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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Dec. 21, 2023

The Coast Guard increases junior officer command opportunities

By AJ Pulkkinen, MyCG Team writer

The Commandant has directed the creation of new field commands in the marine safety and response communities. Eight National Centers of Expertise (NCOEs) and 18 Marine Safety Units (previously Marine Safety Detachments) will be individual field commands. 

“These new commands will create greater leadership opportunities … and provide increased professional development within the marine safety enterprise,” said Vice Adm. Peter Gautier, the Deputy Commandant for Operations.

Supervisors of these eight NCOEs and 18 MSUs will be designated as commanding officers once the units are officially stood up.

The Coast Guard places significant value on command positions and, until now, the marine safety community generally did not provide command opportunities until the commander or captain (O5 or O6) levels. Adding junior command opportunities will increase professional development, promote retention and remove community-specific barriers to command.

The Junior Command Officer Working Group (JCOWG) used qualitative and quantitative criteria to determine which units should be elevated to commands. The work group considered the number of personnel assigned, scope of work, mission complexity, distance from parent command and community-based involvement. The work group also interviewed sitting supervisors and parent commands as a collaborative effort between Headquarters and the field. The designation as a commanding officer rewards the junior officers for the work they are already doing and increases the desirability, and thus the competition, for these assignments. 

“The increasing pace of change and complexity of the maritime operational environment demands that Coast Guard leaders be able to continuously learn and adapt their skills in order to effectively manage risks, “said Rear Adm. Wayne Arguin, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy. “The creation of new commands reinforces the vision that prevention officers are risk managers and leaders in Marine Safety, Security, and Stewardship.” 


NCOEs support decision-makers, field personnel and maritime industry partners through consultation, augmentation, training and by providing recommendations in highly technical, specialized or unique aspects of the prevention mission in their area of expertise. Due to their complex portfolios and engagements with international and national stakeholders, leaders of these NCOEs already exercise leadership on issues with significant consequences commensurate with commanding officers.

The NCOEs that will be individual units are: 

  • Cruise Ship NCOE in Fort Lauderdale, Florida 
  • Investigations NCOE in New Orleans, Louisiana 
  • Liquefied Gas Carrier NCOE in Port Arthur, Texas 
  • Outer Continental Shelf NCOE in New Orleans, Louisiana 
  • Towing Vessel NCOE in Paducah, Kentucky 
  • Suspension and Revocation NCOE in Martinsburg, West Virginia 
  • Great Lakes NCOE in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan 
  • National Strike Force NCOE in Yorktown, Virginia 

MSDs to MSUs 

The JCOWG identified new criteria to delineate between MSDs and Marine Safety Units (MSUs). Once these units are established, all MSUs across the service will have commanding officers while MSDs will be led by unit supervisors. 

In addition to Marine Inspection Unit (MIU) Singapore and MSU Port Canaveral, which stood up last year, the Coast Guard is converting 18 Marine Safety Detachments to Marine Safety Units. 

The MSDs that will be MSUs led by a commanding officer are: 

  • MSU American Samoa 
  • MSU Belfast, Maine 
  • MSU Brownsville, Texas 
  • MSU Cape Cod, Massachusetts 
  • MSU Coram, New York 
  • MSU Dutch Harbor, Alaska 
  • MSU Kodiak, Alaska 
  • MSU Lafayette, Louisiana 
  • MSU Lake Worth, Florida 
  • MSU Lewes, Delaware 
  • MSU Massena, New York 
  • MSU New Bedford, Massachusetts 
  • MSU Portsmouth, New Hampshire 
  • MSU Saipan, Northen Mariana Islands 
  • MSU St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 
  • MSU Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 
  • MSU Vicksburg, Mississippi 
  • MSU Victoria, Texas 

These new commands represent a step forward in officially recognizing the responsibility and efforts being carried out at the service’s MSUs and NCOEs. These new positions will provide greater leadership opportunities for junior members of the Prevention and Response Ashore communities and are another example of leadership embracing the Commandant’s vision that “tomorrow looks different and so will we.” 


Junior Command Initiative