What lessons can you learn from a forty-year career in the Coast Guard? Sandy began her military career at the Coast Guard Academy and near the end of her career, she was the Superintendent for the Coast Guard Academy. Check out pieces of Sandra Stosz story and the advice and wisdom she has learned in this week’s episode of the Women of the Military Podcast.
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Title nine changed Sandra’s future. It opened doors to women allowing them to be in sports. She had always been a tomboy following her brothers around and this gave her the opportunity to participate. A neighbor brought over a newspaper article about the Naval Academy opening for women and she had her sights set on attending. And then her guidance counselor shared a flyer about the Coast Guard Academy. She applied and was accepted. Her mom encouraged her to attend.
She was part of the third class of cadets with women. The senior class without women often touted themselves as a better class because they didn’t have women. It was challenging, but it was challenging for everyone. The lesson from the Academy that guided her life was to take it one step at a time. Not to look too far in the future. Just get to the next meal, the next class, the next day. Four years felt overwhelming. But she could get to the next day. This was something she used throughout her career.
Her first assignment was on an ice breaker and she was able to go to Antarctica and see other parts of the world on the trip to and from Antarctica. She had so many amazing memories. But one that stood out was when she struggled to qualify. Not because she wasn’t qualified. But because her commander wanted her to be more aggressive in her leadership. She tried to change her personality but it didn’t work for her. Eventually, the commander realized she was qualified even if she didn’t lead with the same style he did.
Eventually, it was time to go back to shore duty and she ended up at a staff job working on building the next Ice Breaker. She loved her job so much when given the opportunity to work for the head of the Department of Transportation. She resisted going but was chosen. And could not believe what doors it would open and how it would change her career. She was able to see the Coast Guard as part of the larger Transportation department instead of being laser-focused on the Coast Guard.
Deciding what she wanted
She had been looking to go back to command a ship but when she thought about what she wanted she realized as much as she loved being at sea. It was the people that she enjoyed the most. She wanted to give back and applied to be the commanding officer for recruit training and also being the Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy. She was the first person to sit in both roles. And while she expected her career to end after her four-year assignment she was given the opportunity to promote to Vice Admiral (3 stars) and serve as the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support.
Giving back through leadership
She has wanted to write Breaking Ice and Breaking Glass since she was in her twenties but knew she couldn’t do it while serving. So when she retired she started writing. Her new book was released on June 1st and is meant to help those in the middle of a career. She gives leadership lessons that help people to continue forward and not quit. Sometimes people quit for the wrong reasons. And it goes back to thinking about what you want. Maybe you are not in the right place based on your passions. But if it is hard and you don’t want to push forward take it one step at a time like Sandra did to get through the Coast Guard Academy. You can do so much more than you know.
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