Zeita Merchant makes history again as the first Black female admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard

Dollita Okine April 24, 2024
Captain Zeita Merchant. Photo: US Coast Guard/Public domain

Following a recent promotion, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Zeita Merchant has become the service’s first Black female admiral in its 233-year existence.

In 2023, Merchant was appointed Rear Admiral (lower half) in the United States Coast Guard. This made her rise to prominence as the first African-American woman to be selected for Flag rank in the 233-year history of the Coast Guard.

She has served as the commander of Sector New York and will now be in charge of recruiting and scholarships at the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center in Washington, D.C.

Officials stated that the promotion emphasizes the Coast Guard’s continuous commitment to diversity and inclusion, as reported by The Washington Informer.

According to the outlet, the appointee has held important positions including Executive Strategic Planner for the Coast Guard Flag and Senior Executive Service Corps, Congressional Fellow for the Committees on Oversight and Reform and Transportation and Infrastructure, and Special Assistant to the 27th and 28th Vice Commandants of the Coast Guard.

Merchant only joined the Coast Guard to pay for her medical school tuition; she had no idea that she would join at all. She told the Clarion Ledger newspaper, “I always had this passion for service, but I never thought it would be in the form of military service. I really feel like this is God’s plan and not my plan.”

The trailblazer earned a Master of Public Administration from George Washington University and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Tougaloo College. She also holds a Doctor of Business Administration and a Master of Quality Systems Management from the National Graduate School at New England Institute of Business.

Furthermore, Merchant was a Seminar XXI National Security and Foreign Affairs Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and completed the Executive Education Leadership in Homeland Security program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

In her over 20 years with the Coast Guard, Merchant has received several awards, including the 2019 Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration Outstanding Achievement in Public Service and her personal military awards which include “three Meritorious Service Medals, six Coast Guard Commendation Medals three Coast Guard Achievement Medals, three Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, and four Commandant’s Letters of Commendation, Marine Safety Insignia and Commandant’s Staff Identification Badge,” Coast Guard Atlantic area wrote.

It’s not easy being in the service as a Black woman but Merchant, who has also served as a National Security Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said she got support from her colleagues.

Women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented at all levels of the United States Coast Guard, particularly in higher ranks, according to research from the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC). The research found that 31% of Coast Guard members are racial or ethnic minorities, compared with a 42% average across all services.

“We get in our own way because we think we don’t deserve the best based on where we’re from,” Merchant said when asked what advice she would give her younger self. “I would tell my younger self that you got to get out of your head, get out of your own way and the world is truly yours to conquer.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 24, 2024


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