A native of St. Petersburg, FL, Admiral Paul Alexander Yost Jr. became the 18th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard on 30 May 1986. He was nominated to that position while serving as Commander of the Atlantic Area, Commander Maritime Defense Zone Atlantic and Commander Third Coast Guard District in New York City where he was assigned in 1984.
In these roles the Admiral was responsible for Coast Guard operations in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico including drug interdiction, maritime law enforcement and search and rescue, as well as maritime coastal defense under the authority of the Commander Atlantic Fleet, United States Navy. Prior to his Third District assignment, Admiral Yost was Chief of Staff of Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC. For three years he managed planning, programming and budgeting for the service. He was promoted to flag rank in 1978 and served three years as Eighth District Commander in New Orleans.
Admiral Yost’s management and operational positions included Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations for Seventeenth Coast Guard District in Alaska in 1975. He was also Commander, Task Group 115.3, a combat command in Vietnam, in 1969. In addition, he served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary Department of Transportation, and as alternate delegate on the U.S. Law of the Sea Delegation. In 1974 Yost was Captain of the Port, Seattle. He was also Special Assistant to the Chief Counsel, Coast Guard Headquarters in 1972 and Chief, Bridge Branch, Aids to Navigation Division in 1970. Seagoing duty included command of the Coast Guard Cutter RESOLUTE in San Francisco in 1966.
In addition to his Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1951, Admiral Yost had a number of other educational achievements. These include two Masters degrees. The first in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1959, the other in International Affairs from George Washington University, Washington, DC in 1964. He also completed course work toward a Masters in Business Administration and graduated from the Naval War College at Newport, RI in 1964.
During his tenure as Commandant, Admiral Yost successfully maintained the service through difficult budget battles each year. In doing so, he also emphasized three 'primary mission areas": maritime law enforcement, maritime safety, and defense readiness. There was an increased emphasis on military/naval capabilities of the service. The best example of this was the addition of Harpoon missile launchers to the High Endurance Cutters. The Coast Guard also initiated a "zero tolerance" policy in 1988, thereby escalating the war on drug smuggling. The USCG also supported operations such as Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) and increased its cooperation with Customs, DoD, DEA and international law enforcement agencies and foreign military/naval forces. Admiral Yost oversaw the C3I centers that supported the closer cooperation to interdict drug smuggling operations.
The service also took a greater role internationally. For example, the Coast Guard established a presence in the Persian Gulf assisting in the re-flagging of Kuwaiti tankers during the Iran-Iraq War. There was also increased cooperation with the Soviet Union regarding pollution response and search and rescue and the US and USSR signed a joint SAR agreement, insuring closer working ties between the USCG and the Soviet Border Guards (KGB).
Admiral Yost also oversaw the Coast Guard’s response to several disasters. These included Hurricane Gilbert that hit the 8th USCG District and Hurricane Hugo, one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the US. The Coast Guard also rendered assistance with the 1989 earthquake in Northern California. In addition to these natural disasters, the service responded to man-made ones as well. There was the American Trader oil spill off Southern California and that of the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound. This latter disaster led directly to increased Coast Guard responsibilities for oil tanker regulation and environmental protection with Congress’ passage of the Oil Protection Act in August 1990. [OPA 90 was adopted during ADM Kime's tenure]
Admiral Yost’s awards included two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit Medal with combat "V", with a gold star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Korean Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal. He also received the Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star (RVN), the Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Distinguished Service Medal (RVN).