United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May (TRACENCM) is the home of the Coast Guard enlisted corps and is the Coast Guard's only enlisted accession point and recruit training center, located on 1 Munro Avenue, Cape May, New Jersey.
Sewell Point, the area occupied by the Training Center, has a long history of naval presence. During the American Revolutionary War and throughout the nineteenth century, Cape May Sound was used as a harbor of refuge. In 1917, the Navy established a "section base" in Cape May to provide training, vessel support and communication facilities for coastal defense. Initially, the Navy converted an abandoned amusement center, built along the oceanfront, for military use. The old skating rink became the mess hall and sleeping quarters, the stage was made into a galley, the "human roulette wheel" – a scrub table and the "barrel of fun" became a brig. When the old wooden structure burned down in 1918, the Navy built standard military facilities along the harbor front (some of these buildings still stand).
After World War I, the base was adapted to accommodate dirigibles. The largest hangar in the world, 700 feet long and over 100 feet tall, was built to accommodate an airship under construction in Britain. However, the R38 (ZR-2) crashed on its test flight and "lighter-than-air" craft were never fully adopted for Navy use.
In 1924, the U.S. Coast Guard occupied the base and established air facilities for planes used in support of United States Customs Service efforts. During the Prohibition era, several cutters were assigned to Cape May to foil rumrunners operating off the New Jersey coast. After Prohibition, the Coast Guard all but abandoned Cape May leaving a small air/sea rescue contingent. For a short period of time (1929–1934), part of the base was used as a civilian airport. With the advent of World War II, a larger airstrip was constructed and the Navy returned to train aircraft carrier pilots. The over the water approach simulated carrier landings at sea. The Coast Guard also increased its Cape May forces for coastal patrol, anti-submarine warfare, air/sea rescue and buoy service. In 1946, the Navy relinquished the base to the Coast Guard.
In 1948, all entry level training on the east coast was moved to the U.S. Coast Guard Recruit Receiving Station in Cape May. The Coast Guard consolidated all recruit training functions in Cape May in 1982.
It provides seaman apprentices, fireman apprentices, seamen and firemen to the Coast Guard Fleet – generally en route to "A" schools – as well as sending some personnel directly to "A" schools.
Although modern training facilities have replaced most of the original Naval Base buildings, the Coast Guard is respectful of the history of Sewell Point and their host city.
In addition to its role as the sole accession point for the Coast Guard’s enlisted corps, TRACENCM contains the Coast Guard's recruiter and company commander (i.e. "drill instructor") programs.
Personnel from TRACENCM's ceremonial guard are often called upon by various civic and veterans' organizations to provide an active duty, uniformed military presence at numerous functions throughout the year (e.g. Veteran's Day, Memorial Day).
The TRACEN maintains its own active duty and reservist staffed military fire and police departments, as well as ambulance service, that are frequently called for mutual aid in the local areas.
TRACENCM is also home for and provides logistical support to over a dozen tenant commands. These tenant commands in turn perform support and operational missions that include: Search and Rescue; Military Readiness; Port & Environmental Safety; Commercial Vessel Safety; Enforcement of Laws and Treaties; Marine Environmental Response; Military Readiness; Recreational Boating Safety; Aids to Navigation; and Waterways Management. Members of the United States Coast Guard Reserve drill at USCG Station Cape May.
Locally, there is a robust United States Coast Guard Auxiliary presence that plays an integral part in many aspects of maritime, navigational and maritime life in the greater Training Center community.
Delaware Military Academy has their Basic Leadership Training at the center.
Recognizing the enduring relationship between the greater Cape May region, on the evening of Friday, 8 May 2015, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, proclaimed Cape May County a “Coast Guard Community”, one of 17 in the nation.
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