Biden hails appointment of first woman service chief in US forces

‘It’s about time,’ the US president says as Linda Fagan officially becomes the first female commandant of the Coast Guard.

US President Joe Biden has hailed the appointment of the first female service chief of the United States armed forces during a change of command ceremony that saw Linda Fagan officially start her tenure as commandant of the US Coast Guard.

During the event at the Coast Guard headquarters on Wednesday, Biden lauded Fagan, who replaced Karl L Schultz. “It’s about time,” he said, referring to her appointment.

“The trailblazing career of Admiral Fagan shows young people entering the services, we mean what we say: There are no doors – no doors – closed to women,” Biden added.

The US president nominated Fagan – who had been serving as vice commandant – to succeed Schultz in April, and she was confirmed by the Senate last month. According to her military biography, Fagan is the longest-serving active duty marine safety officer, with 36 years of experience with the Coast Guard.

On Wednesday, Biden thanked Fagan for opening the door of “opportunity just a little bit wider” for those who would follow in her footsteps.

“Now we need to keep working to make sure Admiral Fagan may be the first but not the only,” Biden said. “We need to see more women at the highest levels of command in the Coast Guard and across every service.”

The president said his administration will rely on the Coast Guard more frequently to combat the threats of climate change, noting that this season is expected to be “the seventh straight year of above-average hurricane activity in the Atlantic.”

Biden also said that the Coast Guard is an “essential element” of Washington’s Asia-Pacific strategy amid intensifying competition with China.

Fagan’s appointment comes during a years-long push to combat reports of sexism and sexual harassment and assault in the US military.

A 2021 study by the RAND Arroyo Center, a US Army government-funded think-tank, found that “female soldiers’ experiences of sexual harassment and gender discrimination are more likely than male Soldiers’ to be persistent and to cut across more times and places”.

Biden has previously vowed to appoint more women to leading positions in the US military.

“My administration is committed to seeing more qualified women in senior leadership and command roles; making sure women can succeed and thrive throughout their military careers,” he said in a statement after Fagan’s confirmation by the Senate.

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