Coast Guard Reserves?
November 15, 2009 4:26 PM   Subscribe

What are the Reserves (specifically, the Coast Guard) really like?

I am looking into the Coast Guard Reserves, and am curious if anyone has experience with military reserve programs.

I am most interested in the environmental protection and disaster relief aspects of the Coast Guard. I work as an environmental consultant in south Louisiana, and feel that being a part of the USCG Reserves will allow me to do more for my state and country and maybe gain valuable experience. Before I jump in and make an appointment with a recruiter, I thought I'd see if anyone might have some insight. I guess my main questions are:

1) What is being a reservist like (USCG specifically, but stories from any branch are also helpful)? What types of things are done on drill weekends?

2) How often are reservists called to active duty? Is there somewhere to find hard numbers on how often certain branches or divisions are called up?

3) For someone with an already-established career, what does the reserves have to offer other than extra cash?

4) I would most likely qualify for a 'straight-to-officer' type program. Any experience with these types of programs?

5) Anything else I should consider?
posted by tryniti to Law & Government (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You probably know this, but regarding (5) the Coast Guard gets deployed to other countries' coasts too (like Iraq's).
posted by zippy at 6:03 PM on November 15, 2009

I knew a couple of guys who were in the reserves (not Coast Guard), and they seemed to enjoy it. One weekend a month, and something like two weeks a year of service. It was more like a drinking club.

But this was pre-GWOT, so almost useless.
posted by gjc at 5:57 AM on November 16, 2009

I am not in the Coast Guard Reserve, but I have 10.5 years in the Air National Guard. You be the judge on whether this information is useful. Most people don't know the difference between the guard and reserve so a quick explanation. In normal day-to-day, the guard (both Army and USAF) are owned by the state governor and state adjutant general however a guard unit can be activated and used by the federal government anytime there is need. The reserve has no state mission, they are always federally controlled.

1a) Being in the guard takes time. On the surface "one weekend a month and two weeks a year" doesn't sound like a whole lot. However think about what you spend your weekends on and how much time your full-time career takes. Giving up a weekend significantly cuts into your free time. That fact is especially salient during the holiday months. True drill weekends don't fall on holidays but with a holiday and another weekend, that only leaves you two weekends to do whatever else you like to do. Do you have a family that you only get to see on weekends? Or hobbies that take up a specific amount of time?

The two weeks a year is really 15 days. Depending on whether you do them all in one shot, or in 5 day periods (which is our unit minimum) you are going to have to take some significant time off from your full-time job. Do they provide military leave or do you have to spend your vacation time? What about basic training, officer training, and your follow on job training? Can you take the time to do that?

1b) Normally we have a meeting and then go to work from there. We try to immerse the airmen into their jobs as much as possible. With the amount of time between drills, it is tough to stay current on everything you need to stay current on. Even though we aren't active duty, we have to comply with all of the training requirements that an active duty individual does (for the most part). So when we aren't working on our job specifically, we are working to get our training squares filled. Like I previously mentioned, a lot of training is job specific. I am finding that there have been a lot of things added that everyone has to complete. Sexual assault awareness, chemical gear, self-aid buddy care, computer security, and the list goes on and on. While SOME of this training is useful and meaningful, a lot of it seems like a big waste. Which is frustrating because I would love to spend time doing job specific training. For job specific things, well that just really depends on your job.

2) That will depend on what unit you are in and what your job is. I have been on five deployments in my time all of which were just a couple of weeks, although I did serve about a year active duty after Sept. 11. My brother is in the army. He has been gone to Iraq for a 14 months and just left for Kosovo for another year. Another relative did about 15 months in Iraq. I don't have any hard and fast numbers for you, but the reality is deployments happen. Some people don't think of that when they enlist. Don't make that mistake.

3) The opportunity to travel and the opportunity to do something that is completely different from what you do or might do in the civilian world. Depending on the career field you go into, it is possible that you might get useful training and resume boosters, but that really depends. At the very least, you get to say you did something that most people don't do.

4) If you have the opportunity to go in as an officer, do it! Don't think twice about that. Life is better all the way around. Just be aware, as an officer (and even as a senior enlisted person) you are expected to put in all of your time and then some. The work doesn't get done any other way.

5) Despite the fact you aren't on duty every day, you need to be aware you would still be in the military. The code of conduct, public demonstration rules, public comment rules, and the like still apply. I am always aware of the fact I am in the military, even when I am not there. The "drinking club" days are long gone. People still go out to party when they get together, it isn't like it used to be, or so I hear. My experience was never like that. Once again, really think about how you would feel if you were deployed. All branches are so busy, it isn't if anymore so much as when. Not that being deployed is always a bad thing, but it is something to consider.

Now, I was as negative as possible when I answered your questions. I don't think a lot of people go into an experience such as this with their eyes completely open. All of that said, I am very glad I joined. I got a chance to meet some great people, see things a lot of people never get to see, and to serve my country. I am a better person for joining. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. If you are serious, after doing your research, I say go for it.

If you think of anything else, feel free to ask here or email me. Let us (me) know what you decide. :-) (Sorry if there are any typos or grammar mistakes. I have to get back to work.)
posted by Silvertree at 7:26 AM on November 16, 2009

You will want to look into whether the Coast Guard's direct-to-officer programs allow for reservists after commissioning. I was looking at the DC Lawyer program and I seem to recall that it required active duty after commissioning. This is an answer that the recruiter can obviously give you, but something to keep in mind.
posted by Inkoate at 9:17 AM on November 16, 2009

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