Posts Tagged ‘Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara’

A Perfect Day at the Port of Baltimore

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Women Making History: A Perfect Day at the Port of Baltimore, March 21, 2013

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital Photographs Tony Mussari
Copyright 2013
The Face of America Project
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. John Wooden

The Day in Context

March 21, is known for many things.  It is the first day of spring and World Poetry Day.  For those who follow the astrological year, it is the first full day lindbergh_presentationof Aries. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac. It symbolizes leadership

In 1928, Charles Lindbergh received the Congressional Medal of Honor on March 21, for his first solo trans-Atlantic flight.  In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. lead 3,200 people in the start of the third civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

On this March 21, more than 200 people came together for breakfast at the Sparrows Point Country Club in Baltimore, Maryland, to celebrate Women in Port Security with a panel discussion and the presentation of the Woman of the Year award to Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara, U.S. Coast Guard, Retired.

The Setting


Surrounded by water on one side and a golf course on the other, the country club sits majestically on the crest of a small hill. If you are looking for a beautiful setting, this is it.

If you are looking for beautiful people in all the ways that matter, one need only enter the banquet hall.  

In every corner of the room, one could feel the welcoming atmosphere of community, confraternity, celebration, diversity, inclusion and everything that America represents on its best day.

Each table was tastefully decorated with a patrioticIMG_2680_group centerpiece.  Colorful baskets of flowers were carefully placed around the room, and attractive signs acknowledged corporate sponsors and the history of the United States Coast Guard.

Mary Jane Norris, Manager, Port Operations Services, is a talented woman with a million dollar smile. She and her committee attended to every detail.

The Program


The program began with an inspirational presentation of the colors by a group of teenagers from Baltimore, and a patriotic expression of the Pledge of Allegiance by everyone in the room.

Rev. Mary Davisson, Executive Director/Chaplain the Baltimore Seafarers’ Center, read a thoughtful invocation prayer asking God’s blessing on everyone in the room.

Mr. James White, Executive Director of the Maryland Port Authority extended a warm welcome to the annual celebration of women.

Kathy Broadwater, Maryland Port Administrator,IMG_2648_intro introduced Vice Admiral, Sally Brice-O’Hara with words of respect and gratitude:

“She began her service at a time when there were very few women in the Coast Guard, and, frankly, many did not want women there. In common with past honorees, she stuck with it, did the job to the best of her ability and showed through her performance that women could do the job as well or better than men.”

“Our honoree rose to the rank of Vice Admiral and served as Vice Commandant of the entire US Coast Guard at the time of her retirement. To put this in perspective, in 2012 the Coast Guard had a little over 6,800 officers and only 3 were Vice Admirals- less than one percent of all officers. This is a significant IMG_2655_introbachievement for either gender. It’s particularly notable considering less than 19% of the officer corps was female at the time.”

The Honoree

Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara is a quiet, competent person who exudes dignity and class. When she approached the podium, the room filled with the quiet sound of expectation.

She began her remarks with a quote from one of the Coast Guard’s most famous pathfinders, Captain Dorothy Stratton:

Since we were untried, we knew that if one failed, we all failed.  That is why we triedDorothyStratton1sm so hard.

Those 20 words set the tone for a speech that captivated everyone in the room. It was compelling, candid, conversational and filled with examples of leadership and service.

She admitted that she felt that the weight of all women was on her shoulders, and she had a responsibility to be professional. She wanted to contribute and create opportunities for women in the Coast Guard.

When she entered the service she thought she would honor a six year obligation and then go on to other MVC-025S_250things, but that was not meant to be. In 2012, she had given more than 37 years to the Coast Guard.  She honored 19 different assignments, and she rose to the position of second in command.

This is how she summarized the important things she learned during her career:

1. Get as much training and professional development as possible;

2. It takes effort, self-study and extra work to move forward;

3. To survive in a dynamic era like the digital age you must learn to adapt;

4. Find several mentors. If you ask people for assistance they will respond;
Sally Mentoiring_250

5. Have patience.  It takes time to make progress;

6. When you experience negative examples of leadership, you learn how not to do things;

7. It takes energy, commitment and time to become a mentor. Become a mentor anyway;

8. Do not become a “Queen Bee.” Break down barriers and help other women move forward;

9. Select your partner carefully, because he or she is an essential part of your team;


10. When you are given a command position, select people who are not “yes” people. You will benefit from different ideas;

11. Always remember the team is paramount. We live in a no-fail environment. Everything is done in a team environment, and you must know and honor your responsibility to the team;

12. Be an open and honest broker. It will create the climate for the best decisions.


While Admiral Brice-O’Hara was speaking you could hear a pin drop in the room. Her compelling story and her thoughtful advice reminded me of the words of one of her heroes, Dorothy Stratton:

We wanted to serve our country in its hour of need. The Coast Guard gave us this opportunity and we did our job well. Semper Paratus.

