Wilbur Velarde served on active Coast Guard duty from 1998 to 2004. Aboard the COURAGEOUS (WMEC 622) out of Panama City, Fla., he served as operations officer, coordinating operational planning and mission execution for the 210-foot cutter, its 14 officers and 80-plus enlisted sailors, and managing his department’s budget. He was later a watch supervisor in a Coast Guard office that managed vessel traffic in the Houston-Galveston area, aiming to prevent collisions and groundings. Since then in the Coast Guard Reserve, Wilbur has been a department head at a naval coastal warfare unit with 32 officers and enlisted underneath his watch, then served at the USCG international affairs directorate and now at the Pentagon’s (worldwide) Ops Center – a 24/7 worldwide monitoring and crisis-action planning operation. Because the U.S. Government provides only 15 days per year of military leave, he said he often uses his annual leave to meet the Reserve’s requirement that he spend at least 36 workdays on duty per year. “There is a tremendous amount of balancing between my family, Department of State duties, and military obligations,” he said.
Life at State and in the Coast Guard have in common the relocation associated with new tours of duty, he said. The Department should offer better training “for entry-level officers placed in positions above their grade” and more informal and formal leadership training, he added.
He said he brought with him an attitude to lead by serving those under his charge. Treat all your people with dignity and respect while remaining focused on the mission, he advises.
He joined the State Department in 2008 and has served as consular officer and deputy fraud prevention manager in Ciudad Juárez, then management officer and post security officer in Hamburg, and now in EUR-JEX as post management officer.