Yesterday I mentioned that the assistant producer on the Hugh Hewitt Show, Moses, was considering joining the United States Coast Guard. He received a great set of e-mails from Coasties far and wide encouraging his interest, and this e-mail deeserves a wide audience:
I caught Hugh’s comment today about your interest in joining the Coast Guard. I’m interested to know something about your background, interests, and why you decided to consider the Coast Guard. After providing the background I give below, I’m definitely available to answer any questions I can about this small, yet very active service.
The Coast Guard is the smallest of the five uniformed services and is the only one that is not in the Department of Defense (it falls under the Department of Homeland Security). It is also the only service in which everyone performs on a daily basis the same tasks for which they are trained whether the country is at peace or engaged in a war. It functions with a fraction of the numbers of its much larger sister services and operates in the Continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, as well as some locations overseas.
You’ve probably already seen the Coast Guard’s main public website (http://www.uscg.mil) . The site has quite a bit of information to acquaint you with all the missions and give you some idea as to what you could do as a “Coastie”. For starters, the site lists these interesting statistics regarding what happens in a ‘typical’ day in the Coast Guard:
“Today, the Coast Guard will:
* Save 15 lives
* Assist 114 people in distress
* Protect $4.9 million in property
* Interdict 26 illegal migrants at sea
* Conduct 82 search and rescue cases
* Seize $2.4 million worth of illegal drugs
* Conduct 23 waterfront facility safety or security inspections
* Respond to 11 oil and hazardous chemical spills
* Board 202 vessels of law enforcement interest”
I won’t list all the missions the Coast Guard does since you can get that information from the website. I will say that the Coast Guard–even before 9/11–was and continues to be a very active service. It is so active, in fact, that it is in the middle of replacing and upgrading many of its small boats, large ships (known as ‘cutters’ in the CG), aircraft, and some of its key infrastructure that is wearing out after many years of hard use.
I transferred to the Coast Guard from the Navy after serving 11 years of active and reserve time there. Including my time as a search and rescue helicopter pilot during Desert Storm, I never have worked so hard as a military member as I have during the years I’ve served as a member of the Coast Guard’s expeditionary warfare community. Furthermore, I have never enjoyed the military as I have the nine years I’ve been a Coastie.
Since joining the Coast Guard, I have served in a Port Security Unit and most recently in a Naval Coastal Warfare unit that deployed to support of OIF last year. Among my jobs, I have served as a communications officer, a weapons officer, an anti-terrorism/force protection officer, WMD special project officer, and as a security officer. I’m currently assigned as a reservist to a CG air station here in my area. Even as a reservist, I’ve found the operational tempo in the Coast Guard to be intense and exciting.
Depending upon your interests and qualifications, the Coast Guard has positions that enable you to be very proficient supporting computer and radio communications infrastructure, operate patrol boats, perform many maritime-related inspections, be part of specialized security teams that operate in land and water environments, support ice-breaking operations in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, fly aircraft (as an officer), be a rescue swimmer from boats or helicopters, and many other related tasks in these areas. If you don’t want to be in “out front” positions, the Coast Guard, as any other large organization has many important “back office” positions as well in areas such as administration, supply, intelligence (collection/interpreting/dissemination), and planning.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that the small size of the service is one of its best qualities. I was impressed while still a member in the Navy at how well the Coast Guard takes care of its people and provides its people the equipment, training, and overall support required to perform given tasks and missions. If ever a service could be compared to a family, the Coast Guard would be such a service.
I’ll close by saying that I definitely recommend that you consider the Coast Guard and investigate it in great detail before you make your decision. If I can answer any questions you have about it, I’ll do my best to answer those or put you in touch with people who I think may have better answers than I can provide.