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Civil Rights News | Aug. 31, 2021

Service Member on a Mission to Inspire and Empower

Congratulations to Lt. Cmdr. Katherine Pelkey, recipient of the 2021 Federally Employed Women (FEW) Meritorious Service Award for the Coast Guard. This honor, which is part of the Coast Guard’s Civil Rights Awards Program and awarded on behalf of FEW, recognizes military members from all Service branches who make notable contributions to the advancement of women within the armed forces and who create inclusive environments that benefit military and civilian communities.

Pelkey was recognized for this honor due to her achievements as the Command Administrative Officer and MH-65 Instructor pilot during her service at Aviation Training Center (ATC), Mobile, Alabama from January 2020 to December 2020. “I feel honored to receive this recognition,” Pelkey said. “Everything we do in the Coast Guard is a team effort, so winning this award shines a light on the positive impact that ATC has not only on its community, but also on the Service as a whole.” 

Originally from Brighton, Michigan, Pelkey first joined the Coast Guard when she enlisted in 2005 before ultimately commissioning as an officer in 2007. Throughout her 16 years of Service, Pelkey’s primary motivator has always been to empower others.

“Our service members and employees are the center of our organization and my goal is to help enable them to be the best they can be,” she said. “I want to help create an inclusive culture where our workforce belongs and feels valued.”

As the rotary wing instructor at ATC, Pelkey leveraged her leadership, personal experiences, and commitment to assist women in aviation when she mentored new and seasoned female pilots in both developing technical skills and working through personal experiences, such as balancing a family as a dual-military spouse. She also provided experiences for and made policy recommendations to senior leadership, leaving a lasting impact.

“Serving over the years, I’ve seen the Service change in positive ways for its women members, as well as for individuals in underrepresented communities,” Pelkey said. “It’s very rewarding to see Coast Guard leadership recognize our unique experiences and update policies to enhance the lives of women and minorities in the Coast Guard.” 

Pelkey’s determination to empower others didn’t stop at her normal duty roles, either. During the award period, she was elected Chairperson of the Women’s Leadership Council within the Leadership Diversity and Advisory Committee, partnered with the Officer Women Leadership Symposium, and oversaw her unit’s Partnership in Education (PIE) program. The ability to support fellow Coast Guard members internally, as well as to reach and support local communities, is what makes serving so special and important for Pelkey.  “I feel lucky to wear the Coast Guard uniform and I’m proud to work for an organization that strives to make the workplace more inclusive and recognizes that each individual brings something unique to the table.”

Civil Rights awards like the FEW Military Meritorious Service Award helps to maximize the Coast Guard's overall mission effectiveness through recognition of members' accomplishments and contributions to Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity in minority communities and Partnership in Education (PIE) programs.

This article was featured in August’s Civil Rights “On Deck” Newsletter. For more civil rights news, features, and content, subscribe to the “On Deck” newsletter.