Commissaries honor Coast Guard’s 228 years of service
FORT LEE, Va. – The U.S. Coast Guard’s experience operating commissaries dates back to 1909, so it’s no wonder that the Defense Commissary Agency will join with them in observing their 228th birthday Aug. 4.
On Aug. 4, 1790, Congress approved Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s proposal to build 10 cutters to protect the new nation’s revenue. Originally called the Revenue Cutter Service, the maritime service was officially named the Coast Guard in 1915.
Throughout its history, the Coast Guard performed a multi-mission service that is unique among the U.S.’ military branches. It has a maritime law enforcement mission as well as duties as a federal regulatory agency. However, the Coast Guard is not controlled by the Department of Defense. Up until 1967, it was a branch of the Treasury Department, but the Department of Transportation assumed control that year.
After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the U. S. Coast Guard transitioned to the U. S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003. The president of the United States or Congress, upon a declaration of war, can transfer control of the U.S. Coast Guard to the Navy Department. This occurred during both World Wars.
The Coast Guard began operating its own commissaries after the Navy began its commissaries in 1909. After the World Wars, all of the military services, including the Coast Guard, viewed commissaries as a valuable reenlistment incentive for military members.
The Coast Guard has never had very many commissary stores in the modern sense of the word. Most of their stores have been located inside their exchanges. By the 1980s there were 15 such stores: 11 of them were located on bases near the Atlantic Ocean, two were located near the Pacific Ocean and two were located near the Great Lakes.
DeCA assumed control of one of the few standalone Coast Guard commissaries, the Governor’s Island store, when the agency stood up in 1991. Governor’s Island is located south of Manhattan, squarely on the approach to New York Harbor. The Base Realignment & Closure Commission (BRAC) shut down the Governor’s Island installation in 1996.
DeCA also took control of the Coast Guard’s Kodiak Coast Guard Station in Alaska, and this remains the agency’s only Coast Guard store today. The building also houses the exchange, a credit union, a post office and some concessionaires.
To learn more about the United States Coast Guard, visit https://www.gocoastguard.com/about-the-coast-guard.
For photos, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/commissary/sets/72157699493967425
-- By Tamara Eastman, DeCA historian
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.