Coast Guard Reserve – 71 years of service to America

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Coast Guard Reservist Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Cliffe, part of MSD Cincinnati's Disaster Area Response Team, ferries sandbags across a flooded lawn to a home in Brookport, Ill., during the 2011 floods. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac D. Pacheco.
Coast Guard reservist Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Cliffe, part of MSD Cincinnati's Disaster Area Response Team, ferries sandbags across a flooded lawn to a home in Brookport, Ill., during the 2011 floods. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Isaac D. Pacheco.

Written by Rear Adm. David Callahan, director of Reserve and Leadership.

Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Coast Guard Reserve. Since its founding, the Coast Guard Reserve has been a flexible, responsive and cost effective workforce that has maintained its primary purpose of providing surge capacity for Coast Guard missions worldwide.

During World War II, more than 90 percent of the 214,000 personnel serving in the Coast Guard were reservists. Another 125,000 members served in the Temporary Reserve, which consisted of volunteers and Auxiliary members whose paid and unpaid services were needed in a military capacity for coastal and port security details.

The Coast Guard Reserve was established by the passage of the Coast Guard Reserve and Auxiliary Act on Feb. 19, 1941.
The Coast Guard Reserve was established by the passage of the Coast Guard Reserve and Auxiliary Act on Feb. 19, 1941.

Today’s Coast Guard Reserve consists of nearly 8,000 dedicated men and women who support Coast Guard roles of maritime homeland security, national defense (domestic and expeditionary) and response to natural and man-made domestic disasters. Reservists are always ready to mobilize with critical competencies in boat operations, contingency planning and response, expeditionary warfare, marine safety, port security, maritime law enforcement and mission support.

Since 2001, Coast Guard reservists have performed more active duty days than at any other time since World War II. More than 8,000 have served in support of Department of Defense overseas contingency operations, including our eight port security units, which continue to deploy on a rotating basis to forward operating locations. Additionally, nearly 4,000 reservists were mobilized in response to the annual spring floods in the Midwest, hurricanes and Deepwater Horizon.

Whether it is major hurricanes or major oil spills, the standard procedure for Coast Guard operational commanders is now to request reservists sooner, a change from common practice just a decade ago. This tendency is likely to continue as tight budgets and increasing workloads squeeze the active component’s capacity. Through astute programs and budget management the service is ensuring the “force in garrison” is staffed, trained and supported to remain agile and ready to mobilize.

More than 8,000 reservists have served in support of Department of Defense overseas contingency operations, including eight port security units, which continue to deploy on a rotating basis to forward operating locations.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle.
More than 8,000 reservists have served in support of Department of Defense overseas contingency operations, including eight port security units, which continue to deploy on a rotating basis to forward operating locations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle.

In 2008 the Reserve Force Readiness System was implemented. This initiative has achieved notable efficiencies in the management of reservists assigned to drill at active duty units and made full-time support billets more closely focused on Reserve training requirements. In addition, the Concept of Reserve Employment initiative ensures training is better aligned to deliver the specific competencies required by the evolving manner in which operational commanders employ the Coast Guard Reserve.

As the Coast Guard celebrates this 71st anniversary of the Reserve, it should be emphasized that mobilization is the Coast Guard Reserve’s primary purpose and function; and every day, through training and augmentation, reservists provide the vital surge capability the citizens of our Nation expect from the United States Coast Guard. Despite the current decremental budget climate likely to be encountered across government over the next few years, the Coast Guard Reserve will continue to fill a vital role in the commandant’s overall strategy to deal with the threats and challenges of the future. The Coast Guard has adequate strength and readiness to meet current requirements, and the service continues to manage resources prudently to preserve this ability.

For more about the Coast Guard Reserve’s 71st anniversary, watch this video of Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Reserve Force Master Chief Mark Allen.

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