Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: Women of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Compiled by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin

Every day, women in the military are breaking stereotypes and shattering glass ceilings. In the last few years we have seen the first women become flag officers, bronze star recipients, senior enlisted leaders, commanders of units, and the Coast Guard Academy superintendent.

The Coast Guard Academy was the first service academy to allow women to enroll and as the female students increased so did the number of women staff and faculty.

These women are professors, officers, enlisted, staff, and coaches. They are moms, wives, or neither. They are black, white, brown, other, and even rose-colored. They are tall, thin or curvy, but with all these beautiful differences, the one thing they have in common is the desire to serve the Coast Guard and make the world better.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, here are a few of the HERstories from the women at the Coast Guard Academy.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Yvonne Livingston
Corps of Cadets Company Chief for Foxtrot Company

“I’m [Senior Chief Petty Officer] Yvonne Livingston, the company chief for Foxtrot.

I have been in the Coast Guard for over 17 years, have over 10 years of sea-time and am only the second female in my rate to make the rank of senior chief.

I enlisted in the Coast Guard after 9/11. I had a bachelor’s degree and a well-paying managerial position but I wanted to do more.

Because the Coast Guard was involved with so many types of missions, I was sure I would find something that would be fulfilling and exciting. Deciding to attend [gunner’s mate] class “A” school was easy – breaking into the male dominated gunner’s mate rating was a lot harder.

I was one of two females in my class and had to prove that I could do everything just as well or better than my male classmates.

At the same time, I had to deal with and correct the stereotypical views that my instructors and classmates held about females in the Coast Guard.

Originally, I choose to be a gunner’s mate because I wanted to be a “Law Dog”; what I didn’t know was how much I would love working with the larger weapons systems and teaching others how to operate and fire them.

The satisfaction I derived from training others was what ultimately guided me to the Coast Guard Academy. That I would be able to teach the cadets about the Coast Guard and provide mentorship to our future leaders was really intriguing, the fact that my office would be in their living space and I could interact with them on a daily basis sealed the deal.

I have been at the Academy since June of 2018 and I have already experienced so many things that I wouldn’t have seen as an enlisted member.

I’m hoping that my presence here will have not just a positive influence on all the cadets in Foxtrot but also show all the junior females, cadet and enlisted, what a strong, confident woman can achieve in the military.”

Senior Chief Petty Officer Yvonne Livingston and "Momma Bear" Christy Rose pose for a photo at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Yvonne Livingston and “Momma Bear” Christy Rose pose for a photo at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Christine Rose
Administrative assistant to the Commandant of Cadets

“Howdy! I’m Christine Rose, but I go by Christy. You may know me as the Corps of Cadets ‘Momma Bear’ and have seen me many times on the Academy’s Facebook page live video during regimental reviews.

Because of my name, I am usually wearing my signature pink and roses.

I grew up Bath, Maine, and graduated from Morse High School. My family lives in Maine, but I would spend my summers and school vacations here in Groton, Connecticut, with my grandparents. Their home became my second home. In 1992, I came to help out my family for the summer and met my husband, Jon, while working at a local retail store and I moved permanently to Connecticut in the summer of 1993. My husband and I were married in the summer of 1995 and in June of 2002 our daughter, Elyse was born.

When I first came here, I knew very little about the Academy. I had only lived here in Connecticut for a few years and would pass the Academy on my way to work. When there was an opening at the Child Development Center, I jumped at the chance, as the CDC was known in the childcare world as a great place to work in.

In 2008 I had a chance to do something different… I had the chance to come to Chase Hall and learn what the Academy was all about. Little did I know that I was walking into the job that I would love.

I would have to say my favorite part of my job is the interactions I get to have with the cadets and staff. The Academy is my second family and it doesn’t matter that my uniform is civilian attire, you are a member of the Coast Guard. I get the pleasure of welcoming in the new classes each summer and get to watch them grow and develop their leadership skills over their 200-week journey to become officers of our great service. I love that the cadets will seek me out to just talk, just to come by to say ‘hi’ and get a hug. There are many times they will stop me out in public just to say ‘hi.’ To quote Rear Adm. James Rendon: ‘I really do love this place.'”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kameko Zayas-Bazan, a yeoman, poses for a photo at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kameko Zayas-Bazan, a yeoman, poses for a photo at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kameko Zayas-Bazan
Yeoman at the Academy Servicing Personnel Office

“Hey there! My name is Kameko Zayas-Bazan, (pronounced “Kuh-make-yo, Zai-as-Buh-zahn”), but feel free to call me Kammy.

