Captain Zeta Merchant: Unveiling The First African American Woman To Be Promoted To Flag Rank In The 233-Year History Of The Coast Guard

by Gee NY

In a landmark achievement earlier this year, Captain Zeita Merchant received widespread recognition for her historic promotion to Rear Admiral (lower half) in the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

Notably, Captain Merchant is the first African American woman to be selected for flag rank in the Coast Guard’s 233-year history.

Captain Merchant, a 2011 BEYA (Black Engineer of the Year Awards) winner for K-12 promotion of education, boasts an illustrious career and currently serves as the commander of USCG Sector New York.

In this crucial role, she is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of one of the nation’s busiest and most economically significant port complexes.

Having held various positions at both operational and executive levels, Captain Merchant has earned recognition as an authority in maritime safety, security, and crisis management.

Her expertise extends to emergency management, where she has led large-scale, multi-jurisdictional incident responses across the nation.

One of her notable contributions was during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, where she served as a strategic planner for the first National Incident Command (NIC).

Her outstanding role during critical responses at sea has further solidified her reputation within the Coast Guard.

Captain Merchant’s operational expertise in marine incidents is equally commendable, having successfully managed scenarios such as an offshore collision of two loaded chemical tankers, a significant fuel spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and a joint interagency boarding resulting in the unit’s first-ever narcotic seizure valued at over $1.3 million.

Beyond her operational achievements, Captain Merchant holds an impressive academic background. She possesses a Doctorate of Business Administration, a Master of Quality Systems Management, a Master of Public Administration, and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from various institutions.

Additionally, she has honed her skills as a National Security Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Seminar XXI National Security and Foreign Affairs Fellow.

Captain Merchant is not only a trailblazer in her field but also an admirable role model. Her contributions extend to serving on the Maritime Industry Advisory Board of Texas Southern University’s Maritime Transportation Program, where she was a frequent guest speaker.

In her role as the Coast Guard’s Ambassador to the university, she played a vital role in enhancing outreach and recruitment of well-qualified students in science, engineering, technology, operations, logistics, and mathematics.

Captain Zeita Merchant stands as a testament to the dedication, excellence, and breaking barriers within the United States Coast Guard.

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