History of the Coast Guard Reserve
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The drill strength of the Selected Reserve peaked at 18,378 in 1965, and until 1969 strength remained at between 17,000 and 18,000. As the Vietnam conflict wound down between 1970 and 1975, drill strength declined to 11,500.
This was due to an administrative proposal in 1970 to phase out the Selected Reserve. However, because port safety and security was an important mission specialty of the Coast Guard Reserve, and one the Navy was not prepared to assume, the Selected Reserve was retained, with the recommendation that a peacetime mission be developed.
This led to the birth of augmentation in 1971. Since most of the Coast Guard’s missions were applicable both during peace and wartime, Reserve training was diverted to support those missions, while at the same time keeping mobilization duties in mind. The 1972 National Coast Guard Reserve Policy Board defined augmentation as “any Reserve activity that supports effective training for mobilization while meeting a stated need of an element of the regular Coast Guard.” This shift from mainly classroom training to hands-on operational activity began a renewal of purpose for the Reserve, and led to the “One Coast Guard” concept: regulars and reservists working together to attain Coast Guard mission goals.
In October of 1972, the Coast Guard Reserve received a new, and unique mission when Congress authorized the involuntary call up of Coast Guard Reservists for peacetime assistance when needed, such as after natural disaster or shipping accidents. Since that time, the Coast Guard Reserve has responded to numerous incidents, including Mississippi, Ohio and Red River floods, the Mariel Boatlift in 1980, hurricanes, various vessel explosions, sinkings and airplane crashes. In 1972, the 9th District’s Summerstock program began. Reservists from around the nation were summoned to help fill billets at Great Lakes small boat stations. This tradition also continues today.
In February 1973, women were included in an Officer Candidate School class for the first time, and in December 1973, the Women’s Reserve was finally dismantled, with all SPARs becoming members of the Coast Guard Reserve. The “Bender Blues,” named for ADM Chester Bender, became the new uniform of the Coast Guard and thus, Coast Guard Reserve, in 1974.
| 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | Present |
About the Reserve