Dear Coast Guard Family: 10 things you may not know about the Coast Guard Reserve

February 16, 2018

Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.

Written by Rachel Conley

The United States Coast Guard Reserve is a flexible, responsive operational force that exists to support the Coast Guard roles of maritime homeland security, national defense, and domestic disaster operations. The Coast Guard depends on the Reserve force to be always ready (Semper Paratus!) to mobilize with critical competencies in boat operations, contingency planning and response, expeditionary warfare, marine safety, port security, law enforcement and mission support.

On February 19, we will celebrate 77 years of extraordinary Coast Guard Reserve service!

While I’m fortunate to know many of our reservists, I have to admit, I didn’t know a lot about the history or inner-workings of our Reserve force. To learn more, I reached out to our incredible reserve community and the wonderful people who work with them. I was amazed by what I learned and I think that you will be too!

U.S. Coast Guard Reserve Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Headly, a boatswains mate at Port Security Unit 312, stands next to a 32-foot Transportable Security Boat following a patrol during Operation Pacific Reach Exercise 2017 in Pohang, Republic of Korea, April 9, 2017.

  1. The Coast Guard Reserve played a significant role in Coast Guard operations during World War II. More than 92 percent of the 214,000 personnel who served in the Coast Guard during WWII were reservists, with an additional 125,000 personnel serving in the Temporary Reserve. From manning Coast Guard and Navy ships, to acting as coxswains on invasion landing craft – their service and heroics were present from Iwo Jima and Guam, to Normandy and North Africa.
  2. The Coast Guard Reserve is Semper Paratus (Always Ready). Since 1972, reservists have been subject to involuntary activation for domestic contingencies and have up to 48 hours to report for active duty upon notification. In 2017, nearly 1,300 reservists were activated in support of hurricane response operations.
  3. A reservist will be serving at the White House. A Reserve Physician’s Assistant (PA) will be serving on active duty with the White House Medical Unit beginning this summer. She will be the first reservist to serve in this capacity.
  4. RESERVIST magazine has been continuously published since 1953. The original purpose was “the dissemination of up-to-date information of interest to all Coast Guard Reservists, on active and inactive duty” and that purpose continues today.
  5. On November 23, 1942, the Women’s Reserve was established as a branch of the Coast Guard. Members became known as SPARs, an acronym derived from the Coast Guard’s motto, “Semper Paratus, Always Ready.” SPARs became the foundation for women in the Coast Guard today.
  6. Reservists have deployed all over the world and served in multiple conflicts. Whether at home or overseas, whether man-made or natural, whatever the reason, wherever the need, the Coast Guard Reserve will be there when needed most.
  7. In addition to the Coast Guard’s Core Values there are three Coast Guard Reserve tenets. Professionalism, Preparedness, and Patriotism. These are prominently displayed on the Emblem of the Coast Guard Reserve.
  8. A number of celebrities have served in the Coast Guard Reserve and/or Temporary Reserve. The Coast Guard Reserve has some celebrity connections, including Humphrey Bogart, Beau Bridges, Jeff Bridges, Senator Sam Nunn, Rep. Bill Delahunt, and Rep. Howard Coble.
  9. Many Coast Guard reservists have other jobs. Coast Guard reservists often perform very different functions in their civilian lives – they’re teachers, police officers, firefighters, pharmaceutical salesmen, and real estate agents. For two weeks out of the year (or more), they put their lives on hold to commit to fulfilling their obligations to the service. And, once a month, they often work seven days straight.

    Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Ott smiles as he embraces his family at the Ft. Eustis Reserve Center on Nov. 12, 2017, at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Port Security Unit 305 returned to Fort Eustis after being deployed for nine months to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua L. Canup.)

  10. Our reservists don’t serve for the pay or the glory. To quote Chief Eric McCusker, one of the reservists that I have the honor of knowing, “We do this for a few hundred dollars which is sometimes not enough to cover the cost of airfare when we have to travel out of state to our drilling units on our own dime. We don’t perform our jobs in the Reserve for the pay or the glory. We do it because we love it. We love feeling that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We love the opportunity to get to help assist our active duty brothers and sisters (even though sometimes we catch a lot of grief for being “Weekend Warriors”). We leave our drilling units each weekend with a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that we have done our best.”