The backbone of the Coast Guard is its enlisted personnel, and in 1999 Coast Guard Commandant James Loy authorized the establishment of the Enlisted Person of the Year (EPOY) ribbon as a way to recognize one member each from the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve who thoroughly exemplifieS the Guard’s core values of “Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.”
As you might imagine, there is no room for the slightest malfeasance or even minor slipups in the performance, bearing, and attitude of Coast Guard members hoping to be nominated for this extremely selective award. It goes without saying that potential candidates, all drawn from the rates of E-2 to E-6, can have no record of non-judicial punishment or court-martial, and a mark of “Unsatisfactory” in the Conduct category within the past three years of the nomination date is also reason for immediate disqualification.
EPOY winners are expected to represent the Coast Guard at various types of events and functions throughout the year they wear the ribbon, so candidates are graded quite severely on their uniform’s appearance and their military bearing. Those serving in the Reserve are required to have met all the eligibility requirement for the Good Conduct Medal; they’re also limited to being nominated for the Reserve EPOY regardless of how much time they may have spent on active-duty contracts. Note that while the awarding authorities will look back as far as three years to verify a “clean” performance record, nominations are for a specific calendar year, and only the candidate’s performance during that year is used as the basis for the nomination and judging in the overall competition.
Nominations for the EPOY award are solicited throughout the month of December by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, who will also seek guidance from Gold Badge Command Master Chief in the selection process. Each District submits nomination packages before the end of the last workday in February; the Command Master Chief of each District chair an EPOY selection committee and calculates individual scores to determine a single nominee for the District. When the candidates have been narrowed down to one from each District, the MCPOCG will convene and head an EPOY selection committee consisting of a balanced mix of senior enlisted leaders from around the Coast Guard.
Both the active-duty and Reserve winner of the EPOY competition are advanced to the next higher paygrade and are automatically recommended for the Coast Guard Commendation Medal. During promotional trips, the active-duty EPOY will have all travel, lodging, and food expenses paid for by the MCPOCG’s EPOY Program Administrator, while the District from which Reserve EPOY was drawn will work with the Commandant to ensure pay and allowances for these trips as temporary duty periods and required travel time.