Feature Release: Civilian employees offer passion, perspective to Coast Guard

January 24, 2015

Story and photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn

Have you ever thought about joining the Coast Guard, but couldn’t get past the thought of suffering through boot camp? Many people don’t realize the Coast Guard employs more than 7,000 women and men who don’t wear a military uniform. These Coast Guard civilian employees work alongside active-duty, reserve, and auxiliary members in support of operations every day, contributing their skills in a powerful, meaningful way.Teddie Thorogood, a supervisory management and program analyst and current chief of resources and planning for the Coast Guard 5th District in Portsmouth, Virginia, is just one gleaming example of a civilian employee with tremendous impact on the service’s success.A Hampton Roads, Virginia, native, Thorogood heads the division responsible for the 5th District’s non-operational planning, and all the 5th District’s resources, including $42 million in funding, $1 billion in shore infrastructure and 8,500 military, civilian and auxiliary personnel from northern New Jersey to southern North Carolina.“My job affords me an excellent opportunity to relieve Coast Guard men and women in the operational field from a variety of administrative requirements they shouldn’t have to focus on,” said Thorogood. “What we hope to do in our division is relieve them from the administrative burden of working to get facilities, money, repairs or people reassigned so they can get on to the business of repairing boats, getting out on the water and doing their missions without having to worry. We get what they need to them so they can get their job done.”The Coast Guard benefits in a number of ways when civilian employees take on roles like Thorogood’s. Civilian employees do not get reassigned every two to four years like active duty members. By choosing someone with the right abilities and skills who does not rotate, the Coast Guard benefits from their historical knowledge of past decision making and can focus on new approaches to persistent issues. Putting skilled civilians into the right positions means the Coast Guard can keep its mechanics, electricians, helicopter pilots, boat drivers and other operational members out in the field and not in an office.“When a civilian employee can come in and perform a job that is not operational, that keeps Coast Guardsmen with operational skills doing what they trained to do,” said Thorogood. “A resources and planning position like mine requires making long-range plans where the execution of decisions often takes years to come to fruition. Having someone in this position for extended periods of time who retains the corporate knowledge behind decisions made years ago, affords new district commanders, chiefs of staff and senior division chiefs the opportunity to link projects that will be executed under their supervision, back to those decision points.” While Thorogood has long-range oversight of projects like moving Coast Guard sectors, establishing new buildings, recapitalizing facilities and moving personnel billets, her determination and enthusiasm have a positive impact on people."One of the reasons I applied to work in the budget office was to get a chance to work with Ms. Thorogood,” said Lt. Jessica Shea, budget officer for the 5th District. “Her emphasis on ensuring there is value added to the field from all projects that cross her desk is a characteristic I personally admire.  She inspires confidence in the organization and builds trust from the field regarding budget and resource allocation decisions."As the only female on the 5th District senior leadership team and the only civilian employee who holds her role in the Coast Guard, Thorogood offers a unique perspective that adds value to the team. Most Coast Guardsmen in her equivalent job in other districts are at the O-6 pay grade – active duty captains. Thorogood is at civilian pay grade GS-14, but was presented an honorary 0-6 promotion during a staff meeting by now Vice Adm. Dean Lee, when he was commander of the 5th District.“Vice Admiral Lee wanted to show I was equal to and able to perform in a leadership position usually held by an O-6, and I brought value to the team,” said Thorogood. “I cannot put words together that truly reflect what a profound impact Vice Adm. Lee had on my Coast Guard career. He is an absolutely incredible human being.”  Beginning her career as a clerk typist at the GS-3 level, Thorogood worked her way to her current position with a combination of work experience and education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Northwood University and her master’s in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.Thorogood was the recipient of the 2012 U.S. Coast Guard Innovation Award for Management, and in the same year she received the Coast Guard Commandant’s Superior Achievement Award - the highest award given to a current serving civilian employee, equivalent to the bronze star.Thorogood said experiencing the rewards of her job requires completing some of her position’s most difficult tasks.“My favorite thing about my job is advocating for people in the field,” she said. “The task of getting people what they need so they can get the job done, of maximizing the allowable resources in accordance with the Commandant’s direction, is a worthy challenge.” Like so many civilian employees throughout the Coast Guard, Thorogood has a passion for overcoming challenges in order to help people. That passion is a driving force behind mission execution throughout the seagoing service."As the division chief for resources and planning, Ms. Thorogood works tirelessly on behalf of the men and women of the 5th District, ensuring they have the resources and facilities they need to execute the mission,” said Rear Adm. Stephen P. Metruck, commander of the 5th District. “It’s clear she truly cares about the well being of all Coast Guard personnel.  She is also a valuable and trusted member of the 5th District’s senior leadership team whom I can always count on for sound advice and counsel.”Civilian employees like Thorogood will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with military personnel and share a patriotic sense of duty toward a greater good for all Americans.“The Coast Guard is very focused on a mission set that protects America’s homeland,” said Thorogood. “Our missions cannot be more important than in today’s world. It is extremely rewarding to work with people who are so focused on protecting America’s interests.”