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My Coast Guard
Commentary | June 15, 2022

Earn $500 by getting a friend to join the Coast Guard

By Kathy Murray, MyCG Writer

For the first time, the Coast Guard has offered to pay cold, hard cash to members who help attract qualified members to its ranks -- to the tune of $500 per recruit.

Sound too good to be true? It isn’t, says Cmdr. Frances Johnson-Gillion, who heads the Coast Guard Recruiting Incident Management Team (CG Recruiting IMT). With unemployment low, every military branch is struggling to meet recruiting goals right now. “In desperate times,” she says, “you need desperate measures.”

Or maybe just practical ones. Employers have long known that their own workers often provide the best connections to similarly talented performers. The Coast Guard’s “Everyone Is A Recruiter” (EIAR) program has previously offered non-monetary incentives for a successful referral.

But the potential shortfall in terms of this year’s enlistment target led the service to up the ante by offering a cash award.

Whether it will work remains to be seen. But the appeal is obvious. “The bonus is unlimited,” says Johnson-Gillion, “so there is no limit on the number of referrals an individual can make or how much they can earn.”

In fact, even social media group “CG Memes” appears to want in on this action. News of the bonus at the end of May quickly generated back-to-back memes, as the administrator jokingly promised to reveal their identity to any new recruits who’d claim they referred them.

Here is what you need to know:

Who can take part?

The incentive program is open to civilian employees, active duty and reserve military members of the current workforce, with the exception of those who work in the recruiting or are assigned recruiting tasks. This is done to avoid a conflict of interest.

Coast Guard auxilary members and retirees are not eligible for the $500, but may receive non-monetary incentives.

What types of recruits qualify for the $500?

The cash incentive is being offered for referrals that help the Coast Guard fill its “critical recruiting needs.” Specifically, these include both active duty and reserve enlisted members. In the case of reserves, this means people who are enlisting for the first time in military service, not retired active duty members from other branches. In other words, you won’t be able to get credit for bringing in a former Marine who is now joining the Coast Guard.

In addition, your recruit must have entered boot camp on or after June 3 for you to be eligible for the $500. Anyone starting before then would qualify you for the earlier incentives. 

How do I make a referral?

Go to the recruiting website. There you can send a referral regarding your candidate directly to the virtual recruiter email inbox.

Once the person enlists, you’ll want to make sure they sign the Referral Contact Sheet. They’ll need to cite you as the referring member in order for you to get the $500 incentive.

How long will the incentive program last?

The $500 bonus will be available to qualified members through fiscal year 2023, Johnson-Gillion says. Whether it will be extended beyond that depends on the results of the enhanced program and the budget.

Are there any awards besides the $500?

Coast Guard active duty and reserve employees may choose either the Commandant’s Letter of Commendation ribbon bar or a $500 cash incentive. Civilians, meanwhile, have the option of an Official Letter of Commendation and a recommended eight-hour time-off award in lieu of the cash.

Will it work?

At this point in the fiscal year, Johnson-Gillion says that the Coast Guard is unlikely to be able to attract enough recruits to reach their year-end goals. Yet she’s hopeful and would like to get the member number as high as possible. “We really just want to generate some leads at this point,” she says. “Any additional recruits we can get are a good thing. I’ll be Interested to see the success.”

For more information go to or call the CG Recruiting IMT (202) 372-8043.