Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney
“In order to recruit 4,000 enlisted personnel, the recruiting offices have to interview 40,000 applicants,” said Chief Petty Officer Benjamin Harris, recruiter in charge, recruiting office Los Angeles. “Only 80 percent of those applicants processed by the recruiting offices will complete boot camp at Cape May.”
The Los Angeles and Riverside recruiting offices are staffed with more than 15 recruiters combined and represent a diverse background of Coast Guard military specialties. The diversity of specialty backgrounds includes: Boatswain ‘sMate, Maritime Enforcement Specialist, Gunner’s Mate, Damage Controlman, Storekeeper, Yeoman, Aviation Maintenance Technician, Electronics Technician, Machinery Technician and Operations Specialist. This variety of education and training provides the team with more information to share with potential applicants.
Recruiters are primarily responsible for outreach to schools and colleges and for screening applicants over the phone. The recruiters use the basic requirements for entry into the service, such as age, health, education, tattoos, drug use, criminal record and credit history during the screening process. Applicants who meet these minimum standards are scheduled for in-person interviews at the recruiting office.
Those passing the in-person interview are scheduled for an appointment at the Military Entrance Processing Service (MEPS), where the applicants take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, receive a physical, choose a specialty, and if successful, are sworn in as members of the Coast Guard.
Once the recruiting office is notified by MEPS that a candidate is qualified, the candidate is called by the recruiting office staff and asked to choose a date to begin basic training. From the time a date is picked to the actual reporting date, the candidate undergoes an extensive background check by the Coast Guard’s Security Center.
Recruiting offices are also involved in the delayed entry program, which permits candidates to defer the boot camp reporting date, but be sworn in and attached to the Coast Guard. During this period of time, the new members are provided with essential written materials, guides and manuals for self-study. They will also complete their push up, sit up and run requirements at a local high school or nearby location. The goal of this program is to ensure that the candidates are ready for the boot camp experience by the end of their deferment.
“We use both active and passive recruiting to carry out our mission,” said Harris. “Some interested applicants contact the recruiting office after viewing our website or reading our Facebook page. Recruiters in the office follow-up on the online inquiries, handle phone calls, answer applicant questions and encourage qualified callers to complete an application package.”
In addition, the Los Angeles recruiting office staff keeps in contact with teachers and administrators in the various school systems, who have agreed to refer potential candidates to the recruiting offices. These referrals are an essential part of the recruiting outreach effort.
In 2018, Harris expects that the target number of enlisted personnel will be reduced to 3,900. However, the Los Angeles recruiting office will still need to recruit seven reserves, 20 officers, and 120 enlisted personnel as part of that quota. Most of the reserve applicants are interested in maritime law enforcement, so it’s the recruiter’s job to expose them to other opportunities for service and provide them options for their final decision.
“It is not an easy job to meet these goals. Every recruiting office is making an extra effort to meet the personnel needs of the Coast Guard by using outreach, social media and personal referrals,” said Harris. “However, the biggest challenge facing this office is the size of its service area and the highly concentrated population within that geographical area. Los Angeles County has hundreds of public and private high schools and over 20 community colleges, in addition to 4-year colleges and universities.”
The Los Angeles recruiting office’s primary service areas include Los Angeles County, Orange County and Ventura County. Santa Barbara County is serviced by the Fresno recruiting office.
Chief Petty Officer Mario Gordillo, recruiter in charge, Riverside recruiting office, echoed the geographical challenge, but added that the area of responsibility for the Riverside recruiting office is Riverside and San Bernardino counties. San Bernardino county is the largest county in the continental United States. Further, this office is responsible for recruiting in extreme climate zones ranging up to 120 degrees in heat and even snow in the San Bernardino Mountains during winter.
The Riverside office also seeks partnerships with high schools, community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities in the area. There are 108 high schools and 59 colleges and universities between the two counties.
“One hurdle we have to overcome is that the leadership of the JROTC programs at these schools as well as the administrators of these schools and colleges are associated with veterans of one of the four service branches within the Department of Defense and have little knowledge about the Coast Guard. We are working very hard to change that, but progress is slow. Once they have knowledge about the Coast Guard, they send us referrals” said Gordillo. “On the other hand, the remoteness of most of the desert communities offers high school seniors and local community college graduates very limited opportunities for employment and diversified social activity. That works in our favor, since the Coast Guard offers both.”
Many applicants from the Riverside area approach the office about the law enforcement programs and are surprised to find that the Coast Guard defines law enforcement differently than other law enforcement agencies. The recruiters explain the difference and provide information on other opportunities and programs. One of the recruiting priorities is finding candidates for specialties like Electronic Technicians, Operational Specialist, and Culinary Services.
“We promote the slogan everyone is a recruiter, because it is the truth and the recruiting offices cannot attain personnel development goals without referrals from the active duty, reserves, auxiliary and civilian employees of the Coast Guard. There has to be a team effort in order for the Coast Guard’s recruiting plan to be effective,” said Harris.
Finding 4,000 recruits is an unenviable task, but the personnel of the recruiting office are and will continue to meet their goals. You can help by referring qualified candidates to the recruiting offices or to the Coast Guard’s website.