Created by the U.S. Congress on 4 August 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue-Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States.[Note 1] As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue-Marine, whose original purpose was collecting customs duties at U.S. seaports. By the 1860s, the service was known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the term Revenue-Marine gradually fell into disuse.
In 2018, the Coast Guard has 40,992 active duty employees, 7,000 reservists, and 8,577 full-time civilian employees, for a total workforce of 56,569. The Coast Guard maintains an extensive fleet of 243 coastal and ocean-going patrol ships, tenders, tugs, icebreakers, and 1,650 smaller boats, as well as an aviation division consisting of 201 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. While the U.S. Coast Guard is the second smallest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of membership, the U.S. Coast Guard by itself was the world's 12th largest naval force in 2018.
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."
While the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue (CG-SAR) is not the oldest search and rescue organization in the world, it is one of the Coast Guard's best-known operations. The National Search and Rescue Plan designates the Coast Guard as the federal agency responsible for maritime SAR operations, and the United States Air Force as the federal agency responsible for inland SAR. Both agencies maintain rescue coordination centers to coordinate this effort, and have responsibility for both military and civilian search and rescue. The two services jointly provide instructor staff for the National Search and Rescue School that trains SAR mission planners and coordinators. Previously located on Governors Island, New York, the school is now located at Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown at Yorktown, Virginia.
National Response Center
An NRC FEMA First Team truck being loaded onto a Coast Guard plane for flight to Puerto Rico
Operated by the Coast Guard, the National Response Center (NRC) is the sole U.S. Government point of contact for reporting all oil, chemical, radiological, biological, and etiological spills and discharges into the environment, anywhere in the United States and its territories. In addition to gathering and distributing spill/incident information for Federal On Scene Coordinators and serving as the communications and operations center for the National Response Team, the NRC maintains agreements with a variety of federal entities to make additional notifications regarding incidents meeting established trigger criteria. The NRC also takes Maritime Suspicious Activity and Security Breach Reports. Details on the NRC organization and specific responsibilities can be found in the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan.The Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement (MISLE) database system is managed and used by the Coast Guard for tracking pollution and safety incidents in the nation's ports.
National Maritime Center
The National Maritime Center (NMC) is the merchant mariner credentialing authority for the USCG under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. To ensure a safe, secure, and environmentally sound marine transportation system, the mission of the NMC is to issue credentials to fully qualified mariners in the United States maritime jurisdiction.
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.
On 25 November 2002, the Homeland Security Act was signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush, designating the Coast Guard to be placed under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The transfer of administrative control from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was completed the following year, on 1 March 2003.
The U.S. Coast Guard reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security. However, under § 3 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.
As members of the military, 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 service has participated in every major U.S. conflict from 1790 through today, including landing 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 have been its major roles in recent conflicts in Iraq.
On 17 October 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, man-made 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 in 2007, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen said the new maritime strategy reinforced the time-honored missions the service has carried out in the United States 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.
Authority as a law enforcement agency
A member of USCG Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 106 performing a security sweep aboard a tanker ship in the North Persian Gulf in July 2007
A Coast Guardmen stands guard over more than 40,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $500 million being offloaded from the Cutter Sherman, April 23, 2007. The drugs were seized in three separate busts near Central America. The offload included approximately 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the largest cocaine bust in maritime history.
Title 14 USC, section 2 authorizes the Coast Guard to enforce U.S. federal laws. This authority is further defined in § 89, which gives law enforcement powers to all Coast Guard commissioned officers, warrant officers, and petty officers. Unlike the other branches of the United States Armed Forces, which are prevented from acting in a law enforcement capacity by § 1385, the Posse Comitatus Act, and Department of Defense policy, the Coast Guard is exempt from and not subject to the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Further law enforcement authority is given by § 143 and § 1401, which empower U.S. Coast Guard active and reserve commissioned officers, warrant officers, and petty officers as federal customs officers. This places them under § 1589a, which grants customs officers general federal law enforcement authority, including the authority to:
(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.
— 19 USC §1589a. Enforcement authority of customs officers
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 Coast Guard as one of 104 federal components that employed law enforcement officers. The report also included a summary table of the authorities of the 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. This is rarely done in practice, however; at many Coast Guard stations, commanders prefer to have all service-issued weapons in armories when not in use. Still, one court has held in the case of People v Booth that Coast Guard boarding officers are qualified law enforcement officers authorized to carry personal firearms off-duty for self-defense.
Title 14 USC, section 2, 14 U.S.C. § 89, 18 U.S.C. § 1385 and the case of People v. Booth mentioned above all served to codify what had been long standing informal practice during the Coast Guard's long residence in the Department of Transportation. During this period USCG commissioned, chief petty and petty officers occasionally served as Law Enforcement officers at several levels with arrest authority both on and off duty and also enforced border and immigration law within a maritime context. By moving to Homeland Security, members of the Coast Guard were effectively made into one of the more powerful law enforcement officials simply because of the broad range of their legal mission and authority.
