In addition to coastal defense and maritime law enforcement, one of the Coast Guard’s many responsibilities is to maintain the nationwide network of maritime navigational aids.
These aids to navigation, or ATONs, include about 50,000 lighthouses, beacons and buoys marking more than 25,000 miles of navigable channels and 95,000 miles of shoreline in the United States and its territories, according to Coast Guard figures. Some of these aids are brand-new (more are added all the time), while others — like the Alcatraz Light in San Francisco Bay — are more than 100 years old.
One thing they all have in common, though, is that they need to be maintained. In addition to routine maintenance, the Coast Guard’s ATON teams are part of the initial response in the wake of natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. Their work protects maritime first responders, civilian boaters and the Marine Transportation System — which supported about $4.6 trillion in economic activity in 2017.
Click here to learn about Alcatraz Light and the work of the Coast Guard’s San Francisco aids to navigation team.
Video by Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall