As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Military Benefits

The more I talk with people who are trying hard to get into the USCG, the more I appreciate my career. Besides offering probably the best job security in America, the military also provides several benefits to its members.

My post on military pay talks about the salary and other allowances the military provides but there are many more benefits. Typically what comes to mind when we think of military benefits are things like the GI Bill and maybe the free medical and dental care. Most people may not even think the free health care is a great “bennie,” but being able to go to the doctor anytime you have the slightest ache or pain and receiving prescriptions without paying a dime out of your own pocket is a definite perk. I wonder just how much I would have paid over the past 14 years in medical care…

Think about these additional benefits;

I recently took a short vacation to Key West, Florida where I stayed in an MWR facility. It was a three-bedroom townhouse about eight blocks from downtown with a washer/dryer, full kitchen, screened in porch, and cable television for only $90/night! Gosh, I love MWR.

I would say that being in the military definitely has its perks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Social Media Sidenote...

I was recently selected as one of the eight UGA students to attend and participate in the 2008 UGA Connect Conference this Friday and Saturday, September 19 and 20. This event, sponsored by Porter Novelli, brings together public relations professionals and educators to advance the application of social media in public relations.

The eight students selected will conduct live coverage of the event on the UGA Connect blog, Twitter, and Flickr sites. Read this blog post to find out how you can follow the conference online and find out what's new in social media.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Age Limit to Join the U.S. Coast Guard

Over the past few weeks, I have gotten several e-mails (and even a phone call from my brother) about the age restrictions for joining the USCG. After conducting some research, it appears that the answer is not that simple. I can see why this is a frequent question.

I found some insightful information but I offer this disclaimer: Anyone wanting to join the USCG should seek the counsel of a USCG recruiter. Each person is a unique situation with many individual factors influencing whether or not s/he can join the USCG. With that said, here is what I found…

Currently, US Code Title 10 Chapter 31 Section 505 sets the minimum age to join the military at 17 and the maximum age at 42. However, each military service is allowed to set more strict standards. The USCG, in fact, does vary its age restrictions depending on whether you enlist or receive a commission, whether you go on active or reserve duty, and whether you have prior military service.

For active duty...

The maximum age to enlist is 27 or up to age 32 for those who attend advanced training school directly upon enlistment. Applicants with prior military service can be granted a waiver for these age limits. To become an officer, the maximum age depends on how you get your commission:

  • The CG Academy minimum age is 17 and maximum age is 22 years old.
  • The Officer Candidate School (OCS) minimum age is 21 and maximum age is 26 years old. However, applicants with prior active duty service in any military branch may exceed this age limit by the number of months of service (not to exceed age 31).
  • For a Direct Commission, the age limit will vary depending on the program. Aviators, medical officers, lawyers, engineers, and others have various age limits. Click here for more information.

For reserve duty...

The maximum age to enlist is age 39. For a reserve commission, the minimum age is 21 and maximum age is 36 years old; however, a waiver may be granted for applicants with prior military service (up to age 39).

Besides age limits, there are other restrictions to joining the military such as your family size (number of dependents), financial responsibility, education, criminal record, health, and height/weight. Many of these restrictions can be waived but will depend on each individual situation. For more information, I encourage you to talk to a recruiter.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Applying for Officer Candidate School

Over the past month, I have been exchanging e-mails with Lauren Swanson, a civilian applying for USCG Officer Candidate School (OCS), who found my blog during her research. She recently completed and submitted her application and is waiting to hear the board’s selections. I invited her to guest blog about the experience. This is what she has to say…

From one hopeful Coastie to another, I know the OCS application process can seem stressful, vague, and endless. However, I am here to say that you CAN get through it! Recently, I completed the process and am now waiting for a panel to make a decision that could change my life forever. Joining the USCG as an officer is something I have wanted for a long time, and applying was half the battle. I made it through with flying colors, according to my OCS interview board members, and I am here to offer some helpful tips so you can too!

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Preparation is essential to ensure your application package is completed properly and in accordance with USCG expectations. The paperwork is only a part of the overall process. A formal interview is the last step before the final package is submitted. Preparation is key and will pay off in your interview. My panel was very impressed with my knowledge of the Coast Guard and my studies helped me answer their questions effortlessly.

There are many avenues to explore to prepare for the process. Books about the Coast Guard, leadership, and job application processes are a great source to start with. Also, research on websites and blogs, ask everyone you know if they know a Coastie, and don’t be afraid to ask questions so you know what you are getting into! Your OCS panel wants to know that you are well aware of the responsibility and life style of the Coast Guard. Don’t forget about the Coast Guard Personnel Manual, it has great information about CG history and protocol- info critical to know about any company you are interviewing for. The book I found most helpful is Character in Action: The US Coast Guard on Leadership. I used information I read in this book several times during my interview. Also, go to your local base and ask about touring a cutter so that you can get a first hand look at CG life!

2. Go back to the basics on resumes’ and interviewing.
Two books that the Coast Guard recommends you read before applying are What Color Is Your Parachute? and 10 Insider Secrets to a Winning Job Search. Both books are great sources for how to conduct a flawless interview and how to make a solid resume. The information in these books is priceless and helped me tremendously! They teach you everything school forgot to mention…

3. Do not rely solely on your recruiter.
While recruiters are wonderful sources of information, seek information from other places as well. By networking and asking questions (such as on the OCS foundation’s website and connecting with bloggers like Connie), I found a tremendous amount of useful information my recruiter didn’t even know I needed to know! I found many other people asking the same questions and getting help from Coasties and other applicants. Remember recruiters are very busy people, and if you are feeling a little neglected by your recruiter, do not take it to heart! They are also there to weed you out, so try to be a little self-sufficient and explore all avenues of information!

4. Read what they read and know what they know.
As obvious as it sounds, people often forget to read Chapter 1.B.9 of the Coast Guard Personnel Manual. It outlines the guidelines for conducting an OCS panel interview. This interview is the only ‘face time’ you will get and the only chance you have to make a lasting impression. Also, study the form they complete during the interview so you know how they are grading you.

5. Finally, look sharp for the interview. Appearance is everything.
Some of the best advice given to me during this process was to look the part of an officer. You should always look the part for whatever job you are applying for and this is certainly no exception! An officer is confident, comfortable in his/her own skin, and needs to be an effective communicator. The board members notice EVERY detail, and they may comment on it! Posture and eye contact are very important during your interview- make sure you look at all the officers while you are answering their questions, not just the one who directed the question to you! Check out this site for interviewing tips.

Good luck!

Stay tuned to hear if Lauren is selected to attend OCS!