The U.S. Coast Guard Reserve officially started operations on February 19, 1941, after passing the Coast Guard Reserve and Auxiliary Act. In honor of its 76th anniversary this year, we’ve provided information on the history of the USCG Reserve and facts that you may not have known about its role in our nation’s security.
Ninety-two percent of the 214,000 Coast Guard service members who served in World War II were Reservists; all of whom were required to serve for the duration of the war, plus an additional six months following the war. Though the 1940s were a busy time for Reservists, between 1973 and 1990 Coast Guard Reservists were involuntarily called up on just three occasions. However, after the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, it has since become routine to request an involuntary recall anytime a hurricane threatens the U.S. or U.S. territories. With this new routine, more frequent recalls of Reserve members occur.
Although Coast Guard Reserve and Coast Guard Auxiliary are often used interchangeably, there is a key difference. Coast Guard Auxiliary members are volunteers with no pay and no strict oversight, doing as little or as much as they want. They are not considered military personnel, so there is no training, and they do not have to meet medical or recruitment standards. On the contrary, the Reserves are considered military members and are therefore required to train and meet the medical and recruitment standards. Reserve members sign a multi-year contract and can be called upon at any time throughout the duration of that contract. Although they do get paid, they are considered part-time and get paid as so.
Coast Guard Reserve members train two days per month in addition to the two weeks of active duty training they perform every year. In training, they develop skills in preparation to respond to acts of terrorism, disasters and other emergencies that occur both at home and abroad. Because Reservists can be called up at any time, members of the Women’s Reserve branch are often referred to as SPARs, an acronym meaning Semper Paratus, Always Ready. Though all Reservists are always ready, it is a special acronym for women to differentiate the two branches.
In addition to hurricane relief, in its 76 years of existence the Reserve has also called upon its members for help with events such as major floods, the Mariel boatlift exodus from Cuba, oil spill cleanups, search-and-recovery efforts of plane crashes, and Operations Desert Shield and Storm. In addition, it also started a highly successful Reserve-sponsored program called Sea Partners. Since its start in 1994, Sea Partners has educated over two million people about various marine pollution topics through personal contact, print, radio and television content. Reservists coordinated multiple beach and shore cleanups around the country through the program.
With the help of the 8,504 Coast Guard Reserve members, the Coast Guard fulfills its mission of protecting homeland security, providing domestic and expeditionary support to national defense, and responding and offering relief to natural or man-made disasters.