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Civil Rights News | May 29, 2024

Bridging Island Spirit with Coast Guard Teamwork

By Patrick Ferraris, Civil Rights Directorate

“In the islands, we say, ‘It takes a village.’ In the Coast Guard, we say, ‘It takes a team’ to achieve mission success,” Petty Officer Second Class Vinnesha Blas, remarked.  

These two ideals, echoed from island roots to the armed forces, pair in a perfect harmony that fully epitomizes Blas’ dedication to community, service, and teamwork.  

Born in Barigada, Guam and raised in both Guam and Hawaii, Blas joined the Coast Guard in 2018. She recounts memories of spending her birthdays with her family at Guam’s annual “Liberation Day Parade,” which commemorates the nation’s liberation from Japanese occupation on July 21st, 1944. These memories became the seeds of Blas’ dream to serve in the U.S. military, but she just wasn’t sure which branch. A current member of the Coast Guard and one of her mentors, Lt. Cmdr. Christine Igisomar, ultimately inspired her to join the Coast Guard.  

For Blas, the communal mentality of the Coast Guard instantly felt recognizable, almost as if it were a second home. 

“I have been able to integrate the two during my time in the Coast Guard,” Blas said of the shared emphasis on community that both her culture and the Coast Guard embrace. “That perspective of teamwork has allowed me to forge meaningful connections with people and work effectively within the Coast Guard and throughout my career so far.” 

Her exceptional performance and leadership have garnered recognition, culminating in the prestigious 2024 Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC) Uniformed Service Award. Blas has dedicated herself to elevating awareness of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community within the Coast Guard, particularly while serving as the Executive Secretary of FAPAC-USCG.  

Blas’ dedication to serving others, rooted in her from her upbringing and her own community experiences, have served as a perfect pairing for the initiatives and focus of the Coast Guard, and she has continually worked to uphold the intertwined notions that her home and service have instilled within her. For Blas, such efforts have always been second nature, and the recognition they have earned her came as a celebrated surprise. 

“I was shocked when I found out I received the award,” she stated. “I felt humbled and honored that my command and FAPAC leadership felt it appropriate to recognize me for my efforts within this organization,” she continued. 

“I do the things that I do because I believe in FAPAC’s mission, which is to create a sense of belonging for those within the AANHPI community and provide mentorship and professional development opportunities for others; not for recognition.  

FAPAC recognized Blas during the 39th National Leadership Training Program on May 8, 2024 in Leesburg, VA. The FAPAC Uniformed Services Award honors military members who have made significant contributions to the advancement and promotion of AANHPI members within their respective services.  

The Coast Guard’s Civil Rights awards helps to maximize the Service's overall mission effectiveness through recognition of members' accomplishments and contributions to Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity in minority communities and Partnership in Education (PIE) programs. You can learn more and nominate deserving individuals when nomination periods are open by visiting the Civil Rights Awards website

FAPAC-USCG is a non-profit organization and Coast Guard affinity group dedicated to the AANHPI workforce and community. You can visit to learn more about the growing FAPAC-USCG community. 

You can also read more about Blas’ achievements in ALCOAST 209/24