Holidays Around the Country: US Coast Guard Day

This post breaks with the theme of international holidays, but it is in line with the theme of little known holidays or observations.

August 4 marks US Coast Guard Day each year. The Coast Guard is one branch of the US military, charged with protecting our waters and shorelines, that is rarely in the news except when they rescue people from stranded boats (like this account) or apprehend smugglers attempting to bring people or contraband into the country. The media don’t report on US Coast Guard calling up its reservists (yes, there are Coast Guard reservists) to be sent into foreign battles.

Here are some little known facts about the US Coast Guard.

The US Coast Guard has never been part of the Department of Defense.

Congress created the service that would eventually turn into the US Coast Guard on August 4, 1790, as part of the Department of the Treasury. That service, the Revenue Cutter Service, provided with ten cutters, chiefly patroled to ensure enforcement of tariffs on incoming goods.

In 1915, the US Coast Guard was formed from the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the US Life-saving Service.

In 1939, the US Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard, transferring with it responsibility for protecting lighthouses and lightvessels, ships that served as lighthouses.

In 1942, select responsibilities of two other organizations, the Bureau of Navigation and the Steamboat Inspection Service, were transferred to the US Coast Guard.

In 1967, the Coast Guard was moved to the Department of Transportation.

In 2003, it was incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security.

The US Coast Guard’s mission is unique among the military branches.

The Coast Guard is the only military branch charged with saving lives. It is also the only branch with law enforcement and regulatory authority.

Currently, the US Coast Guard has ships, fixed and rotary wing aircraft, and boats that patrol 95,000 miles of coastline as well as protecting ports and the 4.5 million square miles of US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Coast Guard also calls on its Auxiliary of volunteers to help when needed. The Auxiliary is authorized to provide the same services as the US Coast Guard. Like the Coast Guard, the Auxiliary cannot charge for the services they provide.

In addition to active duty and reserve military staff and a civilian component, the US Coast Guard relies on volunteers.

Officers, enlisted persons, reservists, civilians, and volunteers make up the Coast Guard’s staff.

The volunteer, Auxiliary, component comprises a significant difference between the US Coast Guard and the other military branches. Auxiliaries of other military branches provide services to that military branch’s personnel, not to the public on behalf of the service branch.

Many aspects of the US Coast Guard are similar to other military branches.

Like other military branches, the US Coast Guard has an academy to train officer candidates. The goal of the four-year institution is to transform students physically, intellectually, and ethically.

Also like other military branches, attending the US Coast Guard Academy isn’t the only route to enter. High school graduates, those from other branches of the military, as well as people coming from the private sector can enlist. Graduates of other four-year degree programs can apply for an officer’s commission.

The US Coast Guard has its own anthem, “Semper Paratus: Always Ready,” performed below by the All Schools Elementary Honor Orchestra in honor of Ensign Brandon Newman, son of the conductor.

Here’s to US Coast Guard Day on this August 4.

Featured image credit: Photo by Stiven Sanchez on Unsplash

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