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Should I Join?

To this day the most common question I am asked by young people who know I am a retired Coast Guard Officer is "should I join the Coast Guard?"

I generally answer their question, often to their chagrin, with some of my own questions.  If you've ever seen the movie "Stripes" starting Bill Murray and the late, great Harold Ramis, there is a scene when they first visit an Army Recruiting Office.  The dialogue with the recruiter, particularly his speech about "you get out what you put in" may be the most realistic scene in the movie.  The Coast Guard was very good to me and my family and I got a lot out of it.  Of course, I poured my soul into it for over a quarter century.

The first question I ask is "why do you want to join?"  If the answer is because I need a job, I generally shake my head.  It's the same thing if you have a specific job (like being a pilot or a rescue swimmer) in mind.  Believe it or not, there is a lot of competition for these jobs and you might end up doing something totally different.  Same thing goes for duty location.  If you aren't going to be happy unless you get exactly the job you want at the duty station you want save yourself some heartache and look elsewhere.

While those are common, I am amazed by people who want to join the Coast Guard and want nothing to do with the water.  They don't call it the Coast Guard for nothing and an awful lot of Coast Guard work takes place near the Coast!  If you have no interest in anything to do with the water, again, you might want to look elsewhere.

The bottom line is that the Coast Guard is a great service and a great career if you've got what it takes.  Remember, any service is not like a job - you just can't quit if you don't like your boss or get tired of it.  When you sign an enlistment contract it's binding and I can tell you from experience, the Coast Guard takes a really dim view of people just not showing up one day.  If you can hack it the opportunities are truly unlimited.  If you think you've got what it takes then by all means contact a recruiter and see if the Coast Guard is right for you.
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