Despite having an impressive career as a writer at Voice of America, Lisa Ferdinando wanted more. So, she joined the Coast Guard Reserve and didn’t stop there.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to serve, and I am so blessed and happy,” Ferdinando said.
She completed an undergraduate degree in journalism from Rutgers University and a master’s in liberal studies, with a concentration on international affairs, from Georgetown University. The New Jersey native says she was drawn to photojournalism because of a fascination with travel and cultures.
“Of course, I was always the person with a camera – and the one arranging the group photos at family events! I loved being able to capture special moments and share them with loved ones,” she said in an email interview. “My background is in journalism and news writing, and I loved how photography is such an incredible and powerful way to capture history, tell a story and share an experience.”
Now a public affairs specialist first class, she works directly with the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Reserve. Not long after enlisting in the Coast Guard, she applied for another job at the Department of Defense. In that role, Ferdinando is the section chief and photojournalist for the Secretary of Defense and has been documenting Secretary Lloyd Austin since day one of his appointment. She said it would be hard to choose a favorite photo shoot, but she did describe a recent opportunity that stands out.
“I had the privilege of being an official photographer when President Biden and Vice President Harris visited Secretary Austin at the Pentagon. It was an incredible experience to document this historic visit, and also share those moments with service members and civilians, and the public,” Ferdinando explained.
Ferdinando enlisted later in life, after participating in several humanitarian missions including one during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was then that she was inspired to explore a career in the Coast Guard.
“I wanted to serve and I wanted to make the commitment,” she explained. “I was really inspired by their response after 9/11 … When you see the news and how they [Coast Guard] just go into communities and help citizens, they are just so laser focused. I was so impressed and moved by their humanitarian mission.”
Ferdinando said what stuck out to her about the Coast Guard is that it shifts missions depending on the need. She described the impressive feat of managing counter drug operations in small communities while also taking part in security and Department of Defense missions across the globe.
“They are so incredible and really unique out of all the services,” she said. “Another reason I wanted to be a part of the Coast Guard was because of its reputation.”
As a reservist, Ferdinando recognizes the challenges of balancing work and life with responsibilities to a service. But she also highlights the flexibility, explaining how those in the reserves can volunteer or offer themselves up for certain assignments.
“I got to do two weeks on a cutter in the western Pacific — how incredible is that, to see the operational side of the Coast Guard,” she shared.
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Ferdinando said both jobs complement each other. She will often be working her DOD job and come across a great opportunity for the Coast Guard that she shares with her teammates. Looking ahead, one goal she has set for 2021 is to push beyond her comfort level.
“I will be continuing to look for new assignments in both my civilian and Coast Guard careers, and find new and creative ways to tell stories and capture those special moments. That is what I love about photojournalism and public affairs and working for the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense – the opportunities are seemingly endless,” she said.Read comments