There’s a military service that I have rarely mentioned in this column that deserves being remembered – the United States Coast Guard.
I think most of us don’t think of the Coast Guard when we talk about military stuff because they aren’t part of the Defense Department.
Nonetheless, the Coast Guard has been around for a long time. Browse the Coast Guard Web site sometime.
It should be no big surprise that the Coast Guard is a military organization.
The Coast Guard traces its history to the Revenue Cutter Service founded in 1790 as part of the Department of the Treasury.
In 1915 Congress directed the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service into the U.S. Coast Guard.
The United States Lighthouse Service joined the Coast Guard in 1939. More missions followed when the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation merged with the Coast Guard in 1942.
The Coast Guard itself moved to the Department of Transportation in 1967. In the aftermath of the terror attacks on Sept. 11 attacks, the Coast Guard joined the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
Coast Guard changes
The Coast Guard has clearly gone through a good bit of change as its roles and missions expanded over time. Besides its law enforcement, maritime navigation, and search and rescue missions, the Coast Guard must be ready to support wartime missions with the Department of the Navy.
Semper Paratus, or “Always Ready,” is the Coast Guard’s motto. I don’t know the Latin for it but “Always Flexible” might be just as appropriate. Truly the 40,000 men and women in the Coast Guard must be ready for a variety of missions all the time.
When I attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, I had a chance to visit a small Coast Guard station.
As a landlubber I was certainly impressed. I still remember the small boat they showed me that was designed to completely roll over and keep on going.
This thing was designed to be water tight with harnesses for the crew to wear so they wouldn’t fly off into the water in bad weather when the boat rolled over. Can you imagine the pucker factor when you’re crashing through high seas in terrible weather in a boat designed for a 360 degree roll and all that is saving you from drowning is a strap? Wow! That would be exciting!
I saw plenty of rough weather in Rhode Island that made me want to stay in the house the same time Coast Guard ships would be headed out to do their job.
Anytime there is a disaster the Coast Guard is there. The Coast Guard protects the public on the ocean and on intra-coastal waterways. When the rest of us want to run and hide, they simply get ready and move out to save the people in need.
When the nation needs their expertise in war, the Coast Guard sheds its civilian support focus and then goes to war. The men and women of the Coast Guard are examples of selfless and courageous service. They are always ready to lend a hand when someone needs it.