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Law Enforcement Aspirations To USCG Cutter Commander
by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Uranga
September 15, 2023

In the maritime world of the U.S. Coast Guard, Lt. Amy Ross' journey stands out, not just for her rank as the commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward, but for the depth of her experiences and insights.

August 26, 2023 - U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Amy Ross (right) is the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward, docked at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach and standing to the left is her Executive Officer U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Whitney Freeman. They are also the only women serving the Cutter Robert Ward. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Uranga.)
August 26, 2023 - U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Amy Ross (right) is the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward, docked at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach and standing to the left is her Executive Officer U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Whitney Freeman. They are also the only women serving the Cutter Robert Ward. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Uranga.)

"I was inspired to join the Coast Guard as a way to gain challenging work experience and leadership skills," Ross shared. Her initial goal was to bolster her resume for future law enforcement roles, but the Coast Guard's ethos and camaraderie anchored her. "I ended up liking the Coast Guard too much to leave."

Ross's understanding of teamwork and leadership underwent a profound transformation during her time in service. "Looking back, I knew very little about teamwork prior to joining the Coast Guard," she admits. In college, she aimed to outperform her peers. However, the Coast Guard's Officer Candidate School presented a different lesson. "If one performed too well, it was seen as a lack of helping their shipmates," Ross recalls. This emphasis on collective growth over individual success has stayed with her. "A good leader in the Coast Guard is someone who helps others accomplish their goals."

One of the most impactful experiences for Ross was her time at Officer Candidate School. It wasn't just about training; it was about reshaping perspectives. The skills she acquired in the Coast Guard, from handling stressful situations to swift decision-making, have prepared her for challenges both in and out of uniform. "Tasks that would take me hours to plan prior to the Coast Guard are now laughably easy," Ross notes, highlighting the invaluable training she received.

Her professional growth in the Coast Guard has been nothing short of remarkable. "With just a few years in, the Coast Guard selected me for a Commanding Officer assignment on a Fast Response Cutter," Ross beams. The pride in her voice is evident when she mentions, "Not many people get to say they were a Captain of a ship, and every time I say it, I can’t stop grinning."

The camaraderie in the Coast Guard, especially in an at-sea unit, is unparalleled. Ross fondly recalls the deep bonds formed onboard. "Camaraderie of an at-sea unit is like no other experience. I still maintained email communications with the crew from my first cutter eight years ago," she shares. This bond is more than just professional; it's familial, helping crews get through the most challenging times. Ross emphasizes the importance of being genuine and helpful onboard, "People onboard are invested in knowing their co-workers, and we get delighted with learning each other’s idiosyncrasies."

She also recounts a particularly challenging mission that underscored the importance of teamwork. "My third day underway as a Commanding Officer, we responded to a boat in distress. The boat had experienced an engine explosion, and several people suffered burns," Ross recalls. The operation required collaboration among several Coast Guard units. "We successfully hoisted this person off our deck and into a helicopter and ultimately saved her life," she states with a hint of pride.

Ross also reflects on the significance of Women's Equality Day in the context of her service. "I think it’s important to remember our history and to be proud of what we have done both in the civilian world and in the services," she opines.
She speaks highly of the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) within the Coast Guard, emphasizing its role in fostering career development and networking. "The WLI was founded by Coast Guard Academy women and has grown to include all people of the Coast Guard, men and women alike," Ross explains.

The initiative's foundations lie in keeping apprised of women’s issues. "Several Chapters, including my local one at Los Angeles/Long Beach, did something in support of Women’s Equality Day," she adds, highlighting the proactive role of the WLI in commemorating significant events. The Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council (LDAC) in the Coast Guard ensures units prioritize diversity and inclusion, working hand in hand with the WLI during women-centric events.

In the vast ocean of life, Lt. Amy Ross's journey is a beacon, illuminating the path for all those who dare to navigate the challenging waters of service and leadership.

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