“Women In The Coast Guard”


  Passing
to the left…   NARRATOR: Before you can
fully appreciate   what women have achieved
in today’s Coast Guard,   it helps to look back
on the role women have played   in the history of our nation’s
coastal defense.   MAN: The U.S. Coast Guard is the
oldest continuously operating   sea service
in the United States,   was the first one that was
enacted after the Constitution.   NARRATOR: Coast Guard historian
William Thiesen   says women were a part of things
almost from the beginning,   serving in coastal defense posts   as part of
the Lighthouse Service,   a predecessor
of the Coast Guard.   So actually,
the U.S. Coast Guard pioneered   the role of women not only
in a military service,   but in the federal government,
as well.   NARRATOR: By the early 1940s,   women had made
their presence known   throughout the Coast Guard,   both as civilians
and in the uniformed service.   THIESEN: Oh, there were
about 10,000 women   that served in the Coast Guard
in World War II,   and it’s really just grown
since that time.   NARRATOR: Interest
really took off in 1976   when the Coast Guard Academy
became America’s   first service academy
to accept female applicants.   In 2011,
Rear Admiral Sandy Stosz   took over as superintendent,
becoming the first woman   in the nation’s history
to run a military academy.   So the Coast Guard really
pioneered that, as well–   bringing women to the academy
in the late Seventies,   integrating them onto ships
in the Eighties.   NARRATOR: The trend towards
full service integration   continued through the 1990s and
on into the following decade   when Operation Iraqi Freedom
created a demand   for combat support
from the Coast Guard.   THIESEN: They were serving,
actually, as force protection   for larger coalition assets,
such as warships,   and a lot of times,
they were serving   further into enemy territory
during combat operations   than any other vessels.   NARRATOR: One of them,
Coast Guard Cutter Aquidneck,   was commanded by Holly Harrison,
the first female commander   of a Coast Guard vessel
in a combat zone   and the first to receive
a Bronze Star.   HARRISON: We were escorting
humanitarian aid   up to the port so that
that could then   be further distributed
into Iraq.   So you’re trying to keep the
Iranians out of Iraqi waters.   They were harassing
Iraqi fishermen in Iraqi waters.   Basically, we needed
to make sure   there were no al-Qaeda on board,   there were no
Iraqi leadership on board,   no wealth of the nation escaping
and being taken elsewhere.   So we had to screen
all these vessels   just pouring out of the river.   Right now, the way it looks,   we’re gonna move the ship
on Sunday.   Big week for us is really
the second week.   Monday morning,
we’re gonna get underway.   THIESEN: I don’t think gender
really matters to her.   It was really just
getting the job done.   She’s another coastguardsman
and a cutterman,   and she was there just
to get the job done,   and I don’t think anybody else
in her crew   felt any different, either.   HARRISON: Make sure that you
have the up-to-date information   so they when you
update the Excel,   we can knock off as many of
those discrepancies as possible.   You know, it’s funny.   I get asked a question about
being a woman in the military   quite a bit because
people see it as a novelty,   but I never have.   It was a complete nonissue
for the Coast Guard,   which is actually
how I prefer it.   NARRATOR:
As Commander Harrison sees it,   there’s something
of far greater significance   than gender
that characterizes the men   and women she serves with.   I think Coasties are doers.   That’s why we joined
the Coast Guard.   We don’t want to sit
in an office.   We don’t want
to sit behind a desk.   We’re here to make a difference,
and whatever way   that we contribute
to doing that–   and particularly, you’re talking
here on a ship, cuttermen–   we’re out there
to get the mission done.    

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