SKCM Mary Fowlkes discuses being a women, education, leadership and the Coast Guard

Fowkles

On March 17, 2016, members of Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan in Milwaukee had the privilege of listening to retired Master Chief Petty Officer Mary Fowlkes tell her story during a Women’s History Month event.

Being the first African-American female reservist to obtain the rank of master chief in the storekeeper rating, and the second African-American in the history of the Coast Guard Reserves to make Master Chief, Fowlkes is an amazing example of a pioneer.

Fowlkes was also the first African-American female to deply to the Middle East during Operation Desert Shield- Desert Storm while with Port Security Unit 303 in 1990.

Retiring from the Reserves in 2011, with 28 years of military service and 37 years as a Milwaukee-area high school teacher, Fowlkes spoke frankly about her time in the service and abroad.

Master Chief Mary Fowlkes, Seaman Shanna Dunn, and Senior Chief Colleen McCarthy participate in the Oak Creek, Wis., Career Fair, 2010.

Master Chief Mary Fowlkes, Seaman Shanna Dunn, and Senior Chief Colleen McCarthy participate in the Oak Creek, Wis., Career Fair, 2010.

Offering passionate words of wisdom and lessons learned, she highlighted the importance of all Coast Guard members, man or woman’s, devotion to their country and their shipmates. Echoing strong messages of our Core Values, especially respect, it was easy to see why Fowler took the time to share her story.

“I love this service, I love the people,” said Fowlkes.

Being a member of numerous organizations geared towards helping those around her, and the winner of the 2014 Black Excellence Award, Fowlkes epitomizes what is to be a leader both in and out of the Coast Guard.

“The diversity in our service allows each of us a different viewpoint and perspective, here at the sector, especially in the command center, and it is a major contribution to our effectiveness and mission success when lives are at stake. I’m proud to be a member of an organization that shows no gender biases,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Bitinas, a search-and-rescue coordinator at the sector.

Honoring the achievements of women in all facets of life, including science, community, government, literature, art, sports, and medicine, the Coast Guard is proud to recognize the major role played by women in the service. The Coast Guard has played an integral part in pioneering the role of women in the federal government and the nation as a whole.

Sector Lake Michigan strives to be a focal point for diversity of thought at every level and is thankful for strong female leadership seen every day.