This past December and January, U.S. Coast Guard members did not get paid. They still had to go to work; they just were caught in the political marksmanship of budget negotiations.
So the Chief Petty Officers Association (CPOA) went to work organizing the fight to get their members — and all service members paid.
For 50 years the CPOA has worked to support the U.S. Coast Guard and its thousands of members. The organization marked its 50th anniversary on Saturday night with a star-studded evening of U.S. Coast Guard royalty, Chiefs from across the country, and organizations that work with them to support Coast Guard enlisted service members. Former Commandant Thad Allen, Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden and many others celebrated in Herndon, Va.
“I am honored to lead the organization for its 50th anniversary and am so proud and pleased with how we have honored those who have gone before us and continue to provide a bridge for those who will follow,” said National President Jon Ostrowski at the dinner. “Our organization is growing because we are a vibrant and relevant part of the landscape of support for our enlisted shipmates – we’ve proven that with the shutdown and with our response to hurricanes Florence and Michael.”
The CPOA met its greatest challenges in the past couple of years: service members with no pay and service members who had to perform their duties despite having their own homes and families devastated by hurricanes. The Coast Guard recognized CPOA’s support with one of its highest awards, the Distinguished Public Service Award to the organization “in recognition of its unwavering dedication and support of Coast Guard members and families during the unprecedented hurricane season of 2017…the CPOA’s nationwide coordination and efforts with senior leaders from the service and Coast Guard Foundation were instrumental to ensuring members on the front lines of humanitarian operations remained focused on conducting rescue and port reconstruction missions, resulting in more than 12,000 lives saved.”
More than 350 attendees gathered to honor the Association and its accomplishments over the past 50 years – capped by the unveiling of a legacy time capsule. “We’ve been collecting Words of Wisdom and mementos for months,” said Executive Director Randy Reid. “Those attending the gala had the best chance to add special notes, coins, and artifacts to the capsule. Once the Coast Guard Museum in New London, Conn., is complete, it will be placed on display and, hopefully, opened at our 100th Anniversary in 2029. Our hope is to have present-day Chiefs pass on their knowledge and experience to our future Chiefs.”
Allen delivered the keynote address, recalling the many times throughout his career he would “ask the Chiefs” and how in times of emergency or when they needed to get the job done, they would turn to the Chiefs.
The CPOA was initially formed in 1933, disbanded due to WWII, and re-founded and officially chartered in 1969 as a service organization to support the “Chief” rating of the U.S. Coast Guard. Its original motto – “Ut Prosimus,” so that I may serve – represented the original mission: “Encourage fidelity, integrity to the Service, and better understanding and fellowship, and to advance the best interests of the enlisted personnel of the Coast Guard, especially of those associated as members of this organization, and to extend all possible relief to their widows and children; to foster the cultivation of military discipline and true allegiance to the United States of America.”
The association serves as the umbrella organization for the Coast Guard Enlisted Association (CGEA), which serves the needs of the enlisted in the service.
“The Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association has stood as the guide for their junior enlisted workforce for 50 years. They have exemplified a commitment to selfless service and determination, through their missions. As founders of our Coast Guard Enlisted Association, they have honored our membership for 28 years through their leadership and mentorship. We congratulate Chiefs on this milestone and continue to be grateful for their commitment to grow us as future leaders in our associations and organization,” said CGEA President YN1 Casey Lawrence, who flew in for the event from the USCG station in Kodiak, Alaska.
In his remarks, President Ostrowski recounted some of the CPOA projects like restoring the Coast Guard World War Memorial on Coast Guard Hill at Arlington National Cemetery, taking care of Coast Guard families impacted by the hurricanes, and most recently the fight for Coast Guard pay. “We marshal our resources to support one another and to assure that once you are part of the Coast Guard family you have your network and support for life,” he said. “That is what we do at the CPOA.”