A typical day
Coast Guardmen preparing to transport a portable pump to the 112-foot grounded fishing vessel Mar-Gun, March 7, 2009
A Coast Guard LEDET 409 conducting a drug interdiction
The Coast Guard occasionally publishes a list of statistics that summarizes their activities. Based on 2013 statistics, on an average day the United States Coast Guard will:
Conduct 109 search and rescue cases
Save 10 lives
Assist 192 people in distress
Protect US$2.8 million in property
Seize 169 pounds (77 kg) of marijuana and 306 pounds (139 kg) of cocaine with a street value of US$9.5 million
Process 238 mariner licenses and documents
Investigate 6 vessel casualties involving collisions or groundings
Have underway small boats for 396 sorties/missions
Fly 164 aircraft missions logging 324 hours
Board 144 vessels of law enforcement interest
Interdict and rescue 14 illegal immigrants at sea
Open 8 new cases for marine violation of federal statutes
Board 100 large vessels for port safety checks
Conduct 20 commercial fishing vessel safety exams
Respond to 20 oil or hazardous chemical spills totaling 2,800 US gal (11,000 l)
Service 135 aids to navigation
Monitor the transit of 2,509 commercial ships through U.S. ports
The Coast Guard traced its roots to the small fleet of vessels maintained by the United States Department of the Treasury beginning in the 1790s to enforce tariffs (an important source of revenue for the new nation), which eventually evolved into the United States Revenue Cutter Service. Secretary of the TreasuryAlexander Hamilton lobbied Congress to fund the construction of ten cutters, which it did on 4 August 1790 (now celebrated as the Coast Guard's official birthday). Until the re-establishment of the Navy in 1798, these "revenue cutters" were the only naval force of the early United States. As such, the cutters and their crews frequently took on additional duties, including combating piracy, rescuing mariners in distress, ferrying government officials, and even carrying mail.
A gun crew on board (WPB-82317) firing an 81mm mortar during the bombardment of a suspected Viet Cong staging area one mile behind An Thoi in August 1965
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 Coast 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 within the Navy was in World War II, in all some 250,000 served in the Coast Guard during World War II.
United States Coast Guard Squadron One unit patch during the Vietnam War
Coast Guard Squadron One, was a combat unit formed by the United States Coast Guard in 1965 for service during the Vietnam War. Placed under the operational control of the United States Navy, it was assigned duties in Operation Market Time. Its formation marked the first time since World War II that Coast Guard personnel were used extensively in a combat environment. The squadron operated divisions in three separate areas during the period of 1965 to 1970. Twenty-six Point-class cutters with their crews and a squadron support staff were assigned to the U.S. Navy with the mission of interdicting the movement of arms and supplies from the South China Sea into South Vietnam by Viet Cong and North Vietnam junk and trawler operators. The squadron also provided 81mm mortar naval gunfire support to nearby friendly units operating along the South Vietnamese coastline and assisted the U.S. Navy during Operation Sealords.
Coast Guard Squadron Three, was a combat unit formed by the United States Coast Guard in 1967 for service during the Vietnam War. Placed under the operational control of the United States Navy and based in Pearl Harbor. It consisted of five USCG High Endurance Cutters operating on revolving six-month deployments. A total of 35 High Endurance Cutters took part in operations from May 1967 to December 1971, most notably using their 5" guns to provide naval gunfire support missions.
Often units within the Coast Guard operate under Department of the Navy operational control while other Coast Guard units remain under the Department of Homeland Security.
The Coast Guard has 40,992 people on active duty. The formal name for a uniformed member of the Coast Guard is "Coast Guardsman", irrespective of gender. "Coastie" is an informal term commonly used to refer to current or former Coast Guard personnel. In 2008, the term "Guardian" was introduced as an alternative but was later dropped. Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr. stated that it was his belief that no Commandant had the authority to change what members of the Coast Guard are called as the term Coast Guardsman is found in Title 14 USC which established the Coast Guard in 1915.[Note 2] "Team Coast Guard" refers to the four components of the Coast Guard as a whole: Regular, Reserve, Auxiliary, and Coast Guard civilian employees.
Commissioned officers in the Coast Guard hold pay grades ranging from O-1 to O-10 and have the same rank structure as the Navy. Officers holding the rank of ensign (O-1) through lieutenant commander (O-4) are considered junior officers, commanders (O-5) and captains (O-6) are considered senior officers, and rear admirals (O-7) through admirals (O-10) are considered flag officers. The Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard are the only members of the Coast Guard authorized to hold the rank of admiral.
The Coast Guard does not have medical officers or chaplains of its own. Instead, chaplains from the U.S. Navy, as well as officers from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps are assigned to the Coast Guard to perform chaplain-related functions and medical-related functions, respectively. These officers wear Coast Guard uniforms but replace the Coast Guard insignia with that of their own service.
The Navy and Coast Guard share identical officer rank insignia except that Coast Guard officers wear a gold Coast Guard Shield in lieu of a line star or staff corps officer insignia.
