Future members of the Coast Guard will receive immediate pay and benefits as they endure delays for boot camp impacted by pandemic restrictions. Despite increased safety protocols to include hand sanitizer on each corner, face masks, limited movements, and fewer people, COVID-19 found its way to basic training at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, New Jersey. In late 2020, the pandemic left 110 applicants scheduled to report to basic training in a tough position.
“We had future recruits quit jobs and cancel their leases,” said Capt. Richter Tipton, commanding officer of Coast Guard Recruiting Command. “It was imperative of us to take care of their most basic needs while we addressed the pandemic at Cape May.”
The recruits in basic training were being taken care of with medical attention and a complete quarantine lockdown, but what about those who had already committed to going to training but now found themselves with financial difficulties while they waited for a new date to ship out?
Ideas bounced around Recruiting Command to recruiting offices across the nation and an idea was born: the Pandemic Displaced Recruit Program (PDRP) would directly hire the applicants and compensates them at the E-1 recruit level, with all the pay and benefits, but keeps them at home until a COVID-19 outbreak has been deterred.
While at home, the recruits digitally muster in the morning under the watch of their recruiters and receive tasking for the day. They study, work out, and prepare for the day when the all-clear signal is sounded. A good start, but not without issues.
“This is a process that has never been done before, so it has a lot of differences than the normal hiring process for recruits; it has a lot of moving parts,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Mary Endicott, about the need to find an alternative to the normal way of onboarding a service member.
Endicott, a former member of Recruiting Command’s admin team, is now working as a recruiter. She led a team to establish a Central Accession Point personnel officer, placing the applicants into newly created temporary positions at their respective Recruiting Offices, or nearby Coast Guard units. The unprecedented administrative solution ensured future shipmates receive the correct pay and entitlements from their home of record.
“We were able to get all 110 direct hires accessed and approved in time to make pay cut, ensuring they all received their first paycheck in a timely manner,” said Endicott. “Hopefully the work we did was able to lessen the financial burdens this pandemic brought on them and continues to bring on many Americans.”
The PDRP is a temporary system, created initially as a need to help and assist Coast Guard recruits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The model responds to the needs of the member in an onboarding crunch has been built and if the need ever arises again, the program can be utilized to offer help to the Coast Guard’s newest members.
“These 110 recruits made a commitment to the Coast Guard and the nation, the least we can do as a service is commit to them,” said Tipton. “We’re looking out for our people and the future of the Coast Guard.”