Creating a Coast Guard Culture of Excellence

Video, story and photos by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

Like all good nautical terms, it began with sails.

To square away meant the yards — that is, the poles that support the sails — were set at right angles to the deck, parallel to the horizon.

With each sail widened by the wind, the lavish look became a tactic crews used to impress inspectors and show off in harbor.

Today, squared away is high praise given only to the most commendable Coasties, those with a work ethic as shined as their boots and a manner as polished as the brass of their belt buckles.

The expression is exemplified at Coast Guard Station Quillayute River, Washington, where Senior Chief Petty Officer Cory Wadley, officer in charge, has cultivated a culture of excellence.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Cory Wadley explains the location and characteristics of various aids to navigation to Petty Officer 2nd Class Leo Cichosz, food service specialist, during boat crew training at Coast Guard Station Quillayute River in La Push, Wash., Sept. 1, 2016.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Cory Wadley explains the location and characteristics of various aids to navigation to Petty Officer 2nd Class Leo Cichosz, food service specialist, during boat crew training at Coast Guard Station Quillayute River in La Push, Wash., Sept. 1, 2016. Wadley, officer in charge, has encouraged Cichosz to pursue the boat crew qualification to earn a permanent boat force operations insignia, an accomplishment normally reserved for boatswain’s mates and machinery technicians.

As a former Albuquerque, New Mexico police officer and Coast Guard boot camp company commander, Wadley knows a thing or two about running a tight ship. Under his leadership, the crew has achieved above-average test scores, an aptitude for advancement and a high level of physical fitness.

Their squared-away performance has been recognized throughout the region. Of the 16 units and 580 personnel in Sector Puget Sound, members at Station Quillayute River received the sector Sailor of the Quarter honor twice in 2016 alone.

“I believe in continuous progression and becoming better than you were the day before,” said Wadley. “A lot of leaders fail because they think at some point they’ve reached the top. When you’re at the top, the only way to go is down.”

After Petty Officers 2nd Class Daniel Warren, storekeeper, and Leo Cichosz, food service specialist, completed the basic standards necessary for their jobs, Wadley began encouraging them to pursue the boat crewmember qualification. The qualification is open to any rate but is normally reserved for boatswain’s mates and machinery technicians. Warren and Cichosz would be among a rare class of support personnel able to don the boat force operations insignia on their uniforms. The two are expected to qualify by the end of 2016.

When the crew isn’t completing unit missions or developing themselves, they are busy bettering their station, which sits remotely at the mouth of the Quileute River in the unincorporated community of La Push.

In the last year, they have spent nearly $20,000 on improvements, from renovating the gym to installing heated floors in barracks rooms — a luxury that quickly becomes a necessity for duty crews returning from mid-winter search-and-rescue cases.

“The station is in middle of nowhere, and a lot of people commute 60 miles just to get to work,” said Warren. “But I actually enjoy coming here. I think we all do. The station feels like home and it feels like a family.”

Inarguably, Wadley has been the instrument for the improvements to the station and the people within. As a humble leader who adheres to the philosophy that he is only as successful as his successors, however, he is quick to give the credit to his crew.

“I don’t like the term legacy, because it’s never about me,” said Wadley. “It’s about doing the right thing at the right time and creating a positive, forward momentum that enables others to live empowered.”

Being squared away began with sails, but it ends with sailors. Sailors who believe meeting the standard is only a baseline, not a goal in itself. Sailors who strive for personal excellence and hold their shipmates accountable for the same. Sailors like Wadley and his crew who, even at the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest, have earned a reputation for elevating the Coast Guard to greatness.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Cory Wadley, officer in charge, Coast Guard Station Quillayute River stands near the station boat house in La Push, Wash., Sept. 2, 2016. Under Wadley's leadership, the Station Quillayute River crew has achieved above-average test scores, an aptitude for advancement and a high level of physical fitness.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Cory Wadley, officer in charge, Coast Guard Station Quillayute River stands near the station boat house in La Push, Wash., Sept. 2, 2016. Under Wadley’s leadership, the Station Quillayute River crew has achieved above-average test scores, an aptitude for advancement and a high level of physical fitness.

 

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