Coast Guard service men and women face a unique task in Washington DC. In addition to the usual law enforcement and search and rescue missions, the DC Coast Guard is also responsible for working closely with federal law enforcement agencies to protect the nation’s capital in the event of a terrorist attack.
In addition to some classified locations, units are based out of Coast Guard Station Washington on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and Coast Guard Air Station Washington. At over $731.3 million dollars annually, the Washington DC Coast Guard has one of the highest operating expenses in the country, which both support top secret as well as normal missions.
Going to Work for the US Coast Guard
In Washington DC, Coast Guard jobs are nearly evenly split between enlisted members and civilian employees. Enlisting stipulates a requirement of at least a four-year commitment, and candidates can do this at either the basic or officer level. Basic enlistment entails getting through eight weeks of boot camp, followed by unit-based training for Coast Guard careers that support four basic mission areas:
- Deck and ordinance
- Hull and engineering
- Administrative and scientific
To meet the Coast Guard requirements and join at the officer level, candidates will need to have a four-year degree. Enlisting as an officer comes with a starting rank of ensign and the requirement of completing a thorough 17-week Officer Candidate School. Upon graduation, new officers will be assigned their job duty based on their preference and skills, which correspond with their college degree as demonstrated in these examples:
- Legal Officer – Law Degree
- Pilot – Degree in Science and Aviation
- Medical Officer – Degree in Medical Science
- Command Staff – Business Administration Degree
- Intelligence Officer – Degree in Science or Mathematics
- Computer Specialist – Degree in Computer Science or Information Technology
- Engineering Specialist – Degree in Computer, Network, or Electrical Engineering
Civilian employment resembles the private sector in that candidates need not make a multi-year commitment or attend basic training or boot camp. There are civilian equivalents for most enlisted jobs, which also means many civilian positions must also have an appropriate bachelor degree.
DC Coast Guard’s National Security Focus
Special missions assigned only to DC-area Coast Guard units include the following:
Two C37A fixed-wing aircraft from CG Air Station Washington DC, located at Reagan National Airport and ready 24 hours a day to fly non-stop to any location in the United States at a moment’s notice. These two aircraft serve as long-range transportation for high-level Coast Guard and Homeland Security Officials, and can be thought of as mobile command and control centers.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) also commands a Coast Guard unit assigned to DC’s Rotary Wing Air Intercept Mission. This unit is comprised of several MH-65D Dolphin helicopters and assigned to make sure small aircraft do not stray into the 30-mile Special Flight Rules Area radius that surrounds the White House. The Coast Guard is uniquely poised to carry out this mission because unlike the Defense Department, it has broader federal authority to enforce laws in the nation’s capital.
DC Coast Guard units also enforce security zones, with a recent example being a presidential inauguration. To conduct this, units are strategically stationed along the Potomac River, the DC/Virginia shoreline, and the Anacostia River. Even though the inauguration itself is a one-day event, the security zone is in place for ten days in total to ensure the security of the president.