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My Coast Guard
Commentary | July 26, 2023

Understanding and addressing social climate incidents in the Coast Guard

By Coast Guard Office of Civil Rights

Imagine you get orders to report to your new unit in an area new to you and your family. You’re excited to begin the next chapter of your career and embrace the new community you’ll be a part of for the next four years. After settling into your new home, you decide to go out grocery shopping to stock up on some essentials. Your cart is packed and you’re ready to check out. As you start unloading the items, the cashier makes a comment that stops you in your tracks; the remark was a hateful slur directed toward you. Shocked and still trying to process what just happened, you quickly load the cart and leave.  

This vignette portrays what is known as a social climate incident (SCI). An SCI is when an individual or group within a community unlawfully discriminates or harasses Coast Guard military personnel or their families. It can come in the form of hateful slurs, physical threats, child bullying, denial of service, or other discriminatory or harassing behaviors.  

What can you do if you experience or witness an SCI?   

Safety is paramount, and you should inform your chain of command right away. Command teams should then report these incidents to their local civil rights service provider and, in addition to investigating the incident, engage with local officials, civic groups and other organizations to discuss the incidents.  

By reporting such incidents, both you and your command are making an important contribution to helping the Coast Guard maintain a safe community. Further, reported SCIs are tracked by the Civil Rights Directorate in a dashboard accessible to Coast Guard members.  

Statistics tracked include the total number of reported incidents, what those reported incidents were, the states and locations with the most reported SCIs, and more. Also included are several informational links and documents that can help members and commands understand and address SCIs. The information is provided to inform the workforce of locations where previous events have been reported. Regardless of the place or reported incidents, each individual or their family may have different experiences within the community. 

When Coast Guard members or their families experience an SCI, it could significantly impact their emotional, physical and social well-being, which could negatively affect work performance, morale and readiness. In the more egregious cases, policy affords the opportunity for transfer.  

The Coast Guard is committed to maintaining a positive climate for all its members and families and expects them to be able to work and live in communities where they feel they will be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.  

For more information on the SCI reporting requirements, see Chapter 7 of the U.S. Coast Guard Civil Rights Manual, COMDTINST M5350.4E