As one of the five armed forces and the smallest armed service of the United States, its stated mission is to protect the public, the environment, and the United States economic and security interests in any maritime region in which those interests may be at risk, including international waters and America's coasts, ports, and inland waterways.
The Coast Guard has many statutory missions, which are listed below in this article.
In addition, the Coast Guard has separate legal authority than the other four armed services. The Coast Guard operates under Title 10 of the United States Code and its other organic authorities, e.g., Titles 6, 14, 19, 33, 46, etc., simultaneously. Because of its legal authority, the Coast Guard can conduct military operations under the Department of Defense or directly for the President in accordance with 14 USC 1-3.
While most military services are either at war or training for war, the Coast Guard is deployed every day. With a decentralized organization and much responsibility placed on even the most junior personnel, the Coast Guard is frequently lauded for its quick responsiveness and adaptability in a broad range of emergencies. In a 2005 article in TIME Magazine following Hurricane Katrina, the author wrote, "the Coast Guard's most valuable contribution to [a military effort when catastrophe hits] may be as a model of flexibility, and most of all, spirit." Wil Milam, a rescue swimmer from Alaska told the magazine, "In the Navy, it was all about the mission. Practicing for war, training for war. In the Coast Guard, it was, take care of our people and the mission will take care of itself.
The Coast Guard's motto is Semper Paratus, meaning "Always Ready". The service has participated in every U.S. conflict from 1790 through to today, including landing US troops on D-Day and on the Pacific Islands in World War II, in extensive patrols and shore bombardment during the Vietnam War, and multiple roles in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Maritime interception operations, coastal security, transportation security, and law enforcement detachments are its major roles in Iraq.
The formal name for a member of the Coast Guard is "Coast Guardsman", irrespective of gender. An informal name is "Coastie." "Team Coast Guard" refers to the three branches of the Coast Guard as a whole: Active Duty, Reservists, Civilians and the Auxiliary.
The term "armed forces" means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.The Coast Guard is further defined by :
The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times. The Coast Guard shall be a service in the Department of Homeland Security, except when operating as a service in the Navy.Coast Guard organization and operation is as set forth in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
On February 25, 2003, the Coast Guard was placed under the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security. However, under as amended by section 211 of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, upon the declaration of war and when Congress so directs in the declaration, or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Defense as a service in the Department of the Navy. authorizes the Coast Guard to enforce federal law. Further, the Coast Guard is exempt from and not subject to the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act which restrict the law enforcement activities of the other four military services within United States territory.
On October 17, 2007, the Coast Guard joined with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps to adopt a new maritime strategy called A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower that raised the notion of prevention of war to the same philosophical level as the conduct of war. This new strategy charted a course for the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps to work collectively with each other and international partners to prevent regional crises, manmade or natural, from occurring or reacting quickly should one occur to avoid negative impacts to the United States. During the launch of the new U.S. maritime strategy at the International Seapower Symposium at the U.S. Naval War College, 2007, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen said the new maritime strategy reinforced the time-honored missions the service carried out in this U.S. since 1790. "It reinforces the Coast Guard maritime strategy of safety, security and stewardship, and it reflects not only the global reach of our maritime services but the need to integrate and synchronize and act with our coalition and international partners to not only win wars ... but to prevent wars," Allen said.
(1) carry a firearm;
(2) execute and serve any order, warrant, subpoena, summons, or other process issued under the authority of the United States;
(3) make an arrest without a warrant for any offense against the United States committed in the officer's presence or for a felony, cognizable under the laws of the United States committed outside the officer's presence if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony; and
(4) perform any other law enforcement duty that the Secretary of Homeland Security may designate.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office Report to the House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary on its 2006 Survey of Federal Civilian Law Enforcement Functions and Authorities identified the U.S. Coast Guard as one of 104 federal components employed which employed law enforcement officers. The Report also included a summary table of the authorities of the U.S. Coast Guard's 192 special agents and 3,780 maritime law enforcement boarding officers.
