Leadership Spotlight: Washington State reservist recognized as top Coast Guard performer

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Zachary Crawford

Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Olson, a maritime enforcement specialist with Coast guard Port Security Unit 313 in Everett, Wash., receives a call from Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Johnson, chief of Reserve Forces., notifiying him of his selection as the 2014 Enlisted Person of the Year – Reserve Component in April 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PSU 313.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Olson, a maritime enforcement specialist at Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313 in Everett, Wash., receives a call from Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Johnson, chief of reserve forces, congratulating him as the 2014 Enlisted Person of the Year – Reserve Component in April 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by PSU 313.

One Coast Guardsman stood out from the rest of the pack during a recent award ceremony where he was recognized, not only for his service to his country, but also to his local community.

Petty Officer First Class Ryan M. Olson, a maritime enforcement specialist with Port Security Unit 313 based in Everett, Washington, received a special call on a typical day where he was balancing operational and administrative duties. On the other end of the line was Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Johnson, chief of reserve forces.

Johnson called Olson to inform him of his selection as the Coast Guard’s 2014 Enlisted Person of the Year – Reserve Component.

The EPOY program is designed to recognize the accomplishments of the enlisted workforce’s top performers who best exemplify the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty. Both active duty and reserve EPOY recipients are considered to be the best and brightest from the field. They are selected using criteria that consider their professional and personal accomplishments, work ethic, involvement in community service and standards of conduct.

“Each of the candidates distinguished themselves among their peers by being nominated and, ultimately, selected by their districts,” said Johnson. “This resulted in nine superstars being presented to a panel of senior enlisted leaders who then, objectively and without collaboration, rated the nominees in various performance categories.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Olson, a maritime enforcement specialist assigned to Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313 and volunteer firefighter in Oso, Wash., surveys the damage area after the deadly Oso mudslide, April 2, 2014. Olson spent more than 260 hours over 24 days assisting with recovery operations after the Oso, Wash., mudslide, the deadliest in the nation's history. (Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Olson)

Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Olson, a maritime enforcement specialist assigned to Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313 and volunteer firefighter in Oso, Wash., surveys the damage area after the deadly Oso mudslide, April 2, 2014. Olson spent more than 260 hours over 24 days assisting with recovery operations after the Oso, Wash., mudslide, the deadliest in the nation’s history. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Olson.

According to Johnson, after all the numbers were tallied, one individual stood out, ME1 Olson received the highest score and but he noted that all of the candidates were extremely strong and any one of them would have been a worthy choice.

Olson, assigned to the Shoreside Security Division of Port Security Unit 313, is his division’s lead petty officer and is in charge of nearly 30 people. When not performing his Coast Guard duties, Olson works as the head of security for a family in the area, advising them in threat analysis and mitigation, and facility and personnel protection. He is also a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for his local community in Oso, Washington.

For 24 straight days, Olson, working as a volunteer firefighter, assisted first responders in recovery efforts during the devastating Oso mudslide in March 2014. As a firefighter and EMT, he’s also volunteered an impressive 600 hours responding to 80 separate fire, accident and medical emergencies.

“I had always had interest in the fire service. Moving to a small town and seeing the level of professionalism and dedication by the other community volunteers at the fire hall was very neat to see,” said Olson. “I experienced a similar situation when considering joining the Coast Guard. Like the fire service, I was motivated by the people and I wanted to be part of what they did.”

Olson’s Coast Guard accomplishments include facilitating more than 240 hours of instruction for PSU members and securing nearly 18,000 acres of training ground with the Department of Defense to be used by his unit. He’s also taught 47 members of his unit Krav Maga close-quarter self defense. To top it all off, he certified 30 members in Tactical Combat Casualty Care, a system of techniques designed to teach individuals the ability to render medical aid in a combat environment.

Cyndy Olson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell affix new collar devices to Ryan Olson's uniform during the 2014 Coast Guard Enlisted Persons of the Year Banquet at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2015. During the ceremony, Olson was recognized as the Enlisted Person of the Year - Reserve Component, an honor that comes with a meritorious advancement - in Olson's case, an advancement from petty officer first class to chief petty officer. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle Niemi)

Cyndy Olson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell affix new collar devices to Ryan Olson’s uniform during the 2014 Coast Guard Enlisted Persons of the Year Banquet at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2015. During the ceremony, Olson was recognized as the Enlisted Person of the Year – Reserve Component, an honor that comes with a meritorious advancement – in Olson’s case, an advancement from petty officer first class to chief petty officer. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kyle Niemi.

“ME1 Olson displayed a can do, get it done, attitude,” said Johnson. “His focus was that of ‘how can I do more and support those around me, both within the Coast Guard and in my civilian life?,’” said Johnson. “Certainly ME1 Olson lives by a very good code and his positive approach to his military service will serve him well as a chief petty officer.”

Olson said he is constantly reminded that individuals in the Coast Guard are all part of a team that is very proud of what they do.

“Some of the most powerful and amazing things occur when the uniform has been taken off,” says Olson. “Time and time again, I hear stories of Coast Guard members doing extraordinary things within their communities and, not because they are just members of the Coast Guard necessarily, but simply because it is the right thing to do and they have the capability and desire to help others.”

While the EPOY is an individual award, Olson said it was earned with the help and guidance of many other great individuals.

“There are no actions that I could have taken over the last year without the support of others,” said Olson. “This award is really a celebration of all the hard work by a lot of excellent people who make a great team. The culture of service and excellence that radiates from our enlisted ranks is always evident. It is motivating for me to see the great work that other enlisted members do on a daily basis.”

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