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Why is the USCG Looked Down on by Vets of other Branches?


stratasfan
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stratasfan

Curious question here! :) Why is it that when you talk to vets or currently serving people in any of the other four military branches do they kind of "look down" on the Coast Guard? Why is it said with a 'sneer', when someone mentions the USCG or that a child or grandchild is thinking of serving in the USCG or you discuss something that is USCG, etc.? What's wrong with serving in the USCG? 

 

Just last night, talked with someone who served 8 years in one of the other four branches and his Dad was Army and his Grampa USMC . . . and his youngest son is thinking of serving in the 'sneer' Coast Guard . . . -gulp- (OK, so I'm typing this out blatantly so you get the picture, but it was a sneer and a pause and this is something often seen when USCG is mentioned, so I wanted to ask!

 

I think Sis and I have a warped view of the Coast Guard, but I'm super interested to know why it is like a sub-human service kind of thing when refered to by most Vets of other services. :) 

 

Thanks for any thoughts! I'm totally wondering and curious as to why!

Elizabeth

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tdogchristy90

There has always been an interservice rivalry. I had a Navy buddy who looked down on the Air Force for seeing them as a group that lets their flying technology do all the work. You’ll also find rankings of what branch may have more prestige or respect than the others. You mentioned Coast Guard...well some people apply that same “lesser than” feeling to the National Guard.

 

I do feel like some of this is changing though, especially post 9/11. The National Guard was heavily involved in overseas duty post 9/11. The same is coming true of the Coast Guard. I read an article the other day making the argument that the Coast Guard will be used more often in the future (probably as it pertains to the Pacific). So I think as these lesser known groups (National Guard and Coast Guard) are used more robustly, the stigma of them being “not true combat” boys will lessen. 
 

The Coast Guard was used heavily in WW2. Who do you think helped out with those amphibious landings? 

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I don't get it, to be honest. When I was photographing medals for my book at the US Coast Guard Museum, I told the curator that I had the utmost respect for the Coast Guard - the ones I served with over the years were exceptionally competent and professional, above and beyond those I served with in the Navy. She was genuinely shocked, as she expected me to make some sort of wisecrack about the Coast Guard at some point...and I never did. 

 

As far as I'm concerned, they're the most professional and competent at their specific jobs as far as any of the branches of our military service (I know they don't belong in the DoD, but you get what I mean). 

 

I would have no issue if one of my children joined the Coast Guard when the time comes for them to make a career choice.

 

 

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tdogchristy90
4 minutes ago, Dave said:

I don't get it, to be honest. When I was photographing medals for my book at the US Coast Guard Museum, I told the curator that I had the utmost respect for the Coast Guard - the ones I served with over the years were exceptionally competent and professional, above and beyond those I served with in the Navy. She was genuinely shocked, as she expected me to make some sort of wisecrack about the Coast Guard at some point...and I never did. 

 

As far as I'm concerned, they're the most professional and competent at their specific jobs as far as any of the branches of our military service (I know they don't belong in the DoD, but you get what I mean). 

 

I would have no issue if one of my children joined the Coast Guard when the time comes for them to make a career choice.

 

 


Dave, I feel like its just a human nature thing. People are always debating, comparing each other, poking at each other. Whether good natured or not, it usually takes an event to bring the groups together. 

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I am on a number of US Army veterans websites and there are always wisecracks about how soft the Air Force has it.

 

Let them laugh until they need air support or supplies air dropped. 

 

The services talk a lot of trash about each other, but they all know each of them is there to do specific jobs that support each other.

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11 hours ago, Dave said:

I don't get it, to be honest. When I was photographing medals for my book at the US Coast Guard Museum, I told the curator that I had the utmost respect for the Coast Guard - the ones I served with over the years were exceptionally competent and professional, above and beyond those I served with in the Navy. She was genuinely shocked, as she expected me to make some sort of wisecrack about the Coast Guard at some point...and I never did. 