Commissioned Officer grade structure of the United States Coast Guard
Insignia of the twenty-one different warrant officer specialties within the USCG
Highly qualified enlisted personnel in pay grades E-6 through E-9 with a minimum of eight years experience can compete each year for appointment as warrant officers (WO). Successful candidates are chosen by a board and then commissioned as chief warrant officers (CWO2) in one of twenty-one specialties. Over time, chief warrant officers may be promoted to CWO3 and CWO4. The ranks of warrant officer (WO1) and chief warrant officer five (CWO5) are not currently used in the Coast Guard. Chief warrant officers may also compete for the Chief Warrant Officer to Lieutenant Program. If selected, the warrant officer will be promoted to lieutenant (O-3E). The "E" designates over four years active duty service as a warrant officer or enlisted member and entitles the member to a higher rate of pay than other lieutenants.
Warrant officer grade structure of the United States Coast Guard
Enlisted members of the Coast Guard have pay grades from E-1 to E-9 and also follow the same rank structure as the Navy. Enlisted members in pay grades of E-4 and higher are considered petty officers and follow career development paths very similar to those of Navy petty officers.
Petty officers in pay grade E-7 and higher are chief petty officers and must attend the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy, or an equivalent Department of Defense school, in order to be advanced to pay grade E-8. The basic themes of the school are:
Systems thinking and lifelong learning
Enlisted rank insignia is also nearly identical to Navy enlisted insignia. The Coast Guard shield replacing the petty officer's eagle on collar and cap devices for petty officers or enlisted rating insignia for seamen qualified as a "designated striker". Group Rate marks (stripes) for junior enlisted members (E-3 and below) also follow Navy convention with white for seaman, red for fireman, and green for the airman. In a departure from the Navy conventions, all petty officers E-6 and below wear red chevrons and all chief petty officers wear gold
Non-commissioned officer grade structure of the United States Coast Guard Note: Crossed anchors in the graphics indicate a rating of Boatswain's Mate
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy is a four-year service academy located in New London, Connecticut. Approximately 200 cadets graduate each year, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as an ensign in the Coast Guard. Graduates are obligated to serve a minimum of five years on active duty. Most graduates are assigned to duty aboard Coast Guard cutters immediately after graduation, either as Deck Watch Officers (DWOs) or as Engineer Officers in Training (EOITs). Smaller numbers are assigned directly to flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida or to shore duty at Coast Guard Sector, District, or Area headquarters units.
In addition to the Academy, prospective officers, who already hold a college degree, may enter the Coast Guard through Officer Candidate School (OCS), also located at the Coast Guard Academy. OCS is a 17-week course of instruction that prepares candidates to serve effectively as officers in the Coast Guard. In addition to indoctrinating students into a military lifestyle, OCS provides a wide range of highly technical information necessary to perform the duties of a Coast Guard officer.
Graduates of OCS are usually commissioned as ensigns, but some with advanced graduate degrees may enter as lieutenants (junior grade) or lieutenants. 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 cutter, flight training, a staff job, or an operations ashore billet.
OCS is the primary channel through which the Coast Guard enlisted grades ascend to the commissioned officer corps.
Lawyers, engineers, intelligence officers, military aviators holding commissions in other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces requesting interservice transfers to the Coast Guard, graduates of maritime academies, and certain other individuals may also receive an officer's commission in the Coast Guard through the Direct Commission Officer (DCO) program. Depending on the specific program and the 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.
Recruit companies visiting Arlington National Cemetery for their one day of off-base liberty, which is their only break in an eight-week boot camp at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey
Newly enlisted personnel are sent to eight weeks of recruit training at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May in Cape May, New Jersey. New recruits arrive at Sexton Hall and remain there for three days of initial processing which includes haircuts, vaccinations, uniform issue, and other necessary entrance procedures. During this initial processing period, the new recruits are led by temporary company commanders. These temporary company commanders are tasked with teaching the new recruits how to march and preparing them to enter into their designated company. The temporary company commanders typically do not enforce any physical activity such as push ups or crunches. When the initial processing is complete, the new seaman recruits are introduced to their permanent company commanders who will remain with them until the end of training. There is typically a designated lead company commander and two support company commanders. The balance of the eight-week boot camp is spent in learning teamwork and developing physical skills. An introduction of how the Coast Guard operates with special emphasis on the Coast Guard's core values is an important part of the training.
Following graduation from recruit training, most members are sent to their first unit while they await orders to attend advanced training in Class "A" Schools. At "A" schools, Coast Guard enlisted personnel are trained in their chosen rating; rating is a Coast Guard and Navy term for enlisted skills synonymous with the Army's and Marine Corps' military occupation codes (MOS) and Air Force's Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC). Members who earned high ASVAB scores or who were otherwise guaranteed an "A" School of choice while enlisting may go directly to their "A" School upon graduation from Boot Camp.
Civilian personnel and Specialty rates
The Coast Guard employs over 8,577 civilians in over two hundred different job types including Coast Guard Investigative Servicespecial agents, lawyers, engineers, technicians, administrative personnel, tradesmen, and federal firefighters. Civilian employees work at various levels in the Coast Guard to support its various missions.
(WMSL-750), the first Legend-class national security cutters
The Coast Guard operates 243 Cutters, defined as any vessel more than 65 feet (20 m) long, that has a permanently assigned crew and accommodations for the extended support of that crew.
