CAPT Margaret R. Riley

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On 8 June 1973, OCS Class 2-73 graduated from their training at Yorktown, Virginia.
The entire class was twenty-nine strong. In their ranks at graduation for the first time were five women. One of those women graduates was Margaret R. Riley. During
her thirty-year career CAPT Riley served as the Executive Officer of the Integrated
Support Command, Boston, Massachusetts and was later assigned to the Coast
Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC. She also served as the Commanding Officer
of the Supply Center, Baltimore, Maryland; and the Commanding Officer of the
Integrated Support Command, Boston and retired in 2003 as Director of the
Leadership Development Center at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London,

CAPT Riley died in January 2008 following a long illness.

We honor you, Margaret Riley.

(#Repost @Coast Guard Women in History)

SPAR Dolores (Denfeld) Schubilske

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When Dolores (Denfeld) Schubilske enlisted in the Coast Guard, the United States was already into its third year of World War II. Bloody battles were being fought throughout Europe and the Pacific while hundreds of thousands of men were giving their lives in different parts of the world to combat the spread of tyranny.

Meanwhile, all across America, women were doing their part contributing to the war efforts by collecting rationed goods, selling war bonds, and working in factories building much-need parts and equipment for the war.

Women were also enlisting in the armed services to fill roles here at home to allow more men to serve overseas.

Schubilske, born in 1924 in Wausau, Wis., grew up with three brothers and one sister on her parents’ farm. After high school, she moved 200 miles southwest to Milwaukee, where she landed a job as a seamstress, sewing parachutes. Throughout her stint of almost two years with the company, she thought her hard work of repairing the material was for servicemen who jumped out of airplanes. In reality, she later learned what the parachutes she and the company were making were really used for.

“It wasn’t until much later when I learned that the parachutes were used to slow the fall of the bombs while the aircraft safely escaped the blast areas,” Schubilske said.

While living and working in Milwaukee and seeing Coast Guard Station Milwaukee on occasion, Schubilske developed an interest in the Coast Guard. So much so that on Aug. 4, 1944, on her 20th birthday and on the 154th birthday of the Coast Guard, she joined the Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserves – SPARs – created by Congress in November 1942.

Like everyone else who joined the service, Schubilske went off to boot camp. Not your traditional boot camp, though. She shipped off to Palm Beach, Fla, to the Biltmore Hotel, one of the most fashionable resorts in the country at that time. However, the War Department had taken over the Biltmore and other upscale hotels in Florida during the war and transformed them into training facilities and hospitals. The Biltmore was used for the first dedicated school for SPARs, and then in mid-1945, as a naval hospital. By the conclusion of the war, more than 7,000 SPARs had been trained at the Biltmore.

The Biltmore was anything but a resort for Schubilske and 39 other women.

“We spent six weeks marching, crawling, training, exercising, and swimming, among other things. Everything you would do at a boot camp”

Straight from her training, she reported to “A” school in Lakehurst, N.J. where, because of her experience as a civilian with parachutes, she entered the parachute rigger rating. She was one of only six women among 200 members in her class.

After three months in “A” school, Schubilske, then a parachute rigger third class, landed at Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., where she spent the next several months until the end of the war with about 15 other parachute riggers, all women, packing parachutes for jumpers and for air sea rescue packages that were dropped from the back of airplanes. There were only 18 women in the entire Coast Guard rated as parachute riggers.

“We had to climb up a ladder everyday to get to the top deck to where we packed the chutes,” Schubilske remembered. “Our instructors eventually tested the chutes we packed. We were not allowed to jump out of planes in order to test the parachutes. They were the only ones who could do that.”

Asked if she would have jumped if given the opportunity, she replied, “I definitely would have.”

World War II ended in 1945 beginning with Germany’s surrender in May and Japan’s surrender in September. In the subsequent months as servicemen returned home from overseas, servicemembers here at home were also being demobilized, including the SPARS. The Women’s Reserve was originally established to augment the Coast Guard during the war and remain active for six months afterward.

Schubilske was honorably discharged in Detroit on March 21, 1946 along with many other men and women.

“I was disappointed that the Coast Guard would not allow women to remain,” she said. “I could have joined the Navy at that time because they were allowing women to remain affiliated, but I didn’t want to join the Navy.”

Schubilske moved back to Milwaukee where she married and started a family. When her husband passed away of cancer when they were both in their late 40s, she raised three boys and three girls by herself in the same house she lives in today.

Almost 70 years after being discharged, Schubilske still speaks highly of the Coast Guard and is extremely proud of her involvement as a member of the Women’s Reserve and her service to her country. You can see it in her eyes, and hear it in her voice as she proudly displays photo albums and tells stories of her days as a SPAR.

Today, she remains active with other service personnel from the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines as a member of a local WAVES organization – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – the Navy’s reserve organization for women during the war.

She also volunteers at a local senior citizens’ house, enjoys a hobby of cutting stones and making them into jewelry, and at the age of 89 she still travels extensively with family and friends. In 2010, she traveled to Pascagoula, Miss., to attend the christening of the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, named after Capt. Dorothy Stratton, the first woman to serve as a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard. Two years later, she was present in Alameda, Calif., for the cutter’s commissioning. Although inclement weather on Coast Guard Island during the commissioning caused the SPARs to remain on buses, it was an event and a moment to remember.

“It was a thrill to be part of the commissioning and to have our picture taken with the first lady, Michelle Obama,” recalls Schubilske. “It was so nice of her to come onto our buses and spend time with us.”

Earlier this year, Schubilske elected to ensure her legacy remains an important part of Coast Guard history by donating her uniform back to the Coast Guard, where it will soon be on display at the Coast Guard 9th District offices in Cleveland.  She said she didn’t want to give it to an organization or museum and risk having it just sit in a box.

