This month we mark the 224th anniversary of the United States Coast Guard. First authorized by Congress to enforce trade laws and prevent smuggling, the Coast Guard has been woven into the fabric of our nation since 1790. In 1915, the modern-day Coast Guard was transformed into a single maritime service charged with a myriad of missions -- from traditional search and rescue to drug interdiction and national security. Today, the men and women of the Coast Guard are integral members of our communities and the Service remains deeply engrained in the present and future of South Jersey.
Take Cape May County, with the City of Cape May serving as the permanent home of the Coast Guard Training Center -- a unique campus for enlisted recruits established in 1948. Once threatened to be relocated in the mid-1990s to the west coast, TRACEN (as it is often referred to) employs roughly 2,000 personnel and is the largest employer in the City while children of enlisted service members attend local schools and special community events often include the Coast Guard colors.
The long-standing relationship between Cape May County and the Coast Guard cannot be overstated. In fact, in one his final official acts, former U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr designated the City and County as "A Coast Guard Community" -- one of only fifteen such designations nationwide. At a public ceremony in May, I joined with Admiral Papp in Cape May to thank the recruits, the civilian employees, the city and the county for their dedication.
Likewise, travel up the Garden State Parkway and one would find the nation's largest helicopter-only Coast Guard base at Air Station Atlantic City. Sharing the sprawling Egg Harbor Township campus with the FAA Technical Center and ACY, the men and women piloting and supporting the HH-65 Dolphin helicopters provide critical search and rescue operations off the Jersey Shore. Furthermore, since 2008, this vital South Jersey base is charged with assisting the Air National Guard 177th Fighter Wing (on the same Atlantic County campus) in protecting Washington, D.C. as part of the National Capital Region Air Defense. Additional personnel, aircraft and federal resources were brought to our region in support of this homeland security mission.
In addition to these major installations, our region is home to numerous boat stations and mobile commands to ensure safe navigation and emergency response on our waterways. From the waters of Barnegat Light down around Cape May and up towards Salem along the Delaware River, the Service's presence and resounding commitment is nothing short of outstanding. Thus, it makes perfect sense to the residents of South Jersey who, for more than 60 years, have called the men and women of the Coast Guard their neighbors and friends.
On behalf of South Jersey residents, a very Happy Birthday and Thank You to the U.S. Coast Guard!