 

As far as I'm concerned, they're the most professional and competent at their specific jobs as far as any of the branches of our military service (I know they don't belong in the DoD, but you get what I mean). 

 

I would have no issue if one of my children joined the Coast Guard when the time comes for them to make a career choice.

 

 

    Perfectly said Dave. Here in Michigan we have a huge Coast Guard presence and not only do many other service members discount their service, they also make the mistake of discounting the power of the Great Lakes. These men and women are always doing their mission, unlike the Army or Marines who generally train for a mission much more than they perform one (and I am retired Army). There are always calls on the lakes for rescue, or searches and they are generally the first to respond. It is bitter cold in Winter, there can be 20-30 foot waves in a storm and lets not forget that it wasn't that long ago that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down in seconds with all hands and the Coast Guard had to respond in that storm! That ship was 730 feet long and disappeared in seconds... Much respect to the USCG and what they do for us.      Scott

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Blacksmith

I would chalk it up to good ol’ (friendly) inter-branch rivalry, and not put too much behind it.

 

If you are / were in the military, you know, the “best” branch of the military is whichever one you serve(d) in.

 

If one was never in the military, then the true ‘vibe’ of this phenomenon is likely lost.  Deep in our hearts, do we respect each branch for their unique and meaningful contribution?  I certainly do, and I know all of my military buddies do - we’ll just likely never admit it...  ;)

 

But it’s known.

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Cobra 6 Actual

I’ll agree with the other comments about inter-service ribbing. But I would add the following:

The USCG started as the Revenue Marine/Revenue Cutter Service. Historically, that meant that it was the forerunner of major aspects of the US Customs Service and the Internal Revenue Service.

Over the years it was moved around organizationally and consolidated several times. It’s been a component of the Treasury Department, during WWII organizationally part of the Navy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, and now, since 2003, ‘homed’ in the Department of Homeland Security.

At various points it has added the US Lifesaving Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, and the US Lighthouse Service.

One aspect of the Coast Guard’s role that not many people know is that annually it actually seizes more illegal drugs than the agency designated to perform that function, the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Having been in a different service I’ve made jokes about the USCG being the ‘Knee Deep Navy’ and ‘Puddle Pirates’, but I hold it in the highest regard.

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Cobra 6 Actual

Correction: the Steamboat Inspection Service, later known as the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, was under the Department of Commerce, when it was organizationally moved to the USCG in 1946.

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TheCrustyBosun

Simple...  The Coast Guard is not a DOD branch.  Therefore, many people do not even consider it part of the military. Little do they know. 

 

The posse comitatus act has kept the USCG outside of the DOD due to its status as a federal law enforcement agency. 

 

14 USC 1 states that the USCG will at all times be a military branch of the armed forces of the United States and that it will fall under the operational control of the Navy during times of war, which it has many times. 
 

10 USC 101 (a) (4) lists the branches of the armed forces and includes the USCG. 


1790- “A system of 10 cutters” was established under the Treasury to enforce customs and collect revenue for the Customs Houses. (The Navy did not exist at this time as it was disbanded after the revolutionary war.)

 

1796- Named Revenue Cutter Service after being unofficially referred to by no less than three different names since 1790. 
 

1871- The United States Life Saving Service is added. 
 

1915- reorganized and renamed US Coast Guard

 

1939- US Lighthouse Service is added. 
 

1942- Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation is added. 
 

1967- transferred to Dept of Transportation. 
 

2003- transferred to Dept of Homeland Security. 
 

The US Coast Guard has an impressive history that includes its participation in every major military conflict since 1790.  It is easily lost in the wartime mix because of its small numbers when compared to other services, but can be found everywhere. 
 

