Today is Coast Guard Day, and we celebrate its 221st birthday. Our service has a long and distinguished history of serving and protecting the American people, their way of life and the country’s bountiful natural resources.
On August 4, 1790, the Revenue Cutter Service was founded by then-Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton and President George Washington. Congress authorized the construction of ten cutters. These ships were built to to enforce U.S. tariff laws under control of the Treasury Department, the mission, according to then President George Washington, was “That service of a few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of the laws.”
Today, the Coast Guard is the smallest of America's Armed Forces with approximately 42,000 active duty Guardians, fewer than officers in the New York City Police Department, yet the service is charged with military roles including combat, border security, drug and migrant interdiction, port security, marine safety, law enforcement, environmental protection, search and rescue, aids to navigation, homeland security and more! Our ranks are bolstered by just under 7,500 reservists supporting all missions of the Coast Guard and bearing the principle load of our emergency responses to hurricanes, flooding, oil spills, etc.
On an average day, the Coast Guard will:
- Save 15 lives
- Assist 117 people in distress
- Conduct 90 search and rescue cases
- Protect $2.8 million in property
- Enforce 129 security zones
- Interdict and rescue 15 illegal migrants at sea
- Board 4 high interest vessels
- Board 192 vessels of law enforcement interest
- Board 122 large vessels for port safety checks
- Boards 13 fishing boats to ensure compliance with fisheries laws
- Seize 71 pounds of marijuana and 842 pounds of cocaine off the streets
- Conduct 317 vessel safety checks and teach 63 boating safety courses
- Conduct 19 commercial fishing vessel safety exams
- Respond to 11 oil and hazardous chemical spills
- Process 280 mariner licenses and documents
- Service 140 aids to navigation
- Monitor the transit of 2,557 commercial ships through U.S. ports
- Investigate 20 vessel casualties involving collisions, allisions and groundings
On August 4th we celebrate the 221st birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Our Service started as a vision of Alexander Hamilton who wrote, “a few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of the laws.” In 1790, President George Washington brought Hamilton’s vision to life when he signed an act of the First Congress creating the Revenue Cutter Service.
Through our pride, professionalism and heroism we have carried Hamilton’s design forward, all the while taking on increased responsibilities. We have broad authorities that allow us to serve the United States in ways that no other agency can do: we protect those on the sea, we protect America from threats delivered by sea, and we protect the sea itself.
Every day I am sustained by the enthusiasm, excitement and pride of being a member of our Service. For 221 years we have worked together to overcome challenges that often seem insurmountable. Sometimes the challenge is to return from a mission safely. Other times, it is to rescue and return survivors back to safety. The tenth anniversary of 9/11 next month is one of many reminders of why we must remain vigilant and stand a taut watch to ensure the safety, security and stewardship of our Nation and its waters.
As we celebrate Coast Guard Day I encourage the entire Coast Guard Family – active, reserve, civilian, retired, auxiliary and contractors – to take a moment and honor those who served before us to make the U.S. Coast Guard the premier maritime service it is today.
We are Coast Guardsmen. We work as a crew. We serve as a family.
This is our way. This is who we are. This is what we do.
Happy Birthday—Semper Paratus,
Admiral Bob Papp