Coast guard has proud history in area

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, February 3, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

The U.S. Coast Guard has long been a staple right here on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, but do you know how that came to be? Before we get to the coast guard’s impact on southwest Alabama, let’s look briefly at the history of the coast guard.

On Jan. 28, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the “Act to Create the Coast Guard,” and with his signature, the coast guard we know today was formally born. The law President Wilson signed combined the Life-Saving Service with the Revenue Cutter Service to form what we consider the modern-day coast guard.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In reality, the coast guard had been around for many years prior. The origins of the present-day coast guard can be traced back to Aug. 4, 1790, when President George Washington signed the Tariff Act to empower ten United States ships to enforce trade laws and reduce smuggling. The USCG is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government and was the only armed force patrolling the seas until the Navy Department was established in 1798.

In 1967, the coast guard became a function of the Department of Transportation. The coast guard didn’t reach its current home until 2003 when it was placed under the newly-created Department of Homeland Security.

The coast guard has three primary responsibilities: maritime safety, maritime security, and maritime stewardship. These include operations such as search and rescue, law enforcement, ice operations, illegal fishing patrols, drug interdiction, and migrant interdiction. The coast guard obviously plays a key role in responding to natural disasters and keeping our waterways open.

The coast guard is divided into nine separate districts, which are then divided into individual sectors. Southwest Alabama is located in District 8, and we are home to Sector Mobile.

Sector Mobile is the coast guard command responsible for all maritime operations along 400 miles of the coastline ranging from Pearl River, Mississippi to Econfina River, Florida. Carrying out these operations are coast guard men and women stationed in Mobile aboard the Cutters Saginaw, Barbara Mabrity, Cobia, and Stingray as well as Station Dauphin Island, which is located on the eastern tip of the island. Their efforts keep the citizens of southwest Alabama safe.

Locally, the coast cuard has played an important role with emergency search and rescue efforts during natural disasters. Most recently, the coast guard helped respond to the Dauphin Island Regatta tragedy. The coast guard is also remembered for their help responding to Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

If you are like me, you probably see the bright orange helicopters flying over our area from time to time. These U.S. Coast Guard helicopters have long been a fixture, because Mobile is also home to the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center.

I recently had an opportunity to visit the Aviation Training Center to learn more about the impressive work being done to train our coast guard aviators. The training includes written coursework, lectures, simulator training time, and then real-time training flights.

Every coast guard aviator must go through initial training here in Mobile, but they also must return at least once a year for a proficiency course. This is why so many of the coast guard aviators I have visited with over the years have very fond memories of Southwest Alabama.

We are so fortunate to have such a strong coast guard presence here in our own backyard. I will always stand up for the members of the coast guard and do everything I can to support the vital role they play in our national security and maritime safety operations.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.