Can’t be what you can’t see

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney

Lt. Christine Igisomar speaks to high school students about diversity within the U.S. Coast Guard. Photo courtesy of Lt. Christine Igisomar.

Many children, and even some adults, don’t know what they want to do for living or even the type of person they want to become. Some are lucky enough to turn their passions into a career. While others are not. The ones who aren’t lucky have to try new experiences, hoping that one day, it hits them like a ton of bricks and suddenly everything seems so clear. A spark of inspiration manifests into a flame, fuels their drive and leads them onto the path they were always destined to follow.

Lt. Christine Igisomar, a command duty officer at Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach’s command center, is a native of Saipan who was raised on the water and comes from a lineage of people whose entire lives revolved around the sea. She derives from fishermen and navigators who passed down their culture, traditions and their desire for greatness.

Although Saipan is located just north of Guam and many people probably couldn’t find it on a map, the Coast Guard knows of this U.S. commonwealth and the value of people who were born from the sea.

Igisomar was awarded the Federal Asian Pacific American Council Military Meritorious Service Award for her significant contributions toward the advancement of Asian Pacific Americans and for promoting diversity and equal employment opportunity in the federal workforce.

“Asians and Pacific Islanders want to be a part of something great,” said Igisomar. “We come from a culture where our parents and our communities really push us to do well in school and every endeavor we set upon.”

For a service that intentionally recruits people with a deep background around the sea, it benefits the Coast Guard’s diverse missions by empowering a group who understand the rhythm of the waves and the dangers that lurk within.

“We grew up on the water, it was our playground,” said Igisomar. “We, throughout the generations, have respected the ocean, the bounty and danger that it brings, which fits in well with the Coast Guard and its missions.”

The Coast Guard has a focus on increasing the amount of diversity within its ranks to build a creative-thinking atmosphere that discovers new and efficient ways to approach obstacles faced in the field.

Lt. Christine Igisomar takes pride in her Saipan heritage and heavily promotes diversity and equality within the workforce at Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach in California. Photo courtesy of Lt. Christine Igisomar.

Lt. Christine Igisomar takes pride in her Saipan heritage and heavily promotes diversity and equality within the workforce at Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach in California. Photo courtesy of Lt. Christine Igisomar.

“If we push this [recruiting effort] and we flood the Coast Guard with more diverse representation, you’re going to give hope to that BM3 that thinks she can’t make it to Officer Candidate School,” said Igisomar. “When you have people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, you allow your service to think of ways to solve problems better than if everyone was coming from the same place.”

It can be hard to hope for something if you don’t know what to hope for. Sometimes, a beacon can point people in the right direction and can reveal a path they’ve spent their lives searching for.

“I’m a firm believer of ‘you can’t be what you can’t see,’” said Igisomar. “When I was coming up in the Coast Guard as a junior enlisted person, it was rare for me to see a female officer and even rarer to see a Pacific Islander officer. I think every Fortune 500 company and military service now are aiming towards having a bigger diverse group of people so that we don’t fall into group thinking.”

When children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, their response often is doctor, police officer and firefighter and so on. However, if they were to see more of the Coast Guard, learn of its missions and hear of its achievements, maybe a spark will ignite within them. A spark that will lead them to a community of professionals who strive for greatness through commitment, who honor the traditions of the ones before them and who respect the culture of a devoted force who place the needs of others before their own.

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