With eight locations across Illinois, the US Coast Guard is tasked with securing the state’s maritime borders, ensuring commerce is conducted legally, and protecting local residents as well as the environment. There is one Coast Guard Cutter in addition to 12 boats stationed primarily in the Chicago area. Last year these units participated in 177 search and rescue operations while inspecting over 108,000 tons of maritime commerce. As Chicago has been a repeated target of several terrorist plots, the Coast Guard also provides an extra layer of security around the internationally-accessible port.
Planning ahead for Coast Guard Careers
When considering career options, being aware of the fundamental US Coast Guard job requirements is a must for prospective Coasties. Most Coast Guard employees in Illinois are enlisted members serving at least four-year tours. Candidates as young as 17 can join the respected ranks of the Coast Guard, and will have any number of operations-focused jobs assigned based on their skills and merit test scoring.
Candidates with a bachelor’s degree have the option of applying for more advanced officer positions and beginning their enlistment with the rank of ensign. Coast Guard jobs at the officer level and qualifying areas of study include:
- Intelligence Officer: mathematics, science, and engineering
- Pilot: sciences and aviation
- Administrative Officer: business administration and public administration
- Engineering Specialist: computer, electronic, network, systems engineering
- Legal Officer: law, political science
- Architect: architecture
If citizens can meet certain basic age and skill Coast Guard requirements they are also eligible to join as civilian employees, whose positions closely mirror those of enlisted personnel. Civilians employed in Coast Guard jobs will find their working environment and expectations similar to that of the private sector, and many officer-equivalent positions also require the appropriate bachelor degree.
Coast Guard Training
Training for Coast Guard careers in Illinois begins with basic courses all enlistees must complete. For those enlisting as non-officers this starts as an eight-week boot camp which is followed by more career-focused training conducted as part of a the enlistee’s new unit. For new officers, their version of boot camp is the 17-week Officer Candidate School. After graduation they will earn the rank of ensign and begin additional training which pertains directly to their career field. Civilian members of the Coast Guard are not required to complete a basic training per se, however they can always expect to have some kind of orientation similar to that found in private sector employment.
Locally-based training in Illinois also takes place on a regular basis, both in cooperation with other law enforcement and emergency management agencies as well as internally within the Coast Guard itself. A recent operation involved the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Chicago Police Department, and Coast Guard units from six regional stations. Boat intercept and defensive techniques were emphasized during the operation, which was aimed at better identifying threats to critical infrastructure and high-value assets in the Chicago port area.
The Coast Guard’s Impact on Illinois
There are many avenues to cover when it comes to fulfilling the mission of keeping Illinois protected from waterborne threats. Rescue operations are usually the stories that make headlines, but the Illinois Coast Guard protects its port state through many other types of actions:
- In recent flooding near Forest View the Coast Guard was there to assist, going door to door asking residents if they needed assistance with evacuations, and thereby providing the surreal sight of small boats navigating around cars on flooded city streets.
- Units recently deployed from Chicago to assist in a Joliet casino firefighting operation. Although the crew did have firefighting capabilities, its primary mission was to monitor the water surrounding the scene of the fire for contaminants. One of the Coast Guard’s primary duties is to protect and monitor environmental pollution.
- In a recent preemptive move the Coast Guard closed part of Lake Michigan in response to dangerous river conditions after several days of heavy rains. This was an attempt to prevent drownings and property damage.