My Coast Guard

Women of the Coast Guard tell their story  

By Patrick Ferraris, Coast Guard Office of Civil Rights 

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March is Women’s History Month. This observance stands as a reminder of the strength that the Coast Guard has gained through the contributions and efforts of our female members who serve as part of an exceptional and diverse workforce. This series of interviews highlights just a few of the remarkable women in the Coast Guard and the stories behind their service.  

Chief Petty Officer Malia Chasteen, the Coast Guard’s first and only African-American woman to serve as an officer in charge afloat, talks to recruits from U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May in the Bernard Webber Seamanship building about her experiences during her career, as part of the Coast Guard’s Ethridge Initiative, April 10, 2019.Name: Senior Chief Petty Officer Malia Chasteen 
Duty Title: Officer in Charge 
Duty Location: Station Maui, Hawaii 

The Coast Guard has a history of strong female members. How have those members helped pave a path for you in the Coast Guard?  

The women that have gone before me have had to advocate for themselves and that has taught me that just because the “Coast Guard has always done it that way” does not make it the “only” way. Specifically, women like Master Chief Petty Officer Diane Bucci paved the way for woman serving afloat by breaking many of the Coast Guard’s early gender barriers. Sometimes when you hear "no,” you have to ask why. 

What excites you about the future for women in the Coast Guard?  

I appreciate all of the new working groups and initiatives the Coast Guard has established or is establishing to support women and those who are underrepresented. As an organization, we are looking for ways to create more opportunities for women at sea. It used to be that you had to plan family around the Coast Guard but it’s easier to see that you can plan the Coast Guard around family. The Coast Guard is working to become a more inclusive workforce and that makes me feel happy for those who want to join now and in the future.  

What keeps you in the Coast Guard?   

My career in the Coast Guard has been a truly amazing adventure. I really enjoy what I do, and I haven’t been able to stop. When my son came along there wasn’t a choice of getting out. I took the time to see how I can balance both family and work. I know that may not work for everyone, but it’s been my motivator. My son and those I work with continually motivate me for the next steps in my Coast Guard career. 

Read Senior Chief Chasteen’s full interview here.  
 
Cmdr. Charlotte Mundy is the Commanding Officer of the CGC VIGOROUS, homeported in Virginia Beach, VA.Name: Cmdr. Charlotte Mundy 
Duty Title: Commanding Officer 
Duty Location: Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia 

The Coast Guard has a history of strong female members. How have those members helped pave a path for you in the Coast Guard?  

My first commanding officer was Capt. Beverly Kelley on the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it; she was just my commanding officer. It was normal for me to have a female captain. It took a couple more tours for me to realize just how uncommon that was. Her presence on Boutwell helped me internalize what was possible for me. 

Has joining the Coast Guard helped shape your identity as a person?  

I was going through college, grad school, and post-education without any direction. Joining the Coast Guard set a clear path for me. The leadership challenges I faced as I pursued my afloat career also helped me grow and strengthen personally. I learned that I could accomplish tough tasks and lead others to do the same in any environment. 

What does the phrase “Stronger Together” mean to you?  

We hardly do anything alone in the Coast Guard, especially onboard ships. You always have your shipmates there to help with tasks and to keep you company. One of the many things I love about the Coast Guard is that it brings so many different people together from different backgrounds and locations who all have different perspectives and life experiences. Despite these differences we are all united with a common purpose. 

Read Cmdr. Mundy’s full interview here

Lt. Tara Pray stands in front of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo Largo homeported in historic Gloucester, Massachusetts. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)Name: Lt. Tara Pray 
Duty Title: Commanding Officer 
Duty Location: Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo, homeported in Gloucester, Massachusetts . 

The Coast Guard has a history of strong female members. How have those members helped pave a path for you in the Coast Guard? 

Recently, I received a list of 27 women who have commanded a major cutter (180 feet or greater). These women have unknowingly paved the path for me as I aspire to do the same. Their commitment to their craft, superior leadership, and their relentless passion has laid the groundwork for me. I am inspired by their achievements and aim to reach their level of success one day! 

Do you have a mentor that has inspired you or impacted your service?  

There are too many to count! No career is without its challenges and mentors can help guide and motivate us through these difficult experiences. Sometimes a mentor may be senior in rank, but I’ve also found incredible mentors among my peer network too. Last year I participated in the Coast Guard’s Mentorship Project and was introduced to Lt. Cmdr. Laura Foster, an accomplished cuttermen, Coast Guard spouse, and mom. Laura is someone that I “knew of” but had never considered reaching out to. The Mentoring Project helped connect us and is a great place to start!   

What excites you about the future for women in the Coast Guard? 

I’m excited about the future of our fleet and the increasing number of opportunities for women to serve at sea. New acquisitions updated operational processes, and the current spotlight on sea duty readiness/attractiveness has me optimistic for the future. 

Read Lt. Pray’s full interview here.

Lt. Cmdr. Trisha Jantzen is underway with Station Seattle on a Response Boat - Medium (U.S. Coast Guard Photo).Name: Lt. Cmdr. Trisha Jantzen 
Duty Title: District Response Advisory Team Supervisor 
Duty Location: Station Seattle, Seattle, Washington 

The Coast Guard has a history of strong female members. How have those members helped pave a path for you in the Coast Guard?   

I have always felt like I joined the Coast Guard at a unique and special time for women. Looking back, I saw some very real and significant obstacles that women faced, but looking forward, I only see opportunities. Nothing is out of reach and I am so grateful to the women who came before me for the hard work and challenges they experienced to pave this road.    

What excites you about the future for women in the Coast Guard?   

The future for women in the Coast Guard is very bright. It is clear that the organization is committed to creating both a diverse and inclusive workforce. This is the Coast Guard I will be proud to pass down to the next generation.  

Read Lt. Cmdr. Jantzen’s full interview here.

Chief Petty Officer Vaitia De La Rosa poses in the Engineering Control Center aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore (U.S. Coast Guard Photo).Name: Chief Petty Officer Vaitia De La Rosa 
Duty Title: Unit Command Chief/Electrical Division Shop Supervisor 
Duty Location: Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore, homeported in Newport, Rhode Island 

What inspired you to join the Coast Guard? 

I didn’t get accepted into my college of choice, so I wanted to look into other opportunities. When I joined the Coast Guard, it would be the first time I would leave the state of Hawaii. I vowed to return after completing four years of service; it’s been 19 years now. 

What is meaningful to you about serving in the Coast Guard? 

Knowing that I am one of many is special to me. It’s absolutely humbling to know that I serve alongside great women who excel in their jobs, raise their families, and serve others. I’ve also been very fortunate to have so many great experiences and work with some of the best leaders that Coast Guard has to offer. 

Has joining the Coast Guard helped shape your identity as a person? 

My identity has always remained in what mattered most to me; my faith and my family because of my amazing upbringing in Hawaii. My service in the Coast Guard taught me what being selfless truly meant and brought to life a saying “you can be anything you want to be.”  I never believed that concept until I joined the Coast Guard. I’ve worked harder than I ever had; not only to achieve my own goals but to also carry my weight as part of a team. It wasn’t always pretty, but I loved how selfless I had become. 

Read Chief Petty Officer De La Rosa’s full interview here.

This article was developed by the Coast Guard Office of Civil Rights. Subscribe to the “On Deck” civil rights monthly newsletter through GovDelivery. Read archived copies of the newsletter on the Office of Civil Rights newsroom

Editor's Note: The original version of this article misidentified the wrong rank for Senior Chief Malia Chasteen. The article has been updated to reflect her correct rank.