U.S. women take lead roles in Caribbean diplomacy


The United States Department of State has appointed career foreign service officer Karen Grissette to serve as consul general to Bermuda. She will lead a team whose mission is to protect U.S. citizens and deepen the economic and cultural ties between the U.S. and Bermuda. She assumed the post in July 2021. Grissette’s previous roles have included serving as public diplomacy advisor to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. In 2010, she received the U.S. State Department’s Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women’s Role in Policy Formulation, highlighting her efforts to promote the rights of women and girls.

Another U.S. diplomat with a key island posting is Charge d’Affaires Usha Pitts, who began her tour at the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas on January 1, 2021.

Consul General Karen Grissette

In addition to Bermuda and the Bahamas, U.S. Northern Command’s geographic area of responsibility in the northern Caribbean includes the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“The common history and cultural ties between the United States and Bermuda are long-standing, and I plan on strengthening the special relationship during my time here,” Grissette said of the British Overseas Territory, which lies 650 miles east of North Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean.

On July 8, Bermuda Gov. Rena Lalgie welcomed Grissette to the Government House in Hamilton.

“The relationship … is important both from a historic and a present-day perspective,” said Lalgie, the first woman and the first person of African heritage to serve as governor.

Those ties were recognized with the July visit of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as part of the tall ship’s summer training deployment. Grissette greeted the U.S. Coast Guard cadets and participated in some of their outreach activities.

Grissette, a native of California, holds a bachelor’s degree from Whittier College and a master’s from Princeton University. She speaks Swahili and Greek and is married with two children.

Charge d’Affaires Usha Pitts

Pitts is a native of Massachusetts whose career includes recruiting future diplomats. In addition to international postings that included Moscow and Havana, she supervised a team in the U.S. State Department’s Operations Center, a 24-hour crisis management and communications hub. Pitts, who speaks Chinese, Russian, German, Spanish and Portuguese, holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts, George Washington University and the U.S. Naval War College. She is married with two children.

The Bahamas, an archipelago 50 miles from the Florida coast, is a key U.S. military and law enforcement partner. Transnational criminal organizations use the islands as a transit point for drugs, weapons and migrants bound for the U.S. The U.S. Coast Guard assists Bahamian authorities in coastal defense.

During a June 2021 ceremony marking the U.S. donation of three high-speed patrol boats to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Pitts emphasized that the security of the two countries is intertwined.

“All of these issues that are your issues, of course, are also our issues,” she said. “I’ve never been to a country where two militaries cooperated so closely and had such a good relationship.”