Joining the Coast Guard

FAQ for prospective Coasties

I'm interested in joining the Coast Guard Reserve. What's the initial basic training?

Like most things, the quick answer is, "It depends." If you're older than 27 and have a skill the Coast Guard can use (such as being a civilian law enforcement officer or a federal security specialist), you would qualify for a direct petty officer program; you'd come in as a third class petty officer and attend the REBI course at Cape May. REBI, which is the Reserve Enlisted Basic Indoctrination course, is two weeks at Training Center Cape May. For those folks under 27, you get the privilege of attending the full basic training which is now 8 weeks in length. Successful graduates of boot camp come out as an E-2 or E-3, depending on their prior military training.

Do you have to be current sworn law enforcement to be a member of a PSU or MSST?

Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, the only folks in the Coast Guard who are sworn as you might think — ie, badge carrying and always totting a firearm — are the good folks in Coast Guard Investigative Services. Having said that, every petty officer, warrant officer, and commissioned officer is a federal law enforcement officer when operating as a part of the Coast Guard under 14 USC 89.

Are there usually Reserve openings available on PSU's and/or MSST's?

For the PSUs, you can be nearly guaranteed there's an available opening. The PSUs are always in need of good Coasties. I'm not sure about the MSST or MSRT situation.

What, in your opinion, is the likelyhood of overseas deployment?

For members of the PSU, you can count on overseas deployments, both for training and for operations. The Coast Guard currently has port security units in Gitmo providing waterside security, and there's talk of re-deploying port security units to Southwest Asia (read SWA as the Persian Gulf).

How about multiple deployments?

While this might be an anomoly, ask the Coasties at Port Security Unit 305 about multiple deployments. Following 9/11 they served near back-to-back deployments for three years. Okay, perhaps an exageration, but the sentiment is there. The Coast Guard is a small service, and some units, and some people, get tapped more than others.

Do MSST's get deployed overseas like the PSUs?

Not yet. The MSST and MSRT community is primarily an INCONUS asset, although that could change at the drop of a hat. The MSST, MSRT, and PSU are all part of the Deployable Operations Group, a flag-level command that the Commandant sees as a national asset. National assets are used by the Commander in Chief wherever needed, plain and simple.

If recalled to active duty, how does the federal government handle pay for a reservist who is a federal civilian employee?

Federal employees are guaranteed a job when they are released from active duty. In general, federal employees who are recalled to active duty take leave without pay for the duration of their time on active duty.

This is probably a silly question, but if the nearest PSU is in Virginia, and I'm in Maryland, will I have to report to VA for all of the drill weekends?

Yes. While many Coast Guard Reserve personnel are assigned to units that allow them to perform drills during the week or, in some infrequent cases, at alternate work sites, members of the port security units drill together on what are commonly referred to as "drill weekends." The expectation is that all members of the unit will perform their inactive duty for training (aka IDT) on the drill weekends. In addition, for the port security unit community, active duty for training (the proverbial 2 weeks) are performed together at the same time. This is usually not the case at traditional, blue Coast Guard units.

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