by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn
“My daughter, Madison, really wanted scrambled eggs one Saturday morning,” said Cmdr. Eva Van Camp, Chief of Response for Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads. “I had been called in to help work a search and rescue case in the command center and my husband doesn’t cook. He had to YouTube “how to make scrambled eggs” to prepare breakfast for her. But he pulled it off.”
While perfecting scrambled eggs can be tricky, Coast Guard members and their families routinely face much more daunting challenges directly associated with their military service. When both parents serve, families can expect twice the strain when it comes to deployments, duty hours and moving every few years.
Madison’s father, Coast Guard Capt. Timothy Schang, Atlantic Area Response Operations Planning Branch Chief, and Van Camp are a strong, successful military couple, though they’ve had to make sacrifices to maintain their careers while raising their daughter.
Van Camp and Schang met while serving in Miami in March 2004. Both were already established Coast Guard officers by that time. Van Camp was the on-duty command duty officer in the 7th District Command Center and Schang was reporting in on temporary active duty orders to serve as an air boss for a mass migration operation near Haiti. Schang recalls contacting the command center, lost, looking for directions that day. Van Camp picked up the phone.
“As the command duty officer in a busy place like Miami, the last thing you have time for is giving somebody directions,” said Van Camp. “My initial reaction, even though he outranked me, was to ask if he’d tried getting the directions from Google or MapQuest.”
The two soon met in person and hit it off during the few weeks that Schang was in Miami. Deciding to maintain a long-distance relationship, they formed a bond that grew stronger, even after Van Camp received orders to transfer to California while Schang remained on the East Coast.
The two learned to make their relationship work from the very beginning, continuing about two years, taking flights to visit each other as often as possible. Schang was stationed at headquarters in Washington, D.C., during that time. Still undeterred, the pair maintained their relationship. Despite serving their country from opposite coasts, their love endured the stress of separation.
Since overcoming the initial challenges of their relationship, Van Camp and Schang found comfort and strength in serving as fellow Coast Guardsmen. Co-locating the couple since their marriage in September 2005, the service that initially brought them together, then kept them apart geographically speaking, has done it’s best to keep them stationed in the same place. Now that they live together and have a daughter, Van Camp and Schang see the positive side of their military obligations.
“We speak the same work language to a certain extent,” said Schang. “It’s easier to talk about our days without trying to explain military jargon or spell out a bunch of acronyms. We share the same sense of appreciation for duty. It doesn’t happen much to us anymore because we are more senior now, but I believe it’s easier for a military spouse to understand standing duty or being recalled for an event. My wife and I have both been recalled for extended times, and while it doesn’t make it any easier, we fully understand what is happening and why.”
“He and I know a lot about each other’s profession,” said Van Camp. “We even share uniform items. On some weekends we help each other with all the paperwork required for the jobs we perform. We also share a lot of contacts – a huge benefit I’ve come to realize. Now, in addition to the network of people I know, I have access to the network of people he knows. Since he’s a member of the aviation community, I now have mentors who are aviators.”
Schang, an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and C-130 Hercules aircraft pilot, has specialized most often on the aviation side of the Coast Guard. Van Camp has spent time afloat and ashore with a career focus on response and surface operations.
“The reason I didn’t take my husband’s last name is I had already built my career and my reputation with my name,” said Van Camp. “I thought keeping my name would help me continue to compete for senior leadership positions as people on the panels and boards reviewing me already know who I am – by name. That being said, I was smart to marry a man one rank higher than me,” she joked. “His experience and advice has been very helpful to me in my career.”
Schang has come to appreciate his wife’s professional perspective both as a leader and a female military member.
“I respect her leadership style and have sought her counsel on a number of personnel issues I have encountered,” said Schang. “I think I have a much better perspective of the challenges women face in the military because I am married to one. This helped me as a commanding officer to ensure I created a positive climate for all team members.”
Both Schang and Van Camp made professional sacrifices in order to help sustain each other’s career. Each took a job they didn’t want so the other could accept a preferred billet.
“As a result, I’ve learned that when I don’t get the job I wanted, to seize what I did get as an opportunity and embrace it – to be positive about it, to improve the unit and make it the best tour possible for my people,” said Van Camp.
“We’ve both taken an assignment that wasn’t high on our list of choices so the other could get a career enhancing job,” said Schang. “When I had the opportunity for command, she took an out-of-specialty job at the base, and in order for her to become the response chief at Sector Hampton Roads, I basically told the detailer I would take any job available.”
Schang and Van Camp have also made sacrifices at home. Van Camp is currently on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She spends many weekend days on the phone making command decisions regarding search and rescue operations.
“It is difficult raising a five-year-old daughter who wants my attention all the time and to be on call all the time,” said Van Camp. “Yet it forces us to make the time we do have together quality time. We eat dinner together. We get outside and kick around the soccer ball or go in the woods and get muddy. We play board games. We interact. We don’t take the time we have for granted.”
Having two parents in the Coast Guard, it turns out, is pretty cool. Just ask Madison. She takes pride in the fact her parents are part of a service that does great things. She loves reading about Coast Guard rescues in a newly successful series of children’s books written by former Coast Guardsmen Tyler Benson.
Though she’s undecided on what she wants to be when she grows up, Madison is already displaying traits of a Coast Guard member.
“I like to help people,” she said. “I like to go to work with Mom and Dad.”
“Madison has traveled about once a month with us since she was very young,” said Van Camp. “We’ve taken her underway on boats, she’s visited air stations. We try to take her everywhere we can.”
“I think the biggest advantage of raising her while working in the Coast Guard is Madison will be exposed to new places and people during our moves,” said Schang. “It will make her a more diverse person.”
“It is really hard to find the right time to have a family when you’re both in the Coast Guard,” said Van Camp. “There is no good time, but there are times that are better than others. With two parents working in any family, military or not, it’s a big challenge raising a child.”
Both Schang and Van Camp agree, the key to their success, at work and at home as Coast Guardsmen, has been flexibility.
“Be flexible,” said Van Camp. “Be flexible about your career. Be flexible about having a family, when to have kids and how to raise them.”
“Any couple in love in the Coast Guard can figure it out,” said Schang. “It will be very challenging, and each assignment season will be very stressful.”
Though Van Camp is still trying to figure out how it’s possible her husband has all the skills and knowledge required to pilot both a helicopter and plane, as well as operate successfully as a captain in the Coast Guard, without previously learning to cook scrambled eggs, for now, one thing is clear. Neither of these dedicated, passionate professionals wanted to give up their Coast Guard career. As it turns out, neither had to.