Coast Guardsmen have the legal authority to carry their service-issued firearms on and off base, thus giving them greater flexibility when being called to service. This is not always done, however, in practice; at many Coast Guard stations, commanders prefer to have all service-issued weapons in armories. Still, one court has held that Coast Guard boarding officers are qualified law enforcement officers authorized to carry personal firearms off-duty for self-defense.
As members of a military service, Coast Guardsmen on active and reserve service are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and receive the same pay and allowances as members of the same pay grades in the other uniformed services.
The roots of the Coast Guard lie in the United States Revenue Cutter Service established by Alexander Hamilton under the Department of the Treasury on August 4, 1790. The first USCG station was in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Until the re-establishment of the United States Navy in 1798, the Revenue Cutter Service was the only naval force of the early U.S. It was established to collect taxes from a brand new nation of patriot smugglers. When the officers were out at sea, they were told to crack down on piracy; while they were at it, they might as well rescue anyone in distress.
"First Fleet" is a term occasionally used as an informal reference to the US Coast Guard, although as far as one can detect the United States has never in fact officially used this designation with reference either to the Coast Guard or any element of the US Navy. The informal appellation honors the fact that between 1790 and 1798, there was no United States Navy and the cutters which were the predecessor of the US Coast Guard were the only warships protecting the coast, trade, and maritime interests of the new republic.
The modern Coast Guard can be said to date to 1915, when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the United States Life-Saving Service and Congress formalized the existence of the new organization. In 1939, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was brought under its purview. In 1942, the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was transferred to the Coast Guard. In 1967, the Coast Guard moved from the Department of the Treasury to the newly formed Department of Transportation, an arrangement that lasted until it was placed under the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 as part of legislation designed to more efficiently protect American interests following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
In times of war, the Coast Guard or individual components of it can operate as a service of the Department of the Navy. This arrangement has a broad historical basis, as the Guard has been involved in wars as diverse as the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War, in which the cutter Harriet Lane fired the first naval shots attempting to relieve besieged Fort Sumter. The last time the Coast Guard operated as a whole under the Navy was in World War II. More often, military and combat units within the Coast Guard will operate under Navy operational control while other Coast Guard units will remain under the Department of Homeland Security.
Graduates of the program typically receive a commission in the Coast Guard at the rank of Ensign, but some with advanced graduate degrees can enter as Lieutenant (junior grade) or Lieutenant. Graduating OCS officers entering Active Duty are required to serve a minimum of three years, while graduating Reserve officers are required to serve four years. Graduates may be assigned to a ship, flight training, to a staff job, or to an operations ashore billet. However, first assignments are based on the needs of the Coast Guard. Personal desires and performance at OCS are considered. All graduates must be available for worldwide assignment.
In addition to United States citizens, foreign cadets and candidates also attend Coast Guard officer training. OCS represents the source of the majority of commissions in the Coast Guard, and is the primary channel through which enlisted ranks can ascend to the officer corps.
The Coast Guard's Direct Commission Officer course is administered by Officer Candidate School. Depending on the specific program and background of the individual, the course is three, four or five weeks long. The first week of the five-week course is an indoctrination week. The DCO program is designed to commission officers with highly specialized professional training or certain kinds of previous military experience. For example, lawyers entering as JAGs, doctors, engineers, intelligence officers, and others can earn commissions through the DCO program. (Chaplains are provided to the Coast Guard by the US Navy.)
The College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) is a scholarship program for college sophomores. This program provides students with valuable leadership, management, law enforcement, navigation and marine science skills and training. It also provides full payment of school tuition, fees, textbooks, a salary, medical insurance and other benefits during a student's junior and senior year of college. The CSPI program guarantees training at Officer Candidate School (OCS) upon successful completion of all program requirements. Each student is expected to complete his/her degree and all Coast Guard training requirements. Following the completion of OCS and commission as a Coast Guard officer, each student will be required to serve on active duty (full time) as an officer for 3 years.
