U.S. Coast Guard Appoints its First Female Chief Counsel

Then-Capt. Melissa Bert at a leadership symposium in Jacksonville, 2015 (file image courtesy USCG)

Published May 1, 2020 3:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard has named Rear Adm. Melissa Bert to the post of judge advocate general and chief counsel. Bert is the first woman to hold the service's top legal position. 

Bert was most recently the director of governmental and public affairs for the Coast Guard, where she was responsible for external engagement with Congress, the media and other inter-governmental entities.

As judge advocate general and chief counsel, Bert will lead the team responsible for all legal services in support of the Coast Guard's missions, its units and its people.

Bert is the Coast Guard's 20th chief counsel and seventh uniformed judge advocate general.  She joins other trailblazing women in the Coast Guard's legal field like Capt. Eleanor Creed L'Ecuyer and Capt. Etha B. Fox of the Coast Guard Reserve, both of whom joined the Coast Guard in 1944.

Bert has also served as the Coast Guard’s Seventh District chief of staff and as chief of the Maritime and International Law Office, supporting U.S. engagement with the International Maritime Organization and providing legal advice on a variety of policies, including the Law of the Sea, drug and migrant interdiction, homeland security, Arctic policy and environmental protection. She also served as commander of Coast Guard Sector Juneau and captain of the port for southeastern Alaska.

She is a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and The George Washington University Law School, and she is a past national security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a military fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Bert has taught as an adjunct professor at George Washington University and the University of Miami Law School. Her honors include the Joint Superior Service medal, two Legions of Merit, three Meritorious Service Medals, the American Bar Association's the Young Military Lawyer of the Year for the Coast Guard in 1997 and the Judge Advocates Association Outstanding Career Armed Services Attorney Award in 2006. Bert is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Proctor in Admiralty in the United States Maritime Law Association.