The hurricane season of 2017 saw unprecedented storms, with three Category 4 storms in the span of 27 days. While the U.S. Coast Guard and other first responders rushed to save 12,000 lives and direct the rescue of 50,000, and answered up to 1,000 calls per hour, 700 Coast Guard families lost their homes to the storms. While these service men and women answered the call of duty, operating through the uncertainty, a unique partnership between the Coast Guard Foundation (CGF) and the Chief Petty Officers Association (CPOA) was there to support their families through relocation and even just a hot meal.
For this, the U.S. Coast Guard awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award, one of the highest public service recognitions in the Coast Guard, to the Chief Petty Officers Association for their partnership with the CGF to distribute $1 million in aid to Coast Guard families uprooted by the storms. The two organizations developed a grant program that identified Coastie families in need, developed an application process, and worked with CPOA members from across the country to screen and distribute urgent funding to meet the uprooted families’ needs. Their partnership coordinated the distribution of $500,000 to more than 300 families in Puerto Rico during the devastating flooding.
“You’re about to issue checks and you realize these families have no bank account in their new location, they are in completely new surroundings. We had to think about how to get that done,” said Susan Ludwig, president of the Coast Guard Foundation. “Working with the leadership of the CPOA, we brainstormed and figured out ways to get the job done.”
“We worked with our network of chiefs across the country to mobilize a network to help our families and be sure they knew they were taken care of,” added Randy Reid, executive director of the CPOA and retired chief warrant officer at the USCG. “It brings to truth that when you ‘Ask the Chiefs’ – they come through.”
The Coast Guard Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that supports the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard and their families. Founded in 1969, the Coast Guard Foundation provides education in the form of scholarships for service men and women as well as their children; support such as programs to strengthen the morale of the community, assist after a tragedy, and empower young Coast Guard cadets; and relief for the brave men and women who enforce maritime law, protect our homeland, and preserve the environment.
The Coast Guard Petty Officers Association was formed in 1933 to encourage fidelity and integrity to the Service, support the families and advance the best interests of the enlisted personnel of the USCG. Chartered by Adm. William Smith in 1969, in 1991 the organization also chartered the Coast Guard Enlisted Association (CGEA) for junior enlisted personnel to reinforce the motto, “In respect for those who have gone before us, and as a guide for those who follow.”
The CPOA was recognized Tuesday at the Coast Guard Foundation’s 14th annual Salute to the Coast Guard that celebrated the heroic actions of service men and women during the record hurricanes of 2017. Leaders of the Coast Guard and Navy honored the Coast Guard’s mission and heroics as well as thanked the Coast Guard Foundation for their unwavering support. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, Secretary of the U.S. Navy Richard Spencer, and the newly installed USCG Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz were all in attendance.
“Stronger together – it’s the Coast Guard,” said Schultz to wrap up the event.