Admiral Schultz on the Coast Guard’s 229th birthday

Illustration for the U.S. Coast Guard's 229th birthday graphic. The Coast Guard was founded by Alexander Hamilton on Aug. 4, 1790, and remains ready, relevant and responsive. U.S. Coast Guard illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Meredith Manning

Sunday, 4 August 2019, marks the Coast Guard’s 229th birthday. Following is the message from Adm. Karl Schultz to the Coast Guard family.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s law enforcement mission is its oldest, and sets us apart from other military services. After the American Revolution, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was keenly aware of the need to protect the Nation’s customs revenue, maintain coastal waters, and combat illegal trade and piracy. On 4 August 1790, Congress, at the urging of Hamilton, created the Revenue Marine, a military service designed to patrol coastal waters and regulate the collection of tariffs. The Coast Guard proudly traces its roots to that date, and for the past 229 years, the Coast Guard has served the Nation with excellence.

The first recorded narcotics seizure by a cutter occurred on 31 August 1890. A detail of four officers and eighteen men of the Revenue Cutter WOLCOTT boarded and discovered a quantity of opium on the steamer GEORGE E. STARR. The vessel and its illegal cargo were seized for violations of U.S. customs law.

On 16 January 1920, Prohibition became the law of the land. Given the mission of preventing liquor smuggling into the United States, the Coast Guard saw a rapid expansion of both facilities and personnel. By 1924, the “Rum War” escalated. Smuggling from the sea, particularly along the East Coast, grew into an immense, highly-coordinated criminal activity. That criminal behavior was met with intensive and aggressive action by the Coast Guard. When Prohibition ended on 5 December 1933, Coast Guard Headquarters reported: “The continued pressure of Coast Guard preventative measures was a potent factor in reducing the volume of the smugglers’ business and in bringing about a change of smuggling technique.”

By the 1970s, the Coast Guard faced an escalation of drug smuggling on the high seas. This rapid growth of the maritime illegal narcotics trade drove the need for highly-trained boarding teams and Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs), to specialize in drug interdiction. On 1 November 1984, CGC CLOVER seized 13 tons of marijuana. Three days later, CGC NORTHWIND became the first icebreaker to make a narcotics seizure, capturing 20 tons of marijuana. On 8 May 1987, Coast Guard units seized 1.9 tons of cocaine. In 1989, the National Defense Act named the Coast Guard as the lead agency for maritime drug interdiction.

Over the next several years, Coast Guard units continued to interdict drug traffickers, seizing tons of marijuana and cocaine. CGC DAUNTLESS became the first cutter in history to seize one million pounds of marijuana. In 2004, Coast Guard teams intercepted and seized two ships near the Galapagos Islands, resulting in the capture of more than 56,000 pounds of cocaine. In March 2007, CGCs HAMILTON and SHERMAN seized 42,845 pounds of cocaine aboard a Panamanian-flagged vessel.

Today, the mission continues. In July, CGC MUNRO, our newest operational National Security Cutter, completed its first-ever counter-drug patrol in the Eastern Pacific. The interdiction of a self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) on 18 June resulted in 17,000 pounds of cocaine, the largest single seizure since 2015. Nine total interdictions resulted in nearly 40,000 pounds of illicit narcotics with a wholesale value of $569 million dollars. During the patrol, MUNRO’s crew worked closely with the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON), which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with over $21 billion in seized narcotics from airborne use-of-force interdictions.

As we celebrate the 229th birthday of the Coast Guard, it is evident that our first mission remains one of our most important today. Coast Guard air and surface assets, as well as our brave men and women, are tasked with enforcing fisheries laws, ensuring secure ports and waterways, keeping illegal narcotics off our streets, and maintaining our national security. We remain “Semper Paratus – Always Ready.”

ADM Karl Schultz, Commandant, sends.

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