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Senate confirms new Coast Guard commandant — the first uniformed woman to lead a service

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The Senate on Wednesday approved Adm. Linda Fagan to take over as the next Commandant of the Coast Guard, officially making her the first uniformed woman to lead a military branch.

The move came during wrap-up work late Wednesday night, and was approved without opposition from any senator.

During her confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Commerce Committee, lawmakers praised both her qualifications and the historic nature of her appointment. On Wednesday, Sen. Maria Cantwell — D-Wash. and chairwoman of the committee — echoed those themes again on the Senate floor before the final confirmation vote.

“We are sending a strong message to women serving in the Coast Guard,” she said.

“We’re sending a strong message to women cadets and to people training at Cape May. And we are sending a strong message to young girls who dream of someday serving in the Coast Guard. We are saying now that the leader of this organization that your service matters, your contribution to the Coast Guard and to the country matters. And yes, you too can be commandant someday.”

Fagan has been the vice commandant of the service since last June, when she became the first woman four-star admiral in Coast Guard history.

She has served in the Coast Guard for 36 years. Her prior commands include leading Coast Guard Defense Force West and deputy commandant for operations, policy, and capability.

Her service includes leadership roles on all seven continents, according to her official biography. She is also the longest serving active-duty Marine Safety Officer, and was awarded the service’s first-ever Gold Ancient Trident.

During her confirmation hearing, Fagan pledged to “recruit people who reflect the diversity of the public we serve” and provide service members with “access to high quality housing, health care, and childcare.”

Fagan replaces Adm. Karl Schultz, who has served in the top service role since June 2018 and is set to retire in May.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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