I was deployed for a year to Kuwait during OIF with a port security unit. We wore DCU’s like everyone else. While at Camp Doha waiting to go home for R&R, an Army Spec4 approached me with a sergeant and looked oddly at my collar devices. He then asks, “Are you guys British?” His sergeant smacks him and says, “Read the nametapes! It says US Coast Guard.”  The Spec4 goes, “Oh! No crap! I was thinking about joining the Coast Guard because they really don’t deploy.”  The sergeant rolls his eyes and asks, “Dude! Where are we having this conversation? We’re ALL deployed right now.” The Spec4 takes a moment, becomes obviously confused and then asks, “What the hell is the Coast Guard doing here?!”
 

 

R. Patterson

Boatswains’s Mate

USCG 1998-2010

OIF 2003-04 
 

 

 


 

 

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stratasfan

Our Grampa was a USCG lifer, serving twenty years before retiring. He joined in 1947 and retired in 1968 as a W2 (refused the W3 promotion). (The funny story is that he and a buddy wanted to join up because they saw that all the girls liked the Navy uniform. Well, Grampa's buddy had a friend who had recently joined the CG and he told them that they should join the CG rather than the Navy. In the Navy, you'd be shipped off and spend all your time at sea, but with the CG you'd be stateside and the girls didn't notice the little shield on your arm that was different than the Navy anyway. :) So, Grampa joined the CG and as soon as he was done with his training, he was shipped more places and spent almost his whole 20 years constantly travelling around the States (in a USCG Dental trailer that travelled from CG base to base) and then stationed in Alaska (before it was a State) as the only American in the village, and then on ships and rescue missions for most of his time! He always laughed about that bit of "advise" from the buddy of his friend! 

 

Well, Sis and I grew up thinking the USCG was tops, but I've never run into someone who served in any other branch that didn't 'sneer' when you mention USCG. We have super good friends whose Pop is a National Guard career NCO (he is being let go on Wednesday after 47 years of full-time Guard service) and you can't talk seriously to anyone whose served in one of the major four branches. They act like he may have well be a janitor. And the funny thing is, that in PA and one other state, he is the only guy who does what he does on Blackhawks, and has trained every single serviceperson who has to do part of his job for two states! But, talk to someone who served 4 or 8 years two or three decades ago, and they turn away and it is mainly 'this conversation is ended' type of body language. 

 

That's why I asked, as it is always something I've wondered. As people who have not served in any military, I totally don't get the animosity and lack of understanding in so many people who served. You would think that service would make you realise even more that no man/branch is an island unto itself. But, maybe it goes with the modern 'me' mentality that the Baby Boomer generation brought in and is getting so much worse with each generation. Sadly, most people I find that everything in life has to center on 'me' and dismiss anybody else or experience that isn't what makes 'me' happy. 

 

So interesting to hear that others notice this, too. Growing up, it really hurt us a lot at times, as we just thought the USCG was the best! (Still do, actually. They are amazing, if you read the history and know what they handle!) Now I don't get hurt, just feel bad for the other person. 

 

Kind of like being a twin. People ask questions when you are twins that they would never walk up to a perfect stranger and ask! It is kind of crazy! 

 

The Lighthouse Service is a cool bit to study, too!

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Unicorn

So you never served and don't understand what is going on.

On 6/27/2021 at 5:19 AM, Cobra 6 Actual said:

I’ll agree with the other comments about inter-service ribbing. But I would add the following:

The USCG started as the Revenue Marine/Revenue Cutter Service. Historically, that meant that it was the forerunner of major aspects of the US Customs Service and the Internal Revenue Service.
 

The USCS predated the Revenue Cutter Service by almost a year. They answered to the Customs Service as did the lighthouse service.

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Cobra 6 Actual
10 hours ago, Unicorn said:

So you never served and don't understand what is going on.

The USCS predated the Revenue Cutter Service by almost a year. They answered to the Customs Service as did the lighthouse service.


Unicorn, I don’t understand the tone of your comments. I’m figuring that you didn’t actually mean to sound as offensive as you came across. I’ll address what you wrote, though: no, as I noted in my comments in the last paragraph of Post # 8, I never served in the Coast Guard; I served in the Army as a rifleman in Vietnam and was a later a federal agent. 
 

