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My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 15, 2023

Advancing leaders through opportunity

By Civil Rights Directorate Staff

Editor’s Note: The Coast Guard’s AANHPI heritage celebration on May 16 at 1030 headlines guest speaker Ben de Guzman. De Guzman is the Director of the Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs for Washington, D.C. You can attend in person in the Ray Evans Conference Room at Coast Guard Headquarters or remotely on Teams (Dial-in 410-874-6742 Conference ID 564 203 782#). 

The Coast Guard joins the nation in celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. Each May, we recognize the diverse histories, cultures and contributions of AANHPI communities represented by more than 50 ethnic groups. This year's theme is "Advancing Leaders Through Opportunity." 

Advancing leaders in the Coast Guard's total workforce by prioritizing training, professional development, mentoring, empowerment and personal agency is essential to sharpening our competitive edge and advancing our mission excellence. The Vice Commandant, Adm. Steve Poulin urges you to plan and participate in special observance events to celebrate AANHPI heritage and learn about the vibrant contributions AANHPI members continue to make in service to our Nation.  

For much of the Coast Guard's history, opportunities for AANHPI to serve were challenged by inequity. Only a few stories can be gleaned from records before 1849 when the first Hawaiian Islanders became seamen on the Revenue Cutter C.W. Lawrence.  

Thousands of AANHPI joined the Coast Guard during the first half of the 20th century, beginning with the annexation of the Philippines in 1898 and culminating with the desegregation of the armed forces in 1948. They were mainly limited to ratings of steward, cook and boy (or steward assistant).  

AANHPI members also faced many barriers to service during World War II. Executive Order 9066 removed Japanese-Americans from military service and placed them in internment camps. Despite these internments and their discrimination, other AANHPI communities continued to serve with distinction. Lt. j.g. Juan Lacson, commanding officer of Philippine Navy patrol boat Bataan, entered the Coast Guard Reserve in 1942 and became one of the first AANHPI to receive authority and pay equivalent to regular officers following the transfer of the Bataan into the Coast Guard, redesignated as CG-68009. 

Today, Coast Guard AANHPI members build on this heritage of service and continue to create opportunities for others to lead and serve.  

Learn more:

Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) 

DEMOI Special Observance for AANHPI 

CG Historian's Site 


ALCOAST 178/23 Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage: Advancing leaders through opportunity