National Security Cutter (WMSL): Also known as the "Legend"-class, these are the Coast Guard's latest class of 418-foot (127 m) military defense maritime ship. At 418 ft. these are the largest USCG military cutters in active service. One-for-one Legend-class ships are replacing individually decommissioned 1960s Hamilton-class high endurance cutters. A total of eight were authorized and budgeted; as of 2015 three are in service, and three are under construction. In 2016 a ninth National Security Cutter was authorized by Congress.
High Endurance Cutter (WHEC): The 378-foot (115 m) Hamilton-class cutters were commissioned in the late 1960s. Missions include law enforcement, search and rescue, and military defense. This aged class of 12 are being individually decommissioned and replaced on a one-for one basis by the new Legend-class National Security Cutters.
(WMEC-910), the tenth Famous-class medium endurance cutters
Medium Endurance Cutter (WMEC): These are mostly the 210-foot (64 m) Reliance-class, and the 270-foot (82 m) Famous-class cutters, although the 283-foot (86 m) Alex Haley also falls into this category. Primary missions are law enforcement, search and rescue, and military defense.
USCGC Eagle: A 295-foot (90 m) sailing barque used as a training ship for Coast Guard Academy cadets and Coast Guard officer candidates. She was originally built in Germany as Horst Wessel, and was seized by the United States as a prize of war in 1945.
Seagoing Buoy Tender (WLB): These 225-foot (69 m) ships are used to maintain aids to navigation and also assist with law enforcement and search and rescue.
Coastal Buoy Tender (WLM): The 175-foot (53 m) Keeper-class coastal buoy tenders are used to maintain coastal aids to navigation.
(WPC-1110), the tenth Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter
Sentinel-classcutter (WPC): The 154-foot (47 m) Sentinel-class, also known by its program name, the "Fast Response Cutter"-class and is used for search and rescue work and law enforcement.
Bay-classicebreaking tug (WTGB): 140-foot (43 m) icebreakers used primarily for domestic icebreaking missions. Other missions include search and rescue, law enforcement, and aids to navigation maintenance.
Special Purpose Craft – Law Enforcement (SPC-LE): Intended to operate in support of specialized law enforcement missions, utilizing three 300 horsepower (220 kW) Mercury Marine engines. The SPC-LE is 33 feet (10 m) long and capable of speeds in excess of 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph) and operations more than 30 miles (48 km) from shore.
Over-the-Horizon (OTH) boat: A 23-foot (7.0 m) rigid hull inflatable boat used by medium and high endurance cutters and specialized units.
Short Range Prosecutor (SRP): A 23-foot (7.0 m) rigid hull inflatable boat that can be launched from a stern launching ramp on the National Security Cutters.
A C-37A Gulfstream in flight
An HC-144A Ocean Sentry in flight
An HC-130 Hercules in flight
An HH-60J Jayhawk conducting rescue demonstration
An MH-65C Dolphin in flight
A grounded MH-65E Dolphin
The Coast Guard operates approximately 201 fixed and rotary wing aircraft from 24 Coast Guard Air Stations throughout the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Most of these air stations are tenant activities at civilian airports, several of which are former Air Force Bases and Naval Air Stations, although several are also independent military facilities. Coast Guard Air Stations are also located on active Naval Air Stations, Air National Guard bases, and Army Air Fields.
Fixed-wing aircraft operate from Air Stations on long-duration missions. Helicopters operate from Air Stations and can deploy on a number of different cutters. Helicopters can rescue people or intercept vessels smuggling migrants or narcotics. Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Coast Guard has developed a more prominent role in national security and now has armed helicopters operating in high-risk areas for the purpose of maritime law enforcement and anti-terrorism.
The Coast Guard is now developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program that will utilize the MQ-9 Reaper platform for homeland security and search/rescue operations. To support this endeavor, the Coast Guard has partnered with the Navy and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to study existing/emerging unmanned aerial system (UAS) capabilities within their respective organizations. As these systems mature, research and operational experience gleaned from this joint effort will enable the Coast Guard to develop its own cutter and land-based UAS capabilities.
Most Coast Guard Cutters have one or more naval gun systems installed, including:
The Oto Melara 76 mm, a radar-guided computer controlled gun system that is used on both Medium and High Endurance Cutters. The 3-inch gun's high rate of fire and availability of specialized ammunition make it a multi-purpose gun capable of anti-shipping, anti-aircraft, ground support and short-range anti-missile defense.
The MK 110 57mm gun, a radar-guided computer controlled variant of the Bofors 57 mm gun. It is used on the Legend-class cutter, also known as the National Security Cutter (NSC). It is a multi-purpose gun capable of anti-shipping, anti-aircraft, and short-range anti-missile defense. The stealth mount has a reduced radar profile. Also, the gun has a small radar mounted on the gun barrel to measure muzzle velocity for fire control purposes and can change ammunition types instantly due to a dual-feed system. It can also be operated/fired manually using a joystick and video camera (mounted on gun).
