Dear Coast Guard Family: 10 things that I wish everyone knew about the Coast Guard

Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.

Boat crews from Coast Guard Station Houston conduct law enforcement training on the 29-foot Response Boats–Small on March 22, 2018 in the Houston Ship Channel near Kemah, Texas. Law enforcement training ensures members maintain operational readiness. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland.

Everyday, I am so thankful to live this Coast Guard life and to interact with our incredible members and families. I’m fortunate to know the unique and valuable service that the Coast Guard provides to our country – and, I hope that after reading this, you will too!

  1. The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. Coast Guard is simultaneously and at all times a military force and federal law enforcement agency dedicated to maritime safety, security, and stewardship missions.
  2. The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government, and until the Navy Department was established in 1798, we served as the nation’s only armed force afloat. The origins of the Coast Guard date back 1790 – this August 4th we will celebrate the Coast Guard’s 228th birthday. From our earliest days as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service — to today, as the Coast Guard, our service has always been Semper Paratus (Always Ready) to serve our Nation.
  3. The Coast Guard has served in every war and major conflict since our founding. The Coast Guard has a long and distinguished history of service. During the Quasi-War with France, the first “war” fought by the United States, revenue cutters first upheld the new nation’s dignity on the high seas. On April 12th, 1861, the Revenue Cutter Service cutter Harriet Lane fired the first naval shot of the Civil War. During World War II, the Coast Guard made the first capture of enemy forces by any U.S. service when the cutter Northland seized the Norwegian vessel Buskoe off the coast of Greenland. During Operation Desert Storm, a USCG tactical port security boat was the first boat to enter the newly reopened harbor in Kuwait City, Kuwait. And, just recently, the CGC NATHAN BRUCKENTHAL was commissioned in honor of fallen Coast Guard hero, Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal.
  4. The Coast Guard deploys. As you read this, Coast Guard service members are “standing the watch” – often far from home. Depending on the assignment, members may be gone for several months to a year or more. Many of our members will depart on patrols multiple times per year.
  5. The Coast Guard serves all over the world. The Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones – the largest EEZ in the world. The Coast Guard has personnel assigned to eight DoD Combatant Commands and often has presence on all seven continents and the world’s oceans.
  6. The Coast Guard is a unique, multi-mission, maritime military force. The Coast Guard manages six major operational mission programs: Maritime Law Enforcement, Maritime Response, Maritime Prevention, Marine Transportation System Management, Maritime Security Operations, and Defense Operations. And these six mission programs oversee 11 Missions codified in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
  7. The Coast Guard does a lot in one day. On an average day, the Coast Guard: conducts 45 search and rescue cases; saves 10 lives; saves over $1.2 million in property; seizes 874 pounds of cocaine and 214 pounds of marijuana; conducts 57 waterborne patrols of critical maritime infrastructure; interdicts 17 illegal migrants; escorts 5 high-capacity passenger vessels; conducts 24 security boardings in and around U.S. ports; screens 360 merchant vessels for potential security threats prior to arrival in U.S. ports; conducts 14 fisheries conservation boardings; services 82 buoys and fixed aids to navigation; investigates 35 pollution incidents; completes 26 safety examinations on foreign vessels; conducts 105 marine inspections; investigates 14 marine casualties involving commercial vessels; facilitates movement of $8.7 billion worth of goods and commodities through the Nation’s Maritime Transportation System.
  8. The Coast Guard is small, but mighty! With approximately 40,992 active duty members, 7,000 reserve members and 7,000 civilians, the Coast Guard is the smallest branch of the armed forces, but everyday I am in awe of the incredible things that our members accomplish. I couldn’t be more proud.
  9. The oldest cutter in active service, Coast Guard Cutter Smilax, was commissioned on November 1, 1944. As the oldest commissioned cutter, Smilax proudly carries the title the “Queen of the Fleet” and a gold hull number. What an amazing testament to the talented individuals who maintain our assets!
  10. America’s Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive. Learn more about our Commandant’s Guiding Principles here.

BONUS: The Coast Guard has a Disney connection. Walt Disney drew the logo for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Corsair Fleet during World War II (featuring Donald Duck). Walt Disney also created a special design for the Coast Guard Cutter 83359.

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