By John Ismay, The New York Times
Adm. Linda L. Fagan will shatter one of the last glass ceilings in the military on Wednesday when she takes the oath as commandant of the Coast Guard and becomes the first female officer to lead 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 just 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 career that she thought becoming commandant might even be possible.
“A lot of people would say, ‘Oh yeah, I knew she was going to be an admiral,’ but I didn’t think about it,” Admiral Fagan recalled. “Even when I was first selected as an admiral you don’t think about it, and then all of a sudden you look around and you go, ‘Oh yeah, all right, I guess this is possible.’ ”
When I look up in the organization, at least just a couple years ago there was not a ton of diversity,” Admiral Fagan said in an interview. “Even still we don’t have the diversity we need at the senior leadership ranks. But as I look back, it’s all there and coming — certainly for women, and we still need to increase our number of underrepresented minority males.”
She will be the 27th 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 become 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 filled with portraits of her predecessors. She paused in front of a painting of Adm. Owen W. Siler, the 15th commandant of the service, in the 1970s.
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