why did you choose coast guard?


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Jan 29, 2008
i've been curious about the coast guard for some time and finally read the wikipedia page on it this morning.

i see that it's a service that is definitely needed, and i think it's cool that the US has the best coast guard in the world, but i'm just curious about the main reasons people choose to go coast guard instead of the u.s. navy.

is it a "defend the homeland closer to the homeland" thing? or the law enforcement aspect? or the styling new boats: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/images/SHIP_USCG_NSC_Concept_lg.jpg

or something else?
Hehe, well first the link you provided is a concept drawling of a cutter that has already been built. The National Security Cutter is my avatar. One of my shipmates here will be the first 1LT onboard.

But to your question.

Way back when, I thought that the military MUST be for idiots, I mean, why would anyone want lower pay and to be away from family. This was my thought through middle school into high school. My junior year I attended Tennessee Boys' State, and had a great Army captain as a group leader. I didn't know anything about the military, except for my subscription to the Air Force Association magazine and the Smithsonian's Air and Space magazines.

In the course of a week, we learned to march, and many times learned about the US Armed Forces. One day before a class some of the guys were just sitting around talking to the captain, Cpt. Shane Curtis, an Apache pilot, when they began to ask about different branches. Eventually someone brought up the Coast Guard, which I had NO image for. I didn't have a Coast Guard racing stripe in the back of my mind, nothing...Cpt. Curtis was very complimentary of the Coast Guard, said it was hard to get into. He said they had ball caps for covers (which the Navy does too).

That was the summer of 2001.

I got home and was really thinking US Army, but I thought my parents would consider that a poor option. I was happy to discover otherwise. My dad almost joint in the 70's to pay for medical school. As I looked more and more at it, I shifted my gaze from land to sea. I've always been landlocked, however I had been to the beach, but never on a ship. While I had originally been shooting for Wash U., I turned my focus to a newly discovered college...the federal service academy, and maybe because I had never been to sea, I focused in the sea services, and the academies associated with them. I applied to the US Coast Guard Academy, US Naval Academy, and US Merchant Marine Academy, and received LOAs to USNA and USMMA.

In the fall and event happened that I will never forget, I can remember the course of that day like it was yesterday. Tuesday, second period Honors English. Sept. 11, 2001.

That sealed the deal. On the inside of my CGA class ring is "Never Forget".

I had to decide between USCGA, USNA, and USMMA. At that point I knew what they Navy did, who didn't? Looking a little deeper, I discovered I would have more responsibility earlier in my career if I went Coast Guard. I appreciate both the defense side and the humanitarian side. I also saw the Coast Guard as an underappreciated, little known service. I liked the idea of doing your job, without constant nation thanksgiving, but with the pride to know you and your shipmates are working around the clock, in rough seas, without the glory or a national spotlight. The Coast Guard was still under the Dept. of Transportation at the time, but that would soon change.

Because of it's size and culture, the Coast Guard is a "people" organization, valuing it's members above cost cutting. We don't have huge bases, great golfing facilities, our ships are smaller, our budget is much smaller, but I think we have a great deal of pride in what we do.

Since I've joined we moved from Dept. of Transportation to the Dept. of Homeland Security, have responded to various natural disasters.

Some people will argue that Coasties are wusses (a PG-13 word, replaced the R-rated one) because it's not constant combat. The fact that the Coast Guard is operating even during peace time with it's primary missions is attractive to me. While many branches are 90% training and 10% operations (during peace time), the Coast Guard is generally 90% mission. I have friends in the Gulf, and I have classmates going soon.

We have 95,000 miles of coast line to patrol, as well as being deployed overseas, and we are smaller than the NYC police department. The VAST majority of commerce is conducted through ports, through shipping. While it is a branch of the military, the Coast Guard must work with federal, state and local entities and have the ability to speak "military" one second, and work well with civilian agencies and the US public the next.

I am happy to be a member of this branch, I find satisfaction in my mission, and I am able to work with some of the finest people this great country has to offer.
Some people will argue that Coasties are wusses

HaHa - I spent many summers at the beach - The Coast Guard was a big threat - as in my mother standing on the sand screaming -"Get in off those rocks before the tide comes in around you and I have to call the Coast Guard!" haha - never understood what her problem was as we could swim. :wink:
Anyway, our neighbor's son was picked up by the Coast Guard when he ran into "problems" sailing his Sunfish. Back in the day.

Anyway - when my daughter was looking at academies - she looked at Coast Guard. After we visited she told my brother about her visit. He got on the phone with me and said - "Let her go in the Army, the Navy or the Marines - but NOT the Coast Guard! Those guys are NUTS!"
He is right - I mean seriously, who wants to be plucking out fishermen from the Bering Sea in the middle of the night?
Not for the faint of heart, for sure.
Line, wow, what a story. Phenomenal, I'm going to make sure my son (hopeful Coastie) reads that. I salute you. Thanks for sharing.
VMINROTChopeful, great subject! As there aren't too many Coasties hanging out here, I'll add a few words as to what my son tells me moved him towards his decision to serve in the Coast Guard. He has this huge concern for homeland security concerning our ports and the shipping industry specifically. I truly can't say where this particular interest of our ports & such came from.

