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A COAST GUARD RESERVE For some time past, numerous officers of the coast guard have appreciated the advisability of a coast guard reserve.
Lieutenant C. C. Gill, U. S. Navy, has, in his able article in the September October, 1916, issue of the PROCEEDINGS, dwelt on the necessity of such a reserve, and it is the first instance, to the writer's knowledge, where such a proposition has appeared in print or been considered outside of the coast guard. The army and navy reserves are not tangible assets of those services. Should we not immediately proceed to create for the coast guard a reserve that will be necessary in the event of war? In suggesting the cutter and station crews on a yearly training cruise, the matter of a reserve was in the writer's mind; the idea being that while the active crews were on that cruise, the cutters and stations would be manned by the reserves who should be given, during that period, a thorough course of drill.
The statutes provide that the period of enlistment in the coast guard shall not exceed a term of three years for each enlistment; while by regulations the present period of enlistment is but one year. In view of that fact, it should be required of all enlisted men that they go into the reserve at the expiration of their respective enlistments and there remain for a period of three years (a certain sum as retainer pay being allotted to them), but to be ready for a call to active duty upon occasion.
For the purposes of a reserve it should be divided into three classes: Class A, all those who have previously served in the coast guard afloat; Class B, all those having had previous service in coast guard stations only; Class C, those from civil life seeking enlistment and to be recruited wholly from among the fishermen along the coasts.
In war-time, temporary commissions in the regular coast guard should be given to the requisite number of warrant officers, professionally qualified; while provisional appointment as reserve officers should be extended to such of the enlisted personnel then in the service who demonstrate their qualifications, or who, being qualified, have already entered the reserve.
The service is essentially a seafaring one; consequently, all reserves should be seasoned men, able to stand the wear and tear of actual, hard duty at sea and with a full knowledge of service rigors.
THE MATÉRIEL Some 20 years ago, because of the fact that no great demands were made upon their efforts, the vessels of the service were small, a policy even prevailing at that time " to increase the efficiency of the service by decreasing its tonnage." In 1897, however, a decided advancement was made in the construction policy and larger ships were built and their speed brought up to 17 knots when developing 2400 I. H. P.-the Gresham and Algonquin types. Yet the ships were coal burners, their bunker capacity limited in proportion to the fuel consumption, and there was a consequent restricted cruising radius. That policy was continued until 1902, when the last comparatively fast vessel, the Mohawk, was launched; and from then on, owing to the greatly increased cost of construction and the practical impossibility of obtaining adequate appropriations for ships, as well as for economical reasons, the speed and even the size of the vessels have decreased. True, under the last naval appropriation bill two larger vessels were obtained, but the fatal error was made in naming $350,000 for each, while $800,000 would probably have been appropriated at that time had it have been asked for, especially when it is understood that such a sum represents the cost of the new gun boats carried on that bill. Certainly, $500,000 is the least sum that should be allotted for a coast guard vessel of the cruising type in order to properly build and equip her; and $800,000 would be the maximum for an efficient vessel, because speed is such an important factor in the cruising cutter of to-day. It is a wellknown fact that by reason of construction and lack of speed, the average coast guard ship lacks the military value it should have. In this progressive age, when even rural fire apparatus is being motorized in order to develop mobility, we regard with apprehension the slow coast guard cutter, a vessel both by term and occupation presumed to be gifted with the ability to "get there." In case of war if those ships are in the zone of activities, some at least will suffer by reason of their slowness.
If sufficiently large appropriations cannot be obtained for the construction of proper vessels under coast guard appropriations, the necessity for larger and faster ships--ones having real military value as well as the ability to perform their peace dutiesdemands that some other means be resorted to for securing the necessary funds than has been customary in the past, in order that
efficiency be not jeopardized. There appears to be two methods for accomplishing this: (a) The designs and specifications for coast guard vessels to originate in the Bureaus of Construction and Repair and Steam Engineering of the Navy Department, and appropriated for on the naval appropriation bills. (b) The building of a certain number of gun vessels for the naval service, and then turning a proportionate number of them over to the coast guard, fully equipped and batteried, to be used for the peace duties of that service, but ready for war duty when called on. The writer disclaims all originality for the latter suggestion, as it is understood to have been under the consideration of the naval general board. In it seems to lie the removal of a serious handicap, under which the coast guard has labored, and will continue to, for reasons here stated. It is accordingly commended to the consideration of every officer who may read this paper.
