Although the Coast Guard did not establish its Intelligence Specialist (IS) rating until 2007, the service had been performing many of the duties associated with the intelligence community almost from the time of its inception in 1915, when a Chief Intelligence Officer was assigned to Coast Guard Headquarters. During the Prohibition Era, the Coast Guard employed famed cryptographers William and Elizabeth Friedman to decrypt messages sent by rum-runners and other smugglers, achieving a sizable reduction in the flow of contraband liquor entering the country.

In World War II, a Coast Guard unit dubbed “CG Unit 387,” which included Elizabeth Friedman and a dozen members of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, cracked the code employed by the German’s Abwehr intelligence service and deciphered around 8,500 messages between 1941 and 1943. The Coast Guard contributed to successes in breaking Japanese codes in the Pacific theater, and also employed intelligence-gathering techniques to achieve a spotless record in preventing German sabotage of port facilities and maintaining situational awareness of German U-boats activity along the Atlantic coast.

With the passage of the Homeland Security Act in November, 2002 and the transfer of the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security in March, 2003, the need for a rating that provided highly specialized training in intelligence gather and analysis soon became apparent. The decision to establish the IS rating came in November, 2006, and five months later three Master Chiefs became the service’s first Intelligence specialists.

But another eighteen months would pass before the Coast Guard was able to establish an “A” school, with the first full-time classes at the IS School at Training Center Yorktown kicking off in September, 2008. Prior to that time, Coast Guard IS personnel would receive their initial training at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center at Dam Neck Annex in Virginia, followed by a three-week course (also at TC Yorktown) where they would become familiarized with the tools and techniques employed by the Coast Guard in carrying out its law-enforcement mandates.

Today, all Coast Guard Intelligence Specialists will complete the 14-week Class “A” School at TC Yorktown, with many of them continuing on to more advanced, specialized training in “C” schools. Possible assignments include serving at the Intelligence Coordination Center, the two Maritime Intelligence Fusion Centers, Field Intelligence Support Teams, or afloat on one of the service’s National Security Cutters.

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