National CGEA president YN1 Casey Lawrence, from left, Treasurer Sammie Whaley, CPOA National President Jon Ostrowski, and CGEA Secretary Jenny Chimiel present CPOA with congratulations at the CPOA 50th anniversary celebration. (Bill Petros/CPOA)

CPOA Celebrates 50 Years of Supporting the Coast Guard Family

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.

Former Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden (Bill Petros/CPOA)

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.

READ: MCPOCG Vanderhaden talks readiness, operational demands with HSToday

“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.”

Silver Lifetime member and National President of the Chief Warrant Officers Association CWO4 Mark Cortor and 50-year CPOA member Gunnersmate Senior Chief Albert H. McClelland at the anniversary dinner. (Bill Petros/CPOA)

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.”

CPOA National President Jon Ostrowski, left, and keynote former Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen (Bill Petros/CPOA)

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.

READ: Casey Lawrence discusses the future of CGEA with HSToday

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.”

Time capsule unveiled at the CPOA 50th anniversary gala (Bill Petros/CPOA)

Kristina Tanasichuk is CEO of the Government Technology & Services Coalition and Executive Editor of Homeland Security Today. She founded GTSC to advance communication and collaboration between the public and private sector in defense of our homeland.  A leader in homeland security public private partnership, critical infrastructure protection, cyber security, STEM, innovation, commercialization and much more, she brings to HST decades of experience and expertise in the intersection of the public and private sectors in support of our homeland's security. Tanasichuk worked for Chairman Tom Bliley on electric utility restructuring for the House Commerce Committee, then for municipal electric utilities sorting out deregulation. She also worked for the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.; ran the largest homeland conference and trade show in the country; and represented public works departments In homeland security immediately after 9/11. Tanasichuk brings a new vision and in-depth knowledge of the federal homeland and national security apparatus to the media platform.  She is also the president and founder of Women in Homeland Security. She has attended the FBI and DEA Citizens Academies and the Marine Corps Executive Leadership Program and holds her undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College and an MPA from George Mason University.

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