Semper Paratus Boot Camp

By: - January 23, 2019

We don’t often hear much about U.S. Coast Guard activities, that is…until their latest massive catch of contraband is stacked on the decks of whichever maritime enforcement vessel happened to fill its nets with cartel cocaine or whatever poison was waking through midnight waves. Often, the dope’s dope is packed on a cigarette boat or make-shift slapped-together craft concocted by mules. Ever wonder what training entails and how Coast Guard members meet muster to navigate the high seas and nab these narcotics purveyors’ attempts to sneak illicit drugs into our nation?

Well, I did some digging and came across contemporary footage exposing the rituals, disciplines, and rigors of U.S. Coast Guard basic boot camp exhibiting seafarers in training…spittle, blood-curdling screaming and all.

Similar to basic law enforcement training academies (BLET) sans boats and such, United States Coast Guard cadets endure eight weeks of intense conditioning to shed bad habits (yes, we all possess such things in various forms) while reaching for higher goals like never before. Like turtles sticking their necks out, eyes on the carrot while trusting their youthful shell (physical/mental acuity) will shield them from intense and unrelenting pressures. Like all boot camps, that carrot is the rite of passage. Like all boot camps, the objective is to rid recruits of any shell or cocoon and thrust trainees into uncomfortable, highly vulnerable situations whereby skills are implemented with uber-discipline.

Representing beloved America, safeguarding its citizens, and corralling high-seas hijinks caters tons of pride for the Coast Guard “maritime military force.” When in the police academy many years ago, I remember feeling my all-time best in terms of physical conditioning and mental acuity, and the Coast Guard boot camp surely instills those and other variables in the recruits striving to exceed the bar.

Similar to a few in law enforcement academies (there’s always that guy or gal), some cocky Coast Guard recruits may have had preconceived notions that training would be a cinch and over in a jiffy, only to find themselves among the floundering few whose hourglass has few granules left before the duffel is packed for the threat of a bus ride out. Bleak view? Nope. The Coast Guard is a far throw from Cub Scout days and making Webelos rank after knot-tying demonstrations and other outdoorsy successes.

However, the Coast Guard does not buy into wash-outs and, instead, leans harder on its ostensibly lackluster recruits. Yut it does happen; chalk it up to human nature.

But successes and standouts have the opportunity to apply for attendance at the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), a four-year degree-granting tuition-free military institution with an academic purpose: “Each year, approximately 200 graduates are commissioned as Coast Guard officers to help ensure the safety, security and stewardship of our nation’s waters.”

Per its website data, the Academy boasts “100 percent job placement” and has 1074 recruits in the pike at its New London, Connecticut campus. Of the graduate base, the Coast Guard cadets “are obligated to serve for five years and 85 percent stay longer!” A sampling of current jobs with the U.S. Coast Guard displays handsome prospects, perhaps useless until the federal government’s sign is flipped from Closed to Open.

Of the handful of buddies of mine who endeavored to enlist with the Coast Guard, all share the exact same message: “It was the best decision I ever made!” Most of those maintained active duty in the Coast Guard enough to call it a career, one particular buddy serving 33 years. His chest full of ribbons symbolizes his tenure and achievements. Like any Coast Guard lifer, he is rich with stories; I have never heard any solitary episode repeated.

However, I have also never heard any Coast Guard friends mention anything about not getting paid while serving on the high seas. Being a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) umbrella, the Coast Guard is not currently compensated while the government shutdown, now at historical duration, virtually severed paychecks for these maritime experts.

In the early days of the present federal government shutdown, I saw a post in which President Trump was shown shaking hands with uniformed Coast Guard personnel at a maritime station, and the message was that they were being okay’d for holding garage sales and such. What a gut-punch that may have been for many.

After viewing the footage comprised in the video above, it seems a tease to expect Coast Guard recruits to bust hiney only to cry tears of pride and joy at academy graduation immediately followed by nail-biting over how food is going to make it to the table. Nothing like rationing food and basic necessities while mommy or daddy goes off to handle evil-doers.

“Maritime first responders” have myriad responsibilities and enforcement duties. According to its website, the U.S. Coast Guard performs the following feats on the daily:

  • Save 15 lives.
  • Assist 117 people in distress.
  • Protect $2.8 million in property.
  • Interdict 15 illegal migrants at sea.
  • Conduct 90 search and rescue cases.
  • Seize $21 million worth of illegal drugs.
  • Board and inspect 122 vessels.
  • Monitor the transit of 2,557 commercial ships through U.S. ports.

That’s ample activity with no present payola while risking one’s life in the process, as per oath to nation/citizens (and foreigners attempting to illegally reach our shores). Can’t relent with national security though. Hats off!

A sign of the times, looking at the Coast Guard page gives the impression the boat left the dock and no one is around to monitor the board of activities nor to dust the agency’s priority statement: fulfilling “a strategic mission of ensuring the safety, security and stewardship of our nation’s waters.”

As with pretty much every federally-connected agency you dial into, a site message similar to the Coast Guard’s pseudo Sorry, out to lunch tagline is what you will find. Having worked for a cop shop, I can not envision reporting to HQ, sitting for roll call, and then going out to fight the good fight knowing my children are dividing the few slices of bread and my family is suffering. Angst!

As a Coast Guard retiree uttered recently: “It is good to work for local government right now.” My police force and fire/rescue comrades concur.

Despite how strong and disciplined service personnel and public safety operators may be, human psychology can play phantom games with minds, and that is when closeted dangers increase for those warriors on the frontlines and at any given nautical coordinate. The promise of backpay is a bolster; let’s trust it is enough to get us off the ropes and through the mission objectives safely and soundly.

Semper Paratus: Always Ready…even if not getting paid.

Enter My WorldView