I’ve had the most amazing experience this past week, an experience that ranks up there with the capture of Blackbeard or the invention of the spyglass. A lot of people use the word amazing recklessly, but this was truly amazing. Shortly before the Fourth of July, I had the pleasure of witnessing my daughter’s promotion from lieutenant to lieutenant commander at the Coast Guard Station Sector Charleston in SC.
What made it especially exciting is that I was given the privilege of participating in the event. Commanding officer, Captain John Reed, presented Lieutenant Commander Maureen Hegerich with the document that officially promoted her to her new rank. The second part of the ceremony centered on the removal of her old shoulder boards marked with two stripes, one on each of her shoulders. Once removed, the new shoulder boards with three stripes, were pinned to her uniform.
Her son, Seaman Joshua Olsen, a second generation Coastie, whose father is Master Chief Jason Olsen, did the left shoulder. I had the distinct honor of pinning the new board on her right. I’ve never been prouder of my daughter.
It was a moment she worked hard for. No one achievement placed her in that time and place. Years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice did.
My daughter has served proudly in the Coast Guard for over 21 years, a feat not easily achieved in today’s era when many military personnel are forced into retirement long before they reach that 20-year milestone. It’s hard to beat knowledge, dedication and experience.
And make no mistake about it. Her experience is extremely diversified. Her first billet from 1997 to 1999 was at Station Fort Pierce, Florida as a member of the boat crew and boarding team.
Not one to coast, in 1998, she struck yeoman completely on her own. Most Coasties enlist in a specially designed program to make yeoman in Petaluma, CA. Lieutenant Commander Hegerich pursued yeoman independently while serving at Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce.
From 2000 to 2005, she served at Activities, New York where she witnessed the tragedy of 911 firsthand. In 2005 and 2006, she served at Group Fort Macon at Atlantic Beach, NC where she served as yeoman.
It was after that tour that she enrolled in Officers Candidate School in the fall of 2006. The rigorous training regimen she faced helped make her who she is today. Her first billet after graduation in February 2007 took her to the training center in Yorktown, Virginia where she served on the Command Center Standardization Team till 2009. Her work carried her to command centers around the country making sure protocol, regulations and policy were being followed.
In 2009, she went to Sector Southeast New England on Cape Cod as assistant intel Chief till 2012. That experience prepared her for her next billet at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC where she served as program manager for Intel training. Between 2016 and 2018, she remained in Washington working as part of the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Campaign, and then on Human Capital Strategy. Her most recent assignment takes her to Sector Charleston as Logistics Department Head where she oversees engineering, administration, and supply. That entails support of the sector and its outlying units which includes small boat stations, cutters, and aids-to-navigation units.
My daughter’s duties varied widely in each billet. Because of security reasons, she couldn’t divulge some details to me. I will say this, however. The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratis. Along with that, are three virtues their members highly cherish. Respect, Honor, and Devotion to Duty. Because of her commitment to those values and her willingness to put the Coast Guard and her country above herself, she has achieved some remarkable things over the years.
She received the MaryLou Whitney Military Leadership Award in 2005 for Woman of the Year. She has also received several prestigious commendations, but among her favorites are three good-conduct medals, a 9/11 medal, and a number of team commendation awards. Like a mother asked to choose her favorite child, she refuses because all are precious. But she does remember fondly team commendation awards for drug busts and a multi-heritage celebration.
I’ll say this for my daughter. She’s persistent. When she sets her eyes on a goal, she’s unbeatable. And she’s loyal. Something her family and coworkers can attest to. If they were to give an award to someone who boosts morale at a billet, she would win hands down, even if she were competing with the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa.
I once told my daughter you don’t get to the top of a mountain by falling there. It takes a lot of hard work, persistence, and grace under pressure. But it also takes street smarts. And despite one’s acumen and ability, you’re no leader at all if you don’t know how to bring out the best in people. It’s a trait she has in spades and will serve her well in her present command.
I wish Lieutenant Commander Hegerich much success in her new billet. I’ve met Commanding Officer, Captain John Reed. and several other officers who head key departments as well as a number of yeomen at the Sector. It’s a delicious mélange of skills, experience, and perspectives. I know it’s a fine team assembled in Charleston. Everyone’s keen sense of dedication and commitment to their jobs and one another is as palpable as the ever-present Charleston humidity.
Blackbeard once held Charleston captive with a blockade. He took one of its leading citizens, Samuel Wragg, hostage and would not release him till a bag of medicine was rowed aboard his ship. Till then not one ship moved in or out of the harbor.
With the fine men and women serving Sector Charleston today, Blackbeard wouldn’t dare such a stunt. I’m betting my last doubloon he’d rather take his chances in the shoals of North Carolina with his nemesis, Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who literally handed him his head.
God bless everyone in the Coast Guard who serves our country so selflessly and honorably. May your luck run as deep as the sea and your worries be as light as its foam. And a special blessing to Lieutenant Commander Maureen Hegerich. You do us proud.
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My daughter, Lieutenant Maureen Katherine Hegerich, recently marked her nineteenth year in the United States Coast Guard. It seems a lifetime ago that this raw recruit showed up at the Cape May Coast Guard Training Center for basic training, but the tides of time keep shifting in fair weather and thick.
For anyone to dedicate nineteen years of his or her life to one’s country is a feat worth noting, not only because it marks a milestone, but because it represents a lifetime of untold sacrifices. And this is true for anyone who has served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps as well.
After basic training, her tours of duty took her to Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Cape Cod, and Washington, D.C. But her responsibilities flung her beyond these billets on a wide range of assignments far from family and friends.
Because of her exemplary performance while at Activities New York, she was awarded the MaryLou Whitney Military Leadership Award on June 22, 2005. This Woman of the Year award was in “grateful appreciation, deepest respect and gratitude for her supreme sacrifice, dedicated service, and outstanding contributions to the national defense of the United States of America.”
Always hungry to perform beyond her own high standards, she applied for Officer Candidate School. Despite the incredible odds and fierce competition, in the fall of 2006, she earned a place on the roster of a school so selective and demanding, the chosen really are among a rare breed.
Many understand that Officer Candidate School in New London, Connecticut is designed to train and mold candidates into Coast Guard leaders with character, vision, courage, and intelligence. What the general public and many candidates fail to appreciate is how demanding and extensive the training is. Those who graduate from the seventeen week course are forever changed in ways only those who have passed through the rigorous training can understand. Maureen graduated in 2007. Continue reading →