First African American woman takes command of Chicago Coast Guard unit

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Friday, July 8, 2016
Cmdr. Zeita Merchant, left, is the first African American woman to lead a Coast Guard marine safety unit, and the first woman to lead Chicago's marine safety unit.

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- Chicago's Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit has a barrier-breaking new commander.

A Change of Command ceremony was held Friday in Bolingbrook for Cmdr. Zeita Merchant. She is now the first African American woman commanding officer to lead a Marine Safety Unit, as well as the first woman to lead Chicago's Marine Safety Unit.

Merchant was born in Chicago and raised in Jackson, Miss. She has served in the Coast Guard for 19 years and is a Type-I Incident Commander and recognized authority in the Marine Safety and Environmental Management field, the Coast Guard says. She previously served as Special Assistant to the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, as well as Executive Officer of Marine Safety Unit Texas City.