My son’s thoughts today are very similar to LITS’s. He’s taking some flack here & there about “his decision to give up a boat load of money”. LOL I was writing this as LITS was writing his post so thought I'd jump back & add this little paragraph. :biggrin:

I can say that when the 9/11 attacks occurred, he, at age 14, began to grasp how unsafe this world can truly be. It greatly affected him, as it did us all. He came home from school that day & said firmly, "Never again. Not on my watch". I recall just giving him a simple, silly kind of hug at the time but he seriously felt personally responsible somehow & he began reading every world affair issue he could lay hands on. He had just joined NJROTC & the instructor was a retired Commander in the Coast Guard. He is a very insightful gentleman who was & is still a great mentor. He began to spend time with Veterans & found himself humbled by what they have given including his own WWII Navy Veteran Grandfather. He listened to the advice of the Veterans. This solidified his commitments as to where he could best serve with the interests that he had and has.

He brought home the USMMA literature later in that freshman year via this NJROTC instructor and declared he'd found a way to best educate himself on the shipping industry & how ports & their security worked. I told him he'd never get in with the recent D in chemistry he’d brought home. :rolleyes: And you can well imagine that at that early stage, the CG boats were way hotter than girls. They rank about even now I think. :biggrin: Now that he's in his third year at USMMA and has sailed for a year on many vessels, seeing 13 different countries, his concerns for our safety in our own ports & within the shipping industry have grown two-fold. He can pretty much scare me to death with some of his stories about what could happen in our ports. He's never wavered from his goal and I can say without a doubt that these are the 'whys' he’s where he’s at, doing what he’s doing. USMMA’s motto is what he believes best suited him as to what he wants to do. Actna Non Verba baby! (Deeds not words)

He will be doing his internship with the CG in June and has recently signed his papers to go active duty CG upon graduation in 2009. He's just written an article for a CG magazine, coming out soon, that tells what its like to be a KP Midshipman working towards becoming a CG Officer. He oughta be prepared to take some good natured ribbing over that. I have no way of knowing where he'll end up in his upcoming career but I know that it will involve working with some of the best folks I could ever imagine.

The level of commitment that you ROTC & Academy guys & gals share towards gaining your education then using it to serve our country is always an overwhelming inspiration to me. It takes you all, in every form, to keep us free & safe & I thank each & every one of you who have chosen this path. I do hope that Boss will add a few words as well!
Some people will argue that Coasties are wusses (a PG-13 word, replaced the R-rated one)

Man, I don't know about that.

I used to live in a lakefront home in Michigan where Saginaw Bay meets Lake Huron. One time we had a huge storm that generated waves crashing hard enough against my seawall to send spray way up into the tree tops. The effect of the wind's power on the water was a wonder to behold. As I watched nature's fury, noticed a small boat on a northerly course along the shoreline. I was like, "WTF??? Who in the hell is out there??" I got the binoculars and spied a 22' Boston Whaler with two Coast Guardsmen standing up at the wheel. These guys were getting the dogsnot beat out of them by the wind and waves. I concluded that anyone who was out on Lake Huron, which is cold even in the summer, during a storm like that must either be crazy or highly motivated. Anything but a wuss!
My son's reasons:

  • "The chance to combine life saving/rescue, military service, law enforcement, and flying into a single career"

  • "Even though I know I can study Mechanical Engineering at the other Academies, I think the smaller class sizes will allow for better grasp of the subjects and will make me a better engineer in the long run"

  • "I get to play football for another 4 years, something I probably couldn't do at the Big Academies"

  • "I think I'll like the atmosphere of a small service and small school"

  • "At the end of each day, I know I'll feel better knowing the number of people I helped to save rather than the number of people I helped to kill"

Wow Luigi59. Your kid has his #1 reason right on the mark in wanting CG. What a perfect fit. I gotta tell ya though, they actually drag my kid kicking & screaming through the "engineering" part. LOL

Commish, I once was talking to my kid on the cell when he was about 50 miles out from Tacoma Washington's port. I said, "Yikes! What was THAT noise!?" The reply was, "Just my frig sliding across the floor. Well, I guess I should run. I wanna grab a sandwich before they close the galley." They were doing 30 degree rolls & I know for sure, I would have upchucked my cookies. Several times. So, I agree. They are crazy. Sorry LITS. Crazy but in a good way I guess.
Thought that this might shed a little light on this question. My hat is off to all of the USCG. Semper Paratus!
"By STEVE QUINN Associated Press Writer
JUNEAU, Alaska Mar 26, 2008 (AP)
The call came at 2:52 a.m. Sunday: "Mayday. Mayday. This is the Alaska Ranger. ... We are flooding, taking on water in our rudder room."
Within minutes, two Coast Guard helicopters and a search plane lifted off and a cutter with a third helicopter headed out. They departed from different parts of Alaska, moving toward an isolated location 120 miles west of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.
It would take rescuers nearly 2 1/2 hours to reach the crew members, who had abandoned ship.
Forty-seven crew members were clinging to life in an ice-cold sea, battered by 20-foot water swells. Ultimately 42 of them were rescued by the Coast Guard and the Ranger's sister ship, the Alaska Warrior. Five were not."

