Meet Your Coast Guard Reserve

This is the second post of a month-long question and answer series, introducing members of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Northwest Reserve Force and recognizing their contributions to our country and community.

Storekeeper Chief Petty Officer Heather D. Sands, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve
Sector Columbia River Oregon, Silver Badge (select)

SKC Heather Sands CPOA graduation dinner

Q. Where is your hometown?
A. Portland, OR

Q. How long have you been in the Coast Guard?
A. 13 years; active duty 2002-2008 and reserve 2008-present

SKC Heather Sands Kuwait 1Q. Why did you join the Coast Guard? Why do you stay/what keeps you motivated?
A. I joined the Coast Guard in 2002 because I was at a crossroad in my life. I wanted to pursue a totally different job field, experience an adventure and see the United States. I continue to serve because of what the Coast Guard represents. We are a lifesaving service and my role enables people to operate with the tools they need to be successful. I am always enthusiastic when I tell people that I am a Coast Guard Reservist and most are extremely receptive. I also stay in the Coast Guard because of whom I’ve met; these men and women are my family, mentors and teachers.

Q. Have you been deployed since joining the reserves? If so, where and when?
A. I deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation New

Dawn with the Navy. I was a SK1 (storekeeper, first class) stationed at Sector St. Petersburg, Florida and saw a message that Port Security Unit 307 was looking for a SK1 for a one-year deployment. So, I volunteered and it was a rewarding experience. I was recalled for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010 and deployed to Miami, assisting with budget and recalling of reservists.

Q. What are some of your responsibilities while on duty?
A. I am assigned to the Logistics and Administration Department at Sector Columbia River, Oregon, serving as the Chief of Administration, Medical, Command Center and Supply. I ensure that my members have the tools to effectively perform their jobs, that they are all paid, have access to training and are happy.

Q. What do you do on a typical duty day?
A. It varies, but I regularly attend operations briefings and Chiefs’ and officers’ meetings on a standard duty day. I assess the needs of different departments to ensure members are maintaining a high level of training and readiness for potential deployments.

 

SKC Heather Sands and KenzieQ. What’s your most memorable experience since joining the Coast Guard?
A. I’ve met some amazing people in the Coast Guard and other branches of the military due to my deployments. However, my most memorable experience was the day I came home from Kuwait. Seeing my family, friends and dog at Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater (Florida) for the first time in nearly eight months…it was such a rush of emotions that it is tough to describe. A close second is the day I attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer and had my mentor, SKCM Kevin Golliff, and best friend, CWO Alexis Agaman, pin me.

 

Q. What is your occupation outside of the Coast Guard? Where?
A. I am a Vendor Operations Coordinator for WebMD Health Services, located in Portland, Oregon.

Q. How do you balance Coast Guard and civilian life? Any challenges?
A. With lots of practice, I have become very good at balancing my civilian and Coast Guard duties. I make sure that I check my Coast Guard email at least once a week – even when I am not on duty – and reach out to my supervisor often. I think communication and staying connected are key because there are so many changes in the Coast Guard. Staying on top of tasks and responsibilities as quickly as possible helps me to balance my schedule and time commitments. It’s always challenging to balance our civilian career demands, families, friends and other obligations, but reservists know that our job isn’t just two drill days per month. Most of us dedicate countless of “volunteer” hours to our reserve jobs because we love what we do and are grateful for the opportunity to serve.

SKC Heather Sands degree pictureQ. Are there any skills you’ve learned through the Coast Guard that you apply to your civilian career and vice versa?
A. I acquired a lot of skills from the Coast Guard, including many that didn’t know I would enjoy before I joined the military. Once I decided to become a storekeeper, I learned so much about how to manage government funds and navigate appropriations law (federal appropriation law is important to understand for any agency). It may sound boring, but gaining these skills helped me get my job at the VA hospital in Tampa, Florida. It also helped me decide what I wanted to pursue in my education and, in August 2014, I received my Bachelor’s degree in Operations Management from DeVry University.

Q. How does being in the reserves impact the service as a whole?
A. I think the reserves are a part of the Coast Guard that can be utilized in so many aspects. My goal at every unit I visit is to introduce myself as a reservist because we often aren’t seen outside of weekend duty. Usually, I get more questions about civilian life, resume writing, navigating the VA and civilian careers from our active duty counterparts. In addition, with the nature of our ICS (Incident Command System) training structure and obtaining competencies that enable reserves to be effective in times of crisis, we have an opportunity to take on more emergencies like oil spills, earthquakes, hurricane response, etc.

Q. Anything else you’d like for us to know/include?
A. Yes, two things. First, while deployed to Kuwait, I was fortunate to meet some Navy personnel that were certified CrossFit coaches. These courses were offered to everyone on base that wanted to participate in group workouts, nutrition classes and challenges. I joined this community of workout fanatics and, eventually, became one myself. Second, I challenge every reservist to find something they can own, whether it is to be the best training petty officer for their unit or be a humanitarian outside of the Coast Guard as a volunteer in their community. Every reservist brings something unique with the skills they offer and I truly believe that we all have something special to offer the Coast Guard.

 

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