2014 coastguard Times
Honorable Mentions

Cmdr. Holly Harrison

National Security Affairs Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Job description: National Security Affairs fellow with the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Personal: First female Coast Guardsman to earn a Bronze Star, volunteer firefighter, sexual assault prevention and response advocate.

Harrison was the first woman in the Coast Guard to command a cutter in a war zone, deploying in support of Operation Iraq Freedom as a lieutenant and skipper of the Island-class patrol boat Aquidneck in 2003. That deployment also made her the service’s first female Bronze Star recipient.

She was also the only woman in the contingent of four cutters on that deployment — they all carried an all-male crew, including the crew she commanded.

“To be honest, the ship was picked to go over because the hull was in very good condition,” she told Navy Times. “The Coast Guard didn’t care if the commanding officer was a female or a male.”

As a 15-year-old, she recalled, she pulled a body out of the water, busted a couple of drug smugglers, and saved a couple and their dog who had been stranded at sea. She was hooked, she said. She graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1995.

She joined Virginia’s Fairfax County volunteer fire department during her last assignment, in Washington, D.C. She said she’d always been one of those kids who loved to watch the fire trucks go by, and she figured her experience at her day job made her a great fit.

Harrison’s now serving as a Coast Guard fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. The first part of that fellowship is about as far from campus as one can get — she’s wrapping up a monthlong Arctic cruise aboard the icebreaker Healy.

“I think this is going to be a major issue, not only for the Coast Guard but the nation,” she said. “So it would be really nice to fully understand it, and as it’s growing and developing, hopefully have an opportunity to influence the direction we go in, so then we get it right the first time.”

 

MST2 Christopher Villaverde

Coast Guard Sector, New York

Job description: Inspections division, Coast Guard Sector New York.

Personal: 25-year-old reservist, New York City police officer, American Eagle Force Cadet Core volunteer.

Villaverde grew up in a Coast Guard family, knowing from a young age that he wanted to serve.

In fact, he deployed with his father, Reserve Cmdr. Sergio Villaverde, down to the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 to aid in cleanup following the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Villaverde joined the Coast Guard Reserve in 2008. He chose to earn a degree from the City University of New York while serving at Sector New York, then join the New York Police Department after graduation.

Today he’s attached to the inspection division at Sector New York while patrolling the Bronx as a beat cop during the work week. In his spare time, Villaverde focuses on leading the next generation down the right road.

“I grew up in the Bronx, so I knew that any which way you can go can lead to a wrong path,” he told Navy Times. “I’m also a cop in that community. I’ve seen all types of stuff — one wrong move at a young age can lead you to a totally different path that you don’t want to go down.”

Villaverde has been involved in several community organizations, including his local American Eagle Force Cadet Core, a junior ROTC program. Fellow volunteer Evelyn Navarro said his military background commands instant respect from the kids.

“He taught them about the water, and how to talk on the radios, and what he was learning in the Coast Guard,” she said. “They were amazed.”

Villaverde is studying to take his E-6 exam, and he’s planning to take the police department’s sergeant’s exam as soon as possible.

“I want to rank up as high as I can,” he said. “That way I can make some changes that would benefit the community and the cops themselves.”