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United States Coast Guard Reserve
Seal of the Coast Guard Reserve
Active Civilian Reserve: 1939–1941
Military Reserve: 1941–present
Country United States
Branch United States Coast Guard
Size 7,600-8,100[1]
Part of United States Coast Guard
Motto(s) Professionalism, Patriotism, Preparedness
Engagements World War II
Operation Desert Shield
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Iraqi Freedom
RDML Steven E. Day, Director of Reserve and Military Personnel, COMDT (CG-13)

The United States Coast Guard Reserve is the reserve component of the United States Coast Guard. It is organized, trained, administered, and supplied under the direction of the Commandant of the Coast Guard through the Director of Reserve and Military Personnel.


The mission of the Coast Guard Reserve is stated in the Reserve Policy Statement issued in 2004:

The U. S. Coast Guard must be prepared to respond to a wide range of contingencies at home and abroad in accordance with the authorities and responsibilities vested in the Service by law. The Coast Guard Reserve is an accessible pool of talent that enhances the depth and breadth of our readiness for these 21st-century challenges.

Reservists provide critical skills and experience that are vital to our ability to lead, manage and coordinate the national response to acts of terrorism, disasters or other emergencies in the maritime region. Accordingly, the core strategic purpose of the Coast Guard Reserve is to maintain the competencies to perform three prioritized functions:

(1) Maritime Homeland Security; (2) Domestic and expeditionary support to National Defense; and, (3) Domestic, natural or man-made, disaster response and recovery.

Foremost, the Coast Guard Reserve must be ready for call-up at any time to provide surge capacity during such contingencies. Training, including normal drill periods and two-week annual active duty, will focus on building and honing the skills and knowledge required for these mobilization duties.

Secondly, by virtue of full integration into shore-based units, reservists are available as an augmentation force for the continuum of traditional Coast Guard missions. Their employment in day-to-day operations should be structured to complement mobilization readiness requirements.

Every commander, commanding officer, officer-in-charge and program manager of units where reservists are permanently or temporarily assigned is expected to provide leadership and oversight to keep those reservists trained and accessible for mobilization. Individual reservists have an equal stake in acquiring and keeping current the competencies they must bring to contingency duties.

Through unity of effort, we will ensure that the Coast Guard Reserve is a relevant, strong force multiplier, available to deploy at a moment’s notice to secure and defend America at home or abroad.


The United States Coast Guard Reserve was originally established on 23 June 1939 as a civilian reserve. This civilian reserve was renamed the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary on the passage of the Coast Guard Reserve and Auxiliary Act of 19 February 1941 and the military reserve commenced operations at that time.[2]

World War II

Persons joining the Coast Guard after 1 February 1942 were signed on as Regular Reservists and were obligated to serve for "the duration plus six" months. These Reservists served in every type of job that the Coast Guard had been tasked. Other volunteers and Coast Guard Auxiliary members formed what was termed the Temporary Reserve and they generally served without pay, receiving only reimbursement for fuel expenses on their privately owned boats to perform coastal patrols and port security.[3]

The Women's Reserve was authorized by act of Congress on 23 November 1942 and soon became known as SPARS; derived from the Coast Guard's Motto: Semper Paratus, Always Ready. SPARS served in administrative, maintenance and training functions in the United States. Lieutenant Commander (later Captain) Dorothy C. Stratton was selected to head the SPAR Program and is credited with naming the group.[4]

Because all of the personnel inducted in the Coast Guard after the start of the war were Reservists, only 8% of the 214,000 Coast Guardsmen that served during World War II were non-reservists. An additional 125,000 Temporary Reservists also contributed to the war effort.[5] At the end of the war most Reservists were released to inactive duty or discharged. The SPARS were disbanded in July 1947.

Cold War Period

Due to increased tensions during the Korean War period, the SPARS were re-established in 1949 and Congress authorized funding of the first Coast Guard Reserve Units. The first units were known as ORTUPS (Organized Reserve Training Unit, Port Security) and consisted of reserve officers and enlisted training in port security operations. Meetings were generally held once a week for 4 hours on a week night. Four hours paid the reservist the equivalent of one days pay for active duty Coast Guardsmen. There were 35 ORTUPS Units and 8300 Reservists serving by July 1951.[6]

During the Vietnam War period and shortly thereafter, the Coast Guard considered abandoning the Reserve program, but the force was instead reoriented into force augmentation. The Coast Guard Reserve reached its peak strength of 17,815 in 1969, during the Vietnam War.

Post Vietnam Events


In 1973 the Reserve exercised its first involuntary recall in support of flood operations in the Midwest. The next involuntary recall was in support of the Mariel Boat Lift exodus from Cuba in 1980. Reserve Units were increasingly used to augment regular Coast Guard operations during 1980's but the mission of the Reserves was still training for mobilization. Port Security Units (PSU) were formed during this time period and are made up of a small active duty element that handles the daily unit administration duties and a hundred or more reservists to complete the unit roster. Most of the enlisted reservists in a PSU are in the Maritime Enforcement Specialist (ME) rating; a new rating as of 1 January 2010 that includes both active and reserve personnel. The ME rating was the old Port Security Specialist (PS) rating, a reserve only rating that was integrated into the ME rating.[7] Other rates assigned to the PSU's include Boatswains Mate (BM), Machinery Technician (MK), Gunners Mate (GM), Yeoman (YN), Storekeeper (SK), and Corpsman (HS).

In 1990, the first PSU was called up to active duty to support Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Various PSU's have taken turns rotating in and out of Southwest Asia since that time.

Team Coast Guard

1994 saw the restructuring of the Reserve Program with the advent of the "Team Coast Guard" concept. This led to the disestablishment of most Reserve Units and the assignment of the Reservists to active duty commands. As a result, reservists work very closely with their active duty counterparts, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Coast Guard civilians as they augment the resources of active duty commands. PSUs are the only remaining reserve units, as all other reservists are assigned to active duty commands.

While reservists provide high-value augmentation of active duty forces to assist in accomplishing everyday missions, each reservist must continually balance augmentation duties with readiness for mobilization.

Since 11 September 2001, over 8,500 reservists have been activated.

Recent events

The Commandant Staff has recently developed a plan for support that "optimizes the organization, administration, recruiting, instruction, training, and readiness of the Coast Guard Reserve" known as Reserve Force Readiness System (RFRS). This program will improve the administrative and training readiness of the Reserve force. The plans for improvements in funding and fulltime support billets for the Reserve force are being evaluated during 2009 and full implementation will be phased in over the next four years.[8]


The reserves normally train two days a month and may perform up to 15 days of Active Duty for Training a year. The Coast Guard Reserve has about 8,000 men and women in service, most of them integrated directly with Coast Guard units.


  1. Early in 2011 Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, then Director of the Coast Guard Reserve, announced plans to raise the Coast Guard Reserve to 8100 personnel from 7600; the reason was partly experience with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, during which the Coast Guard struggled with insufficient reserve personnel to support the active-duty contingent. Stosz, Sandra (2011 January–February). "From quick response to new horizons: 2010 events emphasized the importance of the Coast guard Reserve and served as a foundation to build a stronger future force". Reserve Officers Association. pp. 52–54. Retrieved 8 January 2011. 
  2. Robert Erwin Johnson, "Guardians of the Sea",1987, p. 182, Naval Institute Press
  3. Johnson, p. 196,
  4. Johnson, p. 199
  5. Coast Guard Historian's site
  6. Johnson, p. 282
  8. Coast Guard Reservist, Volume 56, Issue 4-09

External links

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