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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 26, 2021

Providing mentorship opportunities from the ground up

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannon Kearney, Training Center Cape May

As recruits undergo training at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, they are subjected to an intensive and rigorous training program. They remain under constant supervision by their company commanders and are taught required knowledge to operate in today’s Coast Guard. 
They learn seamanship, marksmanship, Coast Guard history, rates and ranks of the service, and much more. They are taught to follow orders, salute officers, render proper greetings, and live by the Coast Guard’s core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. 
These trainings are designed to forge the next generation of Coast Guard women and men into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained service members. 
However, one crucial aspect of recruit knowledge that can’t be memorized in a classroom is how to succeed at their first unit, whether it be a cutter, small boat station, air station, sector, or other specialized Coast Guard unit. This knowledge can only be handed down by a highly-experienced Coast Guard service member who has gone above and beyond typical Coast Guard standards, and who knows what it takes to have a successful career in the Coast Guard – a company mentor. 
Each mentor comes to the training center three times in the span of eight weeks to talk with their company and answer questions. The first visit is in week two, the second visit is in week five, and the third and final visit is on their company’s graduation day, where the mentor will have a front-row seat to watch the recruits graduate and get sent out to the fleet. 
In order to get these highly-experienced Coast Guard members to mentor a recruit company, give advice, and answer questions, Training Center Cape May releases a message every summer to solicit volunteers to participate, with the deadline for submission being in August. 
To ensure a company mentor has had a robust career and is capable of delivering sound advice to new recruits, volunteers have to be a chief petty officer and above chief warrant officer 2 and above, or a lieutenant and above. During the training center’s mentor selection process, priority will be given to senior enlisted personnel and officers with prior enlisted experience. This preference is set to give recruits the opportunity to ask relevant questions to members who have experienced and overcome the same challenges and opportunities that they will be facing at their first unit. 
Officers with no prior enlisted experience are still encouraged to apply, but are encouraged to apply concurrently with an eligible enlisted member. Mentorship is valued in professional environments all around the world, and the Coast Guard is no exception. 
Applications to become a mentor can be found on the training center’s FORCECOM website under the training tab, in addition to the yearly Coast Guard ALCOAST message solicitation, and they should be submitted to Training Center Cape May’s battalion officer.