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Jay Nilles pins Surfman BM2 Sierra Schlagers

FLORENCE — Earlier this month, the first female service member from Station Siuslaw River received the highest qualification a Coxswain can achieve for the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to a press release from the Coast Guard, Petty Officer 2nd Class Sierra Schlager, from Station Siuslaw River in Florence, was pinned Surfman No. 549. She received the designation on Wednesday, May 1.

Captain Olav Saboe, Commander Sector North Bend, and Senior Chief Jay Nilles, Officer-in-Charge at Station Siuslaw River, present Surfman BM2 …

“Surfmen operate under extreme weather and sea conditions, and are qualified to take out a 47 ft. Motor Lifeboat in 20-foot breaking surf, 30-foot seas and 50-knot winds,” the release said. “Receiving the Surfman designation puts BM2 Schlager in an elite group. She is not only the 549th listing in the Coast Guard Register of Surfmen, but one of only twelve females to ever receive the designation in Coast Guard history.”

She is now one of eight women Surfmen active in the Coast Guard, out of 200 total, and is the very first female Surfman from Station Siuslaw River, the release said.

“Command Cadre from USCG Sector North Bend, Coast Guard Surfmen from along the West Coast, station shipmates, family and friends converged at Station Siuslaw River to honor and welcome BM2 Schlager to the Surfman ranks during this time-honored ceremony,” the release said. “Fellow Surfmen, which numbered a remarkable thirty-three members, came from as far as Station Golden Gate and Station Quillayute River.”

Her mentors also attended the ceremony, including BM1 Steve Atkinson from Station Umpqua River and BM1 Shawn Marshall from Station Quillayute River.

Not only that, but two other female Surfmen, Chief Warrant Officer Beth Slade and Petty Officer First Class Amber Archer, attended.

Schlager is from Jamestown, North Dakota and has been with the Coast Guard since 2008. She has been striving to earn her Surfmen qualifications for almost five years.

BM2 Schlager states she is "humbled by the ceremony today and by the outpouring of support -- earning their trust and the Surfman pin," the release said.

“Her deeply imbued sense of mission is apparent when she refers to the long-standing and courageous Coast Guard adage, service before self,” the release said.

"The mariners depend on us in emergencies and we are always ready for those situations," Schlager said in the release, "and it is the mentorship and training that will allow me to respond to the best of my abilities."

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.