But will they?
This year's anniversary coverage kicks off with a provocative article from retired Coast Guard Captain Jim Howe and reservist Lieutenant Jim Dolbow. They warn that the service, caught in a storm of competing budget priorities, aging vessels and aircraft, and a dwindling workforce that is expected to execute missions far beyond their means could be reduced to a hollow force, the same charge many naval analysts hurl at Britain's Royal Navy. They paint a grim picture but, in true Proceedings tradition, suggest solutions, just like the Coast Guard always does. This is a strong wakeup call. If you liked Andrew Erickson's and David Yang's look at the Chinese antiship ballistic missile in May and Barrett Tillman's June warning to the Navy that it needs to be prepared to defend itself from those who wield the budgetary ax, you should find a lot to chew on here, too.
The Coast Guard's search-and-rescue role is highlighted by some of our other authors this month. Andrew C. A. Jampoler, a prolific Naval Institute historian and author, takes us back to 1978 and a particularly harrowing and deadly mission in the storm-tossed Bering Sea and the long-overdue recognition of a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules crew who directed the operation that saved the lives of ten downed Navy Sailors.
Although Coast Guard aviation dates to 1915, its rotary-wing rescue capability is a post-World War II development. Lieutenant Neal Corbin takes a look at the evolution of the service's renowned helicopter force since the early 1960s and speculates on what the next Coast Guard helicopter might - or should - look like.
To rally the entire force around a common purpose, Commandant Admiral Thad Allen is advocating that his Coast Guard men and women embrace a "Guardian Ethos," one that incorporates all the best physical and mental traits of service to the nation. In "To Fight and Save," Lieutenant Craig Allen Jr. details the components of the Guardian Ethos but also identifies gaps that need to bridged before it can ever work. An especially crucial one is a culture gap between those who perform mundane but essential tasks and those who risk their lives in daring search-and-rescue operations.
But America's Guardians serve not only on the home front. Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Coast Guard personnel and vessels have played an important role in the northern Persian Gulf. Atlantic Area Command historian Dr. William Thiesen chronicles the service's contributions to securing Iraqi waterways, providing port security, and assisting in mine-clearing operations.
We hope our Coast Guard coverage will give readers renewed appreciation for these brave Guardians of whom we might rarely think day-to-day, but who we're always glad to see when in distress (whether from mother nature or our own carelessness). Thanks from the Naval Institute for all you do.