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My Coast Guard
Commentary | July 18, 2022

The Shore Forces Reserve Management Plan

By Lt. j.g. Matthew Lopez, USCG Office of Shore Forces

​Courtesy article from Coast Guard Reservist Magazine

The Reserve Component continually serves as the Coast Guards nimble force in garrison, providing operational capabilities and mission ready personnel to meet the myriad of requests that come its way. The reserve capability has been showcased in recent years, with additional active duty opportunities in response to hurricanes and humanitarian crises, border operations, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 40% of the reserve workforce (over 2,400 members) serves within the shore forces enterprise across our sectors, marine safety units, marine safety detachments, sector field offices, who continually provide valuable assistance to their active duty counterparts. The Office of Shore Forces identified the need to realign and update many of its reserve training capabilities, and with the introduction of the Shore Forces Reserve Management Plan (SFRMP), we are able to provide a stronger and more ready, trained surge force to aid our active duty counterparts when called up, filling vital roles in service to our nation.

You might be thinking that if youve seen one sector, youve seen them all. Same missions, departments, same positions, right? But not all sectors are exactly equal. A sector in the Pacific Northwest with nearby shipping ports may have a heavier load on facility inspections. Another in New England may focus their reservists on law enforcement, ports, waterways and coastal security, and response missions.

The Office of Shore Forces took notice. Plan organizers took valuable insights and feedback from the field on how our reservists could be used, and how they can all have a common standard of training across the Coast Guard.

Enter the SFRMP, which threads common teams of reservists across all of our sectors, notably, those sectors with reserve staffs larger than 30. We polled and collaborated with the experts from the field units, and throughout Coast Guard headquarters, to develop a common set of competencies that are more achievable by reservists over drill weekends.

Shore Forces reservists now have clearer paths for advancement, and also know that theyre training the same in rating as their shipmates across the country. For example, a first class maritime enforcement specialist (ME1) at Sector North Carolina will attend the same C-schools and have the same competencies as an ME1 at San Diego. The reservistscompetencies were built around filling a sectors Incident Management Team, which is staffed using people with Incident Command System (or ICS) qualifications.

This team comprises 20 positions with competencies many reservists (especially those in shore forces) are familiar with or even currently trained in

A filled slate would give each sector a reserve IMT—a qualified team, comprised of reservists who have trained together at their sectors, that can plug and play when called up to respond.

The Shore Forces Reserve Management Plan serves two purposes. First, it establishes structure and clarifies the role of the Shore Forces Reserve Workforce, and second, it enables its capability, competency, readiness, and availability to respond to national, regional, and local maritime security and safety incidents.

The clarified role is important to both the reservists and the command. It helps the command understand what kind of training their reservists need, what metrics they can be measured using, and what kind of bench strength the command has for contingencies. Similarly, the reservists have standardized expectations from their units, no matter which unit theyre assigned to. Beyond that, this helps rating force master chiefs and the training system at large; one standard of shore forces training, one set of competencies to measure and track.

It also plays into the Coast Guards national expectations for the same reasons--capability, training, response and readiness.

Our reservists already perform essential ICS roles at many of our sectors, so we brought those to the front of their required training by aligning competencies with the Coast Guard Office of Emergency Management manual. The Office of Emergency Management and Disaster Response develops Coast Guard policy, training, and best practices for incident management, guiding how we respond to disasters. Its contributions to the SFRMP helped us identify the most appropriate ICS competencies and roles where our reservists can excel. In doing so, we serve the SFRMPs second purpose. This alignment creates a robust roster of qualified units and members who are ready to support Coast Guard surge and mobilization requirements.

To completely understand and provide the best alignments in training possible, the Office of Shore Forces collaborated with a breadth of directorates with reserve equities, including the Assistant Commandants for Reserve and Capabilities, as well as the Deputy Commandant for Mission Support to craft this plan.

They prioritized the following goals:

  • Standardize competencies and officer specialty codes, appropriate for each position and paygrade, across the Shore Forces units, which provides operationally capable reserve members to meet mission requirements and augment active duty;
  • Revise existing position titles on the personnel allowance list, standardizing them across units.
  • Align Shore Forces Enterprise reserve competencies and training to reserve IMT positions,
  • Establish the structure to consistently evaluate and assess the level of training, certification, and competencies appropriate for our reserve force; and
  • Align training systems and delivery, supported by active duty

So what does this all mean for the average reserve Coast Guard members, and where are we now? It means that the required competencies for each position will now be more relevant to what members actually do and can reasonably achieve over drill weekends and active duty periods. It gives each member a measurable training goal. For many members these new competencies will reflect the IMT structure---competencies that you may already have or working toward. The Office of Shore Forces is currently in the process of updating all competencies with areas and districts.

Now when members transfer to a new sector, they dont have to start from scratch; theyre ready to jump in on day one. When a sector commander comes aboard to their new unit, theyll know exactly what their reservists are capable of and how they can be employed during an emergency. When a marine science technician moves from Sector Houston to Sector Upper Mississippi River for a new civilian job and reports in on drill weekend, they know their qualifications will carry forward from their previous unit.

This establishment of a modernized and standardized competency framework for training empowers the reservists to effectively support their units, and it provides a pathway for training that aligns with the familiar IMT structure and ICS system, creating new opportunities for meeting emergency response and preparedness goals.  

Note: The SFRMP is applicable to sectors with 30 or more reservists.