Asian-American Pacific Islander Transportation History: Rear Admiral Joseph M. Vojvodich, US Coast Guard

In 2014, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Captain Joseph M. Vojvodich became the USCG’s first Asian-American flag officer when he was promoted to rear admiral. (A flag officer is a commissioned officer who is senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which he or she exercises command.) Vojvodich (pronounced VAH-vah-ditch) had been born in South Korea in 1963 to Su Cha (Mun) Vojvodich, a native of the country; and her husband Joseph Vojvodich, a U.S. Army soldier of Serbian descent who was stationed in South Korea at the time.

While born in South Korea, Vojvodich spent most of his childhood in Richmond, Ohio. His pursuit of a USCG career took shape by accident during his high school years. It all began while he was in a guidance counselor’s office in search of material about the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA). As Vojvodich was reaching for a USNA brochure on a shelf in the office, one of the catalogs on that shelf fell to the floor and he bent down to pick up the material. “It was a catalog for the Coast Guard Academy, which I never heard of before,” he recalled. “‘Save live and stop drugs’ sounded appealing to me, and that moment was my introduction to the Coast Guard.”

In 1985, Vojvodich graduated with honors from the USCG Academy with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering. He went on to earn an M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University.

During a ceremony marking his promotion to rear admiral, Vojvodich emphasized his strong appreciation for both the USCG and his own family. “Each of my previous promotions brought a wonderful feeling that I could stay a little longer in the Coast Guard, again with a finite opportunity to make a difference in the lives of shipmates and for the public who we serve,” he stated. “For this particular promotion, I have had the added overwhelming feeling of gratefulness, to be able to serve in an organization that provides real value and is appreciated by the maritime public who understands the importance of the Coast Guard; to have a family who stands firmly behind every single accomplishment that I have ever had; to be raised by parents who have a strong work ethic and passed along grounded values that proved to be very congruent with Coast Guard service; and to be able to live in a country that affords so many opportunities.”

Vojvodich also took time during his remarks at the ceremony to acknowledge the many congratulations he had received from his fellow Korean-Americans in the USCG. He said, “I know that they are excited for me, but I also know that the promotion represents a significant milestone for them as well.”

Vojvodich’s assignments since being promoted to rear admiral have included serving as commander of Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound. In this capacity, he oversaw such priorities as search-and-rescue missions, environmental protection efforts, inspections of domestic and foreign vessels, icebreaking duties, and fisheries enforcement operations for coastal Connecticut, Long Island Sound, and waters extending 200 miles (370.4 kilometers) offshore. Vojvodich currently serves as the deputy for mission support at USCG headquarters. This segment of the USCG is responsible for that military branch’s overall staffing, training, and equipping needs.

For more information on U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Rear Admiral Joseph M. Vojvodich, please check out https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Portals/10/senior_leaders/bio/JosephVojvodich.pdf.

Additional information on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders who have been pioneers in the USCG is available at https://media.defense.gov/2018/May/30/2001924350/-1/-1/0/ASIANPACIFICCHRONOLOGY.PDF.

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