Benefits: Full tuition, books and fees paid for two years, monthly salary of approximately $2,000, medical and life insurance, 30 days paid vacation per year, leadership training.
The current nine Recruit Training Objectives are:
Following graduation, most members are sent to their first unit while they await orders to attend advanced training in Class "A" Schools, in their chosen rating, the naval term for Navy Enlisted Code (NEC). Members who earned high ASVAB scores or who were otherwise guaranteed an "A" School of choice while enlisting can go directly to their "A" School upon graduation from Boot Camp.
The Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy is located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Charleston, South Carolina, following relocation and merger of the former Law Enforcement School at Yorktown, Virginia, and the former Boarding Team Member School at Petaluma, California.
The Academy presents five courses:
Training ranges from criminal law and the use of force to boarding team member certification to the use of radiation detection equipment. Much of the training is live, using handguns with laser inserts or firing non-lethal rounds.
Petty officers follow career development paths very similar to those of US Navy petty officers.
Enlisted Coast Guard members who have reached the pay grade of E-7, or Chief Petty Officer, must attend the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy at Training Center Petaluma in Petaluma, California, or an equivalent Department of Defense school, in order to be advanced to pay grade E-8. United States Air Force master sergeants, as well as international students representing their respective maritime services, are also eligible to attend the Academy. The basic themes of this school are:
|Officer Grade Structure of the United States Coast Guard|
|Admiral (ADM)||Vice Admiral (VADM)||Rear Admiral|
(upper half) (RADM)
(lower half) (RDML)
|Captain (CAPT)||Commander (CDR)||Lieutenant|
Junior Grade (LTJG)
|Warrant Officer Grade Structure of the United States Coast Guard|
| Non Commissioned Officer Grade Structure of the United States Coast Guard |
Crossed anchors in the graphics indicate a rating of Boatswain's Mate
|Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG)||Area CMC/MCPOCG (Reserve Forces)||Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMC)||Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO)||Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO)||Chief Petty Officer (CPO)||Petty Officer First Class (PO1)||Petty Officer Second Class (PO2)||Petty Officer Third Class (PO3)|
| || || || || || || || || |
|Enlisted Grade Structure of the United States Coast Guard|
|Seaman (SN)||Seaman Apprentice (SA)||Seaman Recruit (SR)|
The Coast Guard Ensign (flag) was first flown by the Revenue Cutter Service in 1799 to distinguish revenue cutters from merchant ships. The order stated the Ensign would be "16 perpendicular stripes, alternate red and white, the union of the ensign to be the arms of the United States in a dark blue on a white field." (There were 16 states in the United States at the time).
The purpose of the flag is to allow ship captains to easily recognize those vessels having legal authority to stop and board them. This flag is flown only as a symbol of law enforcement authority and is never carried as a parade standard. See
The Coast Guard Standard is used in parades and carries the battle honors of the U.S. Coast Guard. It was derived from the jack of the Coast Guard ensign which used to fly from the stern of revenue cutters. The emblem is a blue eagle from the coat of arms of the United States on a white field. Above the eagle are the words "UNITED STATES COAST GUARD;" below the eagle is the motto, "SEMPER PARATUS" and the inscription "1790."
The Racing Stripe was designed in 1964 by the industrial design office of Raymond Loewy Associates to give the Coast Guard a distinctive, modern image and was first used in 1967. The symbol is a narrow blue bar, a narrow white stripe between, and a broad red bar with the Coast Guard shield centered. The stripes are canted at a 64 degree angle, coincidentally the year the Racing Stripe was designed. The Stripe has been adopted for the use of other coast guards, such as the Canadian Coast Guard, the Italian Guardia Costiera, the Indian Coast Guard, the German Federal Coast Guard, and the Australian Customs Service. Auxiliary vessels maintained by the Coast Guard also carry the Stripe in inverted colors.
