SEATTLE – Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan M. Olson stood out from the pack during a recent award ceremony where he was recognized for his service to his country and his community.
Olson, a maritime enforcement specialist with Port Security Unit 313 based in Everett, Washington, received a special call on a typical day where he was balancing operational and administrative duties. On the other end of the line was Master Chief Petty Officer Eric Johnson, the Coast Guard’s chief of reserve forces.
Johnson called Olson to inform him of his selection as the Coast Guard’s 2014 Enlisted Person of the Year -- Reserve Component.
The EPOY program is designed to recognize the accomplishments of the top enlisted performers who best exemplify the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty. Both active duty and reserve EPOY recipients are considered to be the best and brightest in the field. They are selected using criteria that consider their professional and personal accomplishments, work ethic, involvement in community service and standards of conduct.
‘Nine Superstars’ Nominated
“Each of the candidates distinguished themselves among their peers by being nominated and, ultimately, selected by their districts,” Johnson said. “This resulted in nine superstars being presented to a panel of senior enlisted leaders who then, objectively and without collaboration, rated the nominees in various performance categories.”
Olson received the highest score, but Olson emphasized that all of the candidates were extremely strong and any one of them would have been a worthy choice.
Assigned to the Shoreside Security Division of Port Security Unit 313, Olson is his division’s lead petty officer and is in charge of nearly 30 people. When not performing his Coast Guard duties, he works as the head of security for a family in the area, advising them in threat analysis and mitigation, and facility and personnel protection. He is also a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for his local community in Oso, Washington.
Oso Mudslide Assistance
Working as a volunteer firefighter, Olson assisted first responders in recovery efforts for 24 straight days during the devastating Oso mudslide in March 2014. As a firefighter and emergency medical technician, he’s also volunteered an impressive 600 hours responding to 80 separate fire, accident and medical emergencies.
“I had always had interest in the fire service. Moving to a small town and seeing the level of professionalism and dedication by the other community volunteers at the fire hall was very neat to see,” Olson said. “I experienced a similar situation when considering joining the Coast Guard. Like the fire service, I was motivated by the people and I wanted to be part of what they did.”
Olson’s Coast Guard accomplishments include facilitating more than 240 hours of instruction for PSU members and securing nearly 18,000 acres of training ground with the Department of Defense to be used by his unit. He’s also taught Krav Maga – a close-quarters self-defense discipline -– to 47 members of his unit. Olson also certified 30 members in tactical combat casualty care, a system of techniques designed to teach individuals the ability to render medical aid in a combat environment.
Olson “displayed a can-do, get-it-done attitude,” Johnson said. “His focus was that of, ‘How can I do more and support those around me -- both within the Coast Guard and in my civilian life?’”
He “lives by a very good code,” Johnson added, “and his positive approach to his military service will serve him well as a chief petty officer.”
Culture of Service, Excellence
Individuals in the Coast Guard are all part of a team, Olson said.
“Time and time again, I hear stories of Coast Guard members doing extraordinary things within their communities,” Olson explained, “and not because they are just members of the Coast Guard necessarily, but simply because it is the right thing to do and they have the capability and desire to help others.”
Olson said his award was earned with the help and guidance of many others.
“There are no actions that I could have taken over the last year without the support of others,” he said. “This award is really a celebration of all the hard work by a lot of excellent people who make a great team.”
Olson added, “The culture of service and excellence that radiates from our enlisted ranks is always evident. It is motivating for me to see the great work that other enlisted members do on a daily basis.”