In 2008, Christine Igisomar became the first Chamorro woman to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. (The Chamorros are indigenous Pacific Islanders from the Mariana Archipelago.) Igisomar followed in the footsteps of Juan T. Salas, who was the first Chamorro man to graduate from that military service academy; he graduated from there in 1968, and went on to become the first Chamorro to reach the rank of commanding officer in the Coast Guard.
Igisomar is specifically a native of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), which consists of the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago. As with many other CNMI residents, she has been an American citizen since birth as the result of an agreement negotiated with the United States in 1976. Igisomar grew up on Saipan, the largest of CNMI’s islands.
Igisomar enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2002 and subsequently underwent boot camp training in Cape May, New Jersey. She served for a year as a fireman (engineer) on a cutter in Seattle before being selected to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island.
Igisomar entered the Coast Guard Academy in 2004. After graduating from there four years later with both her officer’s commission and a bachelor of science degree in government, she reported for duty on board the Honolulu-based cutter USCGC Jarvis. Igisomar served on that vessel as a deck watch officer and, over the course of two years, spent much of her time on patrols along Alaska and Central America and also in the South Pacific.
Between 2010 and 2013, Igisomar was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, as a contingency planner for the Coast Guard. It was during her time there that she earned a master’s degree in public administration (with an emphasis in government and public policy) through an online program of Grand Canyon University.
From 2013 to 2015, Igisomar was stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia, as part of the Coast Guard’s International Port Security Program. She served as the program’s liaison to a total of nine countries throughout South America and the Caribbean. Igisomar met regularly with government officials, port managers, and coast guard commanders in each of those countries to help assess their respective port security measures. Her next assignment involved serving as a command duty officer for the Coast Guard in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area from 2015 to 2018. In 2019, Igisomar attained another milestone when she was promoted to lieutenant commander. She became the first Chamorro woman to achieve that rank in the Coast Guard.
In addition, Igisomar has strongly championed diversity within the Coast Guard. “Asians and Pacific Islanders want to be a part of something great,” she has stated when discussing this priority. “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.” Igisomar’s advocacy efforts were formally recognized by the nonprofit organization Federal Asian Pacific American Council, which presented her with its Military Meritorious Service Award in 2016.
Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Additional information on the legacy of Pacific Island Americans in the U.S. Coast Guard is available at https://media.defense.gov/2020/May/19/2002302393/-1/-1/0/USCG_PACIFIC-ISLANDER_AMERICAN_CHRONOLOGY_MAY%2016,%202020.PDF