Sunday, August 4, 2013

Birth of the US Coast Guard

Did you know that the US Coast Guard is this country’s oldest continuous seagoing service,  beating out the US Navy by 8 years?  Or that the Coast Guard has had major roles in all US armed conflicts including recent Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom?
It was George Washington that signed a Tariff Act on August 4th, 1790 that authorized ten vessels (known as “cutters”) to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling.  These vessels were known as “revenue cutters”, the “system of cutters” and the Revenue Cutter Service as the Nation grew.
USRC Bear - a steam barkentine built in 1847
The US Coast Guard received it’s current name via an act of Congress in 1915 that merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the US Life-Saving Service.   Later transfers into the Coast Guard included the Lighthouse Service (1939) and the Commerce Dept’s Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (1946).
The Coast Guard is now one of five branches of the US Armed Forces under the auspices of the US Dept. of Homeland Security.  Its responsibilities include Search and Rescue, Maritime Law Enforcement, Aids to Navigation, Ice Breaking, Environmental Protection, Port Security and Military Readiness.

To accomplish its various missions, the Coast Guard has 38,000 active-duty men and women and provides the nation with a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws.  It is both a military force and federal law enforcement agency, unique in the Nation and the World.  In times of war, or at the direction of the President, it serves as part of the Navy Dept.
CGC Bertholf  - photo credit: CWO Brian Carlton, USCG 
So, what role would the Coast Guard play in recent Middle East Conflicts?  Check out these type of activities that occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom:

2003 - CGC Boutwell departed Alameda, CA in preparation for supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The cutter began operations in the Arabian Gulf on 14 February 2003.  Prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, her crew conducted maritime interception boardings to enforce U.N. sanctions against Iraq.  At the outbreak of hostilities and throughout the conflict, she operated in strategically critical waterways, providing force protection to the massive coalition fleet, securing Iraqi oil terminals, and preventing the movement of weapons, personnel or equipment by Saddam Hussein's regime or other guerilla or terrorist forces. 

2003 - On 18 January CGC Walnut departed from her homeport in Honolulu, Hawaii and began her 10,000 mile transit to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.   The cutter deployed with an oil spill recovery system in the event the regime of Saddam Hussein committed any acts of environmental terrorism.  When those threats did not materialize, the cutter then conducted maritime interception operations enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions, participated in the search for two downed United Kingdom helicopters, and patrolled and provided assistance to captured Iraqi offshore oil terminals being secured by Coast Guard port security personnel.   The cutter’s crew completely replaced 30 buoys and repaired an additional five along a 41-mile waterway.  Their mission vastly improved the navigational safety of the waterway for humanitarian aid, commercial, and military vessels sailing to the port and was a critical step to economic recovery for the people of Iraq.

2003 - Three Iraqi sailors were captured in the northern Persian Gulf, the first Enemy Prisoners of War taken by Coast Guard forces deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The 24-member crew of CGC Adak plucked the Iraqi sailors from the sea after they had jumped overboard when their patrol boat was destroyed by coalition forces.  The POWs were taken aboard the Adak and later transferred to an undisclosed location.

2003 - During Operation Iraqi Freedom CGC Wrangell escorted the first waterborne humanitarian aid shipment into the port of Umm Qasr without incident, while members of Coast Guard Port Security Unit 311 assisted other coalition forces protecting the harbor.  The shipment, consisting of vital aid donated by numerous countries, was carried aboard the British ship RFA Sir Galahad.

2004 - Damage Controlman Third Class Nathan Bruckenthal, USCG, from Smithtown, New York, and two US Navy sailors were killed in the line of duty while conducting maritime intercept operations in the North Arabian Gulf.  He and six other coalition sailors attempted to board a small boat near an Iraqi oil terminal.  As they boarded the boat it exploded.  Bruckenthal died later from injuries sustained in the explosion.  He was the first Coast Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War.  This was his second deployment to the Arabian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.  His shipmate, BM3 Joseph Ruggiero, was also awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in action against the enemy while defending the oil terminal.  They were the first Coast Guard recipients of the Purple Heart since the Vietnam War.  
We salute the men and women of the US Coast Guard
and thank them for serving the United State of America!


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