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Thursday, July 25, 2024

How the U.S. Coast Guard Is Addressing Gender and Cultural Diversity Issues

The U.S. Coast Guard hosted its first “Affinity Fair” Thursday to help USCG personnel “find their community” and promote a more inclusive Coast Guard. The effort is part of the Mentor Project spearheaded by Chief Brynn Simonetti.

The Mentoring Project is an annual, all-inclusive, voluntary program that creates opportunities for all past and present Coast Guard members (active, reserve, enlisted, officers, civilians, Auxiliarists, and retirees) to connect with one another in the form of a structured mentoring relationship. It is a two-way relationship that helps participants establish long- and short-term goals.

“The first CGHQ Affinity Fair was very successful. It provided an opportunity for our DHS and CG workforce to learn new ways to network and add to their career tool belt,” Simonetti told HSToday after the event. “Based on the feedback received, our attendees opened a lot of new possibilities for their personal and professional growth. I look forward to continuing this effort annually and helping people find their community.”

affinity coast guard
Vice Commandant Adm Charles W Ray Photo HSToday

Vice Commandant Adm. Charles W. Ray welcomed guests and stressed the importance of affinity groups and their ability to foster feelings of inclusion and community. “You know, let’s not kid ourselves, the USCG is not a democracy,” he said. “I think all of us have been on the ‘outside’ at some point and I believe that these groups allow Coast Guard personnel to connect and thrive in such a large organization.”

“Affinity groups have the power to foster a more inclusive and collaborative Coast Guard,” said Michelle Godfrey, director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership for the U.S. Coast Guard, in opening remarks.

The Coast Guard is committed to improving gender and cultural diversity, and fostering an inclusive work environment that allows members to remain Ready, Relevant, and Responsive. Recently the RAND Corporation released the results of a study on why women leave the Coast Guard. The report identified the root causes for attrition and developed recommendations that would mitigate the identified barriers. The Coast Guard has significant challenges retaining women over men in the service, and is taking action to address these challenges that are affecting the mission-ready total workforce.

In addition to the Affinity Fair, Vice Commandant Ray also posted on Facebook Thursday about the Surge Staffing for Parental Leave Pilot Program: “Family readiness is vital to U.S. Coast Guard readiness. ‘The Surge Staffing for Parental Leave Pilot Program’ supports our servicemembers and their families. This program leverages Reserve members to assist units with temporary personnel gaps due to parental, maternity convalescent, and primary caregiver leave for birth or adoption of a child. Senior Chief Laurie Kennedy and more than 20 other servicemembers have already used this program to unplug from their jobs and bond with their new children. Parental Surge Staffing was developed in support of the Coast Guard Strategic Plan, which directs investments in our people and improvement to mission support programs.”

Source RAND Corporation
Photo HSToday

The daylong Affinity Fair event featured an expo of nonprofits focused on communities based on gender, race, and sexual orientation, including Coast Guard-affiliated groups as well. Breakout sessions included topics such as how affinity groups can propel your career forward, mentoring, financial resiliency, inclusive leadership, and conflict management, among others.

Some of the participating organizations included the Family Sea Service Foundation, the Coast Guard Enlisted Association, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, Coast Guard Foundation, USCG Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), Women in Homeland Security, National Naval Officers Association, Blacks in Government and others. The fair was sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (CG-127).

