Coast Guard Training Center Cape May is the nation’s only Coast Guard enlisted accession point and recruit training center. (Cover image: U.S. Coast Guard photo.) The following is adopted from the Coast Guard website.

Basic Training

Welcome aboard – now stand at attention and stop smiling!

As with any military service, your journey begins at basic training.

Basic training is tough. You’ll be challenged every day, both mentally and physically. You’ll be pushed, tested and worked harder than you ever thought possible. But you will graduate confident, knowing you accomplished something you and your family can be proud of.

Stepping Off the Bus

Recruits arrive at Sexton Hall in Cape May, N.J. and the first days of basic training are spent getting oriented, receiving uniforms, getting haircuts (females may pin their hair up within regulation standards), and filling out entry forms.

Here, you will meet your company commander – your mentor, instructor, leader, coach and guide through basic training. Your company commander will break you down and build you back up. His or her job is to motivate you, teach you self-discipline and how to obey orders. From your CC, you will learn commitment and service as a productive Coast Guard member.

Physical Fitness

You will be tested on your physical abilities. The chart below illustrates the physical requirements all recruits must meet in order to graduate basic training.

Those who fail will be given additional instruction and coaching – but you should come to basic training mentally and physically prepared. The more abilities you have, the more comfortable you’ll be. Your CC and the training staff at Cape May are there to help, but time is short and training is intense. Come prepared.

Academics and Practical Instruction

In addition to physical demands, you will be challenged in the classroom. The intense academic program at basic training is designed to provide you with entry-level skills and knowledge needed to succeed junior member field. In class, you’ll receive training in everything from military justice, customs, and ethics to Coast Guard history.

Moreover, many classes are hands-on. During your training, you’ll participate in a variety of practical instruction including small arms training, seamanship, fire fighting and damage control. You’ll fire at the basic pistol course, learn how to handle lines, practice helm commands, and participate in safety and rescue training. Additionally, all throughout basic training, you’ll be coached through a myriad of team-building training exercises.

Recruit Band and Drill Team

If you have musical talent and play an instrument, you can join the Ceremonial Band. You’ll have the chance to perform at graduation ceremonies, and other Coast Guard celebrations and local events.

Boot Camp Facts

  • Recruits are paid during training and pay is automatically deposited into your checking or savings account.
  • As a recruit, you will be able to receive mail, but NO CARE PACKAGES.
  • Recruits are allowed limited on-base or in-town liberty (time off) in the latter weeks of training, at the company commander’s discretion.
  • Recruits are also allowed to attend weekly church service.

Basic Training: Before and After

The best way to prepare for basic training is to meet with your recruiter. There, you can discuss the physical fitness aspect of basic training, and how to prepare for it. You find out what you can and can’t bring to basic training and the importance of having a checking or savings account prior to leaving for training.  

Around the fourth week of training, you’ll be asked to request a geographic location for your first assignment and the type of unit you wish to serve, whether ashore or afloat. You will receive your first assignment orders about a week later.

When you graduate basic training, you will be ready to serve. You will be able to perform at your best, in any situation. Your family will be proud of you, and you’ll be proud of yourself.


The Coast Guard is the smallest of all the military services. At any given time, there are about 46,000 men and women in service. That means two things: every job you do is important and everything you do gets noticed. Those who excel are rewarded with better pay, more responsibility and more diverse missions.

Upon completing eight weeks of basic training, you’ll be promoted to seaman or fireman (E-2). Normally, you then proceed to your first unit and learn the skills needed to move up to seaman or fireman (E-3). While at your first unit, you will be exposed to many of the different ratings available in the Coast Guard and can narrow down the career path you want to pursue.

For aviation specific rates, USCG Aviation Technical Training Center, Elizabeth City, NC, incorporated the airmen training program into the “A” school curriculum.

If you already know what you want to do in the Coast Guard, ask your recruiter about the guaranteed ‘A’ school program. With guaranteed ‘A’ school, you can go directly from basic training to your rating’s training program. However, not all ratings participate in this program. Coast Guard training provides members with the highest level of readiness because lives and mission success depend on how we perform our duties. One thing you can be sure of, after your Coast Guard training, you will be ready.

Enlisted personnel continue to receive higher-level training in their field, which leads to more responsibility, potentially a higher ranking, and greater pay.

To become a petty officer in the Coast Guard, you must either graduate from ‘A’ school or complete the corresponding “striker” program (on-the-job training). Not all ratings have striker programs.

By demonstrating practical skills on the job, you can advance within your rating. You’ll also have to successfully complete leadership training, pass the appropriate end-of-course test and compete in a national service-wide exam.

The highest rank an enlisted member can attain is Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9).

Want to keep going? As a four-year enlistee in the Coast Guard, if you obtain the rank of E-5 or higher and have a minimum of 30 college credits, you can apply for Officer Candidate School. To get in, you’ll be competing against civilians who have a four-year college degree and other members of the Coast Guard in your position.

Also, it’s possible to move up the enlisted ladder to warrant officer and later compete in the Warrant-to-Lieutenant program.

Categories: Coast Guard, Recruit Training

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