Service Branches

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard is a unique branch of the Military responsible for an array of maritime duties, from ensuring safe and lawful commerce to performing rescue missions in severe conditions.

Learn more: Coast Guard

Serving in the Coast Guard

Service members share their views on the Coast Guard.

Length 1:30 View Transcript


Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanessa Valdes: I am a reservist at United States Southern Command. I’m an intelligence specialist, second class, and on my personal time, I’m a full-time student at Broward College, studying criminal justice.

Seaman Deirdre Gray: My job right now is a Seaman on the Healy. Our main objective and mission is to assist the National Science Foundation in their science research of the Bering and the Arctic.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Adrien Cheval: As an individual, I really enjoy getting underway. The fact that I’m getting paid to — to drive a boat and to save lives and to also enforce federal law is a great privilege.

Seaman Deirdre Gray: You know, these are things that, outside of the Military, I don’t think I would have had the — ever had the experience to see or do.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Adrien Cheval: The Coast Guard’s also a humanitarian agency, in the sense that we — we provide assistance to Americans and others in distress, here and abroad. For example, in 2005, we conducted search and rescue operations during Hurricane Katrina.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanessa Valdes: I think my passion for the ocean drove me to join the Coast Guard. Whether it be boating or, you know, under-the-surface scuba diving, but just everything about it. It’s pretty much my life.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Adrien Cheval: I chose the Coast Guard for a particular reason, and I knew what I was getting myself into. And today, I’m very happy that I made that decision.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Vanessa Valdes: What makes me the most proud is seeing my mom’s face light up when I tell her, you know, about my day, and looking at the pictures of all my experiences and just thinking back. It’s like, “Wow, I was there, I did this, I did that.” You know, none of that would have been possible without the Coast Guard.

Before Serving in the Coast Guard

To join the Coast Guard, you must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien between 18 and 31 years old (17 with parental consent). While GEDs are sometimes accepted, high school diplomas are preferred. All recruits take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test to determine placement. Those interested in becoming officers may apply to the Coast Guard Academy or talk to their local recruiter about other options.

Basic Training takes place for eight weeks at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey. Daily fitness and swimming drills combined with classroom instruction prepare recruits mentally and physically for life in the Coast Guard.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Abdallah
Petty Officer 3rd Class | Brandon Abdallah Coast Guard

Coast Guard Careers

The Coast Guard offers a range of career opportunities for all sorts of interests. For example, with access to the latest technology and research initiatives, the Coast Guard can provide professional career skills in the marine and environmental sciences.  Other careers include opportunities in law enforcement and mechanical engineering, along with many part-time options in the Coast Guard Reserve.

Explore: Coast Guard Careers

Coast Guard Benefits

All Coast Guard members receive salaries and full health benefits, as well as opportunities for tuition reimbursement. In addition, the Coast Guard has employment benefits for those who serve. Combining travel, career training and strength of character, it’s easy to see why the Coast Guard can be so rewarding.

Types of Military Service

The U.S. Military consists of five active-duty Service branches and their respective Guard and Reserve components. Together, they offer a broad variety of ways to serve.

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