Joint Civilian Orientation Conference

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Post Written by LTJG Ryan T. White

Very few people would have told me that I would see the world from my rolling office chair at Coast Guard Headquarters. Upon receiving orders to the Community Relations Division in 2008, I operated under the preconceived notion that the next three years of my Coast Guard life would be spent in a 6’ by 6’ cubicle; slowly substituting the constant glow of my computer screen for that of a shining sun.

All of that changed when I found out that I would manage the Coast Guard’s involvement with the Secretary of Defense’s oldest outreach program, the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC). For my part in this program, I have seen far more than I ever thought possible, venturing well beyond the confines of my self-imposed cube prison. I have found the program to be as valuable to the U.S. Coast Guard as it is for the many influential participants it caters to.

JCOC was established in 1948 under Secretary of Defense James Forrestal. Since that time JCOC has seen quite a few changes, ranging from the length of the conference to the very name of the program. While JCOC started 61 years ago, it wasn’t until 1997 that the Coast Guard was included. According to JCOC’s website:

Members of JCOC78 watch Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection conduct a vertical insertion.
Click on the image for a video of a Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection vertical insertion exercise..

“The purpose of JCOC is to increase public understanding of national defense through a forum of free exchange among influential citizens, DoD officials, and military leadership. JCOC’s specific objectives are to; acquaint participants with the strength and readiness of the U.S. armed forces through personal observation of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard activities; help the American public obtain a better understanding of national defense policies and programs through opinion leaders who return to their communities and share firsthand observations and knowledge gained during the Conference; and facilitate the candid exchange of information on defense matters between the Secretary of Defense and JCOC participants.”

Many JCOC participants are chief executives of companies, presidents of universities, or mayors of cities.

78th Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC78)

The JCOC78 was hosted by the U.S. Southern Command and concluded about two weeks ago. A group of 47 participants started the week at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and then ventured out to visit units at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (including a fine escort across the bay by members of MSST Seattle); an Air Force Forward Operating Location in Curacau, Netherlands Antilles; allies in Colombia, and the USS Mesa Verde off the coast of Panama. JCOC78 concluded the conference in Miami, Florida with units from Coast Guard District Seven and Sector Miami. Click here to watch a video of the vertical insertion.

JCOC78 participants underway on USCGC Diamondback and USCGC Gannet.
JCOC78 participants underway on USCGC Diamondback and USCGC Gannet.

The Coast Guard put on quite a show as participants received a briefing from District Seven Commander, Rear Admiral Robert Branham, toured Station Miami Beach, USCGC Diamondback and the Sector Miami Command Center. Participants got underway on USCGC Diamondback and USCGC Gannet and viewed a vertical insertion demonstration by MSST Miami and TACLET South from a Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine helicopter.

During JCOC78, a few participants even blogged about their experiences on their personal blogs. Click here and here to read their stories.

Without the support of Coast Guard commands, both through the nomination process and in planning the Coast Guard’s portion of the conference, such a successful program would not be possible. Coast Guard District Seven has been in constant support of the entire process. The District Seven Public Affairs Office also compiled a video to record the Coast Guard portion of JCOC78. Click here to watch the video.

A community relations program is not always an easy “sell”. Events often involve an investment in time and energy from affected units. A return on that investment is not always immediate. That said, the long term benefits of an effective community relations event cannot be understated. As the Coast Guard continues to give a “great show” in educating the American public about the missions and people of the smallest branch of the military, we continue to gain advocates in all communities.

Get Involved

So, how can you get involved with JCOC? Well these days JCOC occurs twice a year. One conference each year is approximately four days in length while the other conference is approximately seven days. The nomination period for both conferences is typically over the winter months. The nomination period for next year’s JCOC79 and JCOC80 conferences will begin in October and close in January. Once the nomination period concludes, the nominee list is compiled, screened for disqualifying information, and voted on by a board of service representatives and personnel from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Each JCOC is hosted by a combatant command. JCOC79 will be hosted by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and JCOC80 will be hosted by the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM).

Questions regarding the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, contact LTjg Ryan T. White at 202-372-4641 or ryan.t.white@uscg.mil.

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