There occurs to the writer the desirability of building for the coast guard, in addition to the smaller type of vessel, about five really large ships-oil burners with ample steaming radius and with high speed. Such vessels could not only perform the function of scout cruisers, when serving as part of the navy, but would be specially adapted for the long, off-shore cruises made by cutters in search of derelicts, and on the ice patrol, etc., and they would be invaluable in case of assistance being needed by a vessel far out at sea. Such a cutter would have the ability to go and to keep the sea under all conditions.
The writer fully realizes that it will take money and, in some instances, special legislation to put into effect certain of the suggestions herein presented, while in others no legislation will be required. It would seem desirable that legislation be sought to give the committees on naval affairs of the respective houses jurisdiction over coast guard affairs. Where legislation is needed, immediate efforts should be made for securing the same, and there seems to be no more propitious time than the present, when the country is awakening to the necessities for national defence, to endeavor to place the coast guard, with respect to its military needs, in the same category with the army and navy, because in time of hostilities it must become a part of the latter service. The increase in the appropriation for the two last ships authorized has been denied, the bill appropriating the funds for aviation in the coast guard has been “ laid on the table.” Something is
wrong somewhere. It is contended again that the solution of the difficulty can only come through the naval committees having cognizance of coast guard appropriations.
WAR FUNCTIONS As to the employment of the personnel and vessels of the coast guard when serving as a part of the navy, that matter will undoubtedly be attended to by the general board and, so far as the writer is aware, a tentative or complete plan for the utilization of the service may have already been completed. In a war of any magnitude, is it not possible that the personnel of the coast guard will be required for something other than mere harbor duty or the patrolling of mine-fields ? Every officer of the navy has a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the part he will play in the eventualities of war, but it is not so with the coast guard officer, and, while standing ready, he can merely guess. No one seems to know why. True, the vessels will probably be utilized, but would it not be well were they to be manned by a reserve and the active crews released for other work? Who is to officer and man the auxiliary cruisers that would be brought into service? Might not that be a field for the endeavors of the coast guard? The SpanishAmerican War is not so far in the past as to have the experiences of that time entirely eradicated from the minds of the officers of the navy who were engaged therein, when there was the need for a personnel reserve--one that could stand the hardship of exposure in all weather at sea, a reserve that could be counted on for all-round efficiency and whose officers could be trusted with a deck and to command a division at sea.
CONCLUSION In writing in the statutes that the coast guard shall, as a part of the military forces of the United States, operate as a part of the navy in time of war, or when the President shall direct, the lawmakers assumed a responsibility, as the agents of the people, to see to it that the coast guard is properly equipped and in other ways prepared to become an efficient naval unit when the occasion arises. There was also at that time a great degree of implied responsibility thrown upon the navy, to aid in every manner possible the increase of the military efficiency of the coast guard, which becomes a unit of the navy, as provided in the statute.
The extension to the coast guard of the privileges of the school of musketry at Winthrop and of those of the Aviation School at Pensacola is a step in advance. Unhappily, the former could not be utilized, because the coast guard had no money with which to send men to take the course (truly the wolf is always scratching at the door").
However, it is hoped that advantage will be taken of the opportunities so far presented, also that other fields for progression will be opened up; but it is realized that in this matter the coast guard must assume its share of responsibility and not neglect opportunities that are presented to it, because to do so is to neglect a responsibility thrust upon the service as a whole.
There have been presented here suggestions that would seem to point towards increasing the efficiency of the coast guard, by extending means to meet the necessities; but we must search for every method within reach to accomplish that end. Amalgamation of the coast guard with the navy has been advanced by some as one solution of the problem that confronts us. In default of that, there has been suggested that the service amalgamate with the army. It is fair to assume that conditions cannot continue as they are for long.
There is no higher honor than to hold a commission in the coast guard of the United States, a service that has never been called and found wanting, and its traditions are founded on a history, the like of which any service might well be proud. Any suggestion for amalgamation, either with the army or navy, has for its object a single purpose—the increase of military efficiency for war.
The personnel has no “axe to grind" by amalgamation with either branch of the other military forces. Should an amalgamation eventuate in the future, it must be with the navy, rather than with the army. Opposition to amalgamation will undoubtedly come and on both sides and for reasons that, it is not necessary to mention, both services know; but it is to be regretted that opposition from any source should arise to oppose an amalgamation, whether it be as a separate corps or otherwise, because it is only by so doing that the coast guard can ever hope to reach that full degree of efficiency that is not only demanded of it, but that it deserves to have placed within its reach.
The hope of personal gain, service, jealousies, if present, reluctance towards losing a service once possessed, all should be