Of the Coast Guard’s approximate 4,800 boatswain’s mates, only about 200 are currently surfmen. There have only ever been roughly 500 surfmen in the service’s history. The path to qualification is wrought with discomfort, danger and dedication beyond the scope of normal human tolerance.
Two members from the Coast Guard Auxiliary band performed ceremonial hymns that echoed through the air as family members took their seats and members of the Coast Guard filed in rows encircling the wooden podium. Against it rested a framed photo of late Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, looking back at those in attendance at the ceremony.
In a decommissioning ceremony Monday at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Coast Guard bid a fond farewell to its last East Coast-based high endurance cutter: Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin.
Women’s History Month is one of many celebrations that remind Americans of their identities and the impact of those who have gone before us. While Women’s History Month has come to an end, the Coast Guard continues to honor women and the contributions they have made to shape the service’s history. Kathleen Moore is one of these women.
Red Shannon devoted 33 years of service to the Coast Guard, logging a record 12 years aboard Eagle. It’s a ship he knows from stem to stern. He first reported in 1954, as a quartermaster first class. His last tour – from 1981 to 1987 was served aboard Eagle as a chief warrant officer and the ship’s sail master. Following Eagle, he earned his master’s license and spent an additional 23 years at sea as the captain of square-riggers and other ships. These experiences, along with his extensive historical knowledge of both sailing and the Coast Guard, make him an ideal instructor for the trainees and crew. He’s still teaching advanced ship handling at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
2013 marked an unprecedented year in Coast Guard aviation with four of its 28 aviation units commanded by women. Prior to these assignments, the service had, at most, only one female aviator in command at a time. The first was retired Vice Adm. Vivien Crea who assumed command of Air Station Detroit in 1992. Following the trail blazed by Crea, the women who fill these roles today are as diverse as the aircraft they fly and the missions their units execute every day.
In the early 1940s women were just beginning to work outside the home and the idea of women serving in the military was still seen as taboo for many people. Vivian McRae didn’t care what anyone else thought; she wanted to serve her country. On her 20th birthday in 1943, McRae headed to a recruiting office in Seattle and joined the Coast Guard’s first women’s reserve known as the SPARs – an acronym derived from the Coast Guard’s motto of Semper Paratus and its translation of Always Ready.
This month’s commemoration of women’s history highlights the achievements of women in the Coast Guard and celebrates their qualities of character, courage and compassion. The Coast Guard is unique among others in that women joined the professional ranks in the Lighthouse Service decades before the Civil War. They were typically hired when their husbands or fathers, who were the keepers, fell ill or passed away. But there were a few who obtained an appointment in their own right.
Children grow up aspiring to become astronauts, police officers and doctors. For some, the decision is hard to make. For others, the choice is easy – the decision to serve their country and be a part of a mission designed to safeguard its communities. Coast Guardsmen were all children at one time and have made the decision and commitment to serve. The Coast Guard is comprised of citizens willing to raise their right hand and commit to serving their country’s water.
The Coast Guard’s Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team was embarked aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Kidd in support of the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Together, with their defense partners, the six-member law enforcement team led fisheries enforcement programs designed to assist Pacific island nations with bolstering their economies through the management and protection of vital fish stocks. Due to the historic significance of the South Pacific, these servicemembers thought about the magnitude of their setting; they were transiting waters that were host to some of the most famous battles in U.S. military history.