Looking at what I wrote a little closer, please let me clarify: by “major aspects” I meant that some of the FUNCTIONS, not necessarily the organizational STRUCTURES were forerunners. You are correct, though, that the Customs Service as an organization was founded about a year and a month earlier. 
 

Also, my only mention of the Lighthouse Service (in the 4th paragraph of Post # 8) was that it was merged into the USCG. I made no mention of it before or after that point. Are you disputing that?

 

As to whether I do or don’t understand “what is going on” I am of the opinion that I do know. Your mileage may vary. 

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stratasfan
17 hours ago, Unicorn said:

So you never served and don't understand what is going on.

 

Don't understand if you meant this as rough as it sounds, but please refrain from personal comments here. Just to clarify, I didn't actually serve in any branch and I am the one particularly asking about this. One doesn't have to actually have served to know about this issue, as the discussion is showing. We are just having an interesting talk about something that a lot of us seem to have noticed. My experience is from being close to a Grampa and seeing people's reaction to him and his service when mentioned. @Cobra 6 Actual is sharing what he has noticed while serving in another service. 

 

This conversation is just a friendly discussion, not poking fingers at anyone in particular, just discussing a common outlook on the CG and NG. 

 

Thanks to all so far for the interesting comments! I'm enjoying hearing from others who have noticed the same thing or have insight to some parts!

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Salvage Sailor
On 6/27/2021 at 1:04 AM, Blacksmith said:

I would chalk it up to good ol’ (friendly) inter-branch rivalry, and not put too much behind it.

 

If you are / were in the military, you know, the “best” branch of the military is whichever one you serve(d) in.

 

Ditto, It's Tribal ribbing and in jest, and those who make it something else are simply on the outside looking in at the actors.

 

 

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stratasfan
45 minutes ago, Salvage Sailor said:

 

Ditto, It's Tribal ribbing and in jest, and those who make it something else are simply on the outside looking in at the actors.

 

 

 

Oh, I can understand some of it being simple rivalry between branches. :) However, I was more questioning why a veteran from another branch would clam up and be completely disinterested or condescending when you talk about a USCG or NG veteran's service.

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ottodog8

You mean the shallow water sailors? The hooligan navy? The branch you have to be over 6 feet tall to join so if your ship sinks you can walk ashore? I live on an island, there is a Small Boat Station in my town. I grew up watching them, many local guys joined. Two of my first cousins who joined served in Vietnam. On the one hand, they sometimes have hard duty. On the other hand, they could be an odd bunch, especially during the Vietnam war, when lots of guys joined to stay out of the Army. Maybe it's just because I've known so many of them so well, that the most bizarre stories I've ever heard about the military came from Coasties. Especially the guys who served on the Ocean Stations. I think they left them out there too long and something happened to them.

 

    Steve

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Unicorn
12 hours ago, Cobra 6 Actual said:


Unicorn, I don’t understand the tone of your comments. I’m figuring that you didn’t actually mean to sound as offensive as you came across. I’ll address what you wrote, though: no, as I noted in my comments in the last paragraph of Post # 8, I never served in the Coast Guard; I served in the Army as a rifleman in Vietnam and was a later a federal agent. 
 

Looking at what I wrote a little closer, please let me clarify: by “major aspects” I meant that some of the FUNCTIONS, not necessarily the organizational STRUCTURES were forerunners. You are correct, though, that the Customs Service as an organization was founded about a year and a month earlier. 
 

Also, my only mention of the Lighthouse Service (in the 4th paragraph of Post # 8) was that it was merged into the USCG. I made no mention of it before or after that point. Are you disputing that?

 

As to whether I do or don’t understand “what is going on” I am of the opinion that I do know. Your mileage may vary. 

I don't think my first reply to this went through (bad mobile connection or something).

