U.S. Virgin Islands aviators Ronaqua A. Russell and Rebekah A. Seifer were promoted to lieutenant commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard announced Thursday. Seifer and Russell Coast Guard Academy classmates and are assigned to Coast Guard Air Stations Washington, D.C., and Air Station Miami, Florida, respectively.
Russell graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research and Computer Analysis. She is also a graduate of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas, as well as the New Mexico Military Institute. Russell is also recognized by the V.I. Legislature for her achievements as a pilot and for becoming the first African-American woman Coast Guard aviator to earn the Air Medal while flying missions during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Her next assignment will be as a flight instructor at Naval Flight School Advanced Training Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her parents, Aquanette Chinnery and former V.I. Sen. Ronald Russell, attended her promotion ceremony in Miami. Florida.
Seifer graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine and Environmental Science and is a 2008 graduate of the Country Day School on St. Croix. Her next assignment is at Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering. Her mother, Deborah Cestaro-Seifer, attended the promotion ceremony to place her new rank on her military uniform. During the ceremony, Seifer said it truly took a village in the Virgin Islands for her to achieve her goals and poignantly recognized her mother for her sacrifice and support, her shipmates in uniform, and mentors which included Alvin Dalmida Jr., a Coast Guard retired veteran in attendance.
Dalmida said, “I could only attend one promotion, but am significantly proud of Rebekah and Ronaqua. They are among trailblazers that are voluntarily serving in the military. They are also humanitarians continually proving their love of their hometown and diligence in giving back at every opportunity to mentor those that are seeking opportunities in disadvantaged communities.”
While in Washington, D.C., Seifer commanded a state-of-the-art, high-performance aircraft at Coast Guard Air Station Washington, D.C., where it was put into service flying global missions in support of the Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard executive leadership. The aircraft’s overall mission is to operate as a command-and-control platform anywhere in the world for the secretary of Homeland Security, the commandant of the Coast Guard, and other top government leadership.
Both women are friends, as well as classmates, and strong advocates for mentoring and volunteering in communities at home and where they live.