For university students looking for ways to serve their country while pursuing a degree, finding a fit in the U.S. Coast Guard can be tough. With limited programs available, and no formalized ROTC, students wishing to learn more about America’s Coast Guard often fall short.
Cue the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Using their all-volunteer force, they established a tailor-made program for college students interested in serving. Auxiliary University Programs, organized by a group of Auxiliary leaders, prepares students for success in service and leadership to their community and country with real-world Coast Guard experience.
One of the Auxiliary members leading the charge to encourage university students to get involved is Jake Shaw. Shaw serves as one of three branch assistants in the programs, leading the education branch. In his role he gets to interact with prospective students, current Auxiliary members and graduates who have gone on to serve in active duty or reserves.
Just as members of the Auxiliary come from a wide range of backgrounds, Shaw seeks to capitalize on the unique skills and traits college-aged members of the university program bring to better the service.
“Enthusiasm, a willingness to learn and serve and boundless energy are the greatest things that these students bring to the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” said Shaw. “They also are great ‘free-thinkers’ and come up with fresh new ideas on how to solve issues. Many of these students are in curriculums, from engineering to political science, computer systems to nuclear studies, that can offer help to the Coast Guard of the future.”
In the coming year, Shaw and the program’s leaders plan to broaden their scope in working with students and their specialized backgrounds, including information technology, education and public policy. Shaw and his team hope by keying in on university student’s skills, the Coast Guard can achieve organizational goals, particularly in mission execution, mission support and force readiness.
Like their Auxiliary counterparts, participants in the program – called cadets – can serve ashore, on the water or even in the air.
Cadets have worked at small boat stations, attended aviation-training sessions, educated recreational boaters and even worked to rebuild their community in tornado recovery efforts.
“I have been especially impressed with our Auburn University program here in Sector Mobile,” said Capt. Don Rose, commanding officer of Sector Mobile. “This has brought exceptionally talented science, business and engineering students to Coast Guard Station Dauphin Island where they have supported station boat crew operations…The program takes some more senior Auxiliary leadership to guide – but it pays big dividends all around.”
There have been a number of university program cadets who have gone on to serve in the Coast Guard and other branches of the service, which Shaw admits is quite a track record for a program only five-years-old.
Many students join as active duty members of the Coast Guard. Others pursue careers in the maritime or homeland security community with a broader understanding of the Coast Guard and public service. There is no service obligation so all students have the opportunity to apply their training and experience as successful leaders in whichever career they choose.
For Shaw, the time he puts in to the program and the countless hours he invests in each student is all worth it. To him, these students aren’t just the future of the service, but the future of our country.
“It is both an honor and a pleasure to work with these fine young men and women. They are terrific and I am very proud of each and every one of them. Their work ethics, selflessness, and commitment to service continue to impress me and give me comfort to know that with these leaders of the future, our country will remain strong for many years to come.”