Melissa L. Rivera
Commandant of Cadets, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Captain Rivera graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Government. She served as Deck Watch Officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Venturous, home-ported in Long Beach, California. She then attended Naval Flight Training in Pensacola, Florida, earning her wings as CG Aviator #3251 on Coast Guard Day 1995.
Captain Rivera’s first operational aviation assignment was to Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where she flew the HH-60J “Jayhawk” helicopter. In 1998, she commanded one of the first rescue assets on scene and executed night rescues of 43 survivors trapped by rising floodwaters in Eastern North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Floyd. Captain Rivera transferred to Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, where she served as Standardization Officer and Flight Examiner in the H-60. In 2002, she and her deployed aircrew rescued 23 survivors from a fishing vessel ablaze in the Bering Sea; her crew received the Association of Naval Aviation and National Helicopter Association Aircrew of the Year awards, and Captain Rivera was also selected for the Order of Daedalians Exceptional Pilot Award.
Assigned to Coast Guard Headquarters, Captain Rivera was the first Aviation Special Missions Manager. In this capacity, she developed aviation counter-terrorism policy while coordinating development, operational testing, and mission employment of tactical aviation capabilities. She also earned a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, and a certificate in Homeland Security Studies from the National Graduate School.
Captain Rivera served as Operations Officer/Chief Pilot at Air Station Sitka, Alaska. She then transitioned to the MH-65C “Dolphin” helicopter and served as Executive Officer at Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico.
As Commanding Officer of Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, Captain Rivera led 380 Coast Guard personnel and the employment of 15 aircraft conducting operational missions across a four million square mile area of responsibility. This included first-ever Coast Guard operational response capability in the Arctic, meeting national and service strategic objectives at the edge of the Last Frontier.
Captain Rivera’s personal military awards include three Meritorious Service Medals, two Air Medals, two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, and an Army Achievement Medal. She is married to retired Coast Guardsman Epy Rivera, and has two daughters.