Rear Admiral Melissa Bert assumed duties as the Judge Advocate General and Chief Counsel of the Coast Guard in April 2020. She has the privilege to lead a dedicated group of legal professionals who are responsible for the delivery of all legal services in support of the Coast Guard's missions, its units and its people.
Her preceding flag assignment was as Director of Governmental and Public Affairs, where she synchronized the service’s external engagement with Congress, the media, and strategic partners and stakeholders. Prior to that, she was Deputy Director of Operations for the U.S. Northern Command overseeing homeland defense and defense support for civil authorities for North America, as well as theater security cooperation with Mexico and The Bahamas.
Before promotion to flag-rank in 2016, she distinguished herself in service in both legal and operational capacities. As a lawyer, she was Chief of the Coast Guard’s Maritime and International Law Office, supporting U.S. engagement with the International Maritime Organization and providing legal advice on a variety of policies – including the Law of the Sea, drug and migrant interdiction, homeland security, search and rescue, pollution response, port and vessel safety/security, counter-terrorism, Arctic policy, and environmental protection. She was also Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the Seventh District in Miami, FL and a Military Judge. For her legal expertise she was awarded the Young Military Lawyer of the Year for the Coast Guard by the American Bar Association in 1997 and the Judge Advocates Association Outstanding Career Armed Services Attorney Award in 2006.
Operationally, she was Chief of Staff for the Seventh Coast Guard District, responsible for oversight of Coast Guard operations in the Southeastern United States and Caribbean and was also privileged to Command Sector Juneau and direct mission execution in the unique environment of Southeastern Alaska. During the attacks of 9/11, she was the Operations Officer for Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach protecting one of the nation’s most valuable ports. She previously served aboard two cutters, including as Executive Officer of the Cutter Red Birch in Baltimore, Maryland.
Rear Admiral Bert is a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and George Washington University Law School. She has been a national security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a military fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York. She has taught as an adjunct professor at George Washington University and University of Miami Law School.
Her honors include the United Way American Values Award, the Joint Superior Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, and three Meritorious Service Medals. She is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Proctor in Admiralty in the United States Maritime Law Association and a Proctor in Admiralty in the United States Maritime Law Association. She is also the founder of the Women’s Leadership Initiative supporting mentoring and professional development for Coast Guard women in uniform and civilians.