Coast Guard announces 2024 Inspirational Leadership Award winners > United States Coast Guard > My Coast Guard News


The Coast Guard is honoring eight winners of the 2024 Coast Guard Inspirational Leadership Awards and the Navy League Leadership Awards. Coast Guard Commandant ADM Linda L. Fagan, Vice Commandant ADM Steven D. Poulin and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Heath B. Jones called the winners to inform and congratulate them personally.  

For more than 50 years, these awards have recognized Coast Guard personnel who have had a significant impact and inspired their colleagues by demonstrating outstanding leadership, fostering a culture of diversity, mentoring others, and leading by example while exemplifying the Coast Guard’s Core Values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty.  

The 2024 winners are: 

Navy League Leadership Awards

  1. LCDR Anna Ruth, CGC ALEX HALEY (WMEC 39): CAPT David H. Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award  
  2. MK2 Manuel Ortiz, CGC THETIS (WMEC 910): Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award 

Coast Guard Inspirational Leadership Awards

  1. LCDR Kelly Berry, Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award – Active Duty 
  2. LCDR Ryan Kowalske, CGC LEGARE (WMEC 912): CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award – Reserve 
  3. YNC Monica Campos, CGC POLAR STAR (WAGB 10): MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award – Active Duty 
  4. MSTC Thomas Doran, Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston: MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award – Reserve 
  5. Mr. Justin Bravatto, Coast Guard Sector Northern Great Lakes: George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award  
  6. Ms. Barbara Allen, Coast Guard Sector Maryland – National Capitol Region (NCR): COMO Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award  

“This year’s winners are extraordinary individuals who stood out for their visionary and innovative leadership, championing of excellence, selfless dedication, professionalism and their unwavering  

commitment to creating opportunities and developing their personnel,” said Dr. Donna M. Navarro, Executive Director for Personnel and Readiness, and Senior Advisor to the Commandant for Diversity and Inclusion (CG-DCMS-DPR-XD). “These remarkable leaders standout amongst their peers, embody the legacy of the awards, and will leave a lasting impact on our Service.” 

Read on to learn about the winners’ impressive achievements and the history of each award. 

CAPT David H. Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award

During the winter of 1897-1898, a whaling fleet of more than 300 men became trapped in the ice near Point Barrow, Alaska. As they faced starvation, David Henry Jarvis, then a first lieutenant in the Revenue Cutter Service, led a small rescue team and a herd of about 400 reindeer across 1,500 miles of tundra to the stranded men. This feat remains the longest rescue mission in Coast Guard history and was heralded as a “victory of peace” by President McKinley as he awarded Jarvis and his team Gold Medals of Honor in June 1902. 

The Navy League presents the Jarvis Award to a Coast Guard officer who has made outstanding contributions to the high standards of competence and leadership traditions in the Coast Guard.  

Previous winners include ADM Zeita Merchant.  

LCDR Anna Ruth serves as the Executive Officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley—known as the “Bulldog of the Bearing”—homeported in Kodiak, Alaska. In the first half of 2023, then-LT Ruth finished her three-year tour at Officer Personnel Management (OPM), where she single-handedly overcame years of inertia to execute a “mega panel” to simultaneously select officers for all 200 advanced education opportunities. This effort cut the panel time from three months to three weeks, reduced stress for members, gave assignment officers (AOs) key information earlier in their process, and aided the Commandant’s priority of revolutionizing talent management. 

Bringing her relentless dedication to the mighty Alex Haley, LCDR Ruth boosted the operational capability of her crew and invested in individual professional development, all while raising crew morale. She led the crew to obtain over 250 qualifications, pull in Battle “Es” across all warfare areas during Tailored Ship Training Availability (TSTA), and cross-qualify duty positions. She secured seats in Leadership and Management School (LAMS) for her E-5s and organized an A-school fair to allow the 35 non-rated members aboard to explore their rated possibilities.  

“Alex Haley, the cutter’s namesake, had a motto, ‘find the good and praise it,’ and LCDR Ruth is the epitome of this type of selfless service,” said CDR Steven Baldovsky, the commanding officer (CO) of the Alex Haley. 