The Mk 38 Mod 0 weapons system consists of an M242 Bushmaster 25mm chain gun and the Mk 88 Mod 0 machine gun mount. A manned system, its gyro-stabilization compensates for the pitching deck. It provides ships with defensive and offensive gunfire capability for the engagement of a variety of surface targets. Designed primarily as a close-range defensive measure, it provides protection against patrol boats, floating mines, and various shore-based targets.
The Mk 38 Mod 2 weapons system is a remotely operated Mk 38 with an electronic optical sight, laser range-finder, FLIR, a more reliable feeding system, all of which enhance the weapon systems capabilities and accuracy.
The Phalanx CIWS (pronounced "sea-wiz") is a close-in weapon system for defense against aircraft and anti-ship missiles. it can also be used against a variety of surface targets. Consisting of a radar-guided 20 mm 6-barreled M61 Vulcan cannon mounted on a swiveling base, it is used on the Coast Guard's High Endurance Cutters. This system can operate autonomously against airborne threats or may be manually operated with the use of electronic optical sight, laser range-finder and FLIR systems against surface targets.
The U.S. Coast Guard uses a wide variety of small arms and light weapons. Handguns, shotguns, and rifles are used to arm boat crew and boarding team members and machine guns are mounted aboard cutters, boats, and helicopters.
The Coast Guard, like the other armed services of the United States, has a set of core values that serve as basic ethical guidelines for all Coast Guard active duty, reservists, auxiliarists, and civilians. The Coast Guard Core Values are:
Honor: Integrity is our standard. We demonstrate uncompromising ethical conduct and moral behavior in all of our personal actions. We are loyal and accountable to the public trust. Respect: We value our diverse workforce. We treat each other with fairness, dignity, and compassion. We encourage individual opportunity and growth. We encourage creativity through empowerment. We work as a team. Devotion to Duty: We are professionals, military and civilian, who seek responsibility, accept accountability, and are committed to the successful achievement of our organizational goals. We exist to serve. We serve with pride.
In 2008, the Coast Guard introduced the Guardian Ethos. As the Commandant, Admiral Allen noted in a message to all members of the Coast Guard: [The Ethos] "defines the essence of the Coast Guard," and is the "contract the Coast Guard and its members make with the nation and its citizens."
The Coast Guard Ethos
In an ALCOAST message effective 1 December 2011 the Commandant, Admiral Papp, directed that the language of Guardian Ethos be superseded by the Coast Guard Ethos in an effort to use terminology that would help with the identity of personnel serving in the Coast Guard. The term Coast Guardsman is the correct form of address used in Title 14 USC and is the form that has been used historically. This changed the line in the Guardian Ethos "I am a Guardian." to become "I am a Coast Guardsman."
The Ethos is:
I am a Coast Guardsman. I serve the people of the United States. I will protect them. I will defend them. I will save them. I am their shield. For them I am Semper Paratus. I live the Coast Guard core values. I am proud to be a Coast Guardsman. We are the United States Coast Guard.
The "Creed of the United States Coast Guardsman" was written by Vice Admiral Harry G. Hamlet, who served as Commandant of the Coast Guard from 1932 to 1936.
I am proud to be a United States Coast Guardsman. I revere that long line of expert seamen who by their devotion to duty and sacrifice of self have made it possible for me to be a member of a service honored and respected, in peace and in war, throughout the world. I never, by word or deed, will bring reproach upon the fair name of my service, nor permit others to do so unchallenged. I will cheerfully and willingly obey all lawful orders. I will always be on time to relieve, and shall endeavor to do more, rather than less, than my share. I will always be at my station, alert and attending to my duties. I shall, so far as I am able, bring to my seniors solutions, not problems. I shall live joyously, but always with due regard for the rights and privileges of others. I shall endeavor to be a model citizen in the community in which I live. I shall sell life dearly to an enemy of my country, but give it freely to rescue those in peril. With God's help, I shall endeavor to be one of His noblest Works... A UNITED STATES COAST GUARDSMAN.
"You have to go out, but you don't have to come back!"
This unofficial motto of the Coast Guard dates to an 1899 United States Lifesaving Service regulation, which states in part: "In attempting a rescue, ... he will not desist from his efforts until by actual trial, the impossibility of effecting a rescue is demonstrated. The statement of the keeper that he did not try to use the boat because the sea or surf was too heavy will not be accepted, unless attempts to launch it were actually made and failed."
Coast Guard Ensign
Ensign of the United States Coast Guard
Former Coast Guard ensign, used from 1915 to 1953
The Coast Guard Ensign (flag) was first flown by the Revenue Cutter Service in 1799 to distinguish revenue cutters from merchant ships. A 1 August 1799 order issued by Secretary of the Treasury, Oliver Wolcott, Jr. specified that the Ensign would be "sixteen perpendicular stripes (for the number of states in the United States at the time), 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."
This ensign became familiar in American waters and served as the sign of authority for the Revenue Cutter Service until the early 20th century. The ensign was originally intended to be flown only on revenue cutters and boats connected with the Customs Service but over the years it was found flying atop custom houses as well, and the practice became a requirement in 1874. On 7 June 1910, President William Howard Taft issued an Executive Order adding an emblem to (or "defacing") the ensign flown by the Revenue cutters to distinguish it from what is now called the Customs Ensign flown from the custom houses. The emblem was changed to the official seal of the Coast Guard in 1927.
