Thursday, February 5, 2015

Seven Reasons The Coast Guard Is Batman

I suppose in a way, the Justice League is kind of like the Armed Forces: a team of heroes who each use their unique skills and powers to complete missions that each of them would be unable to take on alone. The Navy is like Aquaman, Ruler of the Waves. The Air Force is like Green Lantern, who uses his magic ring to fly and shoot. The Army has the inhumanly-strong Superman. Or is Superman more like the Marines? Then the Army would be Flash. Or wait, is Flash fast like the Air Force? But Superman's fast, too, and he flies…

Ugh. Maybe I should’ve used the Avengers…

Okay, okay...maybe I can’t pin down a comparison for all the members of the Justice League, but there’s still one hero who’s not like the others – who doesn’t share their superpowers, methods, or their clubhouse. And even if I can’t match a superhero to every other military branch, there’s one thing I’m absolutely certain of: the Coast Guard is Batman.

Here's why.


1. We’re crime-fighters and life-savers

Perhaps more than any other superhero, Batman exists to fight crime. He swore an oath at a young age to take on the drug lords, mobsters, and thieves who were threatening the people of his city. To do so, he mastered criminology, law enforcement procedures, and non-lethal takedowns.

This is exactly what the Coast Guard does. It’s the only branch of the military allowed to conduct law enforcement. Our ships patrol the oceans in the dark of night, using our wits and following clues to hunt down drug smugglers, pirates, and human traffickers so we can put an end to their work.

But do we simply blow them out of the water when we find them? No. Like The Batman, we capture criminals and bring them to justice. We disable ships with precision shots or tangle their propellers in nets. We swoop in on helicopters or small boats to take them down. And when a criminal does go in the water, we'll even risk our own lives to pull them back out.

You don’t get more Batman than that.

2. Day or night, we respond to the signal

There aren’t a lot of people who can say their job is literally to respond to a distress signal in the sky. By my count, it’s pretty much just the Coast Guard and Batman. Signal flares have long been used by mariners to alert sea-going rescuers that someone is in danger: a bright light in the sky. Like Batman, we literally know it’s time to go to work when we see the signal go up.


What’s the coolest thing about Batman? Is it the cape? The Bat Signal? The Batmobile? All of those things are awesome, yes, but where would he be without his grappling hook? Probably still climbing slowly up the side of a building, and then climbing slowly back down.

The Coast Guard has been using grappling hooks since 1790. The ships of the Revenue Cutter Service – which later became the Coast Guard – would throw grappling hooks into the rigging of fleeing sailing vessels to haul them in for boarding. To this day, Coast Guard law enforcement teams use them to latch onto the railings of smuggling vessels and climb aboard unseen.

But that’s not all. The Coast Guard has been using grappling hook launchers for at least 150 years. Starting in the mid-1800s, coastal life-saving stations deployed portable cannons to fire grappling hooks out to sinking ships and bring the crew safely back to shore.

4. We don’t always hang with the rest of the Justice League

The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military that’s not a part of the Department of Defense, meaning we don’t always hang out at their five-sided clubhouse in D.C. But every now and then, they run into a problem they can’t solve without our help – and that’s when they grudgingly put us in charge.

The Navy isn't allowed to conduct law enforcement. So when its ships intercept drug runners off the coasts of Central and South America, they do so under Coast Guard authority. A Coast Guard boarding team stationed on the vessel takes charge, boards the smuggling ship, and arrests the smugglers.

5. Our father was gunned down when we were still young

The Revenue Cutter Service was the brainchild of Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury and staunch proponent of free trade. Hamilton’s vision was to establish a sea-going service that would keep the coastlines clear of pirates and smugglers. He's revered as the father of the modern Coast Guard.

But just 14 years after his service was founded, Hamilton was shot and killed in a senseless duel. No doubt this loss – like Batman’s – is what fuels the Coast Guard's modern quest to rid the seas of crime.


6. We have about the same amount of money

According to an estimate done by Forbes, Bruce Wayne is worth around $7 billion dollars. That’s just a little less than the total annual operating budget of the Coast Guard. Of course, Batman is just one guy, and really only focuses on one city, while the Coast Guard has 45,000 people and protects 4.5 million square miles of ocean.

But hey – maybe we’re the ones taking the wrong approach. Maybe we should just give all of those Coast Guard billions to one person, and let him guard the coast all by himself.

7. We do the same job as the other heroes, just without the superpowers

Unlike the rest of the Justice League, Batman doesn’t have any special powers. He has to use his wits, ingenuity, and the element of surprise to defeat his enemies. Believe it or not, the Coast Guard is the same way. At around 45,000 people, it’s the smallest military branch by far. It has less funding, less firepower, and its ships lack the protective armor of their Navy counterparts. And yet – it has to jump into the fray in the same capacity and against the same threats as its super-powered sister service. Sometimes, it even goes in before.

In 2003, during the initial phases of the invasion of Iraq, a pair of Coast Guard patrol boats ran escort duty for Coalition minesweepers going up the Khawr Abd Allah waterway. During the operation, the Coast Guard patrol boats had to keep a distance of at least a thousand yards from the minesweepers to keep clear of their equipment – which generally meant the patrol boats were ahead of the sweepers themselves. A couple of times, the sweepers found unexploded mines in the riverbed after the Coasties had already passed through – and once, the crew of one of the Coast Guard Cutters got to listen as a mine clanged against the outside of their hull…and didn’t explode. If it had, the armor-less cutter would’ve been shredded.

Did that stop us? No. Those very Coast Guard cutters remain on patrol in the Persian Gulf to this day, protecting oil platforms and merchant ships, hunting for terrorists and smugglers. And even if they don’t have superpowers, they’ve got something better:

They're pretty much Batman.

1 comment:

  1. Reason #8: Cool Vehicles. Batman has the Batmobile, the Bat-Cycle, the Bat-Plane, etc ("Where does he get all the marvelous toys?") The Coast Guard has HH-60 and HH-65 helos, C-130's, Gulfstreams, and every kind of floating device from PWC's up to battleships (well, high-endurance Hamilton class cutters, but they do have deck guns)