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Participate with Prior Service

Prior Service

If you have served in the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or any National Guard or Reserve components, you may be eligible to continue your military service in the Coast Guard. In rare circumstances, you may even qualify to keep your rank. This program is know as the Coast Guard’s Direct Entry Petty Officer Training Course (DEPOT) in Cape May, New Jersey.


The goal of the Direct Entry Petty Officer Training Course is to produce petty officers who on the basis of their civilian professions, prior military experience, or a combination of both, will graduate as highly motivated and basically trained members ready to assume the duties and responsibilities of their pay grade.


Due to the extremely diverse training Coast Guard enlistees get in the early years after recruitment, most prior-service members enlist as an E-3 and complete either basic training or DEPOT. Remember, you will still keep your longevity pay for total years of service. This is dependent on the needs of the service and is not a guarantee for enlistment.


This course is 20 days in duration with students arriving on Sunday evening and graduating on a Thursday. Training will consist of instruction and practical experience in military courtesies, drills and ceremonies, military justice, code of conduct, leadership and supervision, seamanship, uniforms, ranks and rates, career development, first aid and survival, fitness, wellness and quality of life, Coast Guard history, traditions, and values, safety, damage control, small arms, Coast Guard assets and missions, administration and personal finance, watch standing, security and communications. TRACEN Cape May will prepare orders to first unit, issue ID cards, arrange household goods moves, and provide access to travel agent for flight arrangements. The physical fitness assessment and swim assessment will be conducted during the first week of training. The standards are listed in the Helmsman. Training will be held 7 days per week, 12-16 hours per day. Members will have limited access to pay phones but will be allowed to make calls for family and business requirements periodically. No cellular phones are allowed during training. Advanced travel, DLA and pay may be authorized to assist members and families with travel.


Meet the minimum Coast Guard medical requirements and have achieved a minimum AFQT score of 36. Meet accession standards and have qualifying past prior service or meet the requirements of one of our reserve petty officer programs.

Know Before You Arrive

By knowing these items before you arrive to Cape May, you will be better equipped to start training.

  1. (11) General Orders
  2. United States Coast Guard Ethos   
  3. Military Time
  4. Phonetic Alphabet.

What to Expect

Tough, challenging and rewarding training. In order to meet the mission of the course, your days will be long. The training is well organized, with a professional staff of Company Commanders and instructors whose main goal is to assist you in successfully completing the course.

Reveille is at 0530 and Taps is at 2200 - a typical day consists of academic classes, hands on practical training, evening fitness or workbook sessions, and personal "square-away" time. You will be expected to maintain training standards for your uniform, squad bay, classroom, and behavior. Uniform and squad bay inspections are routinely conducted throughout training. You will be given an initial physical fitness and a swim assessment during your first week of training and will participate in a fitness program. You will be formed as a company to promote teamwork, pride, and unit discipline, while marching to and from class. The company will be berthed (living) in a squad bay. Graduation is formal and visitors are welcome. Read the Helmsman for more information.

What to Bring

Cape May is located at the Southern part of New Jersey and experiences cold winters and hot summers. Dress appropriately. You will be issued a complete set of uniforms, three sets of physical fitness gear, a pair of sweats, swim suit and running shoes. In general bring minimal civilian attire - enough to report aboard and travel home. During the winter months bring a warm jacket and gloves to hold you over until you receive your uniforms. Read the Helmsman for more information

Pending approval from the Coast Guard Recruiting Command, you are eligible to apply for enlistment if you were discharged in pay grade E-4 or below with six years or less of prior active service, or E-5 and above with less than 10 years of prior active service. Prior-service personnel will not receive a pay grade higher than that held on their last separation from regular active duty.

This restriction does not apply to Coast Guard members re-enlisting within 24 hours of release.

Prior Service (Other Branch) - Enlisted Active Duty and Reserve 

Prior service personnel from any U.S. Armed Forces component may be eligible to enlist under the open rate list. At the time of separation from active duty, the applicant must have held the rate listed on the ORL or a comparable military occupational specialty. E-3 and below may not have more than six years prior active military. Applicant enlisting in pay grade E-4 or above, cannot have more than 14 years of prior active service.

If an applicant is enlisting under the ORL, he or she may be enlisted in the rate authorized by the chief of the Coast Guard Recruiting Command's Accessions division.

If the applicant does not hold a specialty at the time of separation that is included on the ORL, they enlist at the pay grade of E-3, regardless of the rank/rate they held at the time of separation. A reservist not re-enlisting through the ORL can be enlisted as an E-3 or below depending on past experience.

Prior-Service Coast Guard Petty Officers

A former Coast Guard petty officer may be authorized their former rank with designators if his or her rate is on the open rate list. If the rate is not listed on the ORL, they may be authorized a rank of seaman or fireman without a rating designator.

Coast Guard Reservists

In addition to the general criteria above, Coast Guard reservists can apply for re-enlistment within five years of separation.

The Open Rate List

These are the rules for rank (rate) retention for prior-service members enlisting in the Coast Guard. Depending on the needs of the service and approval from the Coast Guard Recruiting Command, you may be eligible to serve in your prior-service specialty.

The open rate list (ORL) is an up-to-date list of all Coast Guard jobs currently deemed as "critical". In order to apply, you need to have held the same or an equivalent military occupational specialty as one of the careers available on the list. Coast Guard Recruiting Command will consider good-faith applications when the rate was removed from the ORL during processing.

If you do not currently have the skills required to fill an ORL job, you can still enlist as an E-3 and be trained in a Coast Guard career.

Travel Information

When making travel arrangements, plan to arrive at the Philadelphia airport no later than 1600 on the start date of the class. Report to the USO, (located in Terminal A-East, Gate 6-A. Look for USO signs). Bus transportation from the Philadelphia airport to Training Center Cape May will depart sharply at 1900. If you encounter any problems, or miss the bus departure, call the Training Center at (609) 898-6915 and ask for the Officer of the Day (OOD). Transportation for late arrivals will be provided at 0800 Monday morning. Stay at the USO on Sunday night.

Address While In Training:

Last Name, First
Direct Entry Petty Officer Training Program XX-XX
Munro Hall
1 Munro Ave
Cape May, NJ 08204

Contact A Recruiter

To find out if you are eligible to join the Coast Guard or would like to see what jobs are available, contact a recruiter today.