Most heard Quotes from the United States Coast Guard. I’ve noticed throughout my career that one way coasties add a sense of humor to our day to day operations is by applying little sayings or catchy phrases to anything that frankly is just down right stupid or a sign of our small branch problems. Other sayings are used proudly or in keeping with our naval traditions. I’ve made a list of a few that I have come across and used frequently throughout my career.
1. Service above self
A quote by Admiral Zukunft and honestly one of my favorite. This speaks to the heart of our core values and truly encompasses a Coast Guardman’s dedication to this country and his service.
2. Getting more done with less
We operate as a whole with a comparatively small budget. Our ability to perform professionally and successfully with far less than our military brethren is impressive in and of itself.
3. Keep calm, I’m a Coastie
A boastful cocky statement, but fun non the less. Coasties are good at what they do. Saving your butt.
4. Semper Gumbie/Always flexible
A play on our moto of Semper Paratus (always ready). Semper Gumbie (always flexible) makes light of a common theme… Nothing is set in stone, be flexible, plans will change. Deal with it.
5. Hurry up and wait
As a branch we are committed to urgency. We work quickly and with a purpose, so why not wait in the same manner? Hurry up and wait maintains our sense of urgency while mockingly telling someone to sit down and shut up.
6. It’s a shit sandwich, just take a bite (or just “It’s a shit sandwich”)
I’ve heard this used in two different ways. First, referring to something that just sucks all around but your going to take it head on. This was used a lot at TACLET while conducting CQC and high risk boardings. Second, it has been used to describe an individual’s way of teaching. A small, insignificant compliment before and after a great steaming pile of all the shit you did wrong. MMMM, my favorite.
7. Jack of all trades, master of none
As a small branch of the military our rates are extremely multifaceted. As a Machinery Technician you are required to work on everything from fuel systems, to electrical components, reduction gears, pipe fitting, carpentry, gasoline engines, diesels or turbines. Coasties dedicate themselves to qualifying in everything they can at their unit only to be transfer after three or four years, many times to a unit where their past qualification does not transfer over.
8. Stand by to stand by
Very similar in meaning to hurry up and wait. The single command “stand by” is often used to inform or prepare an individual for a follow up command. Essentially meaning “wait” or “hold on”.
9. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission
Definitely an enlisted term and one that I have used many times. I’ve used this as a teaching point to help more junior members gain confidence in their ability to make decisions. If you are confident in what you are about to do, do it, and own up to the mistakes.
10. Liberty is held until moral improves
A contradiction at its truest form. There is no moral when liberty is being held.
11. The beatings will continue until moral improves
Similar in context. Said sarcastically by those being beaten or held back to train.
12. If it ain’t broke fix it till it is
A jab at the Coast Guard’s maintenance program. Just when a piece of equipment is functioning perfectly, scheduled maintenance says take it apart and put it back together.
13. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it
A plea to leave it alone. A piece of equipment, a program, a tradition. If it works don’t touch it!
14. Stand by for heavy rolls
Literally meaning the boat is about to take on heavy seas. This is a very nautical saying and has been sarcastically used to suggest that bad things are coming.
15. Never underestimate the power of stupidity
Many times used behind the scenes to make fun of civilian mariners or other coworkers who do something just plain stupid.
16. Above my pay grade
This can be said in response to questions regarding policy, schedule, and any sort of decision making that negatively impacts others. It’s like saying “don’t look at me”, “not my choice” or “not my call”
17. Our non-rates have more authority than any other branch of the service
A proud jab at other branches lack of Law Enforcement authority. Coasties are entrusted with incredible responsibility at the earliest pay grades. As an E-4 qualified as a boat engineer, Boarding Officer, and Officer of the Day, I was in charge of full law enforcement missions, entire boat crews and the civilians we saved, and the successful day to day operations of an entire 30 man unit.
18. Blood, sweat, and curse words
Sailors don’t cry. So that whole “blood, sweat, and tears” has no place for a coastie. So what gets the job done? Blood, sweat, and curse words.
19. Maintain course and speed
You’ve heard the saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”? Well the water is a great equalizer, and the toughest of men will drown. A supportive comment from a friend or peer to someone who is dealing with something difficult, to keep going no matter what is happening around them.
20. Eyes in the boat
Used many times when something externally can be distracting to the task at hand.
21. If you haven’t faced the storm you haven’t faced yourself
There are few things in this world that truly test in individuals self, and when a new member of our community is traveling into a storm for the first time there’s nothing like a good ol’ salty quote to prepare them for what is ahead.
22. So that other may live
I see this fitting to end my short list of Coast Guard phrases. We are a service dedicated to others, where once we proudly exclaimed “you have to go out but you don’t have to come back” we continue to stand tall and risk our lives so that others may live.
Do you have more to add? Let us know some of your favorite sayings or phrases in the comments bellow.
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