Master Chief Petty Officer Jason Vanderhaden presents the Capt. Niels P. Thomsen Innovation Award in the Science or Technology category to Lt. Jake Taylor for a software application called FishTactic. Waiting to offer his congratulations is Adm. Karl Schultz, now Coast Guard commandant. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart)

Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Spotlight: Coast Guard Innovation Awards

The Coast Guard honored 12 Coast Guard members for ideas that have had a significant impact on the service’s operations with Capt. Niels P. Thomsen Innovation Awards, presented May 31, 2018, during the Senior Leadership Conference held at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“These people have embraced the spirit of change and fearlessly advanced forward,” said Rear Adm. Michael Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition and master of ceremonies. “It’s such a pleasure to recognize them today.”

He told the Coast Guard senior leadership gathered at the conference: “The workforce is using innovation to get things done. They’ve transformed policy, used state of the market tools, and saved us millions of dollars.”

The Innovation Awards are presented annually to members of the Coast Guard workforce who have used their talents, creativity and collaborative efforts to discover ways to make the service better, through increased efficiency or productivity or other process improvements. The awards are named after the Coast Guard innovator who developed the “chain stopper,” which dramatically improved the safety of buoy tending operations. They are awarded in the areas of science or technology; operations or readiness; administration, training or support; culture change; and management.

This year’s Innovation Awards also included a Distinguished Public Service Award for Greg Sadetsky, who provided volunteer support for Sector Houston-Galveston during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. When the hurricane knocked out Sector Houston-Galveston’s connection to the Coast Guard computer network, Sadetsky’s custom software was used to coordinate more than 700 aircraft sorties that resulted in the safe evacuation of more than 1,700 people in dire need of assistance.

“It was an absolute game changer,” Haycock said. “His software dramatically improved situational awareness.”

At a luncheon honoring the award recipients, Rear Adm. Joseph Vojvodich, who co-chairs the Coast Guard Innovation Council, thanked the winners for their dedication.

“It really takes great effort and energy to solve a problem, to figure out how to do something better, smarter, faster or less costly. Because you are so linked to the service, you are really able to understand the problem,” said Vojvodich.

Vojvodich acknowledged that it is often believed that “innovation is all about the idea,” but the reality is that it takes “a lot of hard work to make that idea a reality.”

“Our new commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, has called on us to accelerate toward the future,” said Cmdr. Andy Howell, who heads the Coast Guard’s Innovation Program. “These brilliant members of the workforce have pushed us along in many important areas, from personnel management to the use of social media.”

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