U.S. Coast Guard Reserve celebrates 70 years

Written by Chief Robert K. Lanier, Asst. Public Affairs Officer, 13th Coast Guard District


On November 23, 1942, Congress enacted Public Law 773 establishing the Women’s Reserve as a branch of the Coast Guard. Members of this branch became known as SPARs, an acronym drawn from the Service’s motto, Semper Paratus, Always Ready. U.S. Coast Guard illustration.

The U.S. Coast Guard Reserve celebrate their 70th anniversary today. To the public, the Coast Guard is a seagoing service whether wearing their operational dress uniforms or service dress blue. But co-existing with the active duty members are a trained workforce with a unique blend of civilian and military education and experience; who maintain the same dedication of service to the American public and the Coast Guard as the sea service’s active component.

The Coast Guard Reserve was established by the passage of the Coast Guard Reserve and Auxiliary Act of February 19, 1941. On November 23, 1942, Congress enacted Public Law 773 establishing the Women’s Reserve as a branch of the Coast Guard. Members of this branch became known as SPARs, an acronym drawn from the service’s motto, Semper Paratus, Always Ready.

More than 92% of the 214,000 personnel who served in the Coast Guard during World War II were reservists serving in all Coast Guard mission areas, with an additional 125,000 personnel serving in the Temporary Reserve.

In Spring 1973, the reserve exercised its first involuntary recall to support flood response operations in the Midwest. Some 134 reservists were recalled. Between then and 1990, only one other involuntary recall was invoked: the Mariel Boatlift exodus from Cuba in 1980. Additionally, reservists played a major role in the Coast Guard’s 1996 TWA Flight 800 response and the 1999 John F. Kennedy, Jr. and EgyptAir Flight 990 tragedies.

In recent times, the value of the Coast Guard reservist has been paramount to the success of major Coast Guard responses. From the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina response, to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon response, the Coast Guard would not have been able to complete the mission without the service of the reserve forces.

Port Security Unit 313

Several Thirteenth Coast Guard District Reservist’s service to America extends beyond the Pacific Northwest. The Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313, based in Everett, Wash., deployed to the Middle East, Feb. 10, 2011, in support of Operation New Dawn. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Crystalynn A. Kneen.

“The Coast Guard depends on the Reserve force to be always ready to mobilize with critical competencies in boat operations, contingency planning and response, expeditionary warfare, marine safety, port security, law enforcement, and mission support,” stated Adm. Robert Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, in his U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Policy Statement.

The Thirteenth Coast Guard District, Guardians of the Pacific Northwest, have a reserve component of more than 750 men and women who provide their civilian and military education and experience to serving the American public.

“I joined [the Coast Guard Reserve] because everyone I talked to about the Coast Guard spoke positive about their experiences and the missions,” said Ens. Matt Tighe, a Coast Guard reservist assigned to the Thirteenth District Operational Planning Branch.

Tighe, who in his civilian position is a King County Sheriff’s Deputy, manages the systematic plan that assures the Coast Guard will not suffer a disruption of operations during a tragic event that affects the Coast Guard’s assets or infrastructure.

I take my job seriously because, “lives are at risk if we shut down,” said Tighe.

For 70 years, and surely many more to come, one of the proven keys to the Coast Guard’s success has been the Coast Guard reservist. Today’s Coast Guard Reserve Forces include more than 8,100 members who found the time to manage a civilian job as well as military service. No matter what the mission, when it occurs or where, the Coast Guard reservist has been ”Always Ready” to serve the American public.

For more information on Coast Guard Reserve opportunities, click here.

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