Coast Guard announces MWR Program of the Year winners in Kodiak

The Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley before a Bering Sea patrol with a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-66 Dolphin helicopter embarked on the stern of the cutter. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley file photo.

KODIAK, Alaska — Some of the most overlooked and underpublicized programs in the military are ones keeping our sailors and soldiers mentally healthy. Life at sea in the Coast Guard can be at times depressing, overwhelming, exhausting and boring. Luckily, there are programs put in place to mitigate these issues. The Coast Guard recently announced its annual Morale, Well-being and Recreation (MWR) Program of the Year Award recipients for 2022.

The Coast Guard’s aircraft, cutters, training center, marine safety and aids-to-navigation operations are vital to the safety and security of our nation and economic stability. But the support mission, one that includes taking care of families and the welfare of large communities, is something that is often overlooked. MWR program offerings are a primary source of quality-of-life and mental health support for the Coast Guard community afloat and ashore.

The award is designed to recognize noteworthy MWR accomplishments of various types of units, whether afloat or ashore, in supporting mission readiness, retention and resiliency of the Coast Guard through Coast Guard MWR programs.

There are six classes to compete in including large, medium, and small ashore, and large, medium, and small afloat. Each size category is judged on the same eight program elements, which include programming, customer service, marketing methods, leadership and professional development, financial management, facilities and equipment improvement initiatives, recognition and any other additional reports.

Two units from Kodiak placed on the leaderboard for 2022. The first-place recipient in the large unit afloat category was awarded to Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley and the second-place recipient in the MWR Large Unit Ashore was Coast Guard Base Kodiak.

“Morale means a lot to me while we are deployed in the Bearing Sea,” said Ensign Matthew Moorefield, Alex Haley morale officer 2021-2022. “It was my collateral duty for over a year and I took pride in my work ensuring morale programs provided the crew the escape from the mundane watches every day.”

Some of the activities the Alex Haley crew participated in during their 2021-2022 patrols were clothespin assassin, murder mystery, casino night, weekly trivia, weekly bingo, minute to win it competition, karaoke night, various costume contests and a pie and hot dog eating contest.

“Karaoke night was hilarious and incredibly fun,” said Petty Officer Third Class Hope Cade, Alex Haley crewmember. “The events we had while underway gave us a chance to set aside the uniform and feel like we could just be ourselves in an environment that easily makes us feel like we are always at work. You can’t leave at the end of the day or go someplace else for morale, so it was awesome to have the programs Mr. Moorefield and the morale committee provided.”

While in port, the Alex Haley crew kept morale going by partaking in events held at the base’s sports bar, the Golden Anchor.

“One of the biggest and most exciting in port morale event was the holiday party, which had activities and a great meal provided by the Golden Anchor,” said Moorefield.

Moorefield currently fills the duties and responsibilities as the Alex Haley’s training officer, and although he no longer directs MWR programs, he continues to be involved in assisting the current morale officer with creating new programs for upcoming deployments.

“The Alex Haley morale committee plans on holding the annual Holiday Party, St. Patrick’s Day fun day underway, fish calls, trivia nights, geography bee, casino nights, murder mystery and clothespin assassin,” said Moorefield. “I look forward to our upcoming patrols knowing that we are going to have a blast partaking in these events.”

“I was flabbergasted and just extremely happy to hear that we won first place compared to all other large cutters,” said Moorefield. “To know that we have great morale even when we don’t travel to exotic places like other cutters in the fleet is a great sense of accomplishment for the Alex Haley crew.”

Coast Guard Base Kodiak is the second-place recipient for the MWR Program of the Year Award for the large unit ashore category.

“Receiving second-place for the 2022 MWR Program of the Year Award, showcases the dedication and commitment of our MWR staff at Base Kodiak,” said Joseph Dermer, MWR director for Coast Guard Base Kodiak.

Like the Alex Haley crew, Base Kodiak personnel created and implemented MWR programs and events that went above and beyond other units that competed for the award.

Base Kodiak MWR standout programs in 2022 were the fitness, special events, like the Haunted Barracks event, youth, and CDC programs.

“I had such a blast partaking in the Haunted Barracks event last October,” said Petty Officer Second Class Brandon Jones, Base Kodiak crewmember. “So many Coast Guard members volunteered to dress up in character in different rooms throughout the barracks spooking kids and handing out candy. It really provided the Kodiak community some Halloween fun and I can’t wait to do it again next year.”

When asked what MWR programs mean to the crew at Base Kodiak throughout the seasons Dermer said, “The MWR programming is always important to the patrons that participate, especially at Base Kodiak where inclement weather can limit outdoor activities. Our holiday events such as Breakfast with Santa, the Family Holiday Party and the command holiday parties at the Golden Anchor are a great way for our patrons to enjoy the holiday season and improve morale.”

Base Kodiak MWR personnel are currently working on bringing new staff members aboard for the MWR program.

“Having a larger team will help with continuing to improve programing and customer service,” said Dermer. “Patrons can expect new fitness equipment, fitness programs and expanded programing in our aquatics program for the new year.”

Alex Haley is a Medium Endurance cutter homeported in Kodiak. The crew’s missions include ports and waterway security, national defense readiness, search and rescue, marine environmental protection and protection of living marine resources.

“Winning the Coast Guard MWR Unit Program of the Year for the large unit afloat category is a tremendous honor for the Alex Haley crew,” said Cmdr. Brian Whisler, Alex Haley commanding officer. “The Morale Committee devotes hundreds of hours every year to plan and execute diverse morale activities to enhance the crew’s experience aboard the Alex Haley and in Alaska. Receiving this award is a testament to their hard work and is well-deserved.”

Base Kodiak is the largest land installation of the Coast Guard and provides services and facilities that help tenant and visiting commands achieve their goals.

“Being the 2nd place recipient of the MWR Large Unit Ashore award is very meaningful to Base Kodiak and we are grateful for the recognition,” said Capt. Edward Hernaez, Base Kodiak commanding officer. “Our MWR program is a primary hub of the support mission and it’s safe to say that the Coast Guard could not be as effective on the frontlines without a superior MWR program that takes care of the community back on shore. Our MWR staff are all heroes and are very much deserving of this recognition and I’m proud to be part of their team.”

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