The purpose of the ensign is to allow ship captains to easily recognize those vessels having legal authority to stop and board them. It is flown only as a symbol of law enforcement authority and is never carried as a parade standard.
Coast Guard Standard
Parade Standard of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard Standard is used in parades and carries the battle honors of the Coast Guard. It was derived from the jack of the Coast Guard ensign which was flown by 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."
Service Mark ("Racing Stripe")
Service mark (also known as the Racing Stripe)
The racing stripe is borne by Coast Guard cutters, aircraft, and many boats. First used and placed into official usage as of April 6, 1967, it consists of a narrow blue stripe, a narrow white stripe between, and a broad CG red bar with the Coast Guard shield centered. Red-hulled icebreaker cutters and most HH-65/MH-65 helicopters (i.e., those with a red fuselage) bear a narrow blue stripe, a narrow empty stripe the color of the fuselage (an implied red stripe), and broad white bar, with the Coast Guard shield centered. Conversely, black-hulled cutters (such as buoy tenders and inland construction tenders) use the standard racing stripe. Auxiliary vessels maintained by the Coast Guard also carry the Racing Stripe, but in inverted colors (i.e., broad blue stripe with narrow white and CG red stripes) and the Auxiliary shield.
The Racing Stripe, officially known as the Service Mark, was designed in 1964 by the industrial design office of Raymond Loewy Associates to give the Coast Guard a distinctive, modern image. Loewy had designed the colors for the Air Force One fleet for Jackie Kennedy. President Kennedy was so impressed with his work, he suggested that the entire Federal Government needed his make-over and suggested that he start with the Coast Guard. The stripes are canted at a 64 degree angle, coincidentally the year the Racing Stripe was designed.
Similar Racing Stripe designs have been adopted for the use of other coast guards and maritime authorities and many other law enforcement and rescue agencies.
Photo showing a variety of Coast Guard uniforms. From Left: Service Dress White, Tropical Blue, Service Dress Blue, Winter Dress Blue, Camouflage Utility Uniform, Operational Dress Uniform
Prior to 1974, Coast Guard personnel wore essentially the same uniforms as the Navy (although some unique uniform items did exist) with distinctive Coast Guard insignia. These were minor, primarily consisting of distinctive cap devices for officers and chief petty officers, incorporation of the Coast Guard shield in lieu of line or staff corps insignia for officers, and different buttons on dress uniforms.
In 1974, the current Coast Guard Service Dress Blue "Bravo" uniform was introduced for wear by both officers and enlisted personnel; the transition was completed during 1974. The uniform consists of a blue four-pocket single breasted jacket and trousers, a light-blue button-up shirt with a pointed collar, two front button-flap pockets, and shoulder loops, along with a tie of the same shade as the jacket are worn with the uniform. Either the garrison cap or combination cap may be worn. Officer and enlisted rank insignia are sewn onto the jacket sleeve in the same manner as Navy uniforms.
A Coast Guard chief warrant officer (CWO2, left) and an officer (commander, O-5, right) wearing Full Dress Whites
The Service Dress Blue "Bravo" uniform may be worn year-round for business within the Coast Guard and for social occasions where the civilian equivalent is coat and tie.
The slightly more formal Service Dress Blue "Alpha" variant substitutes a white shirt for the blue, and mandates the combination cap. Enlisted personnel do not wear collar devices with the white shirt.
Full Dress Blue is essentially the same as Service Dress Blue "Alpha," except that it is worn with a full-size medals instead of ribbons. Additionally, a sword may be prescribed for officers, and white gloves may be required. A white belt may be worn for honor guards.
The Tropical Blue uniform, worn in warm weather, omits the jacket and tie, and features a short-sleeved, light blue shirt (identical to that worn by the U.S. Air Force) with rank insignia on shoulder boards for officers, and pin-on collar insignia for petty officers. The Tropical Blue uniform may be worn year-round for general office wear and for visits between commands. It may be worn in lieu of the SDB uniform, but not to functions where civilian dress is coat and tie.
Despite the transition to distinctive "Bender's blues" uniforms in the 1970s, some Navy-style dress uniforms were retained. The Service Dress White and Full Dress White "choker" uniforms for officers are identical to those worn by U.S. Navy officers (aside from service-specific buttons, insignia and sword design). These are typically used for formal parade and change-of-command ceremonies. For similar occasions the enlisted members wear Tropical Blue, Service Dress Blue or Full Dress Blue. The dinner dress uniforms worn for formal (black tie) evening ceremonies are also identical to those of the Navy, aside from Coast Guard-specific insignia. As in the Navy, these uniforms are required for officers, but optional for enlisted members. Due to the expense of these uniforms and the fact that they are rarely called-for, few junior enlisted members purchase them.
