In 1968, Juan T. Salas became the first Chamorro to graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) in New London, Connecticut. The Chamorros are indigenous Pacific Islanders from the Mariana Archipelago. Salas grew up in the village of Piti on the western coast of Guam, a U.S. territory that is the largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Archipelago. The Guam Organic Act of 1950 granted U.S. citizenship to that territory’s residents.
Salas graduated from the USCGA with both his officer’s commission and a B.S. degree in general naval engineering. He went on to earn a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Salas became the first Chamorro to serve as commander of a USCG cutter when he took command of USCGC Lipan (WMEC-85) in 1986. He eventually received several notable awards — including three meritorious unit commendations — during his long and trailblazing USCG career.
In 2008, Christine Igisomar followed in Salas’s footsteps when she became the first Chamorro woman to graduate from the USCGA. Igisomar grew up on Saipan, the largest island of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago).
Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard
Additional information on pioneering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. Coast Guard is available at https://media.defense.gov/2019/Sep/16/2002183004/-1/-1/0/ASIANPACIFICAMERICANS_SEPT%202019.PDF