Last Wednesday, Admiral Linda Fagan took over as the leader of the United States Coast Guard, making her the first woman to lead a branch of the US armed forces. US President Joe Biden, who chose Admiral Fagan for the job, said, “It’s about time.”
Mr. Biden nominated Admiral Fagan for the position of “commandant” (Coast Guard leader) in April. His choice was approved by all members of the Senate. After Wednesday’s ceremony, Admiral Fagan became the 27th commandant of the Coast Guard, taking over from Admiral Karl Schultz.
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Mr. Biden said he hoped that Admiral Fagan would be “the first but not the only” female leader. “We need to see more women at the highest levels of command in the Coast Guard and across every service in the armed forces,” he said.
The Coast Guard is one of the oldest branches of the US military. Some of the main jobs of the Coast Guard don’t involve fighting, but rather protecting the US and its people, especially on water, including rivers, lakes, and oceans. The Coast Guard is also involved in law enforcement.
Women first served in the Coast Guard in 1918, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it became common for women to join. Women weren’t allowed into its special training school, the Coast Guard Academy, until 1976.
After graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985, Ms. Fagan became the first female to serve on the icebreaker Polar Star, which works in the Arctic and Antarctica. In the two years she spent on the ship, she was the only woman.
Since then, many more women have joined. Now women make up about 40% of the people in the Coast Guard.
But it takes years of experience to reach many of the higher-level positions in the Coast Guard. Now, after more than 35 years of service, Admiral Fagan definitely has the experience. She has served in many different positions, and worked on all seven continents.
Last year, Admiral Fagan became the Coast Guard’s first female four-star admiral – the highest rank in the service. At the same time, she was named vice commandant of the Coast Guard, making her second in charge. She was the first woman to hold that position.
Admiral Fagan says she wants to make it easier for people in the Coast Guard to rejoin the service after taking time off to raise their families. This would make it so that women didn’t have to choose between serving their country and having children. Admiral Fagan points out that rules like these would also help men.
For most of its history, the US armed forces has been led by white men. That has been changing rapidly recently with new leaders like Admiral Fagan.
In 2020, General Charles Q. Brown Jr. became the first Black man to lead the Air Force. Last year, Mr. Biden named Lloyd Austin III, who is also Black, as the secretary of defense – the leader of all of the US armed forces.