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Civil Rights News | June 20, 2024

Explore a Civil Rights Special Assignment

By Chief Petty Officer Jessica Nicholson, Equal Opportunity Advisor, Region 2, Zone 7, Civil Rights Directorate

As an Equal Opportunity Advisor within the Coast Guard, I play a crucial part in helping unit commanders foster a respectful and inclusive work environment. What’s helpful about this position is that it’s a Special Assignment—no prior civil rights experience is required. All EOA’s receive comprehensive civil rights training that equips us to be specialists who provide valuable advice and guidance to both military and civilian members.  

My journey in the Coast Guard started 20 years ago, where I’ve proudly served in both active and reserve roles, primarily as a Culinary Specialist. Now, I’m back on active duty and in my third year as an EOA serving in Miami, Florida with the Civil Rights Directorate. I started as an EOA in 2021 when I applied for the assignment because I wanted to further my professional development and gain exposure in areas outside my traditional career path.  

My days are filled with different interactions. One day I could be engaging with hundreds of members of the workforce to provide Civil Rights Awareness training, and on another, I could be acting as a mediator between two disputing parties participating in Alternative Dispute Resolution. I also help my units manage and participate in community outreach programs like the Partnership in Education (PIE) Program. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is advising commands and senior leadership on civil rights laws and policies, ensuring everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. This helps create an equitable workplace for all that promotes the well-being of our workforce. It’s good to know that my actions make a lasting impact on the workforce and community I serve. 

This assignment is, without a doubt, the most interesting, challenging, and rewarding of my career. I work with an incredible team of experienced and brilliant subject matter experts in the field of civil rights. Continuous learning, relationship building, and effective communication are key elements of an EOA’s work. Also, this role has significantly broadened my organizational knowledge and given me a deeper understanding of the Coast Guard at all levels. 

The skills I’ve gained and experiences I’ve had as an EOA are invaluable. They can help prepare members for crucial military leadership roles, such as Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL), and directly translate to careers in Equal Employment Opportunity, or other workforce management fields, within the federal and private civilian sector. 

If you are interested in pursuing a role as an EOA, here’s what you need to know: 

There are 12 EOA assignments across the Coast Guard:  

1 –LT/O-3 position (Alameda, CA) 

1 –LTJG/O-2 position (Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT)  

10 CPO/E-7 positions (Boston, MA; TRACEN Cape May; Norfolk, VA; Miami, FL; Cleveland, OH; New Orleans, LA; Kodiak and Juneau, AK; Seattle, WA; Honolulu HI).   

Additionally, for prior EOA’s, there is one SCPO/E-8 instructor position at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute at Patrick Space Force Base in Cape Canaveral, Florida. 

The position is a 4-year billet and follows the standard Special Assignment process and package submittal and culminates with a panel interview. After selection, members receive extensive training to include a three-month EOA course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Institute (DEOMI) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, along with Equal Employment Opportunity Counselors course, and basic and advanced mediation. Once fully trained, EOA’s provide guidance, training, and counseling on civil rights laws and policies across the total workforce.  

Being an EOA has truly been a remarkable experience. I’m grateful for the opportunity to drive positive change and support our Coast Guard in meaningful ways.  

There are current EOA openings for Assignment Year 2025 (AY25), and you can learn more about them at the Special Assignments Portal Page.