Rest of the article can be found at http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=4525652
Luigi59 said:
"At the end of each day, I know I'll feel better knowing the number of people I helped to save rather than the number of people I helped to kill"
But for every enemy killed, that usually means several of your fellow servicemen that he won't be able to kill. You may have saved the life of your best buddy.
Because your statements were argumentative and posted on a thread where it's clear you know very little.

I understand your frustration because you think that when someone would rather save than kill that for some reason that person means that they don't condone killing.

Kill away, kill that enemy all day long. You shouldn't be taking away from someone's pride in also having a role in saving a life.

I was hoping USNA69 was posting to say why he would have chosen the Coast Guard.

Hopefully you don't view someone's reason of chosing another branch to decrease the value of the US Navy. That could have been a fine career too, but I had to make a choice.
Luigi, LITS, when you came back from a mission, was it as a grunt where you faced an enemy and it was basically kill or be killed? Is this how you rationalized the demise of those you found in your sights? Or were you a sailor deep within the bowels of a frigate who guided a Tomahawk missile to a faraway target such that you didn’t really feel like more than a video game player? Or perhaps it was as a member of an aircrew and the little ants on the ground did not seem like real people. All these young men and women on this forum who are going to the 'real' academies will probably face this dilemma someday, will they be able to kill someone and what will be their reaction. Probably, the more astute parents are wondering what they will say if this subject ever comes up.

So, short of telling everyone to go Coast Guard, which is the point which we are now at, what do you propose telling these young men and women and their parents? Should we let this very important question go unanswered or should we somehow present our views? Are we responsible individuals if we allow someone to read your son’s statement unchallenged and decide that perhaps the military is not for them? I think not. I feel that I have a responsibility to give those questioning unsure candidates an option other than resignation or USCG. As an airdale, I have always considered every target that I remove as a life saver for our troops, if not immediately, further down the line when the mortar round which I destroyed will not be able to reach it’s target. It’s a discussion which I have had in depth with my son and appaently given him a healthy attitude. The lack of a healthy attitude can kill people.

So, if you wish to cast stones, so be it. However, if you want to help our young warriors-to-be, please jump in and share with us some of your vast wisdom concerning this matter
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69 take your argument else where, quit hijacking this thread.
69 take your argument else where, quit hijacking this thread.

I was simply responding to a comment by Luigi which I felt was pertinent. I think the hijacking commenced with his personal attacks. I would request that you cease lecturing me.
back to "why did you choose coast guard"

I can understand how the thread topic has moved in this direction...I was following along....but it may have moved too far off topic for now. Please return to the topic...:smile:...I believe the topic is "Why did you choose Coast Guard".
Perhaps you should save it for the "real" academy threads then. In fact I would welcome you to start your own thread "I am a warrior".

It's called war, people die, and hopefully you're the one killing instead of being killed. We, apparently of the non-warrior branch carry guns. Something tells me that shooting someone you can see MAYBE a little different when it involves you pulling the trigger of your .40 Sig than pushing a button.

Dilemma? If you can't stand the thought of killing someone, don't chose any branch that may require you to (by the way, that is ALL five).

Your attempt was not to console the grieving hearts of what hippies may call future "baby killers". No, it was to get people excited, for the SAME reason you put quotations around "real" academies.

Point is, no one in here was asking that question. We deal with death, each branch in its own way. This however is a Coast Guard thread, and at no time had anyone asked "Is there not a TRUE warrior out there...a Navy airdale who can answer me what I should do when confornted with the fact that my son or daughter may kill the enemy one day?" If you can find where you felt that question coming on, please let me know, I must have missed it.

Again, start a parallel thread for the Navy, and discuss it there, but don't attempt to devalue the saving of a life, which obviously some people on here value as much as they do the need to beat the enemy.

I created a thread on the Off Topic board, feel free to counsel away there, but we need to get this thread out of shoal water and back on the intended course.


When a person posts a reasoned reply to another post, it is not necessarily a hijack and it certainly does not warrant personal attacks.

I should point out that the comment made by Luigi's son, while perfectly accurate and honorable, can also be viewed as a backhanded slap against those who go into the other services. Simply bringing up the FACT that taking the enemy's life can and does save the lives of those on our side is hardly grounds for the responses above.

Luigi, check you PM's. Everyone else, cool it. I'm not in the mood to be editing a bunch of posts.
Back on topic.

While at the academy I had a great instructor who over ten years earlier had the dilemma of chosing between the Coast Guard Academy and the Air Force Academy. Leaning towards USAFA, he headed out with some friends on a small motor boat into Long Island Sound. At a good distance from land the engine broke down and they began to drift. The seas were picking up and it was getting close to dark, and they began to fear they would not be found.

A CG helo picked the boys from the boat as it was taking on water. He was on the spot converted to USCG. Now he is the XO of a cutter out there.