With 11 stations located on the Pacific Coast and an additional station on the mighty Columbia River in Portland, the US Coast Guard operates in two divisions that cover Oregon’s maritime territory: Sector Columbia River and Sector North Bend. Each of these divisions has a number of boats as well as an air station each to protect the lives, property, and livelihoods connected with the state’s rivers and Pacific Ocean.
In an area known as the Graveyard of the Pacific, Coast Guard stations near the mouth of the Columbia River at its entrance to the Pacific provide an extra layer of security for the many maritime accidents that occur due to treacherous sand bars. Between Oregon’s two air bases, Air Station Astoria and Air Station North Bend pilots and their crew have at least half-a-dozen helicopters at their disposal, which are used to conduct some of the 1,700-plus search and rescue missions that take place in Oregon annually.
Basic Versus Officer Enlistment
Coast Guard job requirements are divided into two levels for enlistment: officer and basic. Each requires at least a four-year commitment and at the basic level candidates need to be between the ages of 17-27 as well as demonstrate a good moral character. The first step after recruitment will be to attend an eight-week basic training course before beginning unit training in an occupation that supports four key operations:
- Administration and scientific
- Engineering and hull
- Deck and ordinance
One of the basic Coast Guard requirements for being recruited as an officer is having a bachelor degree. These can be in any field, and new officers should keep in mind they will be assigned to a position based on their expertise. However before this, new enlistees will complete basic training for Coast Guard officers, comprised of 17 intensive weeks spent at the Officer Candidate School. Career fields and associated four-year bachelor degrees include:
- Pilot – Science and Aviation
- Intelligence Officer – Mathematics, Science, Engineering
- Medical Officer – Medical Sciences
- Human Resources Officer – Public Administration, Business Administration
- IT Specialist – IT, Computer Science, Software Engineering
- Engineer – Marine and Civil Engineering
- Coast Guard Lawyer – Law, Political Science
The Coast Guard at Work in Oregon’s Waterways
The North Bend and Columbia River Sectors cover Oregon’s ocean and river ways, providing key services such as:
- Environmental protection and cleanup
- Search and rescue
- Commercial cargo inspection
- Aids to navigation
- Law enforcement
- Maritime safety resources
The North Bend Sector encompasses 220 miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline from Pacific City to the California border and extends out to 50 nautical miles offshore. Six Coast Guard stations provide coverage for this area as well as portage for the USCG Cutter Orcas. Five Dolphin helicopters are also stationed out of North Bend.
The Columbia River Sector extends the Coast Guard’s coverage inland along 465 miles of river coastline and is headquartered in Astoria. Five stations monitor Oregon’s river routes with the help of dozens of boats and the USCG Cutter Bluebell stationed in Portland. This sector concentrates its coverage around the hazardous mouth of the Columbia River known as the Graveyard of the Pacific.