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“It goes back to what my mother had said, “Nothing’s going to change unless you do it.” (Audio interview, 25:22)

   Vincent William Patton, III
Image of Vincent William Patton, III
Vincent Patton III in uniform
War: Persian Gulf War Era, 1990-2001; Cold War
Branch: Coast Guard
Unit: Joint Task Force
Service Location: Cape May, New Jersey; Petaluma, California; New York City, New York; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, DC; Portsmouth, Virginia; Port au Prince, Haiti; Auckland, New Zealand
Rank: Master Chief Petty Officer
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Inspired by his older brother, Vincent William Patton III attempted to enlist in the Navy in 1972—only to mistakenly walk into the Coast Guard recruiting office. Following a discussion with his parents, he committed whole-heartedly to the Coast Guard, despite the racist treatment he received aboard ship during the earliest years of his career. Rising in the ranks, he was chosen as a senior enlisted advisor on a joint task force to send troops into Haiti —the first person from the Coast Guard to ever serve in such a capacity. From 1998 to 2002, he served as Master Chief of the Coast Guard, and focused his tenure on developing a branch-wide culture of diversity and support for Coast Guards of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (95 min.)
 Other Materials
»Biographical information
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»Cold War Dispatches: Service Stories from 1947-1991
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Mistaking Coast Guard recruiter’s office for Navy recruiter’s office; too embarrassed to walk out; conversation with white recruiter; deciding to join Coast Guard in order to bring change to a majority white service branch. (06:38) Skill at Morse code; transferred to a high endurance cutter doing fisheries patrols in the North Atlantic; listening in on Morse code traffic from Soviet trawlers. (03:29) Assigned to recruiting duty; lone Coast Guard recruiter in Chicago; difficulty of job. (04:15)
Serving with a racist chief aboard ship; taking correspondence courses; doing well in school was the best revenge. (06:03) Coordinating one of the largest drug seizures on the Pacific Coast. (03:49) Selected as the senior enlisted advisor on a joint task force to coordinate sending troops to Haiti; first person in the Coast Guard to ever hold such a position; approach to service in Haiti. (07:11)
Becoming Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard; developing a platform of diversity and inclusion; challenges in shifting the culture; perspective on military discrimination against LGBT service members. (07:31)  

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  October 26, 2011
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