The U.S. Coast Guard, which has evolved from enforcing the country’s revenue laws to ensuring maritime safety and security, is celebrating 225 years of service.
The organization traces its beginnings to 1790 when President George Washington signed the Tariff Act, which authorized the construction of 10 sailing ships to protect the nation’s revenue. Eventually, the federal Revenue Cutter Service was merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service, leading to the creation of the Coast Guard as a branch of the armed forces in 1915.
Today, the Coast Guard has about 42,000 personnel on active duty and performs military and civilian functions, according to its website. Although it remains one of the five branches of the military, it has operated under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security since 2003.
The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus, Latin for “Always Ready.” The agency has 11 missions, including: ports, waterways and coastal security; drug interdiction; search and rescue; marine safety; defense readiness; and marine environmental protection.
In a July 2015 statement, President Barack Obama noted the agency’s evolving role in responding to threats such as terrorism and climate change.
“Since our nation’s founding, through strong seas and scattered skies, the Coast Guard has safeguarded our homeland and answered the call to serve during times of disaster and distress,” Obama said.
In addition to active-duty personnel, the Coast Guard has about 7,500 reservists and almost 8,000 civilian employees, according to the agency’s 2016 budget request. On an average day, the Coast Guard conducts 48 search and rescue cases, inspects 127 vessels, containers and marine facilities, assists 73 people in distress and saves nine lives.
“As a unique force with both military and civil authorities, Coast Guard missions touch nearly every facet of the nation’s strategic maritime interests,” Admiral Paul Zukunft, Commandant of the Coast Guard, said in a statement.
Coast Guard civilian personnel work at more than 100 locations nationwide in about 200 types of positions across multiple fields, including information technology, human resources, criminal investigation, budget analysis and logistics.
Civilian positions do not require applicants to enlist in the military or have knowledge of nautical terms. Educational requirements vary by position, with some professional jobs calling for candidates to have a college degree, according to the Coast Guard website.