Master Chief McShan: Leader, Mentor, Trailblazer
[By Master Chief Vince Patton, Dr. David Rosen, DCCS Gordy Yowell (USCG ret) and AMCS Mark Thomas (USCG ret)]
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another - Proverbs 27:17
In January 2001, then-Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Vince Patton quoted the scripture above to describe Coast Guard Master Chief Angela M. McShan, a 20-year veteran of the Service, the first African-American woman to achieve the enlisted rank of master chief and distinguished role model for the Coast Guard’s core values.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Master Chief McShan began her active duty career with the Coast Guard in July 1979. Early in her career, she worked in the Supply & Pay Office at Coast Guard Group-Mobile, Alabama, and later served as the Assistant Transportation Officer at Aviation Training Center-Mobile. She was a Storekeeper “A” School Instructor and Military Civil Rights Counselor/Facilitator for Training Center Petaluma’s Personnel Support Schools. She also served in the supply office on board the high-endurance cutter Sherman.
In 1993, then Chief McShan changed her occupational rating from storekeeper to yeoman and was subsequently transferred to Reserve Training Center Yorktown, Virginia, where she served as an Assistant Supervisor in the Personnel Reporting Unit, and later as a Military Civil Rights Counselor/Facilitator. In May 1998, she was assigned to the staff of the Chief Petty Officer Academy-East in New London, Connecticut. She was advanced to master chief petty officer in 2000, becoming the first African-American woman to attain that enlisted rank in the United States Coast Guard.
Master Chief McShan was a member of Class 39 at the Chief Petty Officer Academy in Petaluma, California, and attended various specialized training courses. These included Basic Instructor Course, Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Increasing Human Effectiveness Certification Training, Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, Total Quality Management Facilitator Training and Situational Leadership Facilitator Training.
McShan received numerous military awards and honors in her 20-year career. These included two Coast Guard Commendation Medals, two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, Commandant’s Letter of Commendation, Department of Transportation Outstanding Unit Award, Bicentennial Unit Commendation, six Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendations with “O” device, two Meritorious Team Commendations, Navy “E” Ribbon, Coast Guard Unit Commendation, five Coast Guard Good Conduct Awards, the National Defense Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and the Coast Guard Sea Service ribbon.
Master Chief McShan is remembered as one of the Chief Petty Officer Academy’s finest instructors. She was an inspiring teacher and mentor, an expert communicator, an athlete and she had an infectious sense of humor. She inspired many students to improve their lives and she left a positive and lasting impression on everyone who knew her. To her, attitude was everything. She truly believed that life was ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it.
Angela McShan’s stellar career serves as an example of a leader who was steadfast in displaying professional excellence. To honor her high personal standards, the Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award is awarded annually to an outstanding chief petty officer. The recipient must demonstrate the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty; display a keen sense of ethical conduct and a high degree of personal integrity; hold the highest esteem by peers, seniors and subordinates; demonstrate sincere interest and concern for junior personnel by helping them reach their full potential; motivate others to excel in mission performance; serve as a positive role model; mentor junior members; and promote diversity in the Coast Guard.
On December 29, 2000, two months after achieving the rank of master chief petty officer, Angela McShan lost her battle with cancer. Before her passing, McShan had been slated to head-up the Coast Guard’s Yeoman “A” School. She was laid to rest with full military honors in her home town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Staff from both East Coast and West Coast Chief Petty Officer Academies attended her funeral. Later this year, she will be honored as namesake of the new Fast Response Cutter Angela McShan.
Vince Patton is a former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard and Dr. David Rosen is the U.S. Coast Guard's Pacific Area historian. This article appears courtesy of Coast Guard Compass and may be found in its original form here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.