Photo HSToday
Kristina Tanasichuk
Kristina Tanasichuk
From terrorism to the homeland security business enterprise, for over 20 years Kristina Tanasichuk has devoted her career to educating and informing the homeland community to build avenues for collaboration, information sharing, and resilience. She has worked in homeland security since 2002 and has founded and grown some of the most renowned organizations in the field. Prior to homeland she worked on critical infrastructure for Congress and for municipal governments in the energy sector and public works. She has 25 years of lobbying and advocacy experience on Capitol Hill on behalf of non- profit associations, government clients, and coalitions. In 2011, she founded the Government & Services Technology Coalition, a non-profit member organization devoted to the missions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and all the homeland disciplines. GTSC focuses on developing and nurturing innovative small and mid-sized companies (up to $1 billion) working with the Federal government. GTSC’s mission is to increase collaboration, information exchange, and constructive problem solving around the most challenging homeland security issues facing the nation. She acquired Homeland Security Today (www.HSToday.us) in 2017 and has since grown readership to over one million hits per month and launched and expanded a webinar program to law enforcement across the US, Canada, and international partners. Tanasichuk is also the president and founder of Women in Homeland Security, a professional development organization for women in the field of homeland security. As a first generation Ukrainian, she was thrilled to join the Advisory Board of LABUkraine in 2017. The non-profit initiative builds computer labs for orphanages in Ukraine and in 2018 built the first computer lab near Lviv, Ukraine. At the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she worked with the organization to pivot and raise money for Ukrainian troop and civilian needs. She made several trips to Krakow, Poland to bring vital supplies like tourniquets and water filters to the front lines, and has since continued fundraising and purchasing drones, communications equipment, and vehicles for the war effort. Most recently she was named as the Lead Advisor to the First US-Ukraine Freedom Summit, a three-day conference and fundraiser to support the rehabilitation and reintegration of Ukrainian war veterans through sports and connection with U.S. veterans. She served as President and Executive Vice President on the Board of Directors for the InfraGard Nations Capital chapter, a public private partnership with the FBI to protect America’s critical infrastructure for over 8 years. Additionally, she served on the U.S. Coast Guard Board of Mutual Assistance and as a trustee for the U.S. Coast Guard Enlisted Memorial Foundation. She graduated from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Citizens’ Academies, in addition to the Marine Corps Executive Forum. Prior to founding the Government Technology & Services Coalition she was Vice President of the Homeland Security & Defense Business Council (HSDBC), an organization for the largest corporations in the Federal homeland security market. She was responsible for thought leadership and programs, strategic partnerships, internal and external communications, marketing and public affairs. She managed the Council’s Executive Brief Series and strategic alliances, as well as the organization’s Thought Leadership Committee and Board of Advisors. Prior to this, she also founded and served for two years as executive director of the American Security Challenge, an event that awarded monetary and contractual awards in excess of $3.5 million to emerging security technology firms. She was also the event director for the largest homeland security conference and exposition in the country where she created and managed three Boards of Advisors representing physical and IT security, first responders, Federal, State and local law enforcement, and public health. She crafted the conference curriculum, evolved their government relations strategy, established all of the strategic partnerships, and managed communications and media relations. Tanasichuk began her career in homeland security shortly after September 11, 2001 while at the American Public Works Association. Her responsibilities built on her deep understanding of critical infrastructure issues and included homeland security and emergency management issues before Congress and the Administration on first responder issues, water, transportation, utility and public building security. Prior to that she worked on electric utility deregulation and domestic energy issues representing municipal governments and as professional staff for the Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Tanasichuk has also worked at the American Enterprise Institute, several Washington, D.C. associations representing both the public and private sectors, and the White House under President George H.W. Bush. Tanasichuk also speaks extensively representing small and mid-sized companies and discussing innovation and work in the Federal market at the IEEE Homeland Security Conference, AFCEA’s Homeland Security Conference and Homeland Security Course, ProCM.org, and the Security Industry Association’s ISC East and ACT-IAC small business committee. She has also been featured in CEO Magazine and in MorganFranklin’s www.VoicesonValue.com campaign. She is a graduate of St. Olaf College and earned her Master’s in Public Administration from George Mason University. She was honored by the mid-Atlantic INLETS Law Enforcement Training Board with the “Above and Beyond” award in both 2019 – for her support to the homeland security and first responder community for furthering public private partnerships, creating information sharing outlets, and facilitating platforms for strengthening communities – and 2024 – for her work supporting Ukraine in their defense against the Russian invasion. In 2016 she was selected as AFCEA International’s Industry Small Business Person of the Year, in 2015 received the U.S. Treasury, Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization Excellence in Partnership award for “Moving Treasury’s Small Business Program Forward,” as a National Association of Woman Owned Businesses Distinguished Woman of the Year Finalist, nominated for “Friend of the Entrepreneur” by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Military Spouse of the Year by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011, and for a Heroines of Washington DC award in 2014. She is fluent in Ukrainian.

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