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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Aug. 9, 2022

Preparing college students for public service in the U.S. Coast Guard

By Auxiliarist Matthew Thompson, Branch Assistant – Publications Support (A-Directorate)

The U.S. Coast Guard has an ever-increasing need for officer candidates in the twenty-first century. Established in 2007, the Auxiliary University Program (AUP) is a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary-managed leadership development program intended to introduce college students to the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The AUP prepares students for future professional, operational, and leadership success, with a strong emphasis on service in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, while providing a direct resource of well-trained candidates. This program gives interested people an opportunity to develop into career officers in the Coast Guard or a similar service, without the commitment of an ROTC program.

To participate in the AUP, a student must become a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and have support from their local flotilla and division. Not all colleges and universities have an AUP unit on campus, and if you are interested in doing so please visit the AUP website. However, there are options for students to enroll in a remote learning program and participate virtually if they are not located near a campus that has an AUP unit. 

Currently, not including the Remote Collaborative Unit, there are 11 schools across the country that have AUP units and more are looking to join. While most have ties to the maritime industry, some are public research universities and military colleges that did not have ties with the Coast Guard prior to the start of the AUP. One school, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), is quickly developing their AUP unit into one of the largest units in the program. According to Cadet Sarah Robertson, the unit at the school is referred to as “The Coast Guard Club,” and within the last year, their organization has increased to 30 members. They hope to double that number next year with assistance from the school’s staff. Robertson states that they have been very fortunate to receive a “tremendous” amount of support from school officials and local Auxiliary and Coast Guard units. 

The AUP offers multiple levels of training with both Auxiliary and active duty Coast Guard units as well as local community partners like fire departments and maritime agencies. AUP’s academic program is structured around general courses as well as leadership and elective courses that allow for a specialty or concentration in certain fields. In addition to their normal studies, students must also participate in volunteer events with their flotilla, earn a minimum of one Auxiliary qualification, and complete an internship either at a Coast Guard unit. 

This spring, the AUP at VMI participated in their first large scale field training exercise that included vessel examiner training, emergency medical training, as well as training in many other areas. Normally, the military programs at the school complete two, week-long exercises per year. Roberston states that this year was special for their AUP unit as they were able to secure enough funding to participate in the exercise. The other programs, because they are ROTC units affiliated with a military branch, receive funding from the branch they are aligned with. The AUP receives no funding and is dependent on the members of the unit and the school they are partnered with. 

In addition to VMI, another stand-out AUP representation this past year is the unit at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The unit has volunteered to assist with restoring and maintaining the historic 36-foot motor lifeboat CG36500 in Chatham, Massachusetts, which was used in the 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton crew and depicted in the Disney movie, “The Finest Hours.” They have also been active participants in area training and completed damage control training with other Auxiliary and active duty units. One of their members, Cadet Cameron Craveiro, received an Operational Support Award for having the “third highest hours of administrative Coast Guard support for the year in his district” according to Lisa Goodwin, AUP Academics Branch Chief. Craveiro, a member of Flotilla 13-6, in Jones Beach, New York, logged 283 administrative support hours in 2021, and is expected to begin officer candidate school (OCS) after graduating in June.

At present, the U.S. Coast Guard is looking to commission 500 new officers annually for the next five years, with the Coast Guard Academy accounting for half of that number. The Coast Guard AUP is striving to be the predominant source for the remaining 250 officer candidates needed annually. The AUP offers students the chance to better prepare themselves for OCS as well as other direct commission opportunities. With the assistance of their partner institutions, as well as guidance from local Auxiliary and active duty units, there is no doubt that the AUP will reach their goal and cadets such as Robertson and Craveiro will be successful in their future careers as officers in the U.S. Coast Guard.

For more information on the Auxiliary University Program, please visit their website.