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U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) has issued a statement congratulating Captain Zeita Merchant on her historic appointment as Rear Admiral (lower half) in the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

Captain Merchant, a 2011 BEYA winner for K-12 promotion of education, is the first African American woman to be selected for Flag rank in the Coast Guard’s 233-year history.

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Captain Merchant has had an illustrious career, currently serving as the commander of USCG Sector New York, where she is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of one of the busiest and most economically significant port complexes in the country.

She has held various positions at the operational and executive levels, earning recognition as an authority in maritime safety, security, and crisis management. She is also one of the Coast Guard’s top emergency managers, having led large-scale, multi-jurisdictional incident responses across the nation.

Captain Merchant has received recognition for her outstanding role during critical responses at sea, including her selection as a strategic planner for the first National Incident Command (NIC) for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Furthermore, she has demonstrated exceptional operational expertise in marine incidents, such as an offshore collision of two loaded chemical tankers, a 1,900-gallon heavy fuel oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and a joint interagency boarding on a foreign vessel that resulted in the unit’s first-ever narcotic seizure valued at over $1.3 million.

In addition to her operational expertise, Captain Merchant holds 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.

She has also served 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.

Aside from her operational excellence, Captain Merchant is also an admirable role model. She served on the Maritime Industry Advisory Board of Texas Southern University’s Maritime Transportation Program and was a frequent guest speaker.

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

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