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"Being white and Coast Guard cutters, we have a little bit of a different reputation. And if that reputation being a humanitarian search and rescue type service [is] a little less threatening militarily, if that happened to get us in there so we can do the same missions without getting shot at, wonderful." (Video interview, 42:16)

   Holly R. Harrison
Collection image
Lt. Commander Holly Harrison [undated]
War: Iraq War, 2003-2011
Branch: Coast Guard
Unit: USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309); USCGC Kiska (WPB 1336); USCGC Storis (WMEC 38)
Service Location: Manama, Bahrain; Khawr Abd Allah River; Al Faw Peninsula; Khawr Al Amaya; Mina Al Baker Oil Terminals; Kodiak, Alaska; Hilo, Hawaii; Washington, DC; Yorktown, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
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Lieutenant Commander Holly Harrison is the first woman in the United States Coast Guard to earn the Bronze Star. In charge of the 110 ft. cutter Aquidneck during Operation Iraqi Freedom, she and her small crew patrolled the Khawr Abd Allah waterway separating Iraq and Kuwait. In addition to providing protection and assistance to other US vessels, they searched and boarded everything on the river to ensure that embargoed oil, terrorists, or weapons were not getting through. This was all the while navigating waters that were poorly charted, often treacherously shallow, and frequently mined. Harrison became executive officer of the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy after her return from the Persian Gulf.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (59 min.)
»Photo Album  (3 photos)
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»Women of Four Wars
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
From a military family; parenthood ended her mother's military career. (00:22) Signed up for US Naval Cadet Sea Corps in high school; worked in Coast Guard recruiting office; parents worried, but glad she had goals. (02:21) Couldn't stand being bored; worked at the small boat stations; always something new with the Coast Guard. (01:26)
Protocol Officer for Admiral Loy; great respect for his leadership and work ethic. (01:23) Boarding vessels; fisherman don't like women on boats; run in with an Alaskan fisherman while trying to qualify as a boarding officer. (02:46) Put in for her own ship; long nervous wait; got her first choice of the Aquidneck. (01:18)
Duties changed after 9/11; received orders to return to home port; weren't told where they were going, but deduced it would be to the Persian Gulf. (02:30) Chemical and biological warfare training; Navy requested the Coast Guard’s involvement; Coast Guard boats smaller, better able to patrol the rivers; boarding anything and everything; Coast Guard had an humanitarian image; rivers were mined. (08:42) Reactions to her position as Lt. Commander from the locals. (00:51)
On the advantages and disadvantages of being in the first wave of those serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (01:15)  

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  October 26, 2011
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