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Coast Guard Inspirational Leadership Award Namesakes

CAPT John G. Witherspoon

In January 1994, the Coast Guard lost a fine officer. Many Coast Guard people whose lives were touched by Capt. John Witherspoon knew they had lost someone very special. Witherspoon was a sailor, a mentor and a pioneer. He was also a leader, an honorable man, someone who commanded respect and a "do-as-I-do" kind of leader. After a stint in the Army, Witherspoon joined the Coast Guard in 1963. He advanced to the rate of quartermaster first class and then was selected for Officer Candidate School. Witherspoon graduated with honors and was commissioned as an ensign in June 1971.

Upon taking command of CGC Mallow in 1982, Witherspoon became the second African-American officer to command a Coast Guard cutter. He was the first African-American to command a Coast Guard shore unit when he assumed command of the Houston/Galveston Vessel Traffic Service. Witherspoon later commanded CGCs Valiant and Dependable. Witherspoon was a kind, outgoing, generous, caring, down-to-earth, soft-spoken man who gently touched the lives of many, yet left a strong, lasting impression on everyone who knew him. In his memory, the Commandant established the Capt. John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award.

MCPO Angela M. McShan


George R. Putnam


COMO Charles S. Greanoff

Charles Greanoff first became affiliated with the Coast Guard in 1943. He was released from the Army that year under the Sullivan Act, and immediately signed up with the U.S. Coast Guard Temporary Reserve and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary (both entities were one in the same at that time) on August 23, 1943. He became part of District 9 Flotilla 7-03, a port security unit responsible for protecting the Port of Cleveland, the Cuyahoga River and the city's bridges. 

After the war Greanoff continued his active participation in the new Coast Guard Auxiliary and soon became Flotilla Commander in 1950. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Auxiliary, first holding the position of Division Captain in 1953, Ninth District Commodore in 1956-57, and achieving the Auxiliary's highest position of National Commodore in 1958-59. As National Commodore, Greanoff traveled the country to support the new missions of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and even testified before Congress on the importance of boating safety regulation. He was instrumental in shaping the Auxiliary into the effective organization it is today. 

During the next three decades Greanoff continued to accrue thousands of hours of support each year for all the Coast Guard's missions as an active member of the Auxiliary. In 1991, he received an appointment as assistant to the Ninth CG District Family Programs Administrator. He was a key player in the establishment of the fledgling Work Life program development in D9. In March of 1993 COMO Greanoff was appointed the Ninth District Ombudsman Coordinator, the first Ombudsman Coordinator position created in the Coast Guard, and he continued in that role until 2005. During his last 10 years of service as the Ninth District Ombudsman Coordinator, Greanoff trained more than 150 district ombudsmen at more than 50 units around the Great Lakes providing guidance, training, and support to these important volunteers. Greanoff died in 2007 at the age of 91.

Greanoff's spirit of leadership epitomizes the criteria established for the Auxiliary Inspirational Leadership Award, through his 63 years of sustained service and dedication to the members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Coast Guard, and the nation.

CAPT David Jarvis

David Henry Jarvis was appointed to the Revenue Cutter Service in 1881, and served until his retirement as a captain in 1905. He spent the majority of his career in Alaska and the Bering Sea. 

His most famous adventure came during an expedition to save the men of a whaling fleet that had become trapped in the ice off Point Barrow, Alaska, during the winter of 1897-1898. Jarvis, then a first-lieutenant, led a three-man rescue team consisting of Second-Lieutenant Ellsworth P. Bertholf and Dr. J. S. Call of the U. S. Public Health Service, with a herd of about 400 reindeer, across 1,500 miles of tundra and pack-ice to Point Barrow. They arrived after a journey of 99 days and thereby saved more than 300 men from starvation. They had completed the longest rescue mission ever undertaken in Coast Guard history. 

On 28 June 1902, Congress, in response to a request from President William McKinley to recognize officially what he called a "victory of peace," awarded Gold Medals of Honor to Jarvis and the other two members of what became known as the Overland Relief Expedition.

Douglas Munro

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Last Modified 9/19/2013