Admiral Brice-O’Hara’s speech set the tone for the panel discussion that followed.

A Panel of Experts

Mistress of Ceremonies Cecilia Donovan was generous in her introduction of Margurite Cooper, Securitas Security Services, Susan Miller, MDTA Police Officer, Cindy Milligan, Pride International and Kristina Tanasichuk, President and Founder of “Women in Homeland Security” Organization.


Looking at these women, and listening to their stories and their advice to other women, I thought to myself if ever there was a portrait of the Face of America on its best day, this is it.

Margurite Cooper encouraged everyone in the room to hire only the best qualified people.


Susan Miller captured my attention with her honesty and sincerity. I want to help people, and I believe women bring a softer touch to difficult situations.

Cindy Milligan emphasized the need to adapt to change and to figure things out.  The ability to multitask and the desire for continuous learning are invaluable assets for employees.

Kristina Tanasichuk is a first generation American. She recommended that everyone should join organizations that do things they care about. That’s why she started “Women in Homeland Security.”

What Is Leadership?


During the question and answer session, each woman shared her thoughts about the qualities necessary for effective leadership.

“It’s got a lot to do with confidence.” Kristina Tanasichuk

“Leaders must be able to communicate effectively.” Cindy Milligan

“Leadership is about confidence, empathy, listening effectively and hearing what people say.” Susan Miller

“Leadership is about ethics, a sense of integrity and discipline.” Margurite Cooper

‘Leadership is about optimism, energy, accountability and integrity. A leader follows up on promises made.” Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara

After the panel discussion, people gathered in small groups to express their gratitude and make connections.

Final Moments

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a number ofIMG_2680_groupSBO Coasties and Captain Kevin Kiefer approach Admiral Brice-O’Hara who was more than willing to answer their questions and give them encouragement.

Panel members willingly provided a business card to anyone who wanted to stay in touch with them  

In front of the room, Mary Jane Norris assembled her team for a group picture to recognize the individuals who made this event so successful.

Photographer Bill McAllen captured many of these “Kodak” moments.

America at its Best

We went to The Sparrows Point Country Club on March IMG_2614_fic21, to celebrate the life and accomplishments of a friend. We did not know what to expect. To our delight we discovered more than 200 living examples of America at its best.

We experienced a feeling of belonging that is central to the spirit of America.

We learned invaluable lessons about life and dealing with bumps in the road.

We were impressed and inspired by the people we met, the things we heard, the sense of community we experienced and the welcoming fellowship of people who are dedicated to the success of the Port of Baltimore, Women in Port Security, and America at its best.

Thank you Mary Jane Norris for giving us thisIMG_2680_MJN incredible opportunity.

Thank you Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara for your dedicated and impressive leadership, love of country and service to America.

The kindness, generosity of spirit Kitch and I experienced at the Sparrows Point Country Club on this brisk March morning demonstrated once again that the people who make America work are the heroes without headlines who do what they do in an effective way without noise or notice. They inspire others to reach up for the best edition of themselves, and they give truth to the words of Abraham Lincoln:

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.

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Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara: A Classic Face of America

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara: A Woman of Character, Leadership and Responsibility

Written by Tony Mussari
and Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

The uniform does not take away heart. VADM Sally Brice-O’Hara

A Woman with a Purpose

This is a story about Rear Admiral Sally Brice O’Hara, an impressive woman by any standard. She is a woman who knows something about leadership. She is a leader who knows something about compassion and service. For 38 years she has served her country in 19 different assignments in the United States Coast Guard.

Kitch and I met Sally Brice-O’Hara in 2001 at Training Center Cape May. We were there to produce a program for our series, Windsor Park Stories. It was one of the best days of our career.

Sally was the Commanding Officer of Training Center Cape May.  She was generous with her time, and every one of her associates helped us with our work. We did not know it when we arrived, but before the visit ended we received a crash course in leadership from a woman whose friendship we earned that day.

