CHARLESTON — The Surfman is an elite group in the U.S. Coast Guard and BM2 Rachel LaFevre just became the 14th woman to receive the designation.
“There are 14 women as Surfman in the Coast Guard now,” LaFevre said. “It has been traditionally seen as a more attractive job for males in the past, but that is rapidly changing. As women remain in the military longer, they are interested in moving up.”
BM2 Rachel LaFevre, right, talks with her crew Feb. 13 before a pre-dawn check of the Coos Bay Bar at the U.S. Coast Guard Boat Station Coos Bay.
LaFevre is the second woman on the Oregon coast to receive the promotion to Surfman in recent months, a position described in a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard as being qualified to operate a 47-foot motor lifeboat in 20-foot breaking surf, 30-foot seas and 50-knot winds. The release defined Surfman as being able to function under extreme weather and sea conditions.
“I’m proud,” LaFevre said of the promotion. “It was a long process to get to this point.”
LaFevre, who grew up in Astoria watching the Coast Guard, decided to join its ranks as a way to do something active on the water.
BM2 Rachel LaFevre pilots the U.S. Coast Guard MLB Intrepid on a pre-dawn check of the bar with a crew from Boat Station Coos Bay. LaFevre jus…
“It looked like something I wanted to be involved in,” LaFevre remembered. “But to become a Surfman, it is a three-tier process ... Everything has prepared you for it. Every qualification prepares you for the next qualification.”
LaFevre started out her Coast Guard career in North Carolina where the water was calmer, but once she came back to the Oregon coast and began operations on the rough surf, she was surprised by the challenge and enjoyed it. During her years of service, making her way to the Surfman designation was always in the back of her mind. Though she admitted that early on she considered aviation, she decided to keep on track to make Surfman instead.
“If I was going to be in the Coast Guard, this is what I wanted to do,” she said.
When asked what she would say to other women in the Coast Guard, her advice was, “You can do it.”
“It is not an automatic certification,” LaFevre said. “You won’t have anything handed to you. The moment you walk in the door, you’re evaluated in how you treat people in the station and how you do during the certification process. But you can do it.”