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My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 11, 2022

Hiring and retention bonuses for operational specialists

By Coast Guard Recruiting Command

The Coast Guard is offering a monetary incentive bonus for people who are interested in becoming an operational specialist (OS). Currently, that bonus is upwards of $20,000 for A-school and $50,000 for those who choose to reenlist. Current non-rates who have yet to choose a rating and decide OS is the right fit are also qualified to receive the bonus. 

The OS rating, is a career with abundance of opportunities to experience and take part in the Coast Guard’s missions such as law enforcement, vessel escorting, and search and rescue. They are the point where operations and missions are planned and coordinated. They employ complex software and algorithms to determine searches, use state-of-the-art programs to monitor and track all assets, act as the liaisons between varying international, state and local operations, and are the voice of hope for those who find themselves in need of maritime assistance.

Operations specialists are evaluating information, making plans, establishing communication links and developing a litany of products to execute the impending mission that is to come.

Coast Guard operations specialists work in teams to stand watch around the clock listening, managing, and overseeing the response to maritime incidents. The rating is looking for its next generation of vigilant servicemembers and Master Chief Petty Officer Andrew Swett, the operations specialist rating force master chief, explains that this critical need for OSs may be due to lack of exposure.

“Operations specialists are usually behind closed doors and non-rates just don’t have exposure to what they do,” said Swett. “They don’t get the opportunity to go behind those doors and that’s difficult to overcome.”

These doors are closed for good reason however, without a need to know and security clearance, non-rates do not often get to spend time exploring the rating before making career decisions.

“A security clearance is a requirement to be an OS,” said Swett. “It comes standard with the job due to the classified, cryptographic gear, and communications systems our rating utilizes on a daily basis.”

Security clearances can be helpful beyond the Coast Guard, mentioned Swett. “In the civilian world, companies will pay well to hire people who have the experience coupled with the clearance our rating offers.”

Considering how the Coast Guard can prepare you for a future beyond service is one of many decision factors for choosing a job. Other factors may include money, experience, mission, and family.

The experience you can receive from handling emergency management, prosecuting law enforcement, planning search and rescue response, and overseeing vessel traffic services as an OS sets you up for success during and after service in the Coast Guard. Swett also mentioned that serving as an OS can set members up to apply for special duty assignments, Officer Candidate School, and other programs.

“Our rating is one in which the most junior members will be working side-by-side with the most senior members. What we do requires close coordination and communication amongst our watchstanders up and down the chain of command,” said Swett. “OSs get exposure and knowledge of how everything works and comes together to plan and execute the mission, and that can be very beneficial.”

Family may also be a major factor in career decisions. Azcarraga made the decision to become an OS for the benefit of his family.

“I love saving people,” said Azcarraga. “That’s always a good mission, stopping drugs from getting to the streets, that’s nice too. But having the ability to have a job that’s going to take care of my family, that I can come home to at the end of the day, hands down, that’s the best part. Throw in the comfy chair and [air conditioning] and I love what I do. I may even extend beyond 20 years.”

The Coast Guard is a maritime-based service, and OSs have the opportunity to serve not only on cutters, but also in command centers, at Vessel Traffic Service centers, and air stations, along with a host of other unit types. 

Each job in the Coast Guard helps keep the operations running and all have an invaluable impact in the maritime communities where live and work.   

“Our operations specialists are highly valued members of our Coast Guard family,” said Capt. Richter Tipton, commanding officer of Coast Guard Recruiting Command. “Working on the most sophisticated computer systems to plan search and rescue, dispatching assets, coordinating surface and air assets off the coast of Central Mexico, processing intelligence messages, and executing planning to prevent counter-narcotics trafficking, the OS mission is a unique one often overlooked. The work they do keeps the Coast Guard on the cutting edge.”

Learn more about the operations specialist rating or speak with a recruiter about joining the U.S. Coast Guard on Current members can connect with Rating Force Master Chief Andrew Swett to learn more about OS opportunities.