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My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 8, 2024

Yeoman honored with 2024 Federal Asian Pacific American Council Award

By Keisha Reynolds, MyCG Staff Writer

The Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) is awarding Petty Officer Second Class Vinnesha Blas with the 2024 FAPAC Uniformed Services Award today, May 8. She is being recognized at the 39th National Leadership Training Program in Leesburg, VA.  

Blas serves as executive secretary for the Coast Guard’s Federal Asian Pacific American Council Affinity Group, which is also an official chapter of FAPAC. Blas assumed the role Jan. 19, 2023, and has been a member for more than three years.  

Blas is a native of Guam and enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2018. She works in the Office of the Commandant’s Executive Secretariat at headquarters - a team of four yeomen, a chief, and a Lt. Cmdr. who serve as gate keepers for correspondence in and out of the commandant’s office to or from DHS, Congress, and the White House. Blas has been a part of the team for two years now. 

“YN2 Blas is an active leader within FAPAC-U.S. Coast Guard,” said Capt. Jason P. Tama, who is an executive assistant to the vice commandant. “She volunteers her time to recruit and retain Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders in the service and serves as a champion to underrepresented minorities and junior enlisted members.”   

As an example of Blas’s dedication and activism, she deserves some of the credit for creating the Affinity Group Summit. During a meeting last year to present FAPAC objectives to the commandant, vice commandant, the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard, and other senior leaders, Blas and her team mentioned the need to bring awareness to all affinity groups by working together. The month following that meeting, the first Affinity Group Summit was born. 

The summit, held in August 2023, enabled all 10 affinity groups to gather and strategize. Blas explained, “It was an opportunity for us to get together to develop as professionals and to provide input into the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion strategic plan being created by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for 2024-2028.” Blas expects the summit to convene again next year.  

Blas also regularly volunteers to aid with the logistics in planning, organizing and assisting with audio visual support for FAPAC-USCG’s events, leveraging the experience that she’s acquired over the years.  

“It is important to me and the FAPAC-USCG team that everyone is afforded the opportunity to attend the professional development sessions that we hold both in-person and virtually. While we advocate and champion for the AANHPI community, we open these events and professional sessions to all Coast Guard members,” Blass said. 

She also partnered with Enlisted Professionals in Connection to put together a workshop with the author of “Intrusive Leadership,” Capt. Marcus Canady, which yielded a diverse audience and afforded junior members of the service an opportunity for professional development.  

Blas recently received a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace certificate from the University of South Florida. And, as she tells it, “It was optional, but I jumped at the opportunity to take it because it’s aligned with my purpose and what I am trying to do in this community.”  

Outside of work, Blas is a wife, mother, and student at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management.  

“Personally, and professionally, this award is a reminder to stay the course, and is a testament to the leadership of those that have supported me along the way. “Inafa’maolek” in Chamoru means “to make good” or “restore harmony” and it’s a phrase that I keep close to my heart,” said Blas. 

She continued, “To me that means doing right by those that have supported and believed in me and to continue to make way for those that come after me. I am committed to helping others; whether that means providing resources, amplifying their voices or connecting them with the appropriate subject matter expert.”  

Tama added, “She empowers those around her, supports service-wide initiatives that positively impact retention and resiliency, and creates opportunities for equitable participation in professional development. I can’t think of a more deserving candidate.”