As a major milestone approaches next year, you can be sure Dolores Schubilske will continue to remain active with her family, friends and country, proudly sharing cherished memories as a parachute rigger in the U.S. Coast Guard.

We honor you, Dolores Denfeld.

(#Repost @Coast Guard: Great Lakes)

Lieutenant Commander Holly R. Harrison

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War: Iraq War, 2003-2011

Branch: Coast Guard

Unit: USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309); USCGC Kiska (WPB 1336); USCGC Storis (WMEC 38)
Service Location: Manama, Bahrain; Khawr Abd Allah River; Al Faw Peninsula; Khawr Al Amaya; Mina Al Baker Oil Terminals; Kodiak, Alaska; Hilo, Hawaii; Washington, DC; Yorktown, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina

Lieutenant Commander Holly Harrison is the first woman in the United States Coast Guard to earn the Bronze Star. In charge of the 110 ft. cutter Aquidneck during Operation Iraqi Freedom, she and her small crew patrolled the Khawr Abd Allah waterway separating Iraq and Kuwait. In addition to providing protection and assistance to other US vessels, they searched and boarded everything on the river to ensure that embargoed oil, terrorists, or weapons were not getting through. This was all the while navigating waters that were poorly charted, often treacherously shallow, and frequently mined. Harrison became executive officer of the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy after her return from the Persian Gulf.

We honor you, Holly Harrison.

(#Repost @



CAPT Dorothy Stratton

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In 1942 Stratton took a leave of absence from Purdue University and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Naval Reserve, which was also known as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service). She later credited Lillian Moller Gilbreth, professor of engineering at Purdue, for encouraging her to join the military, but she also recalled that she was willing “to do whatever I could to serve my country” and did not need much encouragement. Stratton was among the members of the first class of the U.S. Naval Training Station at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After completing her initial training, she briefly served as Assistant to the Commanding Officer of the radio school for WAVES at Madison, Wisconsin.

In November 1942, after Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an amendment to Public Law 773 to create a women’s reserve for the U.S. Coast Guard, Stratton became the first woman to be accepted into the new program. She was immediately transferred from the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Coast Guard and was sent to the office of the Commandant of the Coast Guard in Washington, D.C. to organize the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve. Stratton was appointed the first director of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander, and became the first woman commissioned an officer in U.S. Coast Guard. She rose through the ranks and in February 1944 promoted to the rank of captain.

Stratton developed Coast Guard Women’s Reserve program and gave it the name of SPAR, an acronym created from the Coast Guard motto, Semper Paratus, and its English translation, Always Ready. As director of the SPARs, a position that Stratton held until 1946, her primary role was to originate policies for SPARs that related to procurement, training, utilization, and maintenance of its members’ morale. She oversaw significant growth in the program. More than 10,000 enlisted women and 1,000 commissioned officers served as SPARs in the remaining years of the war.

Stratton retired from the military in January 1946. By June 30, 1946, the SPARS were demobilized. Stratton remained proud of the fact that the U.S. Coast Guard used the highest percentage of women of any of the military branch of services during the war.

We honor you, Dorothy Stratton.

(#Repost @Wikipedia)

CAPT Eleanor L’Ecuyer

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Frustrated by her clerical work as a civilian in 1944, Eleanor C. L’Ecuyer volunteered to join the Coast Guard in Boston, in the midst of her workday at Boston Edison Company.

“I went for a walk at the suggestion of my boss and came back a member of the Coast Guard,” she said beaming, some seven decades later.

L’Ecuyer, 90, served as a pharmacist’s mate at Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, Wash., until her discharge in 1946. While many women made their personal marks upon the Coast Guard, L’Ecuyer, an articulate gal with a sharp wit, forever impacted policies and increased opportunities for women serving in the Coast Guard.

Following her discharge after the war, L’Ecuyer returned to Boston, activating her G.I. Bill benefits and earning a law degree at Suffolk University. But finding employment as a female attorney proved challenging against the backdrop of 1950. Marriage and birthrates were increasing in post-war America. A postage stamp cost $.03, a dozen eggs $.65, the average household income was $3, 216 and the average home cost $14, 500. While nearly one million women entered the workforce each year, most found employment in the clerical field.

A few months passed while the venerable L’Ecuyer took a slew of physical exams. Ironically, on Apr. 1, 1951, she received two letters bearing good news.

“First I learned I’d passed the Coast Guard test,” she said. “Later that day, I learned I’d passed the Massachusetts Bar.”

Ensign L’Ecuyer was told she’d received a commission, but women could not attend Officer Candidate School. “Eventually, someone realized I was a lawyer, and I was promoted to lieutenant junior grade,” she said.

Assigned to Washington, D.C., she became the first female attorney hired by the United States Coast Guard, though she did not directly serve in that role. Her legal training would serve her – and future generations of female Coasties – very well. She wrote successful challenges to several policies that would increase career potential for women in the Coast Guard. One was her determination that being pregnant was not a disabling condition and therefore, should not be grounds for discharging women. Another was that couples should be allowed to co-locate. Another challenge she filed questioned the policy limiting women to serving only 20 years.

“After that one, the commandant asked if I had any other paperwork I might want to follow,” said L’Ecuyer, smiling.

She served until 1971, rising to the rank of captain – the highest rank a woman could achieve at the time. She also holds the distinction of being the longest serving SPAR. Yet, when asked if she realized how her determinations had impacted future generations, she turned reflective.

“It was the right thing to do, and the time had come” she said. “I put my law degree to good use.”

We honor you, Eleanor L’Ecuyer.

(#Repost @Coast Guard Compass)