Coast Guard holds first Alaskan Military Women’s Symposium in Juneau

Capt. Kathleen Duignan, Coast Guard 17th District Planning and Force Management Division chief, addresses a crowd of Coast Guard personnel as the keynote speaker during the Alaska Military Women's Symposium at Coast Guard Station Juneau, Alaska, March 28, 2013.

Capt. Kathleen Duignan, Coast Guard 17th District Planning and Force Management Division chief, addresses a crowd of Coast Guard personnel as the keynote speaker during the Alaska Military Women’s Symposium at Coast Guard Station Juneau, Alaska, March 28, 2013.

Women have been serving as part of the Coast Guard since its early days as the Lighthouse Service in the 1830s. Women now comprise 14.3 percent of the Coast Guard’s 38,000 members and women make up about 30 percent of the Coast Guard Academy’s cadet corps.

The Coast Guard, as we know it today, hired its first civilian women to serve in secretarial and clerical positions in 1941. The Women’s Reserve of the Coast Guard Reserve program, officially nicknamed the SPARs, was first established in 1942. Lt. Cmdr. Dorothy Stratton transferred from the Navy WAVES to serve as the director of the SPARs. More than 11,000 SPARs served during World War II. The program was demobilized in 1947 but was reinstituted on a much smaller scale beginning in 1949.

There have been many notable firsts since the 1940s including women achieving senior ranks and positions and entering new rates. Notable firsts are still being made; Chief Warrant Officer Laura E. Freeman became the first female Material Maintenance Specialty warrant officer in the Coast Guard when she was commissioned MAT2 June 1, 2012.

As part of the recognition of this March as Women’s History Month the Coast Guard in Alaska held a Military Women’s Symposium in Juneau with an attendance of more than 70 members from the Coast Guard and Alaska National Guard Thursday. This was as opportunity to recognize the achievements of the service as well as allow women from all rates and ranks with diverse backgrounds to network and learn from each other through a panel and mentoring.

 Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, 17th District, stated in is comments he recognizes the valuable contributions women make to the Coast Guard and their unique perspective that is critical in positive outcomes to many situations. He hailed the advancements made by women in Alaska who serve at every level of command and crew. Master Chief Rod Storle, command master chief, 17th District, discussed the need for women to continue their advances in technical rates and mentioned there has still not been a female master chief in the damage control or machinery technician rates.

Capt. Kathleen Duignan currently serves as the chief of planning and force readiness for the 17th District. She addressed the way the environment has changed over the years and used article headlines as an example. These headlines ranged from questioning whether women belong in the service to their achievements. Duignan also provided comments to the assembled members encouraging them to stay true to themselves and build their craft, support each other as they continue the progression through their careers seeking to serve proudly and leave a better service for those who follow them.

You can also see photos from the Alaska Military Women’s Symposium and Coast Guard women serving in the state on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/uscgalaska and see tweets from the panel on our Twitter account @USCGAlaska #AMWS

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