The Cutterman’s Insignia was instituted in 1974 to provide recognition for Coast Guard personnel who, in the tradition of professional mariners, have performed duties afloat in keeping with their grade and rate and who have endured the rigors and dangers of sea duty for a substantial period. It signifies that they have exhibited the requisite professionalism and dedication to duty expected of seagoing Coast Guard personnel. The insignia is a visible means of recognizing their qualities and identifies the wearer as a professional mariner.
The design can be divided into three basic areas. Each is representative of a cutterman’s special qualities. The wheel and the waves represent the heritage of the sea. The five point star represents five years of sea duty and the center, the shield, represents the Coast Guard and its seagoing tradition.
(From plaque at Command and Operations School, USCG Academy)
The Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service, as it was known variously throughout the late 18th and the 19th centuries, referred to its ships as cutters. The term is English in origin and refers to a specific type of vessel, namely, “a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail.” (Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.) The Royal Navy’s definition of a cutter was a small warship capable of carrying 8 to 12 cannons.
By general usage, the term cutter came to define any vessel of Great Britain’s Royal Customs Service and the term was adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department at the creation of what would become the Revenue Marine. Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the service has referred to its largest vessels as cutters (today a cutter is any Coast Guard vessel over 65-feet in length).
(Source: USCG History Frequently Asked Questions)
Queen of the Fleet: Oldest Commissioned Cutter
This recognition was established to distinguish the Coast Guard Cutter that has served the fleet for the longest period of time. The term “Commissioned Cutter” includes both commissioned and in service cutters as defined by Coast Guard Regulations.
- All “active, in commission”/”active, in service” Coast Guard cutters 65 feet and longer are eligible; this includes those cutters “in commission, special”/”in service, special.” CGC EAGLE is specifically not eligible for recognition due to her special “historical” status.
- The cutter with the earliest date of “active, in commission”/”active, in service” in the Coast Guard will be designated the “Oldest Commissioned Cutter”.
- The unit designated as the “Oldest Commissioned Cutter” shall hold that distinction until placed in the status of “inactive, pending placement out of commission”/”inactive, pending placement out of service.” Major shipyard renovation periods, where a cutter is in a “Special” status, will not be subtracted from its accrued service time.
Presentation. Commandant (CG-751) will determine the designee, which cutter will be authorized to display gold hull numbers in accordance with the Coatings and Color Manual, COMDTINST M10360 (Series). The award is a large bronze and wooden plaque, presented to the new recipient upon transfer of the award. The name of each cutter recipient and the date the award is bestowed will be engraved on the plaque. Since this recognition is a symbol of long service to the Coast Guard and our Nation, it is fitting that an appropriate ceremony be conducted as near the official date of succession as practicable. A representative of the designated recipient shall be present at the ceremony, normally the decommissioning of the incumbent. Recognition of the “relief of the watch” should be part of the decommissioning ceremony; this can include the presentation of the award plaque.