During an early-career deployment, Master Sgt. Carmeeka Dunn learned that communication among joint partners wasn’t very efficient, so when she learned that Reserve Citizen Airmen could apply to attend professional military education with sister services, she jumped at the chance.
Dunn, a personnel specialist at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, applied for the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy as part of the Air Force Reserve’s enlisted developmental education board for fiscal year 2018
“I applied to attend CPOA to assist in bridging the gap between services, learning to talk their talk and how they contribute to the overall mission to the U.S. and Homeland Security,” she said.
The Chief Petty Officer Academy is located at the Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma, just over an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. The academy prepares students to become chief petty officers, the equivalent to Air Force’s senior noncommissioned officers. Students complete work as individuals and groups, in classrooms and in the field. Each class has about 72 students divided into eight teams.
Dunn attended the academy March 3-31 and said it definitely helped improve her interservice communication.
“The course provided plenty of time to communicate with your shipmates,” she said.
And while her time in the classroom taught her much about the mission, people and culture of the Coast Guard, Dunn said she learned just as much during off-duty hours.
She made a concerted effort to become integrated with her classmates. She got to know her Coast Guard roommate and attended voluntary fitness session with her shipmates.
Dunn said electronic devices weren’t allowed in the dining galley, which facilitated old-fashioned communication—verbal conversation.
“There was plenty of time to talk and more time to listen,” she said.
And even though Dunn had a rental car available, she chose to run errands and go on evening coffee runs with her shipmates in their class van.
“It felt great being a part of the team,” she said.
According to her instructor, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dustin Beasley, Dunn had no problem fitting in.
“She was consistently working to bring energy, a positive attitude, and a different perspective,” Beasley said. “She worked very hard to make every person she was around feel included. That is a trait that we really enjoy seeing here at the academy.”
Dunn attended the academy to improve her ability to operate in a joint environment, but Beasley said her attendance benefited all of her shipmates.
“Having members from other branches really brings a lot to the table,” he said. “Sometimes we get stuck in how we operate as a service and don’t often think differently. We are better because of the diversity they bring.”
While Dunn said she enjoyed most the academy’s curriculum, she found one lesson to be particularly nerve wracking—the ropes course.
The challenge was to climb a 30-foot pole and jump.
“I was pretty fearful for my safety,” Dunn said. “Stepping outside of my comfort zone was not as easy as I hoped, and when pushed almost to the danger zone, I was challenged.”
But she was representing the Air Force Reserve, so she knew what she had to do.
“There was no point where she wasn’t willing to at least try,” Beasley said. “That is a big deal because a lot of people won’t attempt things, but she pushed through her fears and showed a lot of growth throughout the process.”
During class graduation, Dunn was presented a set of Coast Guard chief anchors as an honorary chief.