President Biden on Wednesday took part in a traditional ceremony to mark a change of command for the U.S. Coast Guard.
And for the first time, a woman took the oath as commandant of the Coast Guard, as Adm. Karl L. Schultz was relieved by Adm. Linda Fagan.
In doing so, Fagan became the first female officer to lead a branch of the American armed forces.
“This is a big deal,” Biden said at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington. “It’s about time.”
The president said that when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin first told him of Fagan’s selection, he replied: “What in the hell took you so long?”
Fagan graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985 in what was just the sixth class that included women.
Biden commended Fagan on her decades of service, during which she served on all seven continents, beginning as an icebreaker and rising through the ranks to become second in command.
“She has demonstrated exceptional skill, integrity and commitment to our country,” Biden said. “There’s no one more qualified to lead the proud women and men of the Coast Guard.”
Her ascendance to the top Coast Guard post, the president added, shows to young people that there are “no doors closed to women."
Fagan is the 27th commandant of the service — and first woman.
“We’re getting past the ‘firsts,’” Fagan told the New York Times earlier this week. “I hope sometime soon we’re talking about the second female commandant, and the third female commandant, and that we’ll have a Black male commandant.”
“We, as a service, need to reflect the society that we serve, and creating opportunity for everyone in the service is important,” she added.