Douglas A. Munro Inspirational Leadership Award

Having volunteered to evacuate a detachment of Marines who were facing annihilation by an unanticipated large enemy force, Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro safely extricated them and in doing so was mortally wounded on Guadalcanal on Sept. 27, 1942. Munro maneuvered himself and his boats into a position to cover the last groups of men as they headed to the boats. He exposed himself to greater enemy fire and suffered fatal wounds, though Munro remained conscious long enough to utter his final words: “Did they get off?” 

The Navy League presents the Munro Award to a Coast Guard enlisted member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and professional competence to the extent of their rank and rate. As a result of their selection as the Douglas Munro Inspirational Leadership Award Winner, E-6 and below members receive an automatic meritorious advancement. 

MCPOCG Heath Jones is a previous winner. 

“MK2 Manuel Ortiz is a humble, servant leader whose ability to inspire shipmates is truly remarkable,” said his CO, CDR Gavin Garcia. 

During a 56-day patrol, Petty Officer Ortiz stepped up to lead a young engineering team to repair multiple casualties including the Thetis’s fin stabilizers, steering equipment, and refrigeration systems. MK2 Ortiz’s leadership of the repair effort allowed the cutter to continue patrol to stem a migrant surge along the southern maritime border in support of Operation Vigilant Sentry and humanely process and care for the 300 Cuban and Haitian migrants as Thetis interdicted six migrant vessels.  

“His own shipmates cite his humor, compassion, and kindness as the reason his engineers still found a way to fight through these casualties to complete more than 200 maintenance actions to achieve an astounding 84% maintenance completion rate,” said CDR Garcia.  

MK2 Ortiz is a certified underway Engineer of the Watch—and is the most junior member to do so, as the position is normally held by more senior petty officers. He also served as the only qualified Aviation Fuel King (AFK) on a counter-narcotics patrol that relied on helicopter interdictions of drug smuggling vessels. MK2 went on to train and qualify four Aviation Fuel Handlers and three AFKs to improve Thetis’s operational capability.  

MK2 Ortiz performed well above his pay grade as he managed and simultaneously deconflicted inport projects, patrol preparations, emergency casualty repairs, and operational training requirements for law enforcement and pursuit missions. All the while, MK2 Ortiz fostered and maintained a positive climate during the difficult and emotionally taxing migrant interdiction mission by using his skills as the cutter’s main Spanish translator. “Through his professionalism, compassion and empathy, he stabilized volatile situations, maintained order, and gained compliance over the migrants to vastly improve the safety onboard,” CDR Garcia noted.  

Ortiz will be meritoriously advanced to MK1 on June 7 at the Navy League Convention in San Diego. Congratulations, MK1-select Ortiz! 

CAPT John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award

After three years in the Army, John G. Witherspoon enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1963. He quickly advanced to quartermaster first class before attending Officer Candidate School. He went to serve as CO of Coast Guard Cutters Mallow, Valiant and Dependable. Retired Vice Adm. Manson Brown remarked, “he was an inspiring role model. He epitomized leadership by example. He exemplified poise and professionalism. And, he taught us that we could make a positive difference in the Coast Guard through commitment, hard work, and perseverance.”  

This Coast Guard award recognizes an active duty and a reserve officer.  

LCDR Kelly Berry’s curiosity, creativity, and devotion to serving others shines through in all of her many achievements. She “took on the gargantuan task as Chairperson for the Great Lakes Leadership and Diversity Symposium,” said CAPT Joseph Parker. The event was attended by 300 people including Vice Commandant ADM Stephen D. Poulin. While planning the conference, Berry came across the work of LT Alexis Travis of the United States Navy, a social media influencer who specializes in military leadership, mental health, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. LCDR Berry recruited LT Travis to speak at the symposium, and the sessions prompted critical conversations about the importance of mental health awareness, resiliency, and affinity groups. Selecting Travis, said CAPT Parker, “was a huge step in the right direction toward reducing the stigma behind seeking mental health support as a service member.” 