The Coast Guard carries out five basic roles, which are further subdivided into eleven statutory missions. The five roles are:
The eleven statutory missions, found in section 888 of the Homeland Security Act are:
The OMEGA navigation system and the LORAN-C transmitters outside the USA were also run by the United States Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard Omega Stations at Lamoure, North Dakota and Kāne'ohe, Hawai'i (Oahu) were both formally decommissioned and shut down on September 30, 1997.
In 1972, the current Coast Guard dress blue uniform was introduced for wear by both officers and enlisted personnel; the transition was completed during 1974. (Previously, a U.S. Navy-style uniform with Coast Guard insignia was worn.) Relatively similar in appearance to the old-style U.S. Air Force uniforms, the uniform consists of a blue four-pocket single breasted jacket and trousers in a slightly darker shade. A light-blue button-up shirt with a pointed collar, two front button-flap pockets, "enhanced" shoulder boards for officers, and pin-on collar insignia for Chief Petty Officers and enlisted personnel is worn when in shirt-sleeve order (known as "Tropical Blue Long"). It is similar to the World War II-era uniforms worn by Coast Guard Surfmen. Officer rank insignia parallels that of the U.S. Navy but with the gold Navy "line" star being replaced with the gold Coast Guard Shield and with the Navy blue background color replaced by Coast Guard blue. Enlisted rank insignia is also similar to the Navy with the Coast Guard shield replacing the eagle on collar and cap devices. Group Rate marks (stripes) for junior enlisted members (E-3 and below) also follow U. S. Navy convention with white for seaman, red for fireman, and green for airman. In a departure from the U. S. Navy conventions, all Petty Officers E-6 and below wear red chevrons and all Chief Petty Officers wear gold. Unlike the US Navy, officers and CPO's do not wear khaki; all personnel wear the same color uniform. See USCG Uniform Regulations for current regulations.
Coast Guard officers also have a white dress uniform, typically used for formal parade and change-of-command ceremonies. Chief Petty Officers, Petty Officers, and enlisted rates wear the standard Service Dress Blue uniform for all such ceremonies, except with a white shirt (replacing the standard light-blue). A white belt may be worn for honor guards. A mess dress uniform is worn by members for formal (black tie) evening ceremonies.
The current working uniform of a majority of Coast Guard members is the Operational Dress Uniform (ODU). The ODU is similar to the Battle Dress Uniform of other armed services, both in function and style. However, the ODU is in a solid dark blue with no camouflage patterns and does not have lower pockets on the blouse. The ODU is worn with steel-toed boots in most circumstances, but low-cut black or brown boat shoes may be prescribed for certain situations. The former dark blue working uniform has been withdrawn from use by the Coast Guard but may be worn by Auxiliarists until no longer serviceable. There is a second phase of Operational Dress Uniforms currently in the trial phases. This prototype resembles the current Battle Dress blouse, which is worn on the outside, rather than tucked in.
Coast Guard members serving in expeditionary combat units such as Port Security Units, Law Enforcement Detachments, and others, wear working operational uniforms that resemble Battle Dress uniforms, complete with "woodland" or "desert" camouflage colors. These units typically serve under, or with, the other armed services in combat theaters, necessitating similar uniforms.
Enlisted Coast Guardsmen wear the combination covers for full dress, a garrison cover for Class "B," wear, and a baseball-style cover either embroidered with "U.S. Coast Guard" in gold block lettering or the name of their ship, unit or station in gold, for the ODU uniform. Male and female company commanders (the Coast Guard equivalent of Marine Corps drill instructors) at Training Center Cape May wear the traditional "Smokey the Bear" campaign hat.
