Explaining U.S. Coast Guard Operations

While being one of the smaller branches of the United States Armed Forces, the U.S. Coast Guard is vital to the United States defense and broader protection. Coast Guard operations range from air and sea rescues to drug trafficking interceptions. The U.S. Coast Guard were also a vital force in the support of D-Day, Vietnam War brown water operations and protection services in the Persian Gulf.

Missions of the United States Coast Guard

Broadly, the Coast Guard is responsible for three things:

  • Maritime safety
  • Maritime security
  • Maritime stewardship

Breaking down these categories further, maritime safety entails search and rescue, an inspection of commercial vessels, licensing and investigating merchant mariners, managing waterways (including ice patrol), assisting in and advocating for recreational boating safety, and responding to pollution. The Coast Guard also manages the DGPS radio navigation system, buoys, daymarks, and other navigational aids. Maritime security involves shouldering responsibility for 361 US ports and 95,000 miles of US waterways, drug interdiction, alien migrant interdiction, enforcing fishing laws, and in times of war, national defense measures. Maritime stewardship entails preventing marine pollution, education to stop it from happening, response for when it does, and maritime law enforcement for the perpetrators.

Historic Coast Guard Operations

The Coast Guard has contributed to the nation’s maritime protection since its previous incarnation was founded in 1790. The United States Revenue Cutter Service initially had a fleet of just ten cutters, known as the Revenue-Marine, to enforce tariffs and collect vital income for the young country. From this humble beginning, the Revenue Cutter Service’s responsibilities grew, taking on more maritime services and even homeland security missions, starting with the Quasi-War with France in the late 1790s.

One of the most historically critical times for the Coast Guard was August and September 2005: the response to Hurricane Katrina. The Coast Guard called in aircraft from all over the country and brought in 500 Coast Guard Reserve service members. Despite half the local service members also losing their homes, the Coast Guard was among the first to mount rescue operations, with helicopters working round-the-clock. In the Life-Saving Service’s best traditions, the Coast Guard was formed over 90 years prior. Over 33,500 were saved. In St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, the Coast Guard was the only federal agency with any significant presence for a week after the disaster, proving an absolute lifeline.  

Another historical juncture at which the Coast Guard’s lifesaving service was essential was in June 1944 as part of Operation Neptune, better known as the Normandy Landings. The weighty job of storming the beaches fell on the US Army, supported by the Army Air Force and the Navy. However, a small flotilla of wooden Coast Guard cutters called Rescue Flotilla One or the ‘Matchbox Fleet,’ was responsible for saving hundreds of Allied service members’ lives, as landing ships were damaged or destroyed by the Nazi forces’ sea defenses. While some of the Allied forces nearly mistook the cutters for enemy boats, others were incredibly grateful for the valor and expertise in rescuing them from sinking or flaming vessels. Over 400 lives were saved during the Landings alone, thanks to the efforts of Rescue Flotilla One.

Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf

The Coast Guard and Together We Served

Together We Served is a veteran locator service and network for veterans and active duty service members from every branch of the United States military. We provide opportunities for service members past and present to interact and make new friends or even reconnect with fellow Coasties from boot camp or previous assignments. Simply sign up for your account, enter your service details into the service record, and you’ll be able to connect with others whose details match the time and place of your own. Create your account today!

Coast Guard Trainees


Tags: Coast Guard, Coast Guard Veterans, Hurricane Katrina, Life Saving Service, Operation Neptune, Revenue-Marine, The United States Revenue Cutter Service, Together We Served, United States Armed Forces, United States Coast Guard


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