Adm. Karl L. Schultz was relieved as Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard by Adm. Linda L. Fagan during a military change-of-command ceremony presided over by President Biden at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters on Wednesday.
With the change-of-command, Adm. Fagan becomes the first woman to lead a branch of the U.S. military. “It’s about time,” President Biden said in during the ceremony.
“Today we witness a tradition longstanding in the USCG. Change of Command, as a new admiral assumes leadership of our nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service. It’s both a connection to the earliest days of our nation, plus a new milestone in our history. We’ve used those phrases lightly, but this is a big deal,” President Biden said. “Throughout her decades of service, she’s demonstrated exceptional skill, integrity and commitment to our country. There’s no one more qualified to lead the proud men and women of the Coast Guard. And she will also be the first woman to serve as Commandant of the Coast Guard, the first woman to lead any branch of the U.S. armed forces. And it’s about time.”
“With her trailblazing career, Adm. Fagan shows young people entering service that we mean it when we say, ‘There are no doors closed to women,'” said the President.
President Biden nominated Adm. Fagan to become the 27th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard in April 2021. Previously, she became the first female four-star Admiral in Coast Guard history when she was sworn in as Vice Commandant in July 2021. As Commandant, she will lead 55,700 active duty, reserve, and civilian members, and approximately 26,000 auxiliary volunteers.
Keeping with tradition, Adm. Fagan wore the shoulder boards of the Adm. Owen Siler—the service’s 15th Commandant who opened the Coast Guard Academy’s doors to women in 1975. Despite having met Silor only once, Adm. Fagan acknowledged “the outsized impact of that decision.”
“If it were not for [Adm.] Owen Siler’s courage, I would not be here today,” said Adm. Fagan. “I’m wearing his shoulder boards that he wore as commandant, just to acknowledge the long blue line.”
Directing her comments to the Coast Guard workforce, Fagan said she was “honored and humbled” to serve as their Commandant.
“I’ve always been inspired by the Coast Guard professionals serving in all our missions around the world,” she said. “Thank you for your dedication, your hard work, and your service. It is my greatest privilege to work on your behalf.”
Schultz became the 26th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard on June 1, 2018. Immediately following the change-of-command, Schultz retired from the Coast Guard after 39 years of service. He was also awarded the Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal from Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas from the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Mayorkas congratulated Adm. Schultz for overseeing a 20% increase in the Coast Guard’s budget and its largest shipbuilding effort since World War 2.
“The men and women of the Coast Guard deserve all the credit for what we have accomplished,” said Schultz. “I’m humbled to have led the world’s best Coast Guard as Commandant during the last four years, which presented some unique challenges. Our collective resolve, bias for action, unrivalled devotion to duty, true grit and dogged determination burnished the Service’s brand and standing, both in the homeland and abroad.”
Prior to becoming Vice Commandant, Adm. Fagan served as the commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area beginning in June 2018. Fagan’s professional history also includes commanding Sector New York, in addition to operational assignments including sea duty on board the USCGC Polar Star and more than 15 years as a Marine Inspector. She has also worked with both the International Maritime Organization and International Labor Organization on flag state and port state issues, including the development of the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS), and the Consolidated Maritime Labor Convention. Fagan is also the Coast Guard’s first-ever Gold Ancient Trident, as the officer with the longest service record in the Marine Safety Field.
A 1985 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, Adm. Fagan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Science, as well as a Master’s Degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington, and a Master’s Degree in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
“The Coast Guard is a more ready, relevant, and responsive service thanks to the incredible leadership of Admiral Schultz,” said Fagan. “I thank Admiral Schultz and Mrs. Dawn Schultz for their selfless service over the last four years and wish them fair winds and following seas.”
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