LCDR Berry’s other projects had similarly indelible impacts. After recognizing the lack of interpersonal communications skills in a generation that is so used to online communications, she mentored 14 senior and junior members using what she had learned from a leadership workshop on emotional intelligence and giving feedback. Berry consistently finds new ways to educate and serve others, from teaching shipmates about the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, to organizing bi-monthly blood drives, to hosting informal “Connecting with Coffee” sessions to help shipmates however possible. 


“To say LCDR Berry will leave a lasting impact on my entire staff is an understatement,” Parker said. 

LCDR Ryan Kowalske volunteered for “one of the most challenging billets in the Coast Guard – Executive Officer afloat”, according to CDR Jeremy Greenwood of Coast Guard Cutter Legare. Kowalske inspired his shipmates with his devoted leadership during the cutter’s three-month Operation Vigilant Sentry patrol and a two-month inport period.  


Kowalske devoted himself to the entire crew’s personal and professional development. “He personally led weekly ASVAB tutoring sessions for non-rated members who needed help reaching their goals, allowing four E-3s the opportunity to attend A-schools that they were previously unqualified for,” Greenwood said. When Kowalske noticed issues with Legare’s inport watchstanding system—and their impacts on crew morale—he found a way forward. He built “a software system to allow crewmembers to electronically select their duty days” while maintaining transparency, ship safety, and policy compliance. “His efforts,” said CDR Greenwood, “set the crew up for the best rotation they have ever had during a holiday inport, maximizing time with families while ensuring the safety of the ship.” 


Further, Kowalske showed his exceptional operational skills repeatedly. For instance, Greenwood noted, while serving as “conning officer for a high-risk pursuit mission,” Kowalske navigated the cutter skillfully into the proper position to provide cover for the small boat pursuit team. 


Kowalske’s devotion to the Coast Guard’s core values extends far beyond the workplace. A parent of three foster children (in addition to his own children), he’s an avid advocate for the rights of underprivileged children without homes. He also volunteers at children’s recreation and sports programs.  


“LCDR Ryan Kowalske is among the most inspirational officers with whom I have ever served!” said CDR Greenwood. “I have rarely come across an individual with as much dedication, respect for others, and integrity.” 

MCPO Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award

McShan was the first African American to be selected as an instructor at the Chief Petty Officers’ Academy in 1999, and in 2000, became the first African American woman to advance to Master Chief Petty Officer. McShan’s former shipmates said “[she] is remembered as one of the Chief Petty Officer Academy’s finest instructors. She was an inspiring teacher and mentor, an expert communicator, an athlete and she had an infectious sense of humor. To her, attitude was everything. She truly believed that life was ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it.”  

This Coast Guard award recognizes an active duty and a reserve chief petty officer.  

A 2021 graduate of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy, YNC Monica Campos reported to Polar Star soon after. As the cutter’s command senior enlisted leader (CSEL), Campos took it upon herself “to improve the command climate and work life balance” during a period of over 280 days away from homeport,” said CAPT Keith Ropella, CO of Polar Star.  

Campos championed inclusive culture by convening regular Women’s Town Hall meetings which “provided a safe space where women of all ratings and ranks met to discuss current issues, provide immediate solutions to minor concerns, and bring larger issues of the chain of command with a strong unified voice,” Ropella added.  

Campos identified the need for greater mental health issues for her shipmates, especially during extended deployments during the holiday season. She did not hesitate to take on any new role to support her shipmates, whether it was leading the ship’s waste management team or assisting with the ship’s store. 


“Her genuine excitement keeps everyone around her equally enthusiastic,” Ropella said. “Chief Campos’s love of the sea and pride as a cutterman is palpable and infectious.” 

MSTC Thomas Doran served in Sector Houston-Galveston’s Prevention Department from 2006 to 2023. Doran quickly “established himself as a strong and dedicated leader,” said CAPT Keith Donohue.  


Doran consistently took it upon himself to mentor others, whether formally or informally. Doran fostered a more inclusive workplace and led an effort for his team to delve into Coast Guard history by presenting briefs on service leaders of diverse backgrounds. He addressed a student organization at Texas A&M University-Galveston to discuss the benefits of serving in the Coast Guard “while championing the progressive diversity and inclusion of the Service,” said Donohue. “This resulted in the recruitment of a member.”  


