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Former seamen are ideal fit for Coast Guard slots

ARLINGTON, Va. — Sailors getting out of the Navy have a new job opportunity: the U.S. Coast Guard.

Congress has given the Coast Guard funding to boost its end-strength by 1,000 recruits next year, and Coast Guard officials ideally want sailors because of the military experience they’ve acquired on active duty or the reserves, said Capt. Bruce Viekman, commanding officer of the Arlington, Va.-based Coast Guard Recruiting Command.

Any of the 75 jobs, or ratings, that sailors hold would transfer into one of the 17 active-duty or 19 Reserve component ratings within the Coast Guard, he said.

The military service, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has not had problems in the past recruiting members, with last year marking “the second best year on record for the Coast Guard going back at least 30 years,” Viekman said.

However, this year there is more of a push to lure sailors and others with prior military service.

The 40,000-member Coast Guard is offering signing bonuses of up to $5,000 for some active-duty jobs, and up to $6,000 to entice members to their Reserve component. The bonus amounts vary depending on the rating or job, and the recruits’ experience and time in service, Viekman said.

“Coast Guard pay is exactly the same as the other services,” he said. “We have the same exact pay and rank structure.”

And most allowances and benefits also mirror the other services, such as Basic Allowance for Housing, Tricare benefits, Basic Allowance for Subsistence, Imminent Danger Pay, and tax-free pay in combat zones, to name a few, he said.

Viekman notes that a member cannot be obligated to more than one service at any one time.

“If the servicemember is in the reserves, Selected Reserve or [Individual Ready Reserve], a DD368 ‘Conditional Release’ is required before a member can enlist in the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Reserve.

“If the servicemember is on active duty, a DD214 ‘Certificate of Release from Active Duty’ is required to actually enlist.”

Eligible sailors include those taking advantage of the Navy’s expanded early-out program, in which an anticipated 400 to 600 sailors will separate up to a year earlier than planned.

The early-out program was changed last month to let sailors separate a year early rather than six months early. It is not available to sailors under a selective re-enlistment bonus or in a rating that is SRB-eligible, or for SEALs, explosive ordnance disposal sailors, divers, Special Warfare Combatant-craft crewman, or those in a nuclear rating.

The Coast Guard is disadvantaged slightly in its recruitment effort because it’s not part of the Defense Department. The Navy and Army have partnered in the new “Blue to Green” program, in which the Army aims to bolster its ranks with former sailors and airmen.

To help in the effort, the Navy shares names of departing sailors with the Army. There’s no such agreement or sharing between the Navy and Coast Guard, said Viekman and Navy spokesman Lt. Kyle Raines.

“We don’t have the same legal provision to transfer that information,” he said, citing privacy laws.

“The Navy has no formalized program with the Coast Guard, but there have been preliminary and informal discussions … and we’re looking at aspects of sharing of information to make sure if anything is done, everything is done legally,” Raines said.

Those interested in applying should contact a recruiter. Recruiting office locations by state are listed on www.gocoastguard.com along with specific requirements. Those interested also can call (877) NOW-USCG.


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