My name is LT Ximena Johnson and over the summer I had the opportunity to participate in the 2020 Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) as an Active Duty Partner, to provide information to high school students who expressed interest in applying to the Coast Guard Academy. My job was to provide a realistic view of the organization, the CGA, and my experience as a Hispanic female in the Coast Guard.
In each AIM week, there were approximately 65 students, divided into platoons led by a Cadre of Cadets. While attending AIM, students were able to learn about the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Academy. Normally the students would be at the Academy for one week to explore the campus and learn on-site about Academy life. However, because of the safety risks posed by COVID-19, the Coast Guard Academy Admissions Department developed a comprehensive and meticulous plan in which multiple virtual meetings were conducted via Microsoft Teams. Additionally, the AIM Cadre developed a series of high quality videos, designed to provide the students with fitness instructions, educational information about USCG history, missions, and life as a CGA cadet. I think the AIM Cadre and CGA Admissions successfully delivered useful information to the students, giving them the opportunity to learn about life in the Coast Guard, its missions, and the educational opportunities available at the CG Academy.
At a personal level, I learned a great deal about life as a cadet and about the selection process. I am still learning about many details pertaining to how future Officers from the Coast Guard Academy are selected and formed. Although being an Officer or being Enlisted depends on the “fit” of a person into either path, the Coast Guard Academy is a great option that offers a superior educational experience. During AIM week I learned that regardless of the source of commission, it is essential for active duty personnel to promote public’s awareness of the Coast Guard. It is just as important to promote all sources of entry and formation, to increase the pool of selection, and ensure we select the best quality of eligible persons. This is all to make sure that candidates have the information they need to make an educated decision that allow them to select accession options that best “fit” them. This will result in higher recruitment and retention for the service at large.
The history of Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Coast Guard may be traced as far back as early 1800s. Hispanic Americans performed duties at light house stations as keepers and assistant keepers, such as Keeper José A. Ramirez, who was the Head Keeper of the Windward Point Light Station in Cuba, prior to World War II. Others served on board Revenue Service cutters and as surfmen at Life-Saving Service stations along the coast. Many gave their lives in the performance of their duties and others were decorated for their heroism.
In 1914, Hispanics sailed on the Revenue Cutter Algonquin. The cutter was stationed in the Caribbean and assisted the city of San Juan twice. In 1920, after the formation of the Coast Guard, two Hispanic crewman of the cutter Acushnet, Mess Attendant First Class Arthur J. Flores and SN John E. Gomez, volunteered to save survivors of the schooner Isaiah K. Stetsen, which sank off the coast of Massachusetts during a storm. The Treasury Department awarded both of them the Silver Lifesaving Medal for their heroism.
Many served with distinction during World War II as well. The Sanjuan family, including the father, Vivencio, and two of his sons served in the Coast Guard. Vivencio Sanjuan served on board the Coast Guard-manned attack transport USS Samuel Chase during the invasions of North Africa and then Salerno, Italy. His son, Pedro, was stationed on board the attack transport USS Bayfield and saw service during the Normandy invasion and the invasion of Southern France as well. Another son, Ramon, served on board four Coast Guard cutters during his career and retired from the service in 1969. Another son, William, served in the Coast Guard in the Vietnam conflict. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a combat injury received while under a Viet Cong mortar attack.
Periodically we will post and recognize prominent Hispanics who were trailblazers.
Article can be found at https://www.history.uscg.mil/Browse-by-Topic/Notable-People/Minorities/Hispanic-Americans/.