Remarks on the South Florida Task Force to Personnel at the United States Coast Guard Station in Miami, Florida

November 17, 1982

I thank you all very much, and, Admiral Gracey, I wonder if you and those assembled here can understand just exactly the mixed emotions that I'm feeling right now, having been a horse cavalryman. It seems a long ways away from home. But it is wonderful to be here today for the men and women of the United States Coast Guard, our nation's oldest continuous sea-going service.

Throughout its long and remarkable history, the Coast Guard has adapted itself to many critically important missions. In times of peace, the Coast Guard is responsible for law enforcement, navigation and marine safety, search and rescue operations, and oceanographic research. And during the war, all wars, the Coast Guard has served valiantly.

Some of you may not be old enough to remember, but I recall during the great South Pacific invasions of World War II, it was Coast Guardsmen who drove the landing craft on some of the most perilous assignments of that conflict.

The contribution those of you here have made in south Florida is further evidence of the strength and flexibility of your service. The work you do every day is not easy or safe. The work that you've undertaken on behalf of the South Florida Task Force adds even more hardship and danger. And, believe me, each one of you is helping to write another glorious page in the history of the Coast Guard. Each one of you is making a personal contribution to your country far beyond the call of duty.

I hope all of you here know the tremendous difference your efforts are making not only in the lives of the people of Florida but throughout America. In the short time that it's been in operation, the South Florida Task Force has brought about a 27-percent increase in drug-related arrests and confiscated over $3 billion worth of illegal drugs. Without your efforts, these drugs would have been on the marketplace providing profits for organized crime, fueling the drug culture that has done so much damage to so many lives in our society.

I'm pleased to be able to say that our drug enforcement and search and rescue capability will be further enhanced by the commissioning of two new ships in Key West today. Prompted by the fine example set by all of you working here in the South Florida Task Force, we're also establishing 12 more task forces throughout America to expand the fight against organized crime, especially the illegal drug trade. This will mean substantial new resources devoted to combating the drug and crime menace, and it's due in no small part to your dedication and sacrifice.

And I want to take a moment to recognize your outstanding record of readiness and devotion to duty by presenting the Dauntless with a Coast Guard Unit Commendation. I would like to congratulate the entire crew on this occasion and ask Commander Newhoff to accept the medal symbolic of that citation.

[At this point, the President presented the medal to Commander Newhoff.]

I've come here today not only to thank you as your Commander in Chief for the work that you've done here in Florida but also to thank you for your service to America in the Coast Guard. One of the most fulfilling moments of any President's life is an opportunity to speak to the men and women who, like yourselves, wear the uniform of our country. You make many sacrifices and endure many hardships for the sake of your belief in our country and the values for which it stands. I want you and your families to know that the American people are grateful to you, and they're proud of you.

God bless you, and keep up the good work. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:53 a.m. on board the U.S. Coast Guard cutter U.S.S. Dauntless. He was introduced by Adm. James S. Gracey, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Prior to his remarks, the President attended a briefing on the Coast Guard's participation in the South Florida Task Force program given by Comdr. Howard Newhoff, captain of the Dauntless, and Charles Rinkevich, coordinator of the Task Force.

Earlier in the day, the President met at the Omni Hotel with Florida county chairmen involved in the 1980 Presidential campaign.