The United States Coast Guard does not typically fight our wars, but they are vital to national security. In their own words, the Coast Guard "prevents spills, clears waterways, and keeps narcotics off our shores." In fact, the Coast Guard is under the authority of the Department of Transportation, not Defense. While this list of responsibilities may seem short, the number of jobs included in those three categories is staggering. The Coast Guard is responsible for Bridge Administration over some waterways, maintaining an International Ice Patrol, assisting in the navigation of American vessels at sea (since 1790), seizing drugs that come into the country through waterways, rescuing vessels in distress, monitoring illegal immigration into the U.S. by sea, and more. One might classify the Coast Guard (if it is possible to classify an organization that performs so many diverging services) as a law-enforcement, environmental and military agency. They board ships every day to inspect the cargo, and, when the need arises, impound enormous amounts of drugs or other contraband.The Coast Guard employs 38,000 active duty men and women, 8,000 reserves, and 35,000 auxiliaries. On an average day, the Coast Guard saves 14 lives.
As with all other armed service branches, the Coast Guard requires an intensive training session called boot camp. There is a boot camp for all potential Coast Guardians at Cape May, New Jersey. The eight weeks of training includes exercises that are both physically and mentally grueling, including a swim test, a fitness test, and several academic tests.
The Coast Guard regularly cooperates with law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). It also works in conjunction with other branches of the armed forces, particularly the Navy. Coast Guardians also work with civilian and commercial boating interests, local and federal law enforcement, engineers, electricians, medical personnel, and administrators.