The current working uniform of the Coast Guard is the Operational Dress Uniform (ODU). The ODU may be worn year-round primarily as a field utility and watchstanding uniform, but may also be worn in an office environment where appropriate. The ODU is similar to the old-style Battle Dress Uniform previously worn by all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, both in function and style. However, the ODU is in a solid dark blue with no camouflage pattern and does not have lower pockets on the blouse. The first generation ODU, in service from 2004 to 2012, was worn with the blouse tucked into the trousers. The second generation ODU is worn with the blouse untucked and has black Coast Guard insignia embroidered on the right breast pocket as well as the side pockets of the trousers. The ODU is worn with composite-toed boots in most circumstances, but low-cut brown boat shoes may be prescribed for certain vessel boarding operations. A standard baseball-style ball cap is worn, embroidered in gold block lettering with "U.S. Coast Guard." Units may also additionally authorize ball caps with the unit name embroidered for wear while on the unit. A foul weather parka is the outerwear worn with the ODU. The ODU's success and practicality as a working uniform has led the U.S. Public Health Service and the NOAA Corps to adopt ODU variants as standard working uniforms. Some Navy personnel also advocated adoption of the ODU as a standard shipboard uniform for the Navy, rather than the unpopular Navy Working Uniform Type I.
Coast Guard personnel serving in expeditionary combat units such as Port Security Units or Law Enforcement Detachments, and Coast Guard personnel deployed overseas (e.g. PATFORSWA) wear the Navy Working Uniform Type III with distinctive Coast Guard insignia, and generally follow Navy Uniform Regulations.
Coast Guard cadets wearing Full Dress Blue (B) uniforms
All Coast Guardsmen wear the combination cap with all uniforms except the ODU and CUU. Company commanders (the Coast Guard's equivalent of drill sergeants) at Training Center Cape May wear the traditional Smokey Bear-style campaign hat.
Cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy wear standard Coast Guard uniforms, but also wear two different styles of parade dress uniforms, similar to those worn by Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Full Dress Blue (B) consists of black blouses with banded collars and double rows of buttons, worn with matching black trousers and a white peaked hat. Full Dress Blue (A) substitutes white trousers in lieu of black.
The U.S. Coast Guard Uniform Distribution Center supplies the uniform items to outfit the men and women who carry out the various functions of the Coast Guard, NOAA, and PHS; which can be ordered online through the Coast Guard Exchange. 
The United States Coast Guard Reserve is the reserve military force of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Reserve was founded on 19 February 1941. The Coast Guard has 8700 reservists who normally drill two days a month and an additional 12 days of active duty each year, although many perform additional drill and active duty periods, to include those mobilized to extended active duty. 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 11 September 2001, reservists have been activated and served on tours of active duty, to include deployments to the Persian Gulf and also as parts of Department of Defense combatant commands such as the U.S. Northern and Central Commands. 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 the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command are reservists.
The Reserve is managed by the Assistant Commandant for Reserve, Rear Admiral Todd C. Wiemers, USCG.
In 1918, twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker of the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve became the first uniformed women to serve in the Coast Guard. Later, United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARS) was created on 23 November 1942 with the signing of Public Law 773 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The name is a contraction of the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus, meaning "Always Ready" in Latin. The name also refers to a spar in nautical usage. Like the other women's reserves such as the Women's Army Corps and the WAVES, it was created to free men from stateside service in order to fight overseas. Its first director was Captain Dorothy C. Stratton who is credited with creating the name for the organization. The cutter USCGC Spar is named for the SPARS.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is the civilian volunteer uniformedauxiliary service of the United States Coast Guard, established on 23 June 1939 by an act of Congress as the United States Coast Guard Reserve, it was re-designated as the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary on 19 February 1941. It works within the Coast Guard in carrying out its noncombatant and non-law enforcement missions. Auxiliarists are subject to direction from the Commandant of the Coast Guard making them unique among all federal volunteers (e.g. Air Force's Civil Air Patrol and FBI's InfraGard); they are not a separate organization, but an integral part of the Coast Guard. As of 2018, there were approximately 24,000 members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
The Coast Guard has assigned primary responsibility for many recreational boating safety tasks to the Auxiliary, including public boating safety education and voluntary Vessel Safety Checks (formerly called Courtesy Examinations). Additionally, Auxiliarists use their own vessels, boats, and aircraft (once registered as Coast Guard facilities) to conduct safety patrols, aid in search and rescue missions, and perform other tasks on behalf of the Coast Guard.
Prior to 1997, Auxiliarists were largely limited to activities supporting recreational boating safety. In 1997, however, new legislation authorized the Auxiliary to participate in any and all Coast Guard missions except direct military and direct law enforcement. Auxiliarists may directly augment active duty Coast Guard personnel in non-combat, non-law enforcement roles (e.g. radio communications watch stander, interpreter, cook, etc.) and may assist active duty personnel in inspecting commercial vessels and maintaining aids-to-navigation. Auxiliarists may support the law enforcement and homeland security missions of the Coast Guard but may not directly participate (make arrests, etc.), and Auxiliarists are not permitted to carry a weapon while serving in any Auxiliary capacity.
