Service to Nation and Training the Leaders of Tomorrow
By #21001 Randy L. Johnston (Breeckner)
It is hard to believe that it has been more than 11 years since I raised my right hand and recited the oath to serve in our Armed Services. I have since repeated that same oath and have led others in reciting it as they reenlisted, committing additional years to their service contracts. Now that I am a Company Officer at the Coast Guard Academy and training the next generation of Commissioned Officers, I find myself contemplating on what led me here and remembering my “why.”
It is the question I ask of my Swabs, the newest class of cadets during their initial summer training period. I encourage them to remember their why, their reasoning for why they too chose to raise their right hands. Doing so results in my self-reflection on why I chose to enlist and later commission as an officer, but also why I continue to serve despite the many challenges that come with a career in the military. I think about the various factors that drove me to serve my country and spending four years as a Leader at Camp Dudley at Kiniya definitely contributed.
No one in my immediate family joined the military, but it was a career that fascinated me, even as a child. I always loved being on teams and working towards a common goal whether it was playing a sport or participating in a club.
During my years at Kiniya from 2008-2011, I was completing college and debating what I wanted to do next. I tried the teaching route, and it was a bad fit and pursuing graduate school immediately did not feel like the right fit either. During my final summer at camp having just earned my bachelor’s degree, I often talked with my fellow staff and the occasional camper parent about my uncertain future. One of those parents was a Navy Veteran and spoke fondly of his time serving. Another parent gave me the advice of choosing adventure while you are young.
These tips were the final pieces of encouragement I needed to speak with a Coast Guard recruiter. It instantly felt like the right place for me. I appreciated their missions, the career opportunities, the benefits, and being part of a life-saving organization. I enlisted and despite Boot Camp having a reputation of being a challenging training that pushes you to the brink, it was an easy adjustment for me. I spent years at camp sleeping in a small cabin with roommates of varying ages and at least one who snored. I was accustomed to working long days in the heat and trying to keep each other motivated on the most tiresome of days. I was comfortable with confronting personnel conflicts and knowing when to delegate to others on my leadership team. Most importantly, I already practiced “The Other Fellow First.”
In the Coast Guard, our Core Values are Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. While we did not recite these at camp, they were certainly something we practiced every day through “The Other Fellow First,” a phrase I still repeat daily. Now that I work at the Coast Guard Academy, I am training the future leaders of my service who are the same age I was when working at Kiniya. Similar to my position as a Leader, I am trying to get a group of people with all different backgrounds to work together as a team. I understand they won’t all be best friends, but I instill in them that they need to respect one another and look out for their shipmates, just like putting “The Other Fellow First.”
If you are at a point in your life where you are unsure of the next step whether you are about to graduate high school, college, or looking for a career change, I implore you to research our Nation’s Armed Services, especially the Coast Guard. I am happy to assist anyone interested in enlisting, attending the Coast Guard Academy, or commissioning through one of our other options.
In the same way I never stopped enjoying working at camp, I continue to enjoy my career in the Coast Guard and am passionate about giving others the amazing opportunities I have experienced.
For any inquiries, please reach me at Randy.L.Johnston@uscga.edu.