Female Petty Officer Becomes the Coast Guard's Newest Surfman

Photo by Deborah Heldt Cordone, USCGAUX PA3

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Sierra Schlager, from Station Siuslaw River in Florence, obtained the highest qualification a Coxswain can achieve in the Coast Guard

May 4, 2019 — This past Wednesday, May 1, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Sierra Schlager, from Station Siuslaw River in Florence, was pinned Surfman No. 549, obtaining the highest qualification a Coxswain can achieve in the Coast Guard. Surfmen operate under extreme weather and sea conditions, and are qualified to take out a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat in 20-foot breaking surf, 30-foot seas and 50-knot winds.

Receiving the Surfman designation puts BM2 Schlager in an elite group. She is not only the 549th listing in the Coast Guard Register of Surfmen, but one of only 12 females to ever receive the designation in Coast Guard history. She is one of eight women Surfmen active in the service (of about 200), and the very first female Surfman from Station Siuslaw River.

Command Cadre from USCG Sector North Bend, Coast Guard Surfmen from along the west coast, Station shipmates, family and friends converged at Station Siuslaw River to honor and welcome BM2 Schlager to the Surfman ranks during this time-honored ceremony. Fellow Surfmen, which numbered a remarkable 33 members, came from as far as Station Golden Gate and Station Quillayute River, including her mentors BM1 Steve Atkinson (Station Umpqua River) and BM1 Shawn Marshall (Station Quillayute River). Mentor and Senior Chief Michael Carola (Station Quillayute River) could not attend.

Two other female Surfmen, Chief Warrant Officer Beth Slade and Petty Officer First Class Amber Archer, were also present. Captain Olav Saboe, Commander Sector North Bend and Senior Chief Jay Nilles, Officer-in-Charge at Station Siuslaw River, officiated.

BM2 Schlager, originally from Jamestown, ND, has served in the Coast Guard since 2008, working on her Surfmen qualifications for approximately five years. Previous assignments include Station Quillayute River in La Push, Wash., and Station Barnegat Light in New Jersey, transferring to Station Siuslaw River in 2015.

She “completed the arduous National Motor Lifeboat School Surfman course in February 2018, building upon previous training and experience, and returned to Station Siuslaw River to polish her skills,” said OIC BMCS Nilles. “After completing an underway evaluation and thorough oral examination and interview, she was technically certified as a 47-foot MLB Surfman on April 11, 2019.”

BM2 Schlager said she is “…humbled by the ceremony today and by the outpouring of support — earning their trust and the Surfman pin.”

 Her deeply imbued sense of mission is apparent when she refers to the long-standing and courageous Coast Guard adage of service before self. “The mariners depend on us in emergencies and we are always ready for those situations,” said Schlager, “and it is the mentorship and training that will allow me to respond to the best of my abilities.”

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