ISS1 2015

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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Class: paC polish: After a week of homework, including reading and online tests, classroom instruction and lively dialogue on topics such as coaching and counseling and leadership techniques, the curriculum began to shift. Initially, the focus had related to best practices for leading individuals and teams. Now there was a move toward understanding who we were as individuals and what types of leaders we wanted to become. Through two different personality tests, including one where current and former colleagues were asked to provide honest and anonymous feedback, each of us was expected to come away with a greater understanding of ourselves and where we could improve. As both sets of test results were distributed, there was an uncharacteristic silence as each student took a few minutes to reflect and determine how to translate the information into actionable growth and improvement. Over the course of the next few hours, our class was led through a series of insightful discussions and fun group exercises in an effort to help us consider new tactics in leading individuals and teams. This was the day I viewed as the biggest gift the Coast Guard could give me, as I now possessed the tools for self-improvement and personal development that would help guide me on my journey to become the best leader I could be. paC Masson: For me, this segment was the heart of the course. By the time we become chiefs, most of us have a pretty solid understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses. But hearing from coworkers and subordinates about ways to better employ those strengths was inspirational in a very positive way. Since coming back from Petaluma, I've made a conscious effort to be more assertive about the areas in which I hold special expertise — while still trying to improve on areas where I could be stronger. Ropes Course: paC polish: After working as a reserve class to complete a series of low ropes exercises and with the active duty class to overcome a ropes course obstacle early in the first week, we eagerly awaited the day when we would have the opportunity to conquer some of the challenges on the high ropes course. On the second to the last day we were given that chance. It worked out perfectly for the three teams in our Reserve class to rotate among three obstacles. After receiving instructions about how to adjust our helmets and harnesses, each team was assigned to a different obstacle and received specific guidance on how to tackle the challenge before them. Our liaisons worked through exercises with each of us, using instructive pep talks and physically serving as counterbalances on the other end of our harnesses. It didn't hurt that my team nurtured one another, providing words of support and offering helpful tactics that worked best for them. Not only did the ropes course prove to be a bonding experience, but it truly demonstrated what the power of a unified chief's mess could do in overcoming any obstacle. Our instructors provided us with nothing but encouragement, helpful advice and words that instilled confidence in our ability to complete each challenge—despite taking a bit of a physical beating while keeping us safe. On this afternoon, I came to the realization that each of these instructors was hand-picked for a reason. It takes a very special talent that can combine teaching a class in a reassuring and effortless way with the compassion to believe in each of your students in times when their confidence might fail them. As a fortunate recipient of the CPOA instructors' lessons, pep talks and unwavering support, I'm completely humbled when I consider how much the academy and the Coast Guard invested in me. paC Masson: Those of my classmates who ventured across the Golden Gate with me learned that I have no great love of high places. Hanging out the door of a helicopter with a camera, being held in by nothing but a gunner's belt? No sweat. Walking across, say, a 2-mile-long bridge suspended 500 feet above San Francisco Bay? Not so fond. So it was with a lot of trepidation that I found myself, later that week, taking part in the high ropes course. Without the encouragement of instructors and classmates — I'm looking at you, BMC Scosh Koran — I'm not so sure I would have made it. graduation: paC polish: I had only heard about graduation being an extended and beautiful affair during our rehearsal with the active duty class earlier that day, but I could not conceptualize how it could be both. Entering the hotel lobby in the late afternoon, I was greeted by a stunning ice sculpture with the CPOA insignia and "Altus Tendo," the academy motto meaning "reach higher," inscribed into its face — a breathtaking and unexpected sight for a military graduation. With excitement building, a group of us gathered in a hotel room to get ready, helping one another with hair and makeup, lint-brushing uniforms and shining shoes, impatiently anticipating what the evening had in store. As YNC Melinda Bruck braided my hair and FSC Andrea Bisignani inspected my uniform, I attempted to fathom how, in two short weeks, the CPOA staff could take a group of strangers and create bonds that had the potential to last a lifetime. After taking formal portraits, we were finally given the green light to enter the hotel banquet hall. Similar to the first day in our classroom, the stage, graduation certificates, tables and room were carefully arranged with measured precision. As a thoughtful touch, master chiefs from different units were dispersed throughout the room, ensuring most graduates had senior enlisted representation for this momentous event in their Coast Guard careers. Even at the final event, the investment our instructors made to ensure our two weeks was "all about the students" was unmistakably evident. Chief Petty Offcer Carlos Villanueva grasps a line on a ropes course obstacle at Chief Petty Offcer Academy, Thursday, August 7. Photo by PAC Rachel Polish 28 RESERVIST � Issue 1 • 2015

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