Yesterday I wrote about veterans in general, but today I want to focus on my personal favorite branch of the United States Armed Forces – the U.S. Coast Guard. These guys start missions in conditions which would shut down a SEAL team, they fly into places with almost no advance information, forcing improvisation and ingenuity to be a regular part of every team leader’s regular practice. Their missions range from military (Coasties have fought in World War 2, Vietnam, and the Iraq conflict) to drug interdiction to extensive short-notice and no-notice rescue operations. A coastie therefore must not only be ready to fight, but also have medical knowledge, understand the law with regard to arrests and contraband seizure, and be able to take charge of a wide range of crisis situations.
Like the other branches of service, the USCG has an academy to train officers. But unlike West Point, Annapolis, or the Air Force Academy, having a buddy in Congress won’t help you get into the Coast Guard Academy; the Coasties take academy cadets strictly by competition. And the Coast Guard does not train for what might happen someday, somewhere – a coastie knows he will see action, over and over again lives will depend on him knowing what to do and carrying it through, and he will get less press for saving a dozen lives than a Marine gets for successfully dressing himself. Coasties head full speed into conditions that would make Rangers mess their pants, and they do it all the time. Some soldiers are tough, some are smart, some are capable, but you have to be all three to be a coastie.