U.S. Coast Guard Recruitment

The issue of recruitment shortfalls is universal across all of the major services. The Marine Corps is the only service to have met its goals for this year in both its active duty and reserve elements, but just barely. And by barely, I mean by one soul.

It is difficult to understand why recruitment would be such a problem, given that we are no longer on a wartime footing. Serving in the military has always been a great opportunity to have a steady job for four years and to gain a marketable skill upon exiting the service. The training that is available for the full range of needed skills is excellent, and the experience of using those skills in actual conditions is second to none. What’s not to like?

Photo: YouTube/CBS Evening News

But there are some serious issues that the military services are being challenged with at this time, not the least of which is the rising numbers of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are unable to meet the basic physical and mental requirements for entry into the military. That should put a scare into all of us. The numbers indicate that many of that age group are overweight, involved with drugs, or don’t score high enough on the basic military entrance tests. But these are concerns for another article.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Evening News

According to this CBS News story, the United States Coast Guard has not met its recruitment requirements for the last three years. Though this service is the smallest of our military services (having about as many Coast Guardsmen as there are police officers in the New York Police Department) its functions, capabilities, and services are profoundly important to the nation’s security. And these days, it finds its role becoming broader and more important, having expanding duties alongside the U.S. Navy around the world.

The Coast Guard is involved with things like port security, drug interdiction, search and rescue, maintaining and protecting commercial and military assets and territorial waters, and ice-breaking duties in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as the Great Lakes, and it has an expanding role around the world for enforcing freedom of the seas.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Evening News

The search and rescue dimension of the USCG’s duties provides a window into how much the Coast Guard does in a single year. In the span of a single year, it conducted over 16,000 search and rescue operations, saving over 4,000 lives. It would seem that that role alone would be an attractive reason for joining the USCG.

According to the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, Adm. Linda Fagan, despite the fact that they have fallen short on recruitment over the last three years, they are not yet in a crisis mode. She indicates in this video that, at this time, the USCG has about 15% women in its ranks, and the current freshman class of recruits is about 40% women.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Evening News

That recruitment is in such a state at this time is worrisome. The reasons for those falling numbers are even more disturbing. There are too many young men and women in the recruiting age range who are not physically fit enough or who are unable to pass the basics Armed Forces Exam or who have drug or arrest issues in our culture at this time. That should give us all pause.

Today’s military is not your father’s military. The services are competing with the rest of the economy for the best candidates to fill the ever-more complex and sophisticated needs of modern technologically challenging roles. They want and need the best and the brightest. The salaries of the enlisted ranks are competitive with those of similar skill and experience levels in the public sector. Military service today is attractive both for the quality of training and the breadth of experience that is possible, as well as a potential career.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Evening News

Many of the services are attacking the issue of falling recruitment numbers by offering “signing bonuses” to new recruites, up to as much as $50,000 or $60,000 dollars. The Marine Corps is taking a different approach. The current Commandant, Gen. David Berger, remarked recently that the bonus for Marines is successfully graduating boot camp and attaining the title of “United States Marine.” He has, instead, put the emphasis on keeping the best and most skilled Marines through retention, offering bonuses at that time.

The United States Coast Guard is one of this nation’s greatest assets. We hope that this recruitment shortfall is a temporary glitch and that the future will once again see the best and the brightest desiring and applying to serve this nation in the U.S. Coast Guard and the other military services.

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