This episode features Joanne McCaffrey, a 1980 graduate from The United States Coast Guard Academy  (USCGA). You’ll get to hear all about her experiences as a member of the first class of women admitted into the Academy, as well as the many adventures she’s been on throughout her 27 year career in the service, including her second career as a civil engineer and her third career as a mother of 3. While this episode is a bit longer than most, it’s definitely worth the time as you’ll find unique insights and wisdom in all that Joanne has to share. In addition, you’ll want to hang out until the end of the show because there’s a brief follow up to a story Joanne shares about her time at the Academy. Enjoy the show!


  • What it was like to be in the first class of women at the Academy
  • Marrying a classmate and co-location
  • What it was like to pave the way in a variety of ways for women in the military
  • Going back for a graduate degree
  • Balancing motherhood and career


  • Can you tell everyone where you’re from? What school you went to and when you graduated?
  • Can you give everyone 1-2 lines about who you are?

2:30 PART I:

  • What made you choose a Service Academy – and what made you specifically choose the USCGA?
  • What made you want to go to an Academy as part of the first class that would admit women?

12:25 PART II:

  • Did you have any reservations going to an Academy and being part of the this brand new movement for women?
  • What was the general feeling when you started telling people where you were going for college?

15:25 PART III:

  • When you got to the Academy, how many women were in your class?
  • If you had to sum up your time at the Academy in one word, what would it be?
  • When you think back to that whole experience, was it what you were looking for? What are some of the most memorable moments?
  • How did they handle women on the cruises?

22:00 PART IV:

  • What were the dynamics amongst the women at the Academy?
  • Competition amongst the women and how they determine who would graduate first.
  • Dealing with the media.
  • Were there any sports or extracurricular activities for women?

31:10 PART V:

  • How did the men receive the women?
  • What was it like as more classes of women came to the Academy behind you?
  • What did you hope to do when you got out of the Academy? What were some of your goals?

44:00 PART VI:

  • What were some of the lowlights of your time at the Academy?
  • Dealing with harassment.

48:00 PART VII:

  • Any major lessons learned that you took into your career?
  • Being limited as a woman in your career.
  • Managing your career with co-location considerations.
  • Attending graduate school while building a family.
  • The struggle of being a mom while working full time.


  • Looking back now, how do you feel about your decision to attend an Academy?
  • What’s next for you?
  • Do you have any parting words for listeners? Perhaps a key message to your fellow Service Academy sisters?
  • If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
  • Where can people reach you?
Photo Credit: The Women of the Class of 1980


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  • This is my favorite episode! I love hearing from the first female academy graduates and all they accomplished with fearless grit, so impressive! Thank you Joanne for sharing your experiences and leading the way for future generations
    Joy Boston, USAFA ‘98

    • Thank you for your feedback, Joy, and thanks for listening! It’s definitely an eye opener listening to the stories of Academy women from those early years. If you ever want to share your own story on the podcast, just let us know! Being a graduate from the USAFA class of ’98 – we’re sure you have some unique insight to share that we’d all benefit from. Either way though, your support is greatly appreciated!

Service Academy Sorority

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