Admiral Owen W. Siler
A Tribute to
Admiral Owen W. Siler
January 10, 1922 – July 17, 2007
Commandant, USCG - 1974 to 1978
Plank Owner NMLEA
Our Academy’s first Advisory Board Chairman
Admiral Owen W. Siler’s 35-year career in the United States Coast Guard is best characterized by the Coast Guard's rapid growth in responsibilities and the resultant shift in program emphasis. While experiencing only modest growth in personnel, the service, under Admiral Siler's leadership, was successful in meeting its expanding missions by redirecting resources, improving techniques and making maximum use of personnel and equipment. Overall, the Siler era was represented by change and expansion, of challenge and growth, marked by active accomplishment. Admiral Owen Wesley Siler left the Coast Guard a legacy of inspired leadership. Among Admiral Siler’s numerous medals are the coveted Secretary of Transportation’s Award for Outstanding Achievement and the Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal.
A World War II veteran, Siler served in combat duty aboard two ships in the Pacific and participated in the occupation of Northern Honshu, Japan, following Japan's surrender. His Coast Guard career highlights included serving as a deck officer afloat, as an aviator performing search and rescue patrols, and ashore in the law enforcement, marine safety and environmental protection fields.
Other assignments included chief of the search and rescue branch in Juneau, Alaska, deputy chief of staff in Washington, and commanding officer at Air Station Miami, where the station received a Coast Guard unit commendation for Cuban exodus operations during October and November of 1965.
During Siler's his tenure as commandant he instituted a minority recruiting program and was instrumental in having women admitted to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, making it the first of the military service academy to do so. He also oversaw the expansion of the Coast Guard's marine environmental protection program, with the passage of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1976, to include an increase of the service's jurisdiction along the nation's coastline to more than two million square miles.
Under Siler's leadership the Coast Guard transformed from a humanitarian service to an organization that was recognized as a leader in marine environmental protection, a highly effective law enforcement agency and a conservation-conscious protector of marine resources.
THE ACADEMY'S CONCEPTION
Special Note from Robert M. Wells, NMLEA Founder
Admiral Siler and I met in the summer of 1996, at a coffee shop on the waterfront in Savannah Georgia. I was serving as a lead instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick at the time. I was seeking advice on establishing a not for profit organization that would be dedicated to assisting Coast Guard and FLETC in training agents and officers from our 361 ports and multitude of waterways around the country. At that time the USCG was training less than 100 agents and officers per year at their premier training center in Yorktown Virginia, and the FLETC was training approximately 150 per year.
We enjoyed a lengthy conversation as to the number of agents and officers that could be trained if the training were conducted in their communities using their assets and resources. The savings to the organizations and people they serve would be substantial. Before the conversation was through, Admiral Siler suggested he would be most pleased to assist us in getting this idea off the ground and begin to build the organization from the bottom up.
In 2000, our concept was ready to launch. Admiral Siler took the helm as our Advisory Board Chairman and our first programs were conducted in Savannah Georgia.
In the following years through 2007 we had trained over 4 thousand officers in various aspects of maritime law enforcement operations. Had it not been for Admiral Siler’s dedication to our organization, I dare say we would not have enjoyed the success we have. Admiral Siler’s contribution to the Nation did not stop upon his retirement, and after 9/11, he told me he had called the sitting Commandant and asked where he could “sign up”...! Prior to his passing, he challenged me to “continue our good work”. We have, and to that challenge, will continue to make ourselves available to our brothers and sisters that strive daily to serve and protect our citizens at home and abroad.