What does a Coast Guard Reservist do?

A Coast Guard reservist is a fully trained member of the United States Coast Guard (USCG), which is a multi-missioned component of the nation’s armed forces under the Department of Homeland Security’s jurisdiction (DHS). There are approximately 42,000 active duty Coast Guard personnel and another 7,500–8,000 reservists in the Coast Guard. Reservists are civilians whose reserve contracts require them to serve as fully functional members of the USCG for one weekend per month and two weeks per year. Unlike reservists in other branches of the military, who spend their weekend drill and summer camp time assigned to active duty units performing regular Coast Guard duties, coast guard reservists spend their weekend drill and summer camp time assigned to active duty units performing regular Coast Guard duties.

The Coast Guard is unique among the American armed forces in that it performs a wide range of tasks that keep its personnel busy all of the time. In most cases, the other services, such as the Army, Navy, and Air Force, are either at war or training for the next war. Maritime law enforcement (MLE), marine environmental protection (MEP), search and rescue (SAR), and ATON — aids to navigation on rivers, intracoastal waterways, and offshore — are some of the Coast Guard’s other responsibilities.

The Coast Guard reserve, which was established in 1941, was restructured dramatically in 1994. Some argued that, given the Cost Guard’s many responsibilities during the Vietnam War and the years afterward, it didn’t make sense to keep a large reserve force dedicated to mobilization training. In a force augmentation measure known as “Team Coast Guard,” the Coast Guard dissolved most dedicated reserve units in 1994 and assigned their members to active duty units. After that, instead of training, drill, or makework, a Coast Guard reservist would have specific duties alongside active-duty Coast Guard personnel when reporting for weekend drill or his two-week annual obligation. Port security units (PSUs) are the only dedicated reserve units left, and they train extensively for combat and force protection missions before rotating into Southwest Asia to support American military operations there.

When a Coast Guard reservist is on duty, he can expect to be actively involved in carrying out any of the Coast Guard’s missions. Of course, a Coast Guard reservist will receive additional training after boot camp, but it will be integrated into his other responsibilities and will not take up the majority of his drill time. Most reservists work regular civilian jobs when they are not on duty. Coast Guard units may be called up for active duty on occasion, causing reserve members to be involuntarily activated. This doesn’t happen very often, and such deployments are more likely to be in response to domestic disasters like hurricanes or other natural disasters.