Coast Guard Celebrates 217 Years of Service

Despite losing their building at the Gulfport Harbor, coast guard workers were among the first to launch search and rescue operations during and after Katrina. The Coast Guard evacuated and saved more than 33,000 lives during the storm, including people here in South Mississippi.

"It was a search and rescue. Then we would help locals with urban search and rescue, getting food and water to the locals here. Anything we could do to help people," said Petty Officer Justin Boes.

The Coast Guard's main mission is search and rescue, but they also work to make sure the waters are safe, carrying out drug raids and patrolling waters.

"We'll go out there and make sure all the boaters have their proper safety equipment; that they have it and know how to use it," Boes said.

Katrina destroyed the old Coast Guard station in Gulfport. Since the storm, they've been working out of modular buildings in the old Marine Life parking lot, not far from the old site. Construction began on a new building in June, and the Coast Guard Station Gulfport hopes to move in by next summer.

"It's going to be three stories. It's going to be very different from the old station. It's made so the bottom floor will completely wash out in case of a tropical storm or hurricane," Boes said.

Equipment at the headquarters will also be easier to move, making the Coast Guard better prepared to handle whatever disaster may come.

"We're going to make it so all our equipment will be on castors and benches, so we can roll them out and put them on a travel trailer," Boes said.

After 217 years of service, the mission of the coast guard remains the same.

"And when the distressed boater needs our help, we'll go out there and go pull them in, or do whatever we need to do to make sure they make it home safe," Boes said.

The Gulfport station was commissioned in 1986.