This is Why Coast Guard Ships are Called Cutters 

When you are wanting to join the US Coast Guard, there are many questions you will likely have about your potential career. One topic you may be curious about is why the Coast Guard often refers to their ships as cutters. If you are new to joining the Coast Guard, you may not be aware of the reason behind this. We have the background information on the name, along with more information about the ships and how to qualify to join the Coast Guard. 

US Coast Guard ships are called cutters because the woodcutter is used to describe a small ship. This specific term originally came from the Revenue Cutter Service. Revenue Cutters were used to enforce trade revenues from imported duties. The word cutter does not refer to the name of the US Coast Guard ships, but it instead refers to the type of ship. Currently, any ship over 65 feet long is referred to as a cutter by the US Coast Guard. 


What Makes a Boat a Cutter? 

When a boat or a ship is referred to as the word cutter, it typically means that it is a small or medium-sized watercraft that is created specifically for speed. Most cutters are on the smaller side and generally only have a single mast. Typically, cutters are also fore-and-aft rigged and have two or more headsails. These watercraft do usually have a bowsprit. 

The most common type of boats that are considered cutters are harbor pilots’ cutters and then the cutters that belong to the US Coast Guard. The UK Border Force does also often uses cutters, as well as the US, does. 

Originally, the term cutter came from the Revenue Cutter Service. The cutters were used to catch smugglers and other potential enemies, which is why the speed was essential for these ships. In today’s society, the speed of these ships is still important. We generally use cutters for regulatory or enforcement purposes. 

Specifically for the US Coast Guard in our society today, any ship that is longer than 65 feet is referred to as a cutter. Previously, only specific types of ships were referred to as cutters by the Coast Guard, but that has since changed. 


How are Coast Guard Ships Named? 

Every ship that belongs to the US Coast Guard has a specific alphanumeric code that is created for the individual ship. This code is created based on the characteristics of the ship. Every code also starts with a W, which is the letter that was assigned to all Coast Guard ships during World War ll. After the W, the next letters are based on the endurance of the ship. The endurance refers to how long the ship can operate at sea without stopping for fuel or supplies. 

The two codes for the endurance are HEC (High Endurance Cutter) and MEC (Medium Endurance Cutter). It will depend on the specific ship’s endurance for what code they receive. Following the endurance code, there will be a numeric code that will finish off the code that is given to each ship. For example, The specific code created for the USCGC Alert is WMEC-630. The MEC part of the code refers to the fact the Alert ship is a Medium Endurance Cutter.  

For the name of each US Coast Guard ship, the ships are given names chosen by the Coast Guard and typically start with the abbreviation USCGC, which stands for the United States Coast Guard Cutter. The alphanumeric code that was previously mentioned will typically follow the name that is given to each ship by the Coast Guard. 


What are the Qualifications to Join the Coast Guard? 

If you are wanting to join the US Coast Guard, there are certain qualifications that you will need to meet. The first qualifications you must meet include being a US Citizen and being between the ages of 17 and 27 years old. You also will be required to have a high school diploma in order to join the Coast Guard. If you only have a GED, you may have a harder time getting accepted into the Coast Guard. 

As part of the qualifications, you can also not have more than two dependents at the time that you attempt to enroll in the Coast Guard. When you apply to join the Coast Guard, it is essential to know that you are committing to serve on or around water, since this will be a consistent part of your job responsibilities. 

Once you have met the first qualifications for joining the Coast Guard, you will be required to take a medical exam. It is often referred to as a Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam. This exam is essential because it will ensure that you are physically capable of doing the responsibilities expected of you for your potential new career. 

You will also be required to pass the ASVAB test. This stands for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. This test is made up of ten short tests that will test your knowledge on various topics like mathematics and general science questions. Once you’ve taken the test, you’ll be given a score on each individual test. Those scores are used to create your scores for each category. You’ll receive a score for verbal, math, and academic ability. 


Benefits of Joining the Coast Guard 

Once you qualify and enlist in the US Coast Guard, there are many benefits that come along with this new career. The biggest benefit is the reliable and consistent income. When you join the Coast Guard, you will receive checks twice a month. Many positions for the Coast Guard also receive competitive salaries as well. 

In the US Coast Guard, there are many options and opportunities for advancement. Even if you start in an entry-level position, you can advance and apply for higher positions once you gain more experience. The Coast Guard provides large amounts of training, which will also help you advance in your career if you desire to do so. 

Members of the US Coast Guard also enjoy a great amount of vacation pay. You will typically receive around 2.5 paid days off for every calendar month. This equals out to be around 30 days off paid throughout each year. 

Similar to other departments in the government, the Coast Guard also enjoys excellent health and life insurance options. If you are on active duty, you will typically receive health and dental procedures at no cost to you. There are also low rates on life insurance as well while you are an active member of the Coast Guard. 

Along with all of the other benefits that the government provides to members of the Coast Guard, you also get the benefit of knowing that you are making a difference for your country. When you join the Coast Guard, you are actively protecting the members of your community and could potentially be saving lives! This is a life-changing career that offers a wide range of benefits once you begin. 


Related Questions

Is the US Coast Guard a part of the US military? 

Yes, the US Coast Guard is considered a part of the military. However, the Coast Guard is not considered a part of the Department of Defense, like other branches of the military similar to the US Army. The Coast Guard is a unique part of the Department of Homeland Security. 

The Coast Guard is still considered a part of the military because if needed during a war, the President of the US has permission to transfer any assets they see fit of the Coast Guard over to the US Navy. This has been done regularly by many Presidents of the US. 


How long is the enlistment process to join the Coast Guard? 

The amount of time that it will take to qualify and enlist into the US Coast Guard may vary depending on your specific qualifications. Since you are required to take various medical exams and pass your ASVAB test, there is no specific time frame that it can take. If your medical exams do take longer or if you have trouble passing the ASVAB, the enlistment process can take longer than you may expect. 

When you are looking into joining the Coast Guard, we recommend expecting the process to take a minimum of 4 weeks. It can take longer, depending on your qualifications and exams. However, it usually does not take less than this time frame. It may also depend on your location and the specific recruiter that you are working with as well. 


Is there a time frame I have to commit to when I join the Coast Guard? 

There are various contracts when you join the Coast Guard. When you originally enlist, you will typically be required to commit to serving a minimum of 4 years. Once your original committed time has been completed, then you can discuss further enlistment options with your supervisors if you would like to continue your career with the Coast Guard. 

The Coast Guard typically offers contracts that consist of four- and eight-year commitments. In some situations, there may be options for three- or six-year commitments, depending on the scenario. These enlistment time frames are not always guaranteed. 

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.