors and gives everyone the positive Coast Guard experience they expect and deserve,” Adm. Linda Fagan has said. 

All of us own service culture and have an individual responsibility to strengthen it. Our history of banding together to do remarkable things in an unforgiving maritime environment – a history that our Coast Guard members continue to make today – shows that a great deal of our culture is to be admired. We need to build on our strengths: our commitment to one another and to the people we serve; and our passion for the mission. As we work together to strengthen service culture, we will be guided by our Core Values. 

Strengthening service culture begins with what the Coast Guard expects of each member and what each member expects of each other, regardless of position or rank. These expectations must be centered on our core values. Our culture arises from our personal actions and interactions, supported by policies and procedures rooted in our core values that are taught and shared with every member from the moment they join the service and every day thereafter.  

Strengthening service culture is a sustained effort that will reinforce WHO we are and HOW we engage with one another. We’ve got a great foundation in our mission excellence, which is forged by a culture of initiative, communication, and teamwork. Coast Guard crews evaluate risk, communicate real-time, and adjust actions to meet mission – they watch out for each other and for the people that they are serving. We need to treat one another with the same care, attention, and devotion in which we conduct our missions. 

This is not a headquarters mandate – it is a movement inclusive of all members of the Coast Guard workforce working individually and collectively to align our everyday behaviors with our core values. The key to success is your individual commitment. Active leadership across all levels of the Coast Guard is crucial to align everyday behaviors with core values. We need each of us, every member of the Coast Guard workforce – active duty, reserve, civilians, auxiliary – to be engaged and to own their piece of our shared service culture.  

We are both honored and humbled to be leading this effort. We’re just getting started, and it will take time and effort to do this the right way. With your help, we will find the answers together. We’re excited to discover where this work will lead us. One thing is certain, though: Our service – and our culture – will become even stronger thanks to this effort. 

This initiative will be continuous as there will always be room for improvement. We will discover new approaches together along the way. One thing we know from listening to you is that the service is ready for this work. Let’s take advantage of this moment and make lasting change for the service, for ourselves, and for our colleagues.  

Next week in this space, we will share with you more details about the service-wide effort that will help clarify our understanding of our core values and the positive behaviors associated with them. Following that, we will share with you some of the tools we’ve developed to help strengthen service culture together with some ideas on how you can get involved. Please stay informed and involved.  

Thank you, and semper paratus. 


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