My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 9, 2022

Commandant’s message on Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 

By Adm. Karl Schultz's message to the fleet 

I call on the Coast Guard workforce to join me in spotlighting and reflecting on our nation's rich and vibrant Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage this month. Inspired by the vision of former congressional staff member Jeanie Jew, the first recognition of what has since become AAPI Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Month began in 1977. The month of May was chosen in part to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese person to the United States on May 7, 1843. The 2022 theme, "Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration," reflects core concepts inherent in public service, inspiring each of us to prioritize community, diversity, transparency, and inclusion through leadership.

Asian American and Pacific Islanders have a long history in the United States, dating back to the oldest known permanent Asian American settlement established in South Louisiana by Filipinos in the 1760s, to the Japanese and Korean people who immigrated in the 1880s to replace Chinese labor, to the Southeast Asian refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in the mid-1970s. Today, AAPI are the fastest growing racial group in the United States. The prominence of AAPI scholars, artists, leaders, and activists have had an enduring effect on many facets of American culture and society. The AAPI umbrella in the United States includes cultures from the Asian continent including East, Southeast, and South Asia, and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia -- approximately 22.9 million people according to latest Census statistics.

Woven throughout Coast Guard history are AAPI members who have modeled team-centric approaches to accomplishing our unique missions. Capt. Gilbert Kanazawa, the first Japanese American to attain the rank of O-6 in the Coast Guard exemplified this mindset. As the Coast Guard Liaison Officer to Allied Forces Southern Europe at NATO Headquarters in Naples, Italy, Kanazawa facilitated cooperation among many nations to enforce U.N. Security Council sanctions in the early 1990s. Other groundbreakers' careers amply demonstrate collaboration with our international partners in the preparation of global maritime leaders. For example, Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo ascended through the Coast Guard Academy's International Cadet Program and in 1979 became one of its first Asian graduates.

Following graduation, Tamayo began his service in the Philippine Coast Guard and after modeling stellar leadership throughout his career, became its 22nd commandant, serving in that capacity from 2008 until 2011. The service is replete with present-day achievers who continue to apply the legacy of collaboration to the complex maritime environment. Petty Officer First Class Jennifer Seaver, a Native Hawaiian and machinery technician, earned a Meritorious Advancement to first class petty officer in January 2022 for strengthening the climate and inter-departmental cooperation aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. In addition to serving as the acting main propulsion division chief and lead division petty officer, Seaver affirmatively pursued additional responsibilities to ensure her qualifications as cutter boat crewmember and buoy deck rigger, enhancing the cutter's mission success.

Throughout history, AAPI communities have endured xenophobia, racism, bias, and violence, and hate against AAPI people was increasingly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collectively, we must continue to prevent discrimination, harassment, bullying, and intolerance involving AAPI members and everyone within our workforce. The Coast Guard developed a social climate incident (SCI) dashboard to better inform its members of where harassing and discriminatory behaviors have occurred within our communities. I encourage all members to view the dashboard and always report any incidents that have negatively impacted themselves or others in our service:

Everyone and every unit is encouraged to create opportunities to study and reflect upon the journey and contributions of AAPI people. Stories of their achievements are our stories. The AAPI community's achievements have made us a better Coast Guard and Nation. Conducting activities that honor special communities reinforce our commitment to equality, dignity, and respect for all members of our workforce. To learn more about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who served in the Coast Guard, please visit the Coast Guard Historian’s page.