The first thing you may notice about me, is that my name is difficult to say. I am of Caribbean-American descent. My father is from Barbados and my mother is from Albany, Georgia.

I am a wife and mother of a six- and three-year-old.

I joined the U.S. Army during my senior year of high school. Almost six years after that, with 100 percent of my husband’s support, I made a well thought out decision to conditionally release into the Coast Guard for a different experience.

Currently, I am a yeoman at the Coast Guard Academy Servicing Personnel Office and also serve as administrator support for the Superintendent’s Equity Task Force.

My favorite part of this job is that it keeps me busy and I gather a vast amount of useful knowledge for progression in my rate. Juggling assigned SPO responsibilities, collaterals and my home life keeps me on my toes, but these challenges reveal that I can accomplish anything life throws at me.

With all the expertise I’ve gathered from life experiences and during the 10 years of my military journey, I’ve decided to further my education and translate my skillset into a Human Resources/Business Management Bachelor’s Degree.

Being at the Academy for about two years has definitely aided in my inspiration to go back to school. I’ve witnessed many women in the Coast Guard moving on to the next successful step, whether it were cadets at Commencement, officer candidates graduating, petty officer advancements, officer promotions, or military-to-civilian transitional career opportunities opening up.

With each day that passes, I grow even more eager to write the next chapter in my own career.”

Mary Heneberry, women's lacrosse head coach, poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of Mary Heneberry.

Mary Heneberry, women’s lacrosse head coach, poses for a photo. Photo courtesy of Mary Heneberry.

Mary Heneberry
CGA Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

“I’m Mary Heneberry, Head Coach of the Women’s Lacrosse team here at the Academy.

I’m originally from Baltimore where I played D1 lacrosse at Loyola University Maryland and graduated with a degree in writing and philosophy. I had been coaching at a Washington and Lee University  – a Final Four program – when the head coach position opened up here at the Academy.

As most are, I was inspired to apply for the position after being brought up around the military members in my family. My maternal grandfather received a Bronze Star and Purple heart while serving as a commander in the South Pacific alongside President John F. Kennedy during World War II, and my paternal grandfather worked in intelligence for the National Security Agency and was one of three men chosen to start what is now the Defense Intelligence Agency.

After playing and coaching for two very established programs, I felt really lucky to be given the opportunity to coach a new program at such a prestigious institution.

As coaches, we have the special opportunity to build relationships with our cadets and their families beginning during their sophomore year of high school and see them through well into their careers.

I feel honored to share this rare experience of building a program with these amazing and courageous women – to see them leave their legacy at a place with such long-standing traditions, to be the very first link in their own chain on the Coast Guard women’s lacrosse team.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear
Asst. Professor, Coast Guard Academy

“Hi! I’m Kim Young-McLear, a member of the permanent military faculty in the Electrical Engineering and Cyber Systems Section in the Engineering Department here at the Academy since 2014.

Before coming to the Academy, I served one tour in sector prevention, two tours in naval engineering, and one tour as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. These tours plus my formal degrees have prepared me to educate and mentor our future officer at the Academy.

I am passionate about education; helping young adults realize their fullest potential.

The Academy is a leadership and culture hub of the Coast Guard. I wanted to make a positive impact by inspiring a future generation to have more compassion, critical thinking, and moral courage.

I am passionate about cultural change. My team and I were selected in 2017 for the Capt. Neils Thomsen Innovation Award for Cultural Change following our work supporting the social media needs of the 2017 hurricane season.

Before this, in 2014, I spearheaded changes to the Coast Guard Uniform Manual, specifically ensuring that women of color are treated dignity and are permitted to wear natural hairstyles, such as dreadlocks. The Coast Guard was the first military branch to eliminate this ban. After this change, I worked tirelessly mentoring our sister branches to make their respective policy changes. The last branch to make the change was the Navy.

My wife and I were able to share this story with the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson at the National Naval Officers Association in August of 2018 after he cited his own policy change in his keynote remarks.

“I’m passionate about ensuring everybody is treated with dignity and can serve proudly as their authentic self, especially those who have and continue to be marginalized.”

