A food service specialist at work. A new leadership program would include Coasties looking to earn this rating while on the job. (PO3 Michael Anderson / Coast Guard)
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A new leadership program for nonrated Coast Guardsmen will start with a test group in November. The Apprentice Leadership Program will soon be open to E-4s who plan to transition, or "strike," into a rating through on-the-job training and self-study, as opposed to attending Class "A" schools first.
These junior Coast Guardsmen tend to have a gap in their leadership training, and this program seeks to correct that, said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael Leavitt.
Educating a Coast Guardsman earlier in his career may prevent the formation of bad habits, Leavitt said. "If we wait too long, it may be too late to change their leadership style," he added.
The three-day pilot will take place Nov. 13-15 in Seattle and will include participation within District 13. It will be led by the chief's mess. The second class will follow at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, Ore. Dates for that trial have not been determined.
It is unclear how many nonrated Coast Guardsmen will take part in these pilot classes, but the ideal class size is 20 to 30 students, according to District 13 Command Master Chief Jason Vanderhaden, who helped design the program.
There are normally no classroom courses to strike into a rating. The ratings open to strikers in the Coast Guard are boatswain's mate, damage controlman, food service specialist, machinery technician and storekeeper. The other way to get a rating is to attend "A" school, which includes its own version of the Apprentice Leadership Program, plus rating-specific lessons.
Those opting to get a rating through "A" school often have a wait on their hands — as long as two to three years for some ratings. With that in mind, the Coast Guard will open the Apprentice Leadership Program to those waiting for "A" school.
The leadership program curriculum includes an introduction to leading others, effective communications, influencing others, respect for others and diversity management, team building, mentoring, taking care of people, health and well-being, aligning values, and accountability and responsibility.
"We'll hopefully elicit a dialogue between the junior members and the chiefs on how they can do the best job they can of leading themselves," Vanderhaden said. "Building a foundation of solid leadership early in your career will springboard you into a more successful career as a petty officer. Understanding leadership concepts and effective communication earlier on will help you build on that knowledge."
The course, as presented at "A" school, is accredited by the American Council on Education and earns a Coastie one undergraduate credit — something Vanderhaden hopes will also be true for the new program in the field.
The program is a collaboration among Leavitt, Force Readiness Command, Vanderhaden and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Anthony Garcia, who worked at the Leadership Development Council to help design the curriculum.
The plan is to institute the program across the Coast Guard, Leavitt said, although he said there is no set timeline.