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Coast Guard

Semper Paratus - Always Ready.

That is your Coast Guard motto.

The Coast Guard is one of our nations' five military services. We exist to defend and preserve the United States. We protect the personal safety and security of our people; the marine transportation system and infrastructure; our natural and economic resources; and the territorial integrity of our nation–from both internal and external threats, natural and man-made. We protect these interests in U.S. ports and inland waterways, along the coasts, on international waters.

We are a military, multi-mission, maritime force offering a unique blend of military, law enforcement, humanitarian, regulatory, and diplomatic capabilities. These capabilities underpin our three broad roles: maritime safety, maritime security, and maritime stewardship. There are 11 missions that are interwoven within these roles.

Since 1790, we have been the "law of the sea."

In 2008, we interdicted nearly 5,000 undocumented migrants at sea, removed approximately 185 tons of U.S. bound cocaine, and enforced U.N. sanctions in the Arabian Gulf.

Maritime security takes a breadth of experience and skills - seamanship, diplomacy, legal expertise and combat readiness. When you join the Coast Guard, you are at the forefront of our nation's defense.

We use broad law enforcement power with prudence and restraint primarily to suppress violations of our drug, immigration and fisheries laws, as well as to secure our nation from terrorist threats.

We are the lead agency protecting America’s seaward frontier against a torrent of illegal drugs. Our cutters and aircraft deploy off South America and in the drug transit zone. We intercept thousands of tons of cocaine, marijuana, and other illegal drugs that would otherwise find their way to American streets.

Our migrant-interdiction operations are as much a humanitarian effort as they are law-enforcement missions. In fact, most of our cases start as search-and-rescue missions on the high seas. Between 1982 and 2007, we interdicted over 225,000 migrants.

As a critical component of our national military fleet, we are a specialized service that maintains a high state of readiness. Our national defense capabilities are essential to military operations in peacetime, crisis, and war.

As such, we’ve taken on ever-greater challenges to protect our nation against terrorism. We are in charge of the U.S. Maritime Defense Zone, which means as a Guardian you could be countering potential threats to American coasts, ports and inland waterways through port-security, harbor-defense and coastal-warfare operations and exercises.

In short, no other federal agency offers as potent a combination of law enforcement and military capabilities together with the legal authorities to carry them out.


When the rescue alarm sounds, we are at our best. We jump into action, going into the dangerous seas and harm's way – on sea and in the air – to save others.

Put simply, we provide the world's fastest and most effective response to distress calls. In 2008, we saved 4,000 lives, performed over 70,000 U.S. vessel inspections, and conducted more than 24,000 search and rescue operations.

Despite our best efforts, mariners sometimes find themselves in harm's way. When they do, the Coast Guard has a proud tradition of immediate response to save lives and property in peril. To be part of our search and rescue team, it takes more than physical ability. You'll also need that special desire and bravery with which heroes are born.

But we don't just save mariners in peril. We also help protect them by promoting safety. We investigate maritime accidents. We inspect merchant vessels, offshore drilling units and marine facilities. We license mariners, document U.S. flag vessels and implement a variety of safety programs. Our goals are to:

  • Reduce crewmember deaths and injuries on U.S. commercial and passenger vessels
  • Lower the number of collisions and groundings in the waters under our jurisdiction

As the lead U.S. representative to the International Maritime Organization, a part of the United Nations, we are the driving force behind shipping safety, pollution prevention, mariner training and certification standards.

Commercial vessels are not the only boats in our waterways - more than 76 million recreational boaters share the space as well. Our 35,000-person civilian volunteer branch called the Coast Guard Auxiliary plays a central role in recreational safety programs aimed at lowering the loss of life, property and damage to the environment.

Coast Guard activities in support of maritime safety are inseparable from those we perform to protect the marine environment and economic waterways. The integration of stewardship, security and safety has saved many thousands of lives and helped secure our national wellbeing.

When you join the U.S. Coast Guard, you’re not just protecting our coastlines and borders, you’re protecting valuable natural marine resources as well as private and commercial waterways.

The marine environment of the United States is one of the most valuable natural resources on Earth. It contains one-fifth of the world’s fishery resources. It is our duty to enforce the laws intended to preserve healthy stocks of fish and other living marine resources.

We protect our waters from the discharge of oil, hazardous substances and non-indigenous invasive species. Our National Strike Teams are on call 24-7. In 2008, we performed nearly 17,000 facility safety inspections and investigated nearly 4,000 pollution incidents.

We also safeguard sensitive marine habitats, mammals, and endangered species for the common good. We have units that help free endangered northern right whales entangled in fishing gear and remove tons of marine debris from the coral-reef habitats.

But while the health of our Nation’s waters and marine resources is vital to the environment, our waterways are also an economic highway essential to trade and recreation.

Keeping boat traffic, both private and commercial, moving safely and securely—through everything from congested harbors to ice-laden waters—is our responsibility. We are the nation's lead agency for waterways management, port safety and security, and vessel-safety inspection and certification.

In addition, we also maintain the "signposts" and "traffic signals" that make up the more than 50,000 federal aids to navigation, including buoys, lighthouses, day beacons, and radio-navigation signals.

Finally, we operate the Nation’s only Polar icebreakers. This enables us to support the research requirements of the National Science Foundation as well as to protect our national interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.