Quiet and determined by nature, Sally took us on a walking tour of the training center. It is her style to demonstrate with acts of competence, kindness and thoughtfulness rather than embellish events and experiences with words. Watching her engage with the young men and women who would spend less than two months learning the code of conduct and the practices of the U.S. Coast Guard, three things were obvious. This was a woman who loved her job. This was a woman who enjoyed all the responsibilities that came with the job. This was a woman who did her job well. 

The Admiral’s Rules

During her interview, the person who was about to become the second female Admiral in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard talked about the values that helped her earn that honor.

She identified honesty, integrity and responsibility as the most important values she learned at home from her parents and as a child growing up with a love of horses and all things equestrian.

When she entered the Coast Guard after college, she found these values to be aligned with the core values that are proudly displayed on bulkheads around the training center: Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty.

She was emphatic about one point.  Character does count.  It is the foundation that will last a lifetime, and it is essential to leading a good life.

She also stressed the importance of teamwork, and she made a very compelling point when she said, “I must live by these standards when I am in uniform and when I am on liberty.”

Over the years, Admiral Brice-O’Hara has taught these values as a leader, a mentor, a crisis manager and a friend.

During an interview with Veronique Freeman, she shared these thoughts:

Accountability is a vital component of leadership: accountability to one’s self, accountability to others, and accountability to the organization.

First, we should be true to ourselves, doing everything to the best of our ability. This
includes being humble enough to speak up and ask for advice when we need it – and to include others in the solution.

Second, we should always look after people who work for us, making sure they have everything they need to do their jobs well: the right equipment, adequate resources, clear policy and guidance, and strong TTP (Training, Techniques, and Procedures).

Third, we must strive to be the stellar Coast Guard men and women who wear the
uniform and represent the Coast Guard to the world – and to do so with very highest standards of drive, determination, success, and trustworthiness.


RADM Brice-O’Hara has very strong feelings about mentoring.  In an interview in 2009, she explained the benefits of mentoring:

My mentors contributed to my achievements with encouragement and timely advice, such as pointing me to specific things that could help expand my professional knowledge. They gave me tips on applicable courses, books and articles to read; some pushed me to seek collateral duties that would broaden my experience.

I attempt to do the same for the men and women that I mentor. Instead of focusing just on what they know, I try to open their perspectives and nudge them to things they may not have considered. Helping them understand and effectively use policies, identifying ways to take advantage of applicable tools the Service offers, or simply listening and providing a venue for venting are ways that I add value in the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentoring allows for some pretty frank conversation, which is healthy and should lead to better understanding about issues of concern.

And it works two ways, because as a mentor, generally to a more junior person, I benefit from hearing how Coast Guard policies and initiatives are received…was it as the organization intended, or were there unexpected consequences that necessitate further action by decision-makers?

…mentoring is a great way to further reinforce and embed values and principles among our fellow Guardians.

Leadership with Gratitude  

Kitch and I ended our Windsor Park Story about Sally Brice-O’Hara with this thought:

For the young men and women who join the United States Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara is an example they all should imitate. As long as there are people like Sally Brice-O’Hara in the service of America our homeland will be secure.

It was 2002, and a wonderful friendship was about to begin. During the past ten years, it has grown in many human and qualitative ways since we produced Making Waves:Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara.

Kitch and I admire her attention to detail, her high expectations and standards, her respect for the dignity of the individual, her sense of reciprocity, her loyalty to friends and family.

She is a leader who never lost her sense of roots and her ability to connect with people from all walks of life. One of her most compelling characteristics is her genuine affection and appreciation for her parents, her husband and her children. She always gave them credit for their invaluable help and life-sustaining support

Sally Brice-O’Hara is a gratitude person with a heart of gold. She cares about people, and that may be her greatest strength.

In more ways than words can describe, she is an inspirational and memorable Face of America on its best day.  Every day of her service to America was a good day for America. She brought people together.  She helped people develop their talents. She affirmed the people on her team and she looked after people in a way that enabled them to find the best edition of themselves.

Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara lived what she taught. She enabled the success of others because it is fundamental to good leadership.

Those of us who are fortunate to know her, work with her, and serve America with her are better people because of her friendship and leadership.

This month, Admiral Brice-O’Hara will retire from the Coast Guard. When she leaves her office for the last time, the words of Isaiah will apply to her leadership and her service:

She can “Go out with joy and be led forth with peace.” She never let the uniform take away her heart.

Thank you Sally for showing us the way to become better people, and better Americans.

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