I received an advertisement in the mail with information on the Coast Guard Reserve, which I found to be very exciting, as I had always wanted to serve in the Coast Guard, but I was not aware that there was a reserve branch. I was very pleased to find out that the reserve members work alongside active-duty folks and perform the same exact missions.
I wanted to pilot and navigate small boats, and thus the recruiter pointed me in the right direction to become a boatswain’s mate. I took two semesters off from college at Florida State University to attend Recruit Training and the Boatswain’s Mate “A” School. The Coast Guard paid in part for my education through the Tuition Assistance Program.
Once I graduated from Boatswain’s Mate “A” School, I was assigned to a small-boat station in Jacksonville, Fla., where I certified as a crewmember. I received my bachelor’s in computer science from Florida State University and subsequently moved to the Washington, D.C., area. I attended and graduated from the Response Boat Coxswain School at the Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Va. I also attended the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy and graduated from the Maritime Law Enforcement Boarding Officer Course.
I recently obtained my Master of Science in information security from Johns Hopkins University, and I am now a computer scientist/electronics engineer. It’s convenient to be a reservist and have a full-time profession on the outside as well, as the reserve program is designed to coexist with a full-time profession.
As a reservist assigned to a small-boat station, I support primarily two missions, the first being search-and-rescue and the second being maritime law enforcement. The execution of those missions involves getting underway on a small boat. It is necessary to have certified crewmembers and coxswains to get the boat underway to perform the mission. It is also necessary to have boarding officers to conduct law enforcement. I’m both a boat coxswain and a boarding officer, as I attended the schools and trained hard to obtain these certifications.
I usually check into the Coast Guard Station on the Friday afternoon of my drill weekend. Throughout the weekend, I’ll get underway on the water as a coxswain with both active-duty and reserve members to do basic small-boat training, sometimes with another response boat as well for two-boat training. I may also get a search-and-rescue call and save a life or two. I’ll also get underway again as a boarding officer to enforce federal law in the maritime domain, to include boating under the influence, criminal law and vessel safety requirements. On Sunday afternoon I’ll finish off with some paperwork. Then I’ll check out with the station and head home.
I’m in the fifth year of my six-year contract, and I plan on renewing it as soon as I can. I anticipate a 30-year career in the Coast Guard Reserve as a boat coxswain and boarding officer before I am forced to retire. The fact that I’m getting paid to supervise, navigate and drive a high-speed vessel to save lives and to enforce federal law is a great privilege.