By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
On June 1, 2022, the Coast Guard had a historic event when Admiral Linda Fagan took over the role of Commandant from Admiral Karl Schultz. Admiral Fagan is now the 27th Commandant of the Coast Guard and the first woman to lead any of the U.S. armed forces. According to Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, “This is a historic moment for our country and for women in the Armed Forces.”
What Does the Coast Guard Commandant Do?
The Coast Guard Commandant serves as the topmost leader in the Coast Guard, our country’s oldest continuous maritime service. The Commandant is responsible for Coast Guard activities and operations worldwide.
In addition, the Commandant oversees over 88,000 Coast Guard personnel, including:
- 41,700 active duty servicemembers
- 7,800 reserves
- 8,300 civilian employees
- 31,000 auxiliary Coast Guard members
Assisted by a Vice Commandant and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, the Commandant reports directly to the President of the United States via the Secretary of Homeland Security, since the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The Commandant maintains operational control of the Coast Guard and is also responsible for policy implementation.
Fagan’s Predecessor, Admiral Karl Schultz, Had a Long History of Coast Guard Service
According to the Coast Guard website, Admiral Fagan’s predecessor, Admiral Karl Schultz, has a long history of service to the Coast Guard. He assumed his duties on June 1, 2018 and has shown a tremendous amount of leadership during unprecedented times, including the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The Coast Guard website notes that in the past, Admiral Schultz served as the Commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area, and his career spanned over five Coast Guard Districts and 40 states. Admiral Schultz has also served as the director of the DHS Joint Task Force, responsible for objectives associated with the DHS Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan covering regions in the Caribbean Sea, Eastern Pacific Region, and Central America.
Admiral Schultz was also the Director of Operations at the U.S. Southern Command, and he led multi-mission operations from California to Peru. He has held command positions aboard three Coast Guard Cutters and graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1983.
New Coast Guard Commandant Linda Fagan Also Has a Distinguished Career
According to the Coast Guard, Admiral Fagan has 37 years of Coast Guard service, which includes serving as the 32nd Vice Commandant and as a flag officer as the Commander, Pacific Area and Commander Coast Guard Defense Force West. In addition, Admiral Fagan served as the Commander of the First Coast Guard District and has worked on all seven continents. She has also been the Executive Assistant to the Commandant and Vice Commandant and the Division Chief of the Foreign and Offshore Compliance Office.
The Coast Guard also reports that Admiral Fagan worked with “both the International Maritime Organization and International Labor Organization on flag state and port state issues.” She has experience with the development of the International Ship and Port Security Code and Consolidated Maritime Labor Convention. In addition, Admiral Fagan “is the longest-serving active-duty Marine Safety Officer and holds the distinction of being the Coast Guard’s first-ever Gold Ancient Trident.”
The Coast Guard Commandant Is a Critically Important Role
The Coast Guard has multiple missions, including maritime law enforcement, maritime response, maritime security operations and national defense operations, so the role of Coast Guard Commandant is critically important. Both Admiral Schultz and Admiral Fagan have served honorable careers that exemplify what it takes to hold such an esteemed position in military service. We as a nation should be grateful for their leadership.