Lack of coverage affects many areas with high maritime traffic. For example, local officials in Scituate, Massachusetts, have complained that there is no permanent Coast Guard station, and the presence of the Coast Guard in winter is vital. One reason for this lack of coverage is the relatively high cost of building storm-proof buildings on coastal property; the Cape Hatteras station was abandoned in 2005 after winter storms wiped out the sand dune serving as its protection from the ocean. Faced with these issues the Coast Guard has contracted with General Dynamics C4 System to provide a complete replacement of their 1970's era radio equipment. Rescue 21 is the United States Coast Guard's advanced command, control and communications system. Created to improve the ability to assist mariners in distress and save lives and property at sea, the system is currently being installed in stages across the United States. The nation's existing maritime search and rescue (SAR) communications system has been in operation since the early 1970s. Difficult to maintain, increasingly unreliable and prone to coverage gaps, this antiquated system no longer meets the safety needs of America's growing marine traffic. In addition, it is incapable of supporting the Coast Guard's new mission requirements for homeland security, which require close cooperation with Department of Defense agencies as well as federal, state and local law enforcement authorities. Modernizing this system enhances the safety and protection of America's waterways.
Lack of strength to meet its assigned missions is being met by a legislated increase in authorized strength from 39,000 to 45,000. In addition, the volunteer Auxiliary is being called to take up more non-combatant missions. However, volunteer coverage does have limits.
Aging vessels are another problem, with the Coast Guard still operating some of the oldest naval vessels in the world. In 2005, the Coast Guard terminated contracts to upgrade the 110-foot (33.5 m) Island Class Cutters to 123-foot (37.5 m) cutters because of warping and distortion of the hulls. In late 2006, Admiral Thad Allen, Commandant of the Coast Guard, decommissioned all eight cutters due to dangerous conditions created by the lengthening of the hull- to include compromised watertight integrity. The Coast Guard has, as a result of the failed conversion, revised production schedules for the Fast Response Cutter (FRC). Of the navies and coast guards of the world's 40 largest navies, the U.S. Coast Guard's is the 38th oldest.
Live fire exercises by Coast Guard boat and cutter crews in the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes attracted attention in the U.S. and Canada. The Coast Guard had proposed the establishment of 34 locations around the Great Lakes where live fire training using vessel-mounted machine guns were to be conducted periodically throughout the year. The Coast Guard said that these exercises are a critical part of proper crew training in support of the service's multiple missions on the Great Lakes, including law enforcement and anti-terrorism. Those that raised concerns about the firing exercises commented about safety concerns and that the impact on commercial shipping, tourism, recreational boating and the environment may be greater than what the Coast Guard had stated. The Coast Guard took public comment and conducted a series of nine public meetings on this issue. After receiving more than 1,000 comments, mostly opposing the Coast Guard's plan, the Coast Guard announced that they were withdrawing their proposal for target practice on the Great Lakes, although a revised proposal may be made in the future.
The Deployable Operations Group is a recently formed Coast Guard command. The DOG brings numerous existing deployable law enforcement, tactical and response units under a single command headed by a rear admiral. The planning for such a unit began after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and culminated with its formation on July 20th, 2007. The unit will contain several hundred highly trained Coast Guardsmen. Its missions will include maritime law enforcement, anti-terrorism, port security, and pollution response. It will include the world famous National Strike Force. Full operational capability is planned by summer 2008.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed volunteer component of the United States Coast Guard, established on June 23, 1939. It works within the Coast Guard in carrying out its noncombatant and non-law enforcement missions. As of November 18, 2007 there were 30,074 active Auxiliarists. The Coast Guard has assigned primary responsibility for most recreational boating safety tasks to the Auxiliary, including public boating safety education and voluntary vessel safety checks. In recent history prior to 1997, Auxiliarists were limited to those tasks and on-water patrols supporting recreational boating safety.
In 1997, however, new legislation authorized the Auxiliary to participate in any and all Coast Guard missions except military combat and law enforcement. 33 CFR 5.31 states that: Members of the Auxiliary, when assigned to specific duties shall, unless otherwise limited by the Commandant, be vested with the same power and authority, in execution of such duties, as members of the regular Coast Guard assigned to similar duties.
