Reservist

ISS2 2018

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

Issue link: https://uscgreservist.epubxp.com/i/988565

Contents of this Issue

Navigation

Page 27 of 51

RESERVIST MAGAZINE A LIGHT ON YESTERYEAR A little piece of Kimball's legacy of standardization Story by Lt. Brendan Rogers, District 8 Reserve Management In March, I was researching a figure in Coast Guard history for a presentation on organizational change. I came across a website that sold old documents of historical significance, including a letter signed by this very person in 1872. For more money than I wanted to spend, I purchased the letter. The letter is co-signed by the Honorable Sumner Kimball, who, from 1871-1878, was Superintendent of the Revenue Marine, a predecessor to the Coast Guard. The content of the letter is mundane, a routine order directing another member to inspect some "surf- boats." However, the letter is special, because it captures a small piece of the massive organizational change that ultimately created the systems that the Coast Guard uses to train and evaluate small boat stations to this day. When the Civil War ended in 1865, the Revenue Marine was shattered. Vessels of the service had been lost to the Confederacy, sunk or damaged. Reports indicated that after the war, vessels were used to serve as the private yachts of local political figures. The U.S. Life-Saving Service, a loose network of community- based search and rescue stations administered by the Revenue Marine, was also in shambles. Crews did not have the equipment or vessels to help those in need. Internal organizational structure of the stations was ineffective, and external central control over the stations was non-existent. For the United States, this lack of readiness could not have occurred at a worse time. The 1800s was a period of American expansion. Mass immigration from Europe meant that overcrowded migrant vessels sailed for U.S. ports in great numbers but, without the aid of modern tools like GPS and weather satellites, many of these ships ended their voyages in disaster on the shoreline. In 1870, a vicious storm hammered the East Coast resulting in many deaths. Public outrage over the deaths signaled that it was time for change and reinvestment in the Revenue Marine and the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Kimball, a young lawyer and Treasury clerk from Maine, was asked to take over the beleaguered agencies by Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell. Recognizing that political corruption and diversion of government resources to powerful individuals were factors in the deterioration of the agency, Kimball sent the following reply: "I shall accept your offer upon one condition. If you will stand by me, after I have convinced you that I am right, I shall attempt to bring about the reforms you desire. But I want to warn you that the pressure will be tremendous. Congressmen will come to you in long processions and will attempt to convince you that I am wrong and that the service is being ruined. It will require an uncommon display of backbone on your part, but if you will stand firm and refer all complaints to me I promise you that I shall put the service where you want it and where it ought to be." It is an interesting response from a junior executive to an offer of a major promotion to the C-suite. Boutwell replied simply, "I shall support you. No matter what the pressure may be, I shall not interfere." This interaction represents an exchange of trust between two leaders to do the right thing by the American public. Immediately after Kimball took the job, he directed one of his most trusted officers to inspect the coastal lifesaving stations, Capt. John Faunce. What Faunce found was shocking: boats in poor shape, untrained crews, and stations too far apart from each other, leaving gaps in service that prevented coordinated responses by multiple units. The Service was fragmented. Kimball set to work immediately. He enacted new hiring practices banning the practice of nepotism. He standardized staffing requirements, hired additional managers where needed, and fired those who were ineffective. He created standardized procedures so that people across the service could be trained to perform the same tasks in the same way. This standardization of training allowed him to relocate stations to distances where they could mutually support large- scale disasters. Under his watch, telephones were installed in stations, creating true coordination. He standardized The Honorable Sumner Kimball, superintendent of the Coast Guard's predecessor service, the Revenue Marine Service. Coast Guard Collection 26 RESERVIST � Issue 2 • 2018

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Reservist - ISS2 2018