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Growth, Modernization Mark Coast Guard Birthday

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2004 – The U.S. Coast Guard celebrates its 214th birthday today at a time of near-unprecedented growth and modernization, the Coast Guard commandant said during a joint interview with the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Adm. Thomas H. Collins, commandant of the Coast Guard, speaks to new recruits at Recruit Training Center Cape May, N.J., June 24. The Coast Guard observes its 214th birthday Aug. 4 at a time of near-unprecedented growth and modernization. Photo by Telfair H. Brown, USCG

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Adm. Thomas H. Collins said the "fifth armed service" is expanding its force by about 2,000 members per year, which will bring the Coast Guard to almost 41,000 uniformed members by fiscal 2005.

At the same time, recruiting has been "positive" and retention rates are at the highest rates since the early 1950s, Collins said. Retention for first-term enlisted members at the end of their first term is 88.5 percent, and for junior officers at the end of their service obligations, 94.5 percent, he said.

"Overall, it's a great story on both the recruiting front and the retention front," the commandant said.

Collins attributes this success to the attraction of the service's missions. "I think it has a lot to do with the relevancy of our missions in today's world," he said. "Every one of our missions is incredibly relevant, and some of the things we do are very, very appealing to the young men and women of our country: saving people's lives, cleaning up the environment and providing security for our hometown maritime ports."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Collins said, the Coast Guard's security missions both in the United States and overseas have also taken on increased significance.

"We have the same portfolio of missions. It's just that the balance between the parts has changed," the commandant explained. "The coastal and port security business has been taken off the back burner and put on the front burner with the flames turned up."

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is also is undergoing the largest and most sweeping modernization in its history.

Operation Deepwater, a long-term project, is designed to replace all the Coast Guard's major aircraft and vessels. When completed, the new Integrated Deepwater System will include three classes of new cutters and their associated small boats, a new fixed-wing manned aircraft fleet, a combination of new and upgraded helicopters and both cutter-based and land-based unmanned aerial vehicles.

With a larger force and new, state-of-the-art equipment, Collins said the Coast Guard will be more capable of living up to its motto, "Semper Paratus," or "Always Ready."

"We are a great, can-do organization, and our best resources are our people," he said. "They have exceeded every expectation of this country."

Collins said the Coast Guard is proud to be a member of the U.S. defense team and, as the smallest of the U.S. armed services, brings an important capability to the mix.

"We are a very small, adaptable, flexible, multi-mission organization, and we can move to the national imperative of the moment very, very quickly," he said. "And that is a great, great strength that we in the Coast Guard bring to the table."

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U.S. Coast Guard

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