“Chief Doran’s work ethic, engagement, and leadership will continue to inspire members to reach their highest potential,” Donohue said. “Chief Doran stands out amongst his peers through his selfless dedication to others, commitment to get the job done, and his intrusive leadership.” 

George R. Putnam Inspirational Leadership Award

The first commissioner of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Putnam led it through 25 years of modernization and expansion from 1910-1935. He exemplified inspirational leadership; Putnam was known for demonstrating great courage of conviction by hiring most competent people, selected based “solely on their record and their merits” and without regard to patronage. He was also an innovator, championing the use of radio aids to navigation and significantly increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Lighthouse Service.  

This Coast Guard award recognizes a civilian employee (appropriated or non-appropriated). 

“Mr. Bravatto embodies the traits of our best leaders through his commitment to our core values, investment in diversity and inclusion, superior mentorship, and devotion to mission execution,” said his Sector Commander, CAPT Jim Bendle. 

Mr. Bravatto is the acting director of St. Mary’s River Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) in Sault Sainte Marie, Canada. He built successful partnerships with international and industry partners through his commitment to transparent conversations on the opening, closing, and ice breaking availability in the Northern Great Lakes maritime transportation system.  

As a key leader on Sector Northern Great Lakes (SNGL) Civilian Advisory Board, Mr. Bravatto championed initiatives to recruit and retain a more diverse and inclusive civilian workforce. He mentored members who are departing active-duty service and interested in continuing with the Coast Guard as civilians. He also helped four members navigate the application process and extend their service. 

He supported several SNGL Command Center members’ professional development by bringing them to the VTS to cross-train. He also developed a training program that leveraged unique opportunities with industry partners and Coast Guard assets to get new watchstanders underway on commercial and Coast Guard vessels to decrease qualification timelines and increase watchstander proficiency.  

“Mr. Bravatto has demonstrated a rare passion for training and mentoring members across the Sector workforce,” said CAPT Bendle.  

COMO Charles S. Greanoff Inspirational Leadership Award

As National Commodore 1958-1959, Greanoff traveled the country to support the new missions of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and testified before Congress on the importance of boating safety laws. He was instrumental in shaping the Auxiliary into the effective organization it is today. Greanoff’s spirit of leadership through his 63 years of service epitomizes the criteria established for the Auxiliary Inspirational Leadership Award. 

This Coast Guard award recognizes a Flotilla Commander. 

Ms. Allen served as the 2023 Commander of the Auxiliary Flotilla 25-07 out of Fort Washington, Maryland, and continues to serve as the Station Washington Auxiliary Unit Coordinator (AUC), a position she’s held for 23 years. While serving as Flotilla Commander and AUC, she also served in the Flotilla Staff Officer roles of navigation systems, program visitor, information systems, and Auxiliary scout, and served as the information system District Staff Officer.  

“Through her collaborative efforts at both the Flotilla and Division levels, the Division witnessed a 20% reduction in boating accidents, attributable to her strategic direction of key initiatives like National Safe Boating Week, Operation Dry Water, and the Life Jacket Wear Mission,” said CAPT Dave O’Connell, the Commander of Sector Maryland-National Capital Region. 

Ms. Allen spearheaded the chartering of Sea Scout Ship 25, an initiative that opened unparallel maritime educational opportunities for high school students in Washington, D.C. She also helped execute a daylong program of activities and training for 65 young people by bringing together active-duty, Reserve, Auxiliary, Coast Guard Academy admissions partners, and public affairs officers for this large recruiting event. 

“Ms. Barbara Allen is most humbly deserving of this prestigious award for her unwavering commitment, exceptional leadership, and the indelible impact she has made on the Flotilla, the Division, the District, and beyond,” O’Connell said. 

Future Nominations

The Office of Leadership (DPR-5) solicits for Inspirational Leadership Award nominations each November. 2025 Inspirational Leadership Awards submissions are due Jan. 22, 2025. Eligibility requirements, specific guidelines and nomination procedures are outlined on the office’s website.   




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