Born for this
Posted by PA2 Stephen Lehmann, Friday, March 23, 2012
A young Hannah Amos walks down the pier with her father to his sailboat. It’s a bright, sunny day, perfect for sailing. Her father instructs her on which lines to untie as they prepare to get underway. Out on the water, the smell and feel of the air gives Amos a sensation she can’t get anywhere else. She feels free.
“It was a passion we shared together,” says Hannah Amos-McDowell, about her father and their shared passion for the water. Now married and a petty officer second class stationed at Coast Guard Aids-to-Navigation Team Panama City, Fla., Amos-McDowell still finds freedom out among the waves.
It’s easy to say she’s followed her bliss.
“Being a boatswain is who I am and who I’ve been my entire life,” she says. “I’ve been around sailboats and sailing, and I’m really so grateful I’ve found a career that takes me out on the water and mimics that experience.”
Recently, Amos-McDowell was awarded the Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie Leadership Award for her roles in and outside of her unit.
Her command sent an endorsement letter recommending her for the award that read like a grocery list. A three-page catalogue of all her accomplishments as well as her time spent with the Humane Society.
“I didn’t even know the award existed,” said Amos-McDowell. “I just love helping people and doing good for the community and for others. Wherever I can jump in and help people and animals in need, I do what I can.”
Master Chief Petty Officer Pearl Faurie was the first woman to advance to the rank of master chief while serving in the SPARs in 1964. Joining the service in 1942, Faurie reenlisted in 1950 when the Coast Guard became involved in the Korean War.
The annual award of her namesake is given to a female service members who have displayed exemplary leadership. This year Amos-McDowell received that honor, and her work with the junior members of her unit played no small part in that.
“We have a lot of young of people that come in as seaman that have never been away from home before, are underage, and are coming to the spring break capital of the country,” she says. “We do what we can to lead them in the right way, so they can make the right choices.”
“Every experience with the junior enlisted is different. A lot of them when they’re breaking in boat crew, they’re terrified to be behind the wheel and to be a boat driver. So, I think the fact that I am a strong boat driver shows them anyone can do it,” says Amos-McDowell. “I try to help them build the confidence they need to do anything they want to do regardless of their fears.”
If being a good leader meant simply keeping your people safe and teaching them new skills, the world wouldn’t be in such short supply, and there probably wouldn’t be an award for them. As it is, there is more to it. There is also the aspect of career development.
“I work with each of our junior peeps,” says Amos-McDowell. “It’s kind of like ‘What do you want to do? What can I do to help you get there? Let’s work on this or that. Don’t settle for second best. If you want to do what you want to do, let’s do it all the way and I’ll help you.’”
There’s a lot more to this boatswain’s mate than mentoring. She has daily work lists that differ depending on any number of variables. At any point in the week, she can be out on the water, checking buoys, training her fellow shipmates or maintaining their equipment. According to Amos-McDowell, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love the job because every day’s different,” she says. “I absolutely love working outside, working with my hands, sanding, painting, being out in the environment, being out in the sun or the rain.”
As she says this, she sighs.
“Of course, I can’t now, because I’m pregnant and on light duty. I’m chomping at the bit to get out there and play, but… I can’t.” She sighs again.
Amos-McDowell is seven months pregnant, and while she might be a little discouraged about not being fully operational, it’s only a matter of time until she’s the one teaching her son which ropes to untie, which course to take and how to enjoy the freedom of a gorgeous day out on the water.