Deployable Operations Group
Seal of the United States Coast Guard Deployable Operations Group
The Deployable Operations Group (DOG) was a Coast Guard command established in July 2007. The DOG established a single command authority to rapidly provide the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Justice and other interagency operational commanders adaptive force packages drawn from the Coast Guard's deployable specialized force units. The DOG was disestablished on 22 April 2013 and its deployable specialized forces (DSF) units were placed under the control of the Atlantic and Pacific Area Commanders.
The planning for the unit began after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and culminated with its formation on 20 July 2007. Its missions included maritime law enforcement, anti-terrorism, port security, pollution response, and diving operations.
Vice Admiral Thad Allen in 2005 was named Principal Federal Officer to oversee recovery efforts in the Gulf Region after Hurricane Katrina. After promotion to Admiral, on the eve of his retirement as Commandant, Allen again received national visibility after being named National Incident Commander overseeing the response efforts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Those who have piloted or flown in Coast Guard aircraft under official flight orders may join the Coast Guard Aviation Association which was formerly known as the "Ancient Order of the Pterodactyl" ("Flying Since the World was Flat").
The Ancient Albatross Award is presented to the active duty USCG member who qualified as an aviator earlier than any other person who is still serving. Separate enlisted and officer awards are given.
Coast Guard CW Operators Association
The Coast Guard CW Operators Association (CGCWOA) is a membership organization comprising primarily former members of the United States Coast Guard who held the enlisted rating of Radioman (RM) or Telecommunications Specialist (TC), and who employed International Morse Code (CW) in their routine communications duties on Coast Guard cutters and at shore stations.
USCG Chief Petty Officers Association
Members of this organization unite to assist members and dependents in need, assist with Coast Guard recruiting efforts, support the aims and goals of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Academy, keep informed on Coast Guard matters, and assemble for social amenities; and include Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief Petty Officers, active, reserve and retired. Membership is also open to all Chief Warrant Officers and Officers who have served as a Chief Petty Officer.
USCG Chief Warrant and Warrant Officers Association (CWOA)
Established in 1929, the Chief Warrant and Warrant Officers Association, United States Coast Guard (CWOA) represents Coast Guard warrant and chief warrant officers (active, reserve and retired) to the Congress, White House and the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, the association communicates with the Coast Guard leadership on matters of concern to Coast Guard chief warrant officers.
The US Coast Guard maintains a Motion Picture and Television Office (MOPIC) in Hollywood, California, along with its sister services at the Department of Defense dedicated to enhancing public awareness and understanding of the Coast Guard, its people, and its missions through a cooperative effort with the entertainment industry.
Coast Guard was a syndicated television series that aired for three seasons from 1995 to 1997 in the United States as well as overseas, where it was called Sea Rescue. The series followed Coast Guard personnel as they performed their missions.
^ Although the U.S. Navy lists its founding as 1775 with the formation of the Continental Navy, that service was disbanded in 1785 and the modern U.S. Navy in its present form was founded in 1794.
^The term Coast Guardsman is the official term used by the U.S. Coast Guard to refer to a member regardless of the person's gender. In an ALCOAST message effective 1 December 2011 the Commandant, Admiral Papp, directed that the language of the Guardian Ethos be superseded by the Coast Guard Ethos in an effort to use terminology that would help with the identity of personnel serving in the Coast Guard. The term Coast Guardsman is the correct form of address used in Title 14 USC and is the form that has been used historically.
^United States Coast Guard. "Timeline of Coast Guard Organizational History"(PDF). United States Department of Homeland Security. Archived(PDF) from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 1 November 1941: President Roosevelt's Executive Order 8929 transferred the Coast Guard to Navy Department control. In compliance with Executive Order 9666, the Coast Guard returned to Treasury Department control.
^United States Coast Guard. "Timeline of Coast Guard Organizational History"(PDF). United States Department of Homeland Security. Archived(PDF) from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 6 April 1917: With the declaration of war against Germany the Coast Guard was transferred by Executive Order to the control of the Navy Department.
^United States Coast Guard. "Daily Chronology of Coast Guard History". United States Department of Homeland Security. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 2003 - Administrative control of the Coast Guard transferred to the newly created Department of Homeland Security from the Department of Transportation, where it had served since 1 April 1967.
^Baldinelli, D.C. (9 December 2002). "The U.S. Coast Guard's Assignment to the Department of Homeland Security: Entering Uncharted Waters or Just a Course Correction?". United States Coast Guard. United States Department of Homeland Security. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2014. On November 25, 2002, President George Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, which called for the largest reorganization in the U.S. government since the formation of the Department of Defense. The reorganization plan will bring together twenty-two agencies or parts of agencies from other departments such as Justice, Commerce, Health and Human Services, etc., under the control of the Department of Homeland Security.... One of those agencies affected was the United States Coast Guard, which will be transferred from the Department of Transportation.
^"U.S. Coast Guard Flags". 17 November 2014. Archived from the original on 26 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015. As it was intended in 1799, the ensign is displayed as a mark of authority for boardings, examinations and seizures of vessels for the purpose of enforcing the laws of the United States. The ensign is never carried as a parade or ceremony standard.