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by Curtis Hand, from press release and internal resources
Less than 12 hours after MSD Online reported the US Coast Guard (USCG) Pacific Area Command change on Wednesday, 16 June – whereby RAdm Peter W Gautier relieved VAdm Linda L Fagan as the acting Pacific Area Commander at Coast Guard Base Alameda on the US West Coast – we received word over the weekend that something momentous took place on Friday afternoon 18 June in Washington DC on the US East Coast involving VAdm Fagan…

VAdm Linda L Fagan is promoted to the rank of Admiral during a ceremony at USCG HQ. Image: USCG, Pamela Manns.

During another change of command involving VAdm Fagan, three momentous occurences happened:
VAdm Linda L Fagan became Adm Linda L Fagan;
She became the first female Vice Commandant of the USCG; and,
She became the USCG’s first female four-star Admiral.

During the ceremony at USCG headquarters in Washington DC. Adm Fagan relieved outgoing Vice Commandant Adm Charles W Ray, a decorated helicopter aviator, who served as the Vice Commandant since mid-2018 and led the epic recapitalisation effort for the USCG’s fleet.

Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas presents Adm Charles Ray with a Distinguished Service Medal during the Change of Watch ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters, June 18, 2021. Ray retired at the ceremony after more than 40 years of service in the Coast Guard. – Image: USCG, PO 1st Class Travis Magee

He is retiring after 40 years of service at the ceremony during which he was presented with the Department of Homeland Security’s Distinguished Service Medal by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. (See short USCG history at the end.)

Adm Ray glowed: “I am extremely proud of the dedication and resiliency I have seen throughout our service and throughout my career…It has been an honour to serve with the men and women of the Coast Guard and it is my privilege to pass the reigns of vice commandant to Adm. Fagan, a true trailblazer and inspiration to so many.”

Adm Fagan most recently served as the Acting Commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, overseeing all Coast Guard operations in the Pacific, covering an expansive area – more than 74 million square miles of ocean, from the US Western States to Asia, and from the Arctic to Antarctica. She also served as commander, Defense Force West, providing Coast Guard mission support to the US Department of Defense.

Adm Linda Fagan relieved Adm Charles Ray as the 32nd Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard during the 18 June Change of Watch ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters, June 18, 2021. Ray retired after more than 40 years of service in the Coast Guard. Image: USCG, PO 1st Class Travis Magee

Adm Karl L Schultz, Commandant, USCG praised both leaders – incoming and outgoing – during the ceremony: “Thank you Admiral Ray for your service and your extraordinary leadership. You have made a tremendous, and long-lasting impact on our great service and we will strive to build upon your extraordinary work…

“Admiral Fagan, it is an honour to welcome you as the first woman to serve as a four-star admiral in the US Coast Guard, and I congratulate you as you assume the duties as our 32nd Vice Commandant. I am proud to be part of this historic moment and look forward to leading the Coast Guard alongside of you.”

The USCG has an unusual story: It currently operates under the US Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the US Department of the Navy under the Department of Defense by the US President at any time, or by the US Congress during times of war – as in 1917.  Prior to its transfer to Homeland Security, it operated under the US Department of Transportation from 1967 to 2003. The USCG was under the US Department of the Treasury from its inception until 1967. Created by the US Congress on 4 August 1790 and designated the Revenue-Marine, it is the oldest continuous sea-going service of the United States.