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Career: Coast Guard-Officer

A Day in the life of a Coast Guard-Officer

The United States Coast Guard does not typically fight our wars, but they are vital to national security. In their own words, the Coast Guard "prevents spills, clears waterways, and keeps narcotics off our shores." In fact, the Coast Guard is under the authority of the Department of Transportation, not Defense. While this list of responsibilities may seem short, the number of jobs included in those three categories is staggering. The Coast Guard is responsible for Bridge Administration over some waterways, maintaining an International Ice Patrol, assisting in the navigation of American vessels at sea (since 1790), seizing drugs that come into the country through waterways, rescuing vessels in distress, monitoring illegal immigration into the U.S. by sea, and more. One might classify the Coast Guard (if it is possible to classify an organization that performs so many diverging services) as a law-enforcement, environmental and military agency. They board ships every day to inspect the cargo, and, when the need arises, impound enormous amounts of drugs or other contraband.

Paying Your Dues

To become an officer, you must be between the ages of 17 and 27 and have a High School diploma. 17 year-olds require written parental consent. You must also be either a citizen or resident alien. Unlike other branches of the armed forces, all of the jobs in the Coast Guard (including combat roles) are open to women. There are numerous ways to become an officer in the Coast Guard. Graduates of the Coast Guard Academy (CGA) and Officer Candidate School (OCS) are eligible, as are those who pass through one of many direct commissioning programs. The CGA, located in New London, Connecticut, has been actively training cadets since 1877. Most cadets, who are accepted to the academy after high school, graduate after four years with degrees in mathematics, engineering or other science-related courses. OCS (for college graduates interested in a career as an officer) is 17 weeks of training designed to promote leadership abilities. If you graduate, you will be given the rank of ensign and receive an obligation to serve three years of active duty. Officers are the ones who fly in the Coast Guard as well, or you must have been a flyer in a branch of the Armed Services. Commissioned Coast Guard officers may apply for flight school. Those with prior training may apply for Direct Commissioned Aviator status.

Associated Careers

The Coast Guard regularly cooperates with law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). They also work in conjunction with other branches of the armed forces, particularly the Navy. Coast Guardians will also work with civilian and commercial boating, local and federal law enforcement, engineers, electricians, medical personnel, and administrators.

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