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Direct Commission Aviator (DCA)


The Coast Guard aviation community consists of approximately 800 pilots and an enlisted workforce of approximately 2,500. Together, these pilots and aircrews fly 5 types of aircraft in the Coast Guard’s inventory, representing 200 airframes dispersed among 24 Air Stations. The DCA program is designed to meet aviation needs by seeking trained and qualified commissioned military pilots from other services to access into the Coast Guard. Direct commissioned aviators, although they receive training on Coast Guard specific aircraft, typically require less training than Coast Guard pilots who originate internally and apply to CG flight school.  Pilots who meet eligibility criteria and successfully compete for selection can fully expect a career as a Coast Guard aviator.

Initial Assignments and Training:

DCAs work with a Coast Guard assignment officer following selection. The assignment officer will review the individual’s education, experience, qualifications, and their expressed assignment interests, to issue orders to a position at a Coast Guard field unit position that best aligns the selectee’s talents and potential with the needs of the Coast Guard. After commissioning (which occurs approximately 30 days prior to attending the Direct Commission Officer (DCO) course in New London, Connecticut) new officers will execute permanent change of station (PCS) orders and report directly to their first unit for a brief period. DCAs will then go TDY to the DCO course. The DCO course will be five weeks in length. At DCO training, DCAs receive initial indoctrination to the traditions and programs of the Service, and training on Service-specific administration essentials needed to their successfully serve as a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard. Following completion of DCO training, DCAs will return to their unit.

DCAs will transition to flying CG aircraft and later attend training at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center (ATC), in Mobile, Alabama.

Career Path:

DCAs can fully expect subsequent operational assignments within the aviation career track, in addition to assignments supporting aviation training and program management. DCAs will also have opportunities for special assignments and assignments within sub-specialties (training, human resources, etc.).

DCA Eligibility Requirements:

  1. Age: Have reached your 21st but not your 37th birthday as of 30 September of the fiscal year in which the selection panel convenes.
  2. Character Standards:
    • All applicants must be of outstanding moral character
  3. Citizenship: Must be a U.S. Citizen
  4. Clearance: Must be eligible for a Secret Clearance
  5. Dependency:
    • If single, may not have sole or primary legal or physical custody of dependents.
    • May not have more than 3 dependents (your spouse is considered your dependent, regardless of military status).
  6. Education:
    • Have a baccalaureate or higher degree or
    • Receive the ACE recommended score on the five general CLEP exams (i.e. English Composition, Humanities, Natural Science, College Mathematics, Social Science/History) or
    • Have one year of college (30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours) and have completed at least one college-level mathematics course, or receive the ACE recommended score on the College Mathematics CLEP exam.
  7. Financial: Must meet all financial obligations, and not have a debt to income ratio in excess of 80% (ratio of debt to projected income at applicant’s highest accession level, i.e. O-1 or O-2, as applicable).
    • May not have filed for bankruptcy in the last 10 years
    • Student Loans: applicants shall also disclose to their recruiter any student loan payments that are in deferment, and the anticipated date and amount of repayment of those loans.
  8. Interview: DCA applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by three Coast Guard officers
  9. Military Service: (all of the below must apply)
    • Max Active Duty Service: Have less than 10 years of non-Coast Guard active-duty military service as of the date of accession, which is equivalent to the date that the applicant, if selected, will take their oath of office.
    • Min Active Duty Service: Service on active duty, other than active duty for training, as a pilot in the U.S. Army (commissioned or warrant officer), Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or National Guard for a minimum of 2 years. (note – National Guard applicants with no active duty service are not eligible, but Army active duty personnel assigned to National Guard components are eligible.)
    • Conditional Release: Members currently in another military service (or IRR) must furnish an approved DD368 form (conditional release) in their application package.
      • Release approval (validity) period: The release shall be valid, at a minimum, through the date of the panel for which the applicant is applying.  Ideally, the release should be valid through the projected accession date for that panel.
      • IRR: Recruiters shall submit the DD368 (with only Section I complete) to CGRC Accessions branch at
      • Members of Other Military Services (except IRR): The applicant shall submit the DD368 (with Section I complete) through their chain of command to their services’ authorizing official* (which is different for each service).  Once approved, the DD368 and any other approval documents (i.e. Service Memorandum) shall be submitted in the application package.
    • Commissioned Officers: who have been separated or removed from active duty from any Service as a result of non-selection for promotion, extension, or integration may not apply for any Coast Guard commissioning program.
  10. Physical (Medical):
    • Must pass a Class 1A flight physical examination.
    • Meet Height/Weight standards.
      • Due to ejection seat limitations associated with the T-6 Texan Training Aircraft, pilots must be between 62” and 77”
    • Shall complete a structured physical fitness program while at DCO School
  11. Test Score: Commissioned officers from other military services do not have to produce a test score.
  12. Program-Specific Experience/ Information:
    • Be a graduate of a U.S. Military flight training program.
    • Have served on active-duty as a pilot in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Air National Guard, for a minimum of two years, but not to exceed 10 years.
    • Have a minimum of 500 hours of military flight time in a manned aircraft as of the application deadline date.  Flight hours in training, simulators, or UAs will not count toward this total.
    • Have had primary employment as a pilot (military or civilian) within two years of the selection panel convening date
  13. Tattoos: Applicants may not have tattoos or body markings that are inconsistent with the CG tattoo, body marking, body piercing, and mutilation policy, COMDTINST 1100.1 (series). 
  14. DCO Pre-Reporting Guide: Applicants must read and understand the DCO Pre-Reporting Guide.

DCA Appointment Grades and Term of Service:

  1. Selected applicants will receive a 5 year active duty obligation.
  2. The selection panel determines the appointment grade of each selectee.
  3. Selectees will receive a commission as an Ensign (O-1) or Lieutenant Junior Grade (O-2) in the U. S. Coast Guard Reserve.

Application Process:

If you are ready to apply, you must visit the “Plan Your Next Move to become an Active Duty Coast Guard Officer” page and follow the application process.