On June 1, 2022, I had the pleasure of being a special guest at the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant’s Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony. And, I can tell you, there’s nothing like being in the presence of the President of the United States, the Honorable Joseph R. Biden. His presence marked the importance of the occasion as the 26th Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Karl Schultz wrapped up a career that started at the Academy in 1983, traversed numerous flag assignments, culminating in him assuming the helm on June 1, 2018. The baton was being passed to Admiral Linda Fagan as she became the first woman to lead the Coast Guard and the first woman at the helm of ANY military branch. She will oversee global Coast Guard operations and 41,000 active-duty, 6,200 reserve, and 8,500 civilian personnel, as well as the support of 25,000 Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers. I was ecstatic to see history being made.
Admiral Fagan was tapped for the position due to her already stellar accomplishments. With numerous flag assignments, she has served on all seven continents “from the snows of Ross Island, Antarctica to the heart of Africa, from Tokyo to Geneva, and in many ports along the way”. Admiral Fagan is the longest serving active duty Marine Safety Officer, which has earned her the distinction of being the Coast Guard’s first ever Gold Ancient Trident. She most recently served as the 32nd Vice Commandant.
I was accompanied by our National Head of Security William Speight who retired from the Coast Guard after 23 years and 2 months of service. With 22 years of additional federal service, he now works at the Department of Homeland Service. He was clearly in his element. At one point during the ceremony he leaned over and whispered “Madam President, this is a really big deal.” Well, it felt like a big deal to me too especially as Bill introduced me to the second black Admiral of the Coast Guard Admiral Steve Rochon who knew Bill by name and in turn Rodney Slater, former US Secretary of Transportation who talked to Bill as if they were old friends. It was a virtual who’s who and Bill seemed to know them all.
I also had a chance to speak with Coast Guard BIG Chapter President LaShonda Jones and she is very optimistic about the Coast Guard’s efforts toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion under the leadership of Admiral Fagan. In fact, she said when she learned that I had been personally invited to the ceremony she knew that was a good sign of things to come. And like LaShanda, I stand ready to assist in those important efforts. As the Coast Guard motto says, Semper Paratus (Always Ready)!
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