Adm. Karl L. Schultz was relieved as commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard by Adm. Linda L. Fagan during a military change-of-command ceremony presided over by President Joseph R. Biden on Wednesday at Coast Guard headquarters.
"Today we witness a tradition longstanding in the USCG. Change of command, as a new admiral assumes leadership of our nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service. It’s both a connection to the earliest days of our nation, plus a new milestone in our history. We’ve used those phrases lightly, but this is a big deal," Biden said in his remarks. "Throughout her decades of service, she’s demonstrated exceptional skill, integrity and commitment to our country. There’s no one more qualified to lead the proud men and women of the Coast Guard. And she will also be the first woman to serve as commandant of the Coast Guard, the first woman to lead any branch of the U.S. armed forces. And it’s about time."
Keeping with the tradition of wearing shoulder boards passed down from a senior officer, Adm. Fagan wore the shoulder boards of the Adm. Owen Siler. As the service's 15th commandant, he opened the Coast Guard Academy's doors to women in 1975. Despite having met Silor only once, Adm. Fagan acknowledged "the outsized impact of that decision."
"If it were not for [Adm.] Owen Siler’s courage, I would not be here today," said Adm. Fagan. "I’m wearing his shoulder boards that he wore as commandant, just to acknowledge the long blue line."
The 27th commandant directed her remarks to the Coast Guard workforce. "I'm honored and humbled to serve as your commandant. I've always been inspired by the Coast Guard professionals serving in all our missions around the world," she said. "Thank you for your dedication, your hard work, and your service. It is my greatest privilege to work on your behalf."
Immediately following the change-of-command, Adm. Schultz retired from the Coast Guard after 39 years of service. He was awarded the Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal from Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas congratulated Adm. Schultz for overseeing a 20% increase in the Coast Guard's budget and its largest shipbuilding effort since World War II.
“The men and women of the Coast Guard deserve all the credit for what we have accomplished,” said Schultz. “I’m humbled to have led the world’s best Coast Guard as commandant during the last four years, which presented some unique challenges. Our collective resolve, bias for action, unrivalled devotion to duty, true grit and dogged determination burnished the Service’s brand and standing, both in the homeland and abroad.”
Schultz became the 26th commandant of the Coast Guard on June 1, 2018. A component of the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard is comprised of over 57,000 active duty, reserve and civilian Coast Guardsmen and more than 21,000 volunteer Coast Guard auxiliarists. Schultz’s visionary leadership raised the profile of the Service both here at home and across the globe as the Coast Guard experienced an unprecedented demand signal for its operational capabilities and partnering skills. During his four-year tenure, Schultz championed a compelling “Readiness Narrative” that raised the Service’s funding levels allowing renewed internal focus on the Coast Guard’s Mission Ready Total Workforce, as well as prolific shipbuilding, aviation asset recapitalization, and a signature technical revolution.
Fagan assumed the duties as the 27th commandant following her service as the 32nd vice commandant. As vice commandant, Fagan served as the chief operating officer, responsible for executing the commandant’s strategic intent, managing internal organizational governance, and serving as the component acquisition executive. Fagan is the Coast Guard’s first woman to hold the rank of four-star admiral. Today, she again made history not only as the first woman to lead the Coast Guard — but also as the first woman service chief of any U.S. military service.
“The Coast Guard is a more ready, relevant, and responsive service thanks to the incredible leadership of Admiral Schultz,” said Fagan. “I thank Admiral Schultz and Mrs. Dawn Schultz for their selfless service over the last four years and wish them fair winds and following seas.”
"With her trailblazing career," Biden said, "Adm. Fagan shows young people entering service that we mean it when we say, “There are no doors closed to women.”