From: Papp, Robert ADM, Commandant – U.S. Coast Guard
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. This is a day to pause, reflect and honor those who were lost, including the more than 400 first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice while attempting to rescue their fellow citizens, as well as the thousands of service members who have selflessly given their lives in the overseas contingency operations that have followed. We will never forget them. Their sacrifice strengthens our commitment to serve.
While the events of 9/11 were tragic, our Service can take great pride in our response. Immediately following the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, junior personnel from then-Activities New York, though they were witnessing the unfathomable, instinctively responded. They were able to meet this challenge by drawing upon the leadership, training and culture passed down by over two centuries of Coast Guardsmen. They also leveraged our strong maritime partnerships. When they put out the call for all boats to respond to lower Manhattan, hundreds of merchant mariners piloting tug boats, ferries and every other type of waterborne conveyance formed a boatlift that safely evacuated 500,000 people in just nine hours – an amazing, heroic and largely unknown feat.
Meanwhile, our entire Service sprang into action. Our versatile cutter fleet was repositioned from offshore to inshore and served as command and control platforms in our ports. Our reserve and Auxiliary forces mobilized and reported for duty – many before they were called – and our civilians worked tirelessly to support these enhanced operations. Our culture of adaptability, agility, and empowering our people to act, combined with our multi-mission vessels and aircraft allowed us to quickly shift our focus toward confronting this new threat.
Looking back, it is amazing to see how our Service and our Nation have changed since 9/11. Almost half of our current active duty members joined the Service post-9/11. Eighteen months later, in March 2003, the Department of Homeland Security – our new home – was established. Our response also proved the value of the Activities concept, now called Sectors, and we have made it the model for how we deliver Coast Guard services to the public. We have enhanced our maritime domain awareness through membership in the Intelligence Community, increased vessel and aircraft patrols and partnerships with government and private entities. We have also constructed a layered maritime defense strategy to improve security of the maritime transportation system, starting with international port security.
Our capabilities have also evolved. We now have teams of highly trained deployable specialized forces to protect our ports and respond to the full range of maritime threats. We continue to recapitalize our fleet with new aircraft and cutters outfitted with advanced sensors that are fully interoperable with both DHS components and DoD assets.
However, we must never forget that what made us strong on 9/11, and what continues to make us strong today: you, the men and women of the U. S. Coast Guard. You are the heart of our Service. Your vigilance helps ensure our homeland, ports and waterways are safe and secure. Your dedication to duty keeps us Semper Paratus – Always Ready – to serve our great Nation.
Throughout the week, the Compass Blog will feature stories and imagery on our 9/11 response and how our Service has evolved over the last ten years. I encourage you to visit and learn more about this formative day in our history and to honor those who were lost.
We are Coast Guardsmen. We work as a crew. We serve as a family.
This is our way. This is who we are. This is what we do.
Stand a taut watch.
Admiral Bob Papp
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