JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington, D.C. –
Throughout history, women have made significant contributions to the U.S. military, breaking barriers and shattering stereotypes along the way. One of the many women making history in the U.S. Coast Guard is Lt. Cmdr. Cathleen Giguere, commanding officer at Coast Guard Station Washington.
Giguere is the youngest of three sisters. Her family moved around frequently while she was growing up because her father was a pilot in the Coast Guard. When it was time to look at colleges, her father suggested to Giguere to look into the Coast Guard Academy.
“I knew that if I didn't try to go to the Coast Guard Academy and live this life of public service that I would have regrets because it was such a mission greater than anything I'd ever experienced before.”
After touring the Academy, she realized she wanted to pursue a career in the Coast Guard that would provide the opportunities to fulfill her dreams.
"I was so drawn to the Coast Guard's particular missions of environmental response and life-saving,” said Giguere. “There were just so many positive feelings associated with the Coast Guard's missions. So that felt like I was really checking all the boxes of the things that I wanted to see and do with my life.”
Giguere acknowledged that even though she’s had great opportunities in the Coast Guard, there are challenges for women in the military. This includes a lack of representation in leadership positions. However, she also feels the Coast Guard is making good progress to create an inclusive environment for women.
"In my 10 years, I’ve never had a female leader,” she explained. “I think the Coast Guard does a great job of creating a really welcoming and inclusive climate for women. What's great about the Coast Guard now, is we now have a commandant who is a woman, the first military branch leader. That's a pretty exciting representation at the highest level in that regard. So I think we're definitely building in the right direction.”
Now as a commanding officer herself, Giguere prioritizes the well-being of her crew and views them as family. She believes that taking care of oneself is key to being an effective member of the Coast Guard.
"We can't be the Coast Guard men and women that we need to be if we're not taking care of ourselves at home,” she said. “Taking care of your mental and physical well-being is key. I make sure that I take time for my physical health, I take leave and go visit my family, and spend time at home with my husband and my dog. I try to set that example and identify in my team, in my leaders, when they need to take a break and try to remind them of that as well.”
Giguere's passion for helping people is what motivates her as a commanding officer. She believes that finding a community is essential, whether it's through mentors, coworkers, or friends.
"I think that the first key is to find your community,” said Giguere. “It doesn't have to be a long-term mentor, people who you are stationed with; your community can be anyone. I have women that I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with who I reach out to and talk to. Sharing experiences or venting to them, having that community is really key and continuing to build it.”
Retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. G.L. Tomasulo, Giguere’s former commander at Coast Guard Sector Charleston, said she was one of the most capable officers he had the pleasure to serve with.
"She’s never content to settle for achieving the acceptable standard,” said Tomasulo. “She immersed herself in every aspect of the Coast Guard and consistently led well above her pay grade."