You might not know that the Coast Guard is the oldest continually operating sea service in our country’s history. You will learn about that and so much more in this video. But this video also focuses on the role that women have played in the Coast Guard from its beginning.
During WWII, over 10,000 women served in the United States Coast Guard, mostly in administrative positions. But it has been more recently that women have become an integral part of all that the United States Coast Guard does.
In 1976, the United States Coast Guard Academy became the first service academy to admit women. And it would later be the first service academy to be commanded by a woman.
You will meet a female Coast Guardsman in this video, Cmdr. Holly R. Harrison, who was the first woman to command a Coast Guard Cutter in combat. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, she commanded the cutter, Aquidneck, from Atlantic Beach, N.C. The USCG Aquidneck and four other Coast Guard Cutters patrolled in two areas: near Iraqi oil terminals on the Persian Gulf, and the Khawr Abd Allah River that leads to the port city of Umm Qasr.
Cmdr Harrison and her crew were missioned with capturing prisoners, seizing weapons and interdicting enemy movements of troops, or the smuggling of national wealth, etc. They escorted ships and guarded the waters, working closely with coalition allies. Often times they were working far ahead of the minesweepers.
On one occasion, the second night of combat, Cmdr Harrison and her crew witnessed the crash of two coalition helicopters that had collided in midair. They raced to the scene to search for survivors.
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Threats could come in many forms. There were wrecks in the channels that often hid Iraqi troops, other boats, fire from ashore, rocket-propelled grenades, mines, collisions and torturous navigation.
Cmdr Harrison not only became the first woman to command a Coast Guard cutter in a combat situation, but she also became the first woman in the Coast Guard to be awarded with a Bronze Star for “meritorious achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy.”
Cmdr. Harrison said, “For the job we were given, we were the right asset. I’m very proud of having done what we did.”
The Veterans Site honors the history of the United States Coast Guard. It has played roles of importance in every war and has been involved in saving lives and property off our coasts and on inland lakes and waterways from the country’s beginning. We honor the Coast Guard’s role in bringing women into its ranks over its history. We send our thanks to all who have served and those who are presently serving in the United States Coast Guard.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.