Auxiliarists may support the law enforcement mission of the Coast Guard but do not directly participate in it. Auxiliarists and their vessels are not allowed to carry any weapons while serving in any Auxiliary capacity; however, they may serve as scouts, alerting regular Coast Guard units. Auxiliarists use their own vessels (i.e., boats, yachts) and aircraft, in carrying out Coast Guard missions, or apply specialized skills such as Web page design or radio watchstanding to assist the Coast Guard. When appropriately trained and qualified, they may serve upon Coast Guard vessels.
Auxiliarists undergo one of several levels of background check. For most duties, including those related to recreational boating safety, a simple identity check is sufficient. For some duties in which an Auxiliarist provides direct augmentation of Coast Guard forces, such as tasks related to port security, a more in-depth background check is required. Occasionally an Auxiliarist will need to obtain a security clearance through the Coast Guard in order to have access to classified information in the course of assigned tasking.
The basic unit of the Auxiliary is the Flotilla, which has at least 10 members and may have as many as 100. Five Flotillas in a geographical area form a Division. There are several divisions in each Coast Guard District. The Auxiliary has a leadership and management structure of elected officers, including Flotilla Commanders, Division Captains, and District Commodores, Atlantic and Pacific Area Commodores, and a national Commodore. However, legally, each Auxiliarist has the same 'rank', Auxiliarist.
In 2005, the Coast Guard transitioned to a geographical Sector organization. Correspondingly, a position of 'Sector Auxiliary Coordinator' was established. The Sector Auxiliary Coordinator is responsible for service by Auxiliarists directly to a Sector, including augmentation of Coast Guard Active Duty and Reserve forces when requested. Such augmentation is also referred to as force multiplication.
Auxiliarists wear the similar uniforms as Coast Guard officers with modified officers' insignia based on their office: the stripes on uniforms are silver, and metal insignia bear a red or blue "A" in the center. Unlike their counterparts in the Civil Air Patrol, Auxiliarists come under direct orders of the Coast Guard.
The United States Coast Guard Reserve is the military reserve force of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Reserve was founded on February 19, 1941. Coast Guard reservists normally drill two days a month and an additional 12 days of Active Duty for Training each year. Coast Guard reservists possess the same training and qualifications as their active duty counterparts, and as such, can be found augmenting active duty Coast Guard units every day.
During the Vietnam War and shortly thereafter, the Coast Guard considered abandoning the Reserve program, but the force was instead reoriented into force augmentation, where its principal focus was not just reserve operations, but to add to the readiness and mission execution of every day active duty personnel.
Since September 11, 2001, over 8,500 Reservists have been activated and served on tours of active duty. Coast Guard Port Security Units are entirely staffed with Reservists, except for five to seven active duty personnel. Additionally, most of the staffing the Coast Guard provides to Naval Coastal Warfare units are reservists.
The Reserve is managed by the Director of Reserve and Training, RDML Daniel R. May.
The highest peacetime decoration awarded within the Coast Guard is the Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal; prior to the transfer of the Coast Guard to the Department of Homeland Security, the highest peacetime decoration was the Department of Transportation Distinguished Service Medal. The highest unit award available is the Presidential Unit Citation.
In wartime, members of the Coast Guard are eligible to receive the U.S. Navy version of the Medal of Honor. A Coast Guard Medal of Honor is authorized but has not yet been developed or issued.
In May 2006, at the Change of Command ceremony when Admiral Thad Allen took over as Commandant, President George W. Bush awarded the entire Coast Guard, including the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation with hurricane device, for its efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
Membership Types: Academy graduates and those who have attended the Academy are eligible for Regular membership; all others interested in the Academy and its Corps of Cadets are eligible for Associate membership. (Website)
Coast Guard, COMDTPUB P5720.2, is the regular publication for Coast Guardsmen.