Adm. Linda L. Fagan will shatter considered one of the last glass ceilings within the military on Wednesday when she takes the oath as commandant of the Coast Guard and becomes the primary female officer to guide a branch of the American armed forces.
Admiral Fagan, who was previously the service’s second in command, graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985, in only the sixth class that included women. She steadily rose through the ranks, serving at sea on an icebreaker, and ashore as a marine safety officer.
It was not until much later in her profession that she thought becoming commandant might even be possible.
“Plenty of people would say, ‘Oh yeah, I knew she was going to be an admiral,’ but I didn’t give it some thought,” Admiral Fagan recalled. “Even once I was first chosen as an admiral you don’t give it some thought, after which impulsively you go searching and also you go, ‘Oh yeah, all right, I suppose this is feasible.’ ”
“Once I look up within the organization, no less than just a pair years ago there was not a ton of diversity,” Admiral Fagan said in an interview. “Even still we don’t have the range we want on the senior leadership ranks. But as I look back, it’s all there and coming — definitely for ladies, and we still need to extend our variety of underrepresented minority males.”
She will likely be the twenty seventh commandant of the service, which traces its roots back to the creation of the Revenue Cutter Service shortly after the Revolutionary War, and merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to turn out to be the Coast Guard in 1915.
At Coast Guard headquarters in Washington last week, Admiral Fagan noted the historic significance of her achievement as she walked through a hall stuffed with portraits of her predecessors. She paused in front of a painting of Adm. Owen W. Siler, the fifteenth commandant of the service, within the Nineteen Seventies.
“He was the commandant when the service academies were first integrated,” Admiral Fagan said.
Years later, Admiral Siler’s wife approached her at an event and said, “I just wish to inform you how proud Si and I are of the ladies,” Admiral Fagan recalled.
When she entered the academy, the Coast Guard now not had policies that prevented women from serving in any particular role or capability, unlike other branches of the military on the time. But its fleet needed to be retrofitted with sleeping accommodations and loo facilities for ladies. Larger ships like icebreakers had quite a few staterooms and bathrooms meant for officers, areas of which could possibly be assigned to female officers immediately. Constructing everlasting facilities for enlisted women on those ships, in addition to on smaller cutters, would take time.
Because the years passed, female officers of Admiral Fagan’s generation began taking command of small cutters at sea and dealing their way upward.
Once women had equal opportunities at sea, the major obstacle to reaching the commandant’s office was the variety of years it took to realize enough experience for the job. When Admiral Fagan takes her seat among the many Joint Chiefs, she’s going to have served roughly the identical period of time as any of those seated round her.
The Pentagon’s top leadership jobs have been dominated by white men until recently. Adm. Michelle Howard, now retired, in 2014 became the primary woman to achieve the four-star rank within the Navy. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., who leads the Air Force, is the primary Black officer to turn out to be a service chief, and Lloyd J. Austin III, the secretary of defense, is the primary Black man to serve in that role. Lt. Gen. Michael E. Langley, recently nominated to guide the U.S. Africa Command, will turn out to be the primary Black four-star Marine Corps officer if confirmed by the Senate.
“We’re getting past the ‘firsts,’” Admiral Fagan said. “I hope sometime soon we’re talking in regards to the second female commandant, and the third female commandant, and that we’ll have a Black male commandant.”
“We, as a service, must reflect the society that we serve, and creating opportunity for everybody within the service is very important,” she added.
In accordance with the Coast Guard, roughly 40 percent of the incoming class at its academy in Recent London, Conn., will likely be women, while across the whole force just 15 percent of personnel are female.
Admiral Fagan can count on one hand the number of ladies who’ve turn out to be active-duty admirals within the Coast Guard, and he or she knows them by name. Amongst them is Vice Adm. Vivien S. Crea, who was commissioned from the primary Officer Candidate School class to incorporate women, rose to a three-star rank, and, like Admiral Fagan, served as vice commandant of the Coast Guard, from 2006 to 2009.
One among the last major gender-based obstacles within the armed forces was removed in 2015, when the Obama administration dropped policies that prevented women from serving in combat roles.
“Diverse work teams just outperform nondiverse work teams,” Admiral Fagan said. “We’d like to make sure that there are not any barriers to service for those which might be service minded and meet the necessities of service.”
Admiral Fagan said that by the point considered one of her daughters had entered the service, women were represented in most senior positions. Her daughter is now a lieutenant.
As commandant, Admiral Fagan said she would work to overhaul the service’s “up or out” system, through which people generally are either promoted or eventually forced to go away — a practice that she noted was common in all branches of the armed forces. Amongst her goals will likely be finding ways to permit Coast Guardsmen to take time away from the service toward the center of their careers, corresponding to once they resolve to start out families.
She described the difficulty as gender neutral. “Policies that make it easier for ladies to be retained at that mid-grade point make it easier for men to be retained at that time,” she said.
Her first tour as an ensign took her to Seattle for an project aboard an icebreaker, the Polar Star. She was the one woman to serve on the ship during her two-year tour, during which she qualified for considered one of the service’s most dangerous jobs: cutting channels through packed sea ice near each the North and South Poles.
Her first commanding officer from her tour on the Polar Star, Wade Moncrief, plans to be within the audience at her ceremony on Wednesday.
“I’m pretty enthusiastic about it,” Mr. Moncrief, 81, said in an interview, noting that Admiral Fagan had ably served in a few of the most difficult conditions a mariner could face.
“I believe every part went pretty much,” he said of integrating his ship in 1985 along with her arrival. “I believe the crew understood what it was about, that she was an officer identical to the remaining were and had the identical authority, and so they operated that way.”
Mr. Moncrief, who was commissioned in 1962 and retired as a captain in 1988, stayed in contact together with his former shipmate and attended a previous ceremony when Admiral Fagan took command of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Region.
“You recognize women wouldn’t be getting these jobs in the event that they didn’t perform well and so they weren’t qualified for them,” he said. “So yes, they’re breaking the ceiling, but they’ve earned it.”