STEM Professional of the week

Lieutenant Commander Luis Carmona      
U.S. Coast Guard

Lieutenant Commander Luis Carmona was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico to loving teenage parents who faced unique challenges while raising their children. The young parents with two small children, spent time in Germany while Luis' father served four years as an active-duty member of the U.S. Army, upon their return to Puerto Rico, his mother continued with her education and went on to earn her high school diploma and an associate's degree. Through their shining example, they instilled in Luis the value of hard work and dedication.

These essential qualities would give Luis balance as he moved through various chapters in his life. As a high school student he did well in school, played on his high school’s baseball team, and took on washing cars and mowing lawns in his neighborhood after school in order to have some spending money. These experiences gave him a solid foundation for the future filled with commitment, respect and teamwork.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Luis enrolled at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico to study mechanical engineering. He attended school at night and worked part-time at a local grocery store during the day to help finance his education. During his third year of college, and inspired by his father’s patriotism, Luis applied and was selected to the very exclusive and competitive U.S. Coast Guard’s College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) program. The program, which covered his last two years of college tuition in full and allowed him to focus all of his energy to his studies and to his commitment as an active duty enlisted member, would also mark the beginning of his successful career with the Coast Guard.

Since his first set of military orders, LCDR Carmona has worked his way up the chain of command. Today, as a Marine Inspector assigned to the Coast Guards Sector in New Orleans, he and his team members board and examine foreign flagged vessels entering the New Orleans Port Complex – where over $20 billion dollars worth of commodities pass through each year. In 2012, just months after he arrived, Hurricane Isaac swept through the area and left 9 large ships and 30 small and medium sized vessels grounded and blocking the entrance to the port, effectively shutting it down. LCDR Carmona led the efforts to asses each grounding, prioritize each salvage, and verify all plans and calculations. He worked with the Coast Guard Marine Safety Center Salvage Engineering Response Team on this effort, and just three days after the storm had passed, the New Orleans Port Complex was open for business.

More recently, LCDR Carmona was handpicked for a special team sent to Panama on the request from the U.S. Ambassador. The Panamanian government had seized a North Korean freight ship en route from Cuba for suspected contraband. Upon arrival, he noticed the ship was listing hard over. He immediately stepped in, applied his bilingual abilities and worked with Panamanian government officials to stop operations. After finding the vessel plans, LCDR Carmona discovered the ship had been sabotaged and was unable to move ballast around to stabilize the ship. He devised an unloading strategy to place the vessel on an even keel and expose the suspected contraband beneath the sugar cargo. The contraband turned out to be a significant cache of weapons and planes. His efforts were recognized by both the US Ambassador and the President of Panama.

LCDR Carmona holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and a master’s in ocean engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He was recently honored by Great Minds in STEM with a STEM Military Luminary Award during the 26th Annual HENAAC Conference.

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