Lt. Cmdr. Kimbery Young-McLear and Cmdr. Gale Young-McClear pose for a photo with the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson at the National Naval Officers Association in August 2018. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Lt. Cmdr. Kimbery Young-McLear and Cmdr. Gale Young-McLear pose for a photo with the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson at the National Naval Officers Association in August 2018. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Cmdr. Gale Young-McLear
Training Officer at the Leadership Development Center

“I am Cmdr. Gale Young-McLear, the training officer at the Leadership Development Center. I just reached my 20-year mark in the Coast Guard. Previously, I was an admissions officer at the Academy, and have spent half my career involved in some aspect of human resources, to include training, recruiting, and leader development.

I am also the proud wife of a superhero that has moral courage and wants nothing more than everyone to live in a world where he or she is valued, mutually respected, and allowed to be present in their full dignity.

As I approach the end of my active duty career in the Coast Guard, I continue to be inspired by the level of commitment I see from superheroes like my wife, Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear.

Those who uphold a sense of community, uplift the voices of the marginalized, develop others, and imagine a thriving future for those who come behind you even though it is a future that you yourself may never get to see.

I wake up every morning with the desire to be a better officer, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, godmother, cousin, friend, and community member because of how eloquently she models the way. I wake up every morning more faithful in the core values that we both share: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.

My favorite part about my current job is assisting others in reaching their goals and realizing their full potential.”

Lt. Alexis Davis poses for a photo at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Lt. Alexis Davis poses for a photo at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Lt. Alexis Davis
Public Affairs Officer

“I am Lt. Alexis A. Davis. I am the public affairs officer at the Academy and I have been in the Coast Guard for four years.

My first tour was on the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable where I served as one of two women on board.

I have always been interested in public affairs and when I learned that a position opened up here three years ago I jumped at the opportunity. The public affairs job at the Academy has allowed me to respond to crises like Hurricane Harvey and Michael, meet my fiancé who is serving as a communications strategist officer for the Marine Corps, and led to my younger sister deciding to serve.

Since coming here I have had the opportunity to serve alongside women who are strong and know what they want. I do not always agree with them, but my respect and admiration for these women of honor has only grown since I have arrived.

When I first joined the Coast Guard I was not sure if I wanted to make it a career, but since serving at the Academy I have begun to plan my next 16 years around the future jobs and goals that I want to achieve in the Coast Guard.”

Dr. Karen Wink poses for a photo at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Dr. Karen Wink poses for a photo at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Laughlin.

Dr. Karen Wink
Professor in the Government Department

“I’m Dr. Karen Wink, an English professor in my 20th year.

I have taught freshman and upper-class composition and literature courses, which I enjoy immensely.

This semester, I’m teaching a new course, Cultural Perspectives: Gender and Sexual Orientation, with 48 students who opted in to learn about identity.

I created the course to raise awareness in post-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era for future officers who will lead and serve diverse people.

My favorite parts of working at the Coast Guard Academy are strong friendships with colleagues and guiding cadets, they always surprise me with different perspectives!

Also, I’ve had several female mentors here, and I strive to mentor others in same way. I also enjoy yoga, hiking, plays, traveling, and spending time with my niece and nephews.”

Shaakira Hassell poses with two cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Shaakira Hassell poses with two cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Shaakira Hassell
Strength and Conditioning Coach

“I’m Shaakira Hassell, the Strength and Conditioning Coach at the Coast Guard Academy. I am the first African-American woman to lead a strength and conditioning program in college sports.

It’s not about being questioned ‘can you do the job?’, it is about doing the job without being questioned about being a woman.

Here at the Academy, I guide male and female cadets through rigorous training programs to help make the Academy stronger.

Both my parents were in the military. They were my backbone to help get me through the challenges and obstacles I have had to face. Both of them would remind me that I had never quit anything in my life so I should not start quitting now.

I played for both the Chicago Force and the Atlanta Xplosion of the Independent Women’s Football League and the Atlanta team won the 2006 IWFL Championship. I was also a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands Women’s National Basketball team practice squad.

Last year I was award the NFL’s Bill Walsh Minority and Diversity Fellowship, where I was able to spend the summer coaching the Carolina Panthers. I worked with the injured athletes during practice.

Being awarded the NFL’s Bill Walsh Minority and Diversity Fellowship means a great deal to me. I’ve been in the field of strength and conditioning for over 14 years and have put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get to where I am today. There are very few women, more specifically, women of color in this field at any level that hold a head strength and conditioning coach position and directly oversee football as well.

If you want to be successful in anything, remember that there will be challenges.

Don’t be afraid, and don’t be intimidated. If there is something that you really want to do, and are passionate about it, go for it!”

Do you know someone who embodies the Coast Guard Core Values of Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty? Please submit your nominations using the by emailing the Social Media team.

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