The United States Coast Guardsman will wear multiple hats during their service to this nation. They are an armed force, environmental protector, maritime law enforcer and first responder.
Every single day.
"We have eleven statutory missions that we perform for the country with 42,000 active duty, 6,000 reservists, and 8,000 civilians. We don't get overtime, we are on duty 24/7 and are subject to the uniform code of military justice. We work a lot of hours to get it done," shared Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Jason Vanderhaden.
He continued on sharing the differences between those that serve under the Department of Defense and the USCG. He explained that those under DOD leave to fight, and when they get home, they have a chance to recharge and retrain. That's not the case for those in the USCG. When a ship returns home from deployment, there are continual repairs and work that doesn't stop. Then – it redeploys again, to continue serving the mission.
The defense readiness aspect of the USCG is unique. They have always had a respected partnership with the United States Navy and have fought in every major war since their inception on Aug. 4, 1790. They are overseas even now, serving in the ongoing middle eastern conflict. It may surprise the public to learn that they are the nations oldest continuing seagoing service.
"I want to paint the picture that we have a very challenging mission set, but at the same time, we do it well," shared Vanderhaden. He continued on saying that it's almost as though coasties thrive on that environment, which is evidenced in the retention rate.
It may surprise people to learn that the USCG has an absolutely vital role in America's anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism battle. As a matter of fact, they are on the front lines of it. On any given day, they are enforcing security zones, conducting law enforcement boardings, and working to detect weapons of mass destruction.
They are also the nation's first line of defense against drugs entering the country. The USCG's drug interdictions account for over half of the total seizures of cocaine in the United States.
While patrolling and protecting America, they are also continually serving her water and its marine inhabitants. They partner with multiple organizations and groups to protect the environment. One of the core missions of the USCG involves protecting endangered marine species, stopping unauthorized ocean dumping, and preventing oil or chemical spills.
"You'll go a lot of places where people don't know what the Coast Guard does, that's for sure. We also struggle a little bit because people think they can't join the Coast Guard because they don't swim well. If you are in the water – something is probably wrong," said Vanderhaden with a laugh. This is because there is truly only one rating or MOS where they have to get into the water, and that is the aviation survival technician, most commonly known as the rescue swimmer.
The USCG often conducts search and rescues in extreme weather conditions. This mission involves multi-mission stations, cutters, aircraft, and boats that are all linked by communication networks. Although public references to movies like The Guardian cause eye rolls within the USCG community; it did bring rescue swimming to a higher level of respect within the public. The rescue swimmer motto should give you goosebumps: "so that others may live."
You'd think that recruiting potential coasties would be easy with the continuous news coverage and more visibility with certain movies, but it isn't. Vanderhaden shared that only a small percentage of the population will actually qualify to serve in the armed forces, and getting the word out about the USCG is still very challenging. This is because they do not have the recruiting budgets that the DOD has, so you'll almost never see a USCG commercial. "We rely on people finding us," said Vanderhaden.
With the world currently being consumed with the coronavirus or COVID-19 spread, Vanderhaden was asked about the USCG's response and continuing of its missions during the pandemic. "We still have the service that we have to provide to the nation…. We are still doing our job and we have to, we are just taking more precautions," he shared. There is no stand down for all of the vital operations of the USCG. He continued on saying, "We do need to make sure that we are always ready to respond, and we will continue to do that."
Their core values are honor, respect, and devotion to duty. These values guide them in all they do, every single day. They willingly don the multiple hats and are prepared to sacrifice it all in the name of preserving this nation. That's the United States Coast Guard, always ready.
To learn more about the Coast Guard and their missions, click here.