10 Need-to-Know Facts about the Coast Guard Reserve

By Sandi Gohn

For 80 years, the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve has been dedicated to protecting the nation’s ports, waterways and shorelines in times of conflict and peace.

With over 6,200 current service members, this small but mighty arm of the U.S Coast Guard has lived up to the Coast Guard’s motto of “Semper Paratus – Always Ready” countless times throughout its eight decades of service.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Chaney, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Burlington, reviews boating equipment on June 16, 2020. | Photo credit DVIDS/Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Amber Howie

Here are just a few of the facts you should know about the Coast Guard Reserve:

1. The Coast Guard Reserve, the military reserve arm of the Coast Guard, was formally established on Feb. 19, 1941, with the passage of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Reserve Act.

This 1941 legislation also established the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the civilian reserve arm of the Coast Guard, and defined the differences between these two parts of the Coast Guard.

2. Most of the Coast Guard members who served during World War II were reservists.

Of the Coast Guard’s 214,000 members who served during WWII, over 92% were part of the Reserve.

3. Coast Guard reservists have served during some major U.S. natural and human-made disasters.

From responding to flooding in the Midwest during the 1980s, to assisting in the Exxon Valdez oil spill cleanup, to serving in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Coast Guard reservists have selflessly served to help our nation in times of need.

4. The Coast Guard Reserve has its own seal.

U.S. Coast Guard Reserve seal. | Photo credit U.S. Coast Guard Reserve

Appearing very similar to the Coast Guard seal, the Coast Guard Reserve seal was created in 1991 to celebrate the Reserve’s 50th anniversary.

5. All new Coast Guard reservists – like most military reservists – have to complete some form of basic training.

The type, length and format of this basic training can vary greatly depending on the new reservist’s education, experience level and prior service in the military.

6. The Coast Guard Reserve helped pave the path for women in the service today.

SPARS Olivia Hooker and Aileen Anita Cooks pose during training during World War II. | Photo credit National Archives

In 1942, the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, nicknamed the “SPARS,” was founded. Roughly 10,000 women volunteered to serve in the SPARS between 1942-1945. Fun fact: the nickname “SPARS” comes from the acronym for the Coast Guard’s motto – Semper Paratus, Always Ready. The SPARS was formally disbanded in 1946, but the work and legacy of these women laid the foundation for the successes of women serving in the Coast Guard Reserve today.

7. In 1994, the Coast Guard Reserve underwent some major changes.

Thanks to downsizing, among other factors, in 1994 the Coast Guard Reserve stopped operating its own all-reserve units, except for Port Security Units (PSUs), and instead integrated its personnel into established active-duty Coast Guard units.

Photo credit DVIDS/Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Emily Velez

Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Polinik, a reserve maritime enforcement specialist at Coast Guard Station Washington, patrols the shoreline of the Potomac River on Jan. 19, 2021.

8. Speaking of Port Security Units (PSUs), these special units are the Coast Guard’s only deployable units.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. James H. Thach hugs his daughter upon returning from a nine month deployment on December 19, 2019. | Photo credit DVIDS/Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Emaia Rise

According to the Coast Guard’s website, they PSUs have the “ability to deploy within 96 hours of a crisis and establish operations within 24 hours of arrival.”

9. The Coast Guard Reserve has its own anthem.

It’s called “The Golden Reserve.”

10. Several celebrities have served in the Coast Guard Reserve.

Actors and brothers Beau and Jeff Bridges both served in the Coast Guard Reserve. Beau served from 1959-1967, while Jeff followed in his brother’s footsteps, serving from 1967-1975.

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