“What a Ride” an Interview with a Command Master Chief

By Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Evanson, Public Affairs Detachment Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Summer can be a chaotic time in the Coast Guard. Search and rescue cases elevate in frequency, and transfer season is in full bloom as the shift of power and responsibility from seasoned experience to raw potential changes hands. At Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Fla., one man rounding the final corner of a career that has spawned three decades reflects on a career and an organization that has changed greatly while simultaneously maintaining the core principles that has defined both him and the Coast Guard. Master Chief Petty Officer Bob Brayman, Command Master Chief for Sector Jacksonville, sits down for a one-on-one interview to discuss leadership, mentorship, and the future of the Coast Guard.

Q: You are approaching 30 years of enlisted service within the Coast Guard and are set to retire next spring…what made you stay?

A: “I just love the job…you get to play with boats, serve your nation, and work side-by-side with like-minded individuals. Did I mention that I have fun doing it! But most importantly, there is just something about wearing the uniform and serving a cause that is bigger than yourself.”

Q: 30 years devoted to anything is no joke, let alone a military organization that can be chaotic if anything, during even the best of times. What has kept you sane?

A: “That’s simple…my wife Linda! Let me break it down like this…Linda my wife is 70-percent responsible for me making master chief, 80-percent responsible for my bachelors degree, and 100-percent responsible for my master’s degree. I subscribe to the theory that behind every strong man is a stronger woman. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be speaking to you right now.”

Q: Leadership is no picnic; why else do so many schools attempt to define it? What is your definition of leadership?

A: “I’ll start by giving you the Coast Guard’s definition. That is to get people from all walks of life to do something towards a common or shared goal. The tough part is getting people to do what they don’t want to do. My number one leadership tenant is this…lead by example! Regardless of what those above you may do, it is your obligation to do the right thing.”

Q: The Coast Guard has gone through several transformations in your nearly 30-year career. I assume none bigger than our current state of modernization…what do Guardians following your watch need to understand about this constant change?

A: “If there is one constant in this life, it is change. The weather changes, time changes, people change. How do we mitigate the effects of change? Through three avenues: customs, regulations, and tradition. Those three core concepts will soften the blow to change…but change is inevitable. If you were to ask me what the one trait I’m looking for in a good Guardian, it is the ability to adapt to change.”

Q: Something that is near and dear to my heart is the First Class Petty Officer’s Mess. The Navy has launched major initiatives to raise the expectations and role of FCPO’s. Speak directly to the Coast Guard FCPO mess. These as you know are the future chief petty officers, appointed warrant officers, and in some cases commissioned officers. What words of wisdom do you have?

A: “I look at the enlisted force in the rule of threes. E1-E3 are the worker bee’s, E4-E6 are the technicians, and E7-E9 are the managers. First classes need to ask them selves, ‘what do I need to be doing to be a successful CPO?’ The answer is simple…training your replacement. No one in this organization is irreplaceable. We need to mentor and train those following us, which leads to an earlier point of leading by example.”

Q: Reflect on your career, what is the one moment or event that truly opened your eyes and impacted you?

A: “There is one thing. The very first [chief petty officer] that I worked for set the tone for the first 17 years in my career. His style just stuck with me. He lead by example, he pushed having an individual development plan not just for the Coast Guard, but for all things in life. And perhaps most importantly, the concept of ‘looking it up.’ If I went to that chief’s mess, I better be damn sure I knew what I wanted to ask. He taught me the power of looking it up, which created empowerment and accountability. He also taught me a noble principle. ‘You have not arrived.’ We have to learn to trust one another, and that there are Guardians out there just as smart as you are and talented. We all need to work towards a common goal.

Q: Describe the Coast Guard in one word?

A: “Opportunity! The Coast Guard has given me opportunity after opportunity. All it has ever cost me was time. Only in the land of opportunity can you have men and women come from our lowest social strata and have them rise to the top alongside the best and the brightest this country has to offer.”

Q: If I were to ask you to sum up your career in one sentence, what would it be?

A: “WHAT A RIDE!”

Editor’s Note:  Master Chief Petty Officer Bob Brayman, a machinery technician by trade, is a native of North East, Penn. Brayman entered the Coast Guard in 1979 and will retire next summer (2010). His many assignments include serving as the first school chief for the Senior Enlisted Command Master Chief Course at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., Group Charleston, S.C., as the command master chief and assistant group engineer, and the U.S. Air Force Senior NCO Academy at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., as the first Coast Guard exchange instructor.

Brayman also served aboard the Coast Guard Cutters Mesquite, Westwind, Diligence, and two tours as engineering petty officer aboard the cutters Gasconade and Sanibel.

Brayman is a graduate of the U.S. Army Sergeant’s Major Academy (Class 48) at Ft. Bliss, Texas, the U.S. Air Force Senior NCO Academy at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., and the U.S. Navy Command Master Chief Course, in Newport, R.I.  Brayman earned four college degrees while on active duty and is the first Coast Guardsman ever awarded the Instructor of Technology and Military Science associates of applied science degree from the Community College of the Air Force.

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