 

That statement doesn't make any sense because it was never meant to be posted here. I might have copied that from something else and accidentally pasted it. I believe it was a reply I typed (then deleted... or apparently cut and pasted)... in a reply on Nextdoor to someone calling a Vietnam vet an old codger who needs to go to his nursing home because he didn't like the people illegally setting off fireworks inside the city. Occasionally I'll write a response then delete it just to get it out of my system. 

I didn't even know it was possible to put text above the quote box.

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Unicorn
4 hours ago, stratasfan said:

 

Don't understand if you meant this as rough as it sounds, but please refrain from personal comments here. Just to clarify, I didn't actually serve in any branch and I am the one particularly asking about this. One doesn't have to actually have served to know about this issue, as the discussion is showing. We are just having an interesting talk about something that a lot of us seem to have noticed. My experience is from being close to a Grampa and seeing people's reaction to him and his service when mentioned. @Cobra 6 Actual is sharing what he has noticed while serving in another service. 

 

This conversation is just a friendly discussion, not poking fingers at anyone in particular, just discussing a common outlook on the CG and NG. 

 

Thanks to all so far for the interesting comments! I'm enjoying hearing from others who have noticed the same thing or have insight to some parts!

As I replied to  Cobra 6 Actual, that was not a sentence I'd meant to post on this forum at all.

 

As to the actual conversation, it's just shinola talking amongst members. The CG, the NG, and the Reserves get looked down for various reasons.

For both of these think of how police view security guards. It's similar.

I've seen nurses say the same about EMTs too for that matter. "What do you know, you're just an EMT, not even a paramedic." When that particular firefighter (all paid fire in my state also have to be EMTs) replied he had a doctorate and what did the nurse have the nurse pretty much kept his mouth shut.

Or how ER nurses view some of the nurses who never worked on the ER and went straight to something "easy."

 

The CG is not viewed as a combat service (even though they have fought), so they are viewed as wannabes by many. Even if they were full time DoD, they'd be considered second class to the Navy by the Navy and many others. Of course the Navy itself is viewed as pretty weak and odd by the other branches. And Marines and Army are stupid, and the Air Force is weak.... etcetera.

 

The Guard and Reserves are considered second class Soldiers (and Airman for the Air National Guard, and Navy, CG, and Marines for their Reserves). I've been active and Guard. It's mostly a matter of the lack of training time.

In the first two years in the Army I spent more days in the field than some NCOs in the Guard did. We could only focus on a couple tasks a year instead of many. It used to take us all weekend to run a battalion through the rifle qualification range. Something we did before lunch in the Regular Army. Ok, that's not quite fair, we did start earlier usually. But 6 hours instead of 16 is pretty significant. It took three months of training before a guard unit was ready to be deployed, while an active unit could be boots on the ground in days. Take out weekends that weren't in the field, holidays, days off for whatever reason (family time during 2 hour recall cycle, however many days without a vehicle fatality, whatever) and it was maybe 300 days a year versus 72-100ish. In the 101st we spent more than that in the field training. In the Guard maybe half that was training. Some was paperwork, medical checks, the range, more paperwork... a lot of "home station" drills sitting around the armory not doing much. Mostly waiting for a couple people to finish some task so we could all be released.

Some was not time, it was people who just wanted a little college money and thought they'd never have to actually deploy and earn it. Their whining did some damage to our reputation too, although most of that was acknowledged to just be individual whiners and not the entire branch.


 

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I think, but I am not 100% on this...WW2 playes a big part in perception. How much skin you have in the game is what it boiled down too. USAAF aircrews percentage wise took a big hit. The USMC in the Pacific was a slug fest. The Army in Europe had it good compaiered to the Marines. The Navy was a crap shoot but, you lived well as long as you were not sunk. The Coast Guard by the numbers faired best of all, overall. Skin in the game is the resentment the other forces have against the CG. I'm talking about at the front or combat troops. REMFS are REMFS in all branch's.

