USCGC Smilax Crest Decoded

On 14 April 2011, Coast Guard Cutter Smilax will be crowned as the “Queen of the fleet.” A new ships crest was designed to incorporate the history and this honor. Here is the crest decoded:

Natu Maximus Mandatum Traba: Latin for the “Oldest Commissioned Ship”

Silver Cutterman Pin: The Cutterman Pin represents the personal fulfillment of the professional training and sea service associated with a seagoing Coast Guard career. A temporary Cutterman Pin can be earned by crew member E-3 and above that have completed required damage control, underway, and inport qualifications, have displayed knowledge of the ship and have the recommendation of the commanding officer. A Permanent Cutterman Pin can be earned after 5 years of sea service. Silver Cutterman Pin is worn by enlisted personnel which represents all of Smilax crew except the commanding officer.

The crest is rimmed with chain, an integral part of floating aids to navigation. The year Smilax was commissioned into service, 1944, is featured on lateral dayboards. As a construction tender, Smilax is responsible for both fixed and floating aids to navigation throughout the Fifth District waterways.

The shield dates back to the Revenue Cutter Service which was established by Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton in 1790.  Congress wanted the Revenue Cutters to be distinguished from other vessels by a unique ensign.  The shield was a distinctive part of the design of the ensign, created in 1799. The 13 stars and 13 stripes on the shield represent the 13 original colonies.

In the background is the Coast Guard’s slash or “Racing Stripe.” SMILAX predates the “racing stripe” which was painted on her hull in 1967, when SMILAX was 23 years old. The wide red bar to the right of a narrow blue bar, both canted at 64 degrees, was designed to easily distinguish the Coast Guard from other government agencies.

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