Captain Zeita Merchant, Zeita Merchant, U.S. Coast Guard

Zeita Merchant Shatters Glass Ceiling As First Black Woman Admiral In U.S. Coast Guard

In April, Merchant will command one of the nation’s busiest and most economically vital port complexes as an admiral for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Jackson, Mississippi, native Zeita Merchant will etch her name in the annals of history this April when she becomes the first Black woman to reach the rank of admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard’s 233-year existence.

The decorated captain, currently Commander, USCG Sector New York, will take the helm of the Port of New York as Rear Admiral, according to HBCU Buzz.

Merchant moved to Jackson from Chicago with her family in the mid-1980s, where her parents instilled values of community service and family even in the face of economic challenges. Her path to the Coast Guard was unexpected; she initially wanted to become a doctor. However, financial constraints steered her in a different direction.

“I always had this passion for service, but I never thought it would be in the form of military service,” Merchant said.

The Coast Guard’s College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative, a scholarship program, opened doors for her, and what was meant to be a temporary commitment blossomed into a 27-year career.

“I really feel like this is God’s plan and not my plan,” she said. “…This is another door that has opened for me, and the sky’s the limit.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Merchant stands as a beacon of excellence in maritime safety, security, and crisis management. She assumed her position as Commander, USCG Sector New York, in May 2021, overseeing all Coast Guard missions at one of the nation’s most economically vital port complexes.

Merchant’s expertise extends far beyond her current command. She has served in a diverse array of assignments at both operational and executive levels, earning her recognition as one of the Coast Guard’s preeminent emergency managers.

Merchant’s impressive resume includes influential staff assignments such as Special Assistant to the 27th and 28th Vice Commandants of the Coast Guard, Congressional Fellow on the Committee of Oversight and Reform and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Executive Strategic Planner for the Coast Guard Flag and Senior Executive Service Corps.

Her academic credentials include a doctorate of business administration and master of quality systems management from the National Graduate School at New England Institute of Business, a master of public administration from George Washington University, and a bachelor of science in biology from Tougaloo College.

Merchant also graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Education Leadership in Homeland Security course and was Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Seminar XXI National Security and Foreign Affairs Fellow.