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TheCrustyBosun

The DOD branch roles are that of peacekeeper and warfighter. They are peacekeepers in that their mere presence is a powerful threat deterrent.   The war fighting thing needs no explanation. Those two roles along with the associated training makes up the bulk of what they do. They train for war and fight.  
 

Reserves exist to augment the active duty and to provide additional resources in times of need. They, along with the Guards (both Air National and Army National), act as force multipliers.  The Guard has more of a peacetime role than the others in my experience, though I saw the Army National Guard used quite extensively in OIF. 

The Coast Guard is different.  The lion’s share of the Coast Guard’s jobs/roles exist in its “peacetime” missions. Law enforcement, drug interdiction, maritime security, fisheries regulation and enforcement, aids to navigation (buoys, channel markers, lighthouses, etc), vessel inspection and regulation/ marine safety, maritime licensing, search and rescue, environmental protection, ice breaking, and marine science support are just a few examples.
 

I’d say less than 10% of the USCG’s work is aimed defensive roles in warfighting and the units whose business that is, are primarily staffed by reservists. It’s a small community in the CG and I’m proud to have been a member of it. 

As for my own personal experience… I served in the Coast Guard for twelve years. Eight of those years were on active duty and four in the reserves. I’ve been looked down on from those in the DOD branches for being in the USCG. I’ve even been looked down on by fellow Coasties for being a reservist.  Inter-service rivalry only explains part of it. Other factors like lack of education and “skin in the game” make up for some as well.  It is what it is. No paint off my stern. 
 

By the way, I’m only 5’10. 😉

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Kurt Barickman

Good old inter-service rivalry; they wear uniforms, carry weapons and do dangerous things for military pay.  

 

IMHO,

 

Kurt

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When I went to the MEPS in Richmond back in 2002 everybody kind of broke into their little groups on the bus, based on the branch they were signing up for. There was one guy going into the Coast Guard and even then, before anybody on the bus had even enlisted, they were giving him grief. Mostly just harmless ribbing but there were a couple of loud-mouths going too far. It was pretty amusing to later see one of the loudmouths pass out when he had his blood drawn. 

 

I've known several guys, including my step father, who served in the Coast Guard and I don't consider their service any less honorable than any other branch. 

 

-Ryan 

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Blacksmith
1 minute ago, RDUNE said:

When I went to the MEPS in Richmond back in 2002 everybody kind of broke into their little groups on the bus, based on the branch they were signing up for. There was one guy going into the Coast Guard and even then, before anybody on the bus had even enlisted, they were giving him grief. Mostly just harmless ribbing but there were a couple of loud-mouths going too far. It was pretty amusing to later see one of the loudmouths pass out when he had his blood drawn. 

 

I've known several guys, including my step father, who served in the Coast Guard and I don't consider their service any less honorable than any other branch. 

 

-Ryan 

Passed out on a blood draw...  LOL.  You made my day with that one.  We had a lot of Rambos on our bus too - none of them panned out that way.  DIs handled that nonsense pretty quickly.

 

As my buddy who flew F-18s in the first Persian Gulf war referred to them, "John Wayne on the pass, Slim Pickins on the landing".

 

 

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On 6/27/2021 at 10:07 AM, TheCrustyBosun said:

I was deployed for a year to Kuwait during OIF with a port security unit. We wore DCU’s like everyone else. While at Camp Doha waiting to go home for R&R, an Army Spec4 approached me with a sergeant and looked oddly at my collar devices. He then asks, “Are you guys British?” His sergeant smacks him and says, “Read the nametapes! It says US Coast Guard.”  The Spec4 goes, “Oh! No crap! I was thinking about joining the Coast Guard because they really don’t deploy.”  The sergeant rolls his eyes and asks, “Dude! Where are we having this conversation? We’re ALL deployed right now.” The Spec4 takes a moment, becomes obviously confused and then asks, “What the hell is the Coast Guard doing here?!”

 

This is hysterical.  Thanks for sharing!

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