Military and civilian personnel thrive in the Coast Guard
Important technical opportunities cover a range of engineering specialties, communications, IT and, of course, cyber
The Coast Guard, which protects the nation’s coastline and ports, is the only military service within the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and may become part of the Navy during times of war. As it is in the civilian/private sector, information technology continues to be one of the fastest-growing needs in the military, says Captain Andres V. Delgado, chief of the office of diversity and inclusion.
“As Coast Guard assets and systems become more complex, the need grows for experienced engineers and IT professionals who can apply and manage technology in support of Coast Guard missions,” Delgado says. “The Coast Guard is looking for engineers who have technical prowess coupled with strong leadership.”
At gocoastguard.com, Coast Guard Recruiting Command provides a short list of degrees that interest recruiters. “Keep in mind there are hundreds of variations of the degree name depending on the university,” Delgado says. “If applicants have any questions about the validity of their degrees, they should contact their local recruiter.”
Military options for technical careers
The Coast Guard has multiple tracks to bring in new and experienced engineers and IT professionals, Delgado explains.
“The Coast Guard Academy has a heavy emphasis on STEM degrees and is a primary source to recruit high school graduates,” he says. “It’s not a big school but it has an excellent reputation for academics.”
The Direct Commission Engineering (DCE) program is for college seniors or anyone with a college degree and experience in a desired field. Working with a recruiter, successful candidates who have skill sets that match the Coast Guard’s needs are offered commissions as officers. Another route for college seniors and degreed techies is Officer Candidate School. Of course, students and graduates can also join as enlisted members and work their way up the ranks.
“Within the IT career path for DCE officers, there are three subspecialties: electrical and electronics engineering, communications management, and information systems management,” says Delgado. “There is also a growing need for cybersecurity/information assurance professionals.”
Civilian engineers and IT pros provide stability and continuity
Civilian and military personnel are integrated in the workplace, Delgado says. Many civilians have military supervisors.
Civilian employees are tremendously important in providing consistency, Delgado notes. “Military employees incur an obligation to serve for a period of time, with many extending their time of service. They complete their obligation or are transferred from unit to unit every four years,” Delgado explains. “When a civilian has been working in the unit for many years, when the military member leaves we don’t have to start from scratch. The civilian employees are the subject matter experts who bring stability to our service.”
For civilian engineers, the Coast Guard has jobs in a wide range of engineering disciplines. There are particular needs for specialties including electrical, electronics, environmental, mechanical, industrial and civil. Other civilian engineering positions supporting key Coast Guard missions include computers, fire protection, materials and chemical. Engineers with broad technical backgrounds also are in demand and are hired as general engineers.
“The Coast Guard has many different IT positions, with areas of focus in systems analysis, information security, application software, project management and customer support,” Delgado adds. Those specializing in general IT are in demand as well.
Information on current Coast Guard civilian vacancies can be found online at www.coastguardcivilian.com.
Maintaining an inclusive environment and extending the reach
The Coast Guard Leadership, Excellence and Diversity council is made up of both military and civilian employees from across the nation, Delgado reports. In addition, every Coast Guard unit with fifty or more people is required to establish a leadership and diversity advisory council. Their purpose is to discuss issues within that command and make recommendations to the commanding officer on how to improve the culture and climate.
“The Coast Guard has well established relationships with a number of national affinity groups including Blacks in Government, Federally Employed Women, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the National Council of La Raza, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Workforce Recruitment Program for disabled college students and recent graduates,” Delgado says. “Coast Guard members are encouraged to participate in these groups for mentoring and professional development. In some instances, the Coast Guard is even able to provide travel or registration for affinity group national meetings.” Regional and local Coast Guard mentoring and leadership groups meet regularly, he adds.
The Coast Guard Recruiting Command and Coast Guard Academy admissions department set goals for recruiting and accessions of women and minorities. Following accession, several career counseling opportunities are available to all Coast Guard members. The counseling is provided by assignment officers and career counselors at the Coast Guard’s personnel service center, and is available throughout a member’s career.
The Coast Guard employee assistance program is available around the clock to help employees with mental health and other life concerns that may impact their ability to perform on the job.
In addition, the Coast Guard has an office of work-life with support staff across the organization. “The overall objective of these programs is to support the well-being of active duty, reserve and civilian employees and their family members,” says Delgado. “The availability of programs like flextime, telework, and childcare depends on the position a Coast Guard employee fills and his or her geographic location.”
Technical and non-technical employees can participate in a number of community outreach programs. One is the Partnership in Education Program. Coast Guard members go into local schools and work directly with students. They emphasize academics, personal initiative, responsibility and individual self-worth.
The Coast Guard and its predecessor organizations date from the eighteenth century. “Since 1790, the Coast Guard has safeguarded our nation’s maritime interests and environment around the world. Our presence and impact are local, regional, national and international,” Delgado says “Honor, respect and devotion to duty are not just nice ideas. They are the core values of our Coast Guard and its members.”