Why does reviewing some tour lengths matter?

Many of you may be hearing that Coast Guard leadership is looking at possibly modifying the PCS assignment process – specifically, limiting PCS moves and lengthening tour lengths for our members in certain positions and at certain units.

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Cantrell becomes 12th master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard

This blog post is the second in a series titled “Dialogue with the MCPOCG,” written by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell. As the Coast Guard’s senior enlisted leader, Cantrell is responsible for advising the Commandant on workforce issues, and advocating for military benefits and entitlements. He will periodically use this platform to pass information to the Coast Guard workforce.

Written by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven W. Cantrell

Good day, colleagues.

Serving as the 12th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, I get the great fortune to visit units, conduct all hands, and speak often with members of our command master chief network. The goals are to always have an accurate pulse on the workforce and be cognizant of issues that need addressing.

I wanted to provide some info on an issue that has been getting a bit of traction, but I’m not sure many folks know all the background and the justification.

Many of you may be hearing that Coast Guard leadership is looking at possibly modifying the PCS assignment process – specifically, limiting PCS moves and lengthening tour lengths for our members in certain positions and

The French family is preparing for their sixth Coast Guard move this summer. Photo courtesy of Heidi French.
The French family is preparing for their sixth Coast Guard move this summer. Photo courtesy of Heidi French.

at certain units. With AY15 rapidly approaching, this is a perfect time to address any questions or concerns you may have as assignment officers will be validating personnel allowance lists and command concerns will be due to AOs over the next several weeks and then it’s just over a month until official shopping lists are published.

Right now, senior leadership is reviewing a variety of options. EPM has conducted initial analysis into enlisted positions that might potentially benefit from a one-year increase, and those findings have been forwarded to the

Reserve and Military Personnel Directorate for further review. Any tour length extensions will also be thoroughly evaluated by the appropriate rating force master chiefs to determine the effect on their career pyramid and ability to retain high performing people.

As it stands right now, EPM and OPM have consistently sought and continue to seek opportunities to fleet members up at their current unit, grant extensions and execute local reassignments. In AY14, roughly 30% of orders issued were “no-cost,” which resulted in a savings to the Coast Guard of nearly $50 million.

Taking a look at our current practices to find efficiencies is important.  However, the primary focus for senior leadership is enhancing workforce proficiency and improving stability for our Coast Guard families where possible.

First, lengthening tours allows members to truly pursue proficiency in craft. Instead of reporting, training, qualifying and then departing, members will have more time to become subject matter experts. But, we’re being careful to balance this with the benefit of having broad assignment opportunities, which is equally important for professional development. Units with significant training requirements associated with certain billets would benefit from members having longer tours, allowing the unit and the Coast Guard to get a greater return on that training investment.

Danielle Medolla and her sons in the Badlands en route from Miami to Kodiak during their most recent PCS. Photo courtesy of Danielle Medolla.
Danielle Medolla and her sons in the Badlands en route from Miami to Kodiak during their most recent PCS. Photo courtesy of Danielle Medolla.

Some examples of units we’ve identified for analysis into tour length extensions are our assignments at training groups, CONUS MST assignments, BMCs and above at MSRT/MSST/MFPU/MLEA/SMTC units, and HS and SK billets at operational ashore units.

Second, allowing members to remain where they’re assigned longer means allowing members, many of whom have families, to have greater involvement in their communities – to feel a part of the community and not just transients. It allows spouses to better develop their own careers and requires children to change schools less frequently. Right now, we’re looking at lengthening tours for positions for which members have historically requested voluntary extensions and at units with larger number of billets and pay grade mixes to support opportunities for fleet ups.

Approximately one-quarter of our workforce is currently required to execute a PCS transfer in a given year, which allows a lot of flexibility to meet service needs. Flexibility is a trait we know well – it’s ingrained in us from the very start. But, if increasing opportunities for our members to have geographic stability results in greater proficiency and cost-saving, this could be a welcome change.

In the end, the purpose of the analysis into a business process change is about balance – a balance of service needs, career progression and member/family quality of life.

2 comments on “Why does reviewing some tour lengths matter?”

  1. GREAT IDEA! As a Reservist 1 year from retirement, this will not afffect me in the slightest, however, I think this will be a great money saver to the Coast Guard, as well as a great benefit to Coast Guard Families. I see ZERO down side to this proposition! I support this idea whole heartedly! I spent just shy of 9 years active duty before switching to the Reserve to go to college, so I know what it is like to transfer every few years.

  2. First of all…The Blog Series is a fantastic idea. I’ve recently discovered it and will be passing it’s existence on to my fellow shipmates. Thank you for the information Master Chief. I agree with Ms. McCawley that there seems to be no down side to these plans. For the reservist it will remove the burden of long distance travel because you have to change units and will leave “local knowledge” at units close to where they live. For the active duty it grants stability for families and allows the member to develop skills before they transfer again. Mahalo for keeping us informed. Respectfully, MEC Wesley Mundy

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