Port Security Unit 311 is an expeditionary unit responsible for providing port security in support of military or humanitarian operations worldwide, ready to deploy within 96 hours of notification and establishing sustained operations within 24 hours. The unit deploys on the frontlines of global operations but in order to get there they need support; that support is led by Chief Petty Officer Stepheni Norton. Norton, a reservist, is currently deployed with the unit at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. The security unit’s members form Joint Task Force Guantanamo’s maritime security detachment and are responsible for securing ports and waterways around the base. Norton is assigned to the operational support division of the port security unit where her administrative leadership supports the entire unit in boundless ways. She has issued 130 personnel orders; led the unit’s department heads in major update of all unit instructions; led administrations preparations for a Coast Guard-wide assessment, receiving a 100 percent score and best-in-fleet assessment; and processed 500 travel claims with zero discrepancies.
These may sound like meaningless numbers to many, but in Norton’s world of work, the numbers matter. These numbers affect each of the members on deployment. To Norton, these numbers are the difference between being ready for the mission, or not being able to support operations. In the words of Norton herself, “I do what I do, so they can do what they do.”
In addition to their current deployment, Port Security Unit 311 also participated in Exercise Patriot Hook, a joint-service, air-mobility and contingency-response exercise. The exercise required staging out of three sites in California, more than 300 military people and moving more than 1.5 million pounds of cargo. When inclement weather forced an unplanned redeployment for three port security units during the exercise, Norton spearheaded the amendment of 122 orders in less than 16 hours to prevent pay issues for deployed personnel. “She is unrelenting in her drive toward efficiency and excellence, continually setting the bar for all petty officers in the unit,” said Cmdr. John Caraballo, commanding officer of Port Security Unit 311. Keeping the unit ready isn’t her only mission. Norton keeps them ready with morale high. Knowing that deployments can be tough on the crew, Norton coordinated a Christmas Day surprise so all members of the unit would wake up to a present to open during the holidays. As a civilian, Norton combines her creativity and experience with project management, regulatory compliance, research, development and technology expertise as a social entrepreneur. Norton impacts her community in countless ways and develops websites to announce charitable companies and non-profit events worldwide. Further, Norton created care suitcases – large rolling suitcases with food and supplies – for homeless veterans. “As reservists, we don’t say ‘this is a civilian skill, this is a Coast Guard skill,’” said Norton. “We mix our skills together, which benefits everybody.”
Norton’s all-encompassing commitment to Coast Guard missions is also exemplified by her role as an active Coast Guard Auxiliary member since 2004. As an auxiliarist, she co-created a ready for operations program under review for Auxiliary fleet wide acceptance. “I am continually inspired by the contributions of our Coast Guard reservists, especially Chief Petty Officer Stepheni Norton,” said Coast Guard Reserve Force Master Chief Mark H. Allen. “She serves concurrently as a reservist, auxiliarist, small business owner, homeowner, fiancée, daughter and community leader. Her example has inspired her shipmates as it has me.” Bravo Zulu to Chief Petty Officer Norton on being selected as Reserve Enlisted Person of the Year and congratulations on your new anchors!