AMU Military

Show Your Colors: The Many Missions of the U.S. Coast Guard

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At AMU, we don’t field sports teams and you won’t find a stadium with our name on it. We’re a worldwide team of students and alumni who proudly serve their nation and their communities. AMU’s slogan, Our Athletes Don’t Play Games, illustrates how every day is game day for our students and alumni.

For our third story in the #OADPG series, we are getting on board with the Coast Guard. We encourage you to show your pride, like Jason M. Himsey, and your colors. Check out the new AMU ‘athletes’ gear today!  A portion of the proceeds will go to Team Semper Fi.

By LT Jason M. Himsey, USCG
Alumnus, American Military University

There are some misconceptions about the U.S. Coast Guard. For some, it’s a mysterious branch of the military. You may have thought, “The Coast Guard, what is it?” Or you may have asked, “Coast Guard, how often do you drill?” Today’s Coast Guard is comprised of approximately 42,000 active-duty men and women. Now, consider the missions we execute that touch almost every facet of the U.S. maritime domain, compared to the strength of the New York City Police Department that weighs in at nearly 35,500 sworn officers. That’s an incredible presence.

The Coast Guard is probably the best return of taxpayer dollars when it comes to the missions we execute. Of course, I’m partial since I have been enlisted in the Coast Guard and commissioned for nearly 18 years now and have performed have done just about everything there is to do!


Jason is pictured in USCG colors for AMU’s new ‘Our Athletes Don’t Play Games’ collection.

There is never a dull day. The Coast Guard is active in almost every theater in the world, serving in embassies and several combatant commands. In Amsterdam, we have a detachment of Coasties responsible for inspecting vessels destined for the U.S. In the frigid waters of the Arctic and Antarctic, our vessels break ice and transport scientists and supplies to critical areas. Coasties enforce embargos in the Persian Gulf. They assist with the fight against piracy and patrol in all oceans countering illegal migration and narcotics trafficking. Coasties serve in NORTHCOM and CYBERCOM, and participate in dozens of other locations and missions worldwide.

The Birth of the Coast Guard

On August 4, 1790, Congress authorized Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who we consider to be the Father of the Coast Guard, to create an armed maritime service to enforce customs laws. We are the “oldest, continuously serving sea service” since we have never been disbanded like the U.S. Navy.

The legal basis for the Coast Guard is Title 14 of the U.S. Code, which states, “The Coast Guard… shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times.” I was a firefighter/EMT prior to enlisting, but my dream was to be in the military and also serve as a law enforcement officer. I discovered the Coast Guard was exactly the branch of the military for which I was searching. I committed myself to a life of federal service and loved every day of it.

Today, the Coast Guard is responsible for 11 critical missions:

  • Coastal security
  • Drug interdiction
  • Maintenance of aids to navigation
  • Search and rescue on the water
  • Protection of living marine resources
  • Ensuring marine safety (safety of vessels and persons on vessels)
  • National defense readiness
  • Migrant interdiction
  • Marine environmental protection (oil and chemical spill management and response)
  • Ice operations (track and report location of icebergs)

The Evolution of My Time in Service

I was fortunate to participate in some aspect of every mission the Coast Guard executes, except flying or maintaining aircraft. I served as a personnel specialist, personal security special, boarding team member, boarding officer, deck watch officer, tactical action officer, antiterrorism and force protection officer, navigator, intelligence analyst, and a plethora of other positions. I had the opportunity to execute search-and-rescue missions on the high seas. I assisted and coordinated the interdiction of over 600 immigrants attempting to enter the United States illegally via maritime means. I interdicted over 5,000 kilos of cocaine and millions of dollars in U.S. currency on the high seas. On two occasions, my units traveled 600 and 1,300 nautical miles to conduct search-and-rescue missions at sea.

In 2003, the Coast Guard transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. After 9/11, I was in a unique position in the Office of the Commandant and saw firsthand the government workings from senior government leaders that led to the creation of the Homeland Security Council and DHS, followed by our subsequent transfer. There were many daily meetings at the White House, the Pentagon, and our Nebraska Avenue complex. It was a life-changing experience to see the President, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Homeland Security mold the future of the Department and the Coast Guard.

During my service, I pursued my undergraduate and graduate degrees at American Military University, which gave me the flexibility to learn while working and was the perfect fit for my higher education goals. When I graduated high school, I had no intention of pursuing a higher education. And here I am not only working on one master’s degree, but two master’s degrees. I might even pursue a doctorate. The professors at AMU and the absolute fantastic classroom experiences—learning my craft and applying what I learned in the field of law enforcement and intelligence—were both life-changing and rewarding. Just like my time serving in the Coast Guard.

I discovered the Coast Guard was exactly the branch of the military for which I was searching. I committed myself to a life of federal service and loved every day of it.

The degrees I earned at AMU contributed to who I am and how I serve the Coast Guard and the nation. Those are big claims, but they are very real to me. I believe wholeheartedly that my degrees were instrumental in my selection to Officer Candidate School. AMU was a contributing factor to my success.  The research principles I learned at AMU, along with the law enforcement and intelligence-related tradecraft I acquired, prepared me for all my missions. They ranged from mission planning, case package preparation, and critical thinking, to applying the intelligence cycle to several aspects of Coast Guard law enforcement and intelligence missions. They also included the preparation of strategic and tactical level products for Coast Guard leaders at every level of the organization.

My branch, while sometimes misunderstood, is a critical branch of the U.S. Armed Forces that further strengthens our homeland security mission. I’m proud of my time spent in the Coast Guard. To my fellow “shipmates” in the AMU community, I salute you for your service. In the Coast Guard, we don’t play games. Semper Paratus – Always Ready.

Ready to Show Your Colors?

A portion of proceeds from the sale of AMU Campus Store items will be donated to Team Semper Fi. This charity supports recovery through sport for more than 1,000 servicemembers from all branches of the military who have overcome significant challenges in their service to our country, and have embraced the fighting, athletic spirit on their road to recovery.


Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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