The complete hater's guide to the US Coast Guard
This is the last in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We featured all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along. This is a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other. When it comes to downrange operations, we put the rivalry behind us. When the ops-tempo isn’t as hectic, that’s when the rivalry resurfaces. That’s what the Hater’s Guide is for.
We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Coast Guard, how they should actually be hating on the Coast Guard, and why to really love the Coast Guard.
The nickname “Silent Service” may have been claimed by submariners, but the Coast Guard is a close second. Serving without glory or even sometimes a mention, it is only fair that they get the last installment of “The Hater’s Guide.”
The easiest ways to make fun of the Coast Guard
Puddle Pirates, Shallow Water Sailors, no matter what way you slice it, it’s pretty easy to come up with a nickname or two for the sailors who rarely venture into the deep, open ocean.
Not being part of the Department of Defense has always been a primary reason for the Coast Guard’s weird place in military culture. After falling under the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, and even a brief stint with the Navy, we finally settled into our current place with the Department of Homeland Security, making us the armed services’ version of that kid who has been to five high schools in four years. To make matters worse, when most people think of the Department of Homeland Security, they picture the TSA, not the Coast Guard, and that’s not an association that anyone wants.
While the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) gets hate for blending a sailor into the water, the Coast Guard’s uncomfortable and less-than-useful Operational Dress Uniform, or ODU, manages to be even worse than the NWU. Luckily, there are units in the Coast Guard, such as Port Security Units (PSUs) that wear the Navy’s Type III uniform just to look tacticool.
When people start making fun of us and we run out of comebacks, we just kind of throw the “Search and Rescue” card and hope it sticks.
Why to actually hate the Coast Guard
You’re out on the water, having a good time and enjoying a beer or two, and suddenly the blue lights come on and the Coast Guard wants to board your vessel. Before you know it, you’re racking up fines for anything from not having enough lifejackets to drinking behind the wheel of your boat. While they’re just doing part of their job as America’s water cops, no one likes the cops shutting down their party.
Most of the movies made about the Coast Guard have just been flat-out awful, and caused a lot of grief. The Soviet escort vessel in The Hunt for Red October is actually an active Coast Guard vessel that someone allowed to be repainted. The incident reportedly almost got several officers kicked out of the Coast Guard. No one can forget The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, which is the Coast Guard’s version of Top Gun, except without the volleyball scene or any likable characters. For generations past, Onionhead ruined Andy Griffith’s already floundering career.
There is no real “bad” duty station in the Coast Guard. Sure, there’s Alaska, one of the most beautiful states in the union. There’s also all the picturesque port cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, like Charleston, Miami, Tampa, San Juan, Honolulu, and San Diego. If there’s a place where people buy vacation homes, you bet there’s a Coast Guard station there.
We’re smarter, and we know it. To join the Coast Guard, you need a higher ASVAB AFQT score to join than you do with any other branch. While the minimum requirements for all the branches change with the needs of the service, a score of a 30-40 will get a prospective recruit into any of the other services, the Coast Guard expects a minimum of 40-50 from their applicants. Even with this, the wait list for Coast Guard boot camp is regularly six to nine months long, and even after boot camp, it can be two years before an E-2 or E-3 ever sees their “A” school.
Why you should love the Coast Guard
While reindeer have become a staple in the culture of wintertime America, there would have been no reindeer – and possibly no Alaska – if it weren’t for the Coast Guard. After a failed attempt by the Army to create order in Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with keeping the territory in line. Over the course of the next 100 years, they would save natives and settlers alike from death by starvation and illness. From Capt. “Hell Roaring” Michael Healy, who brought reindeer to Alaska from Siberia to save starving natives, to the crew of the Cutter Unalga who set up an orphanage for children left parentless by the Spanish Influenza, the Coast Guard has always had the best interest of the people in mind. With a commitment that persists to the modern day, the Coast Guard is closely tied to Alaska, its people, its industry, and its unpredictable weather.
After the American Revolution ended, the U.S. Navy was disbanded. From 1790 through 1801, while also acting as the only source of revenue generation for the nation, the U.S. Revenue-Marine was the only naval force that the fledgling nation had to protect them from terrors of the seas like as the Barbary pirates until proper frigates could be commissioned.
Even the Marine Corps needs heroes. On September 28, 1942, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro saved the lives of nearly 500 Marines at Guadalcanal by using his Higgins boat as a shield to protect the last men being evacuated from the beach. He was killed by enemy fire, but his last words were supposedly “Did they get off?”
One of the Marines that he saved that day was none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller. For his bravery, Munro posthumously became the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.
There are less than 43,000 active duty Coasties and 7,000 reservists. The yearly budget is less than $10.5 billion, which is man-for-man 60 percent less funding than the Navy. But every day, in every weather, the Coast Guard will be there to protect and defend the shores, rivers, and lakes of the U.S. Doing so much more than we should be able to with so much less, $3.9 billion worth of drugs are taken off the street every year. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in maritime assets are saved. There are pilots to fly when there are no other pilots willing or able to. Though people may not remember that we’re part of the U.S. military, it doesn’t ever stop us from having pride in what we do.