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Why Join

As a “cutterman,” you’ll join the oldest career in the service, safely navigating cutter ships and leading your crew in enforcing federal laws and completing challenging missions in unforgiving environments.

You’ll start out by leading enlisted members and learning the fundamentals of seamanship. As you progress, you’ll be given more responsibility to perform more complex missions on larger vessels. 

Ship assignments typically last two years, including one year at sea. In between sea duty assignments, you’ll focus on a secondary specialty and gain advanced training and education.

Law Enforcement Cutters

The Coast Guard’s multi-mission “white hull” cutters use their superior communications, speed, embarked boats, and aircraft to perform missions critical to national interests—such as drug interdiction, stopping human trafficking, and policing global fisheries. 

Waterways Management Cutters

The Coast Guard’s “black hull” buoy tenders and domestic icebreakers ensure the safe operation of our nation’s critical commercial waterways. You’ll become an expert in servicing and positioning the buoys that safely guide mariners into port and break safe channels in the ice in the Great Lakes and northeast waterways. 

Polar Operations

The Coast Guard has the only icebreakers in federal service that can operate at the poles. These “red hull” icebreakers can break through pack ice over 20 feet thick, providing essential logistics for the U.S. presence in Antarctica, conducting scientific measurements around the North Pole, and more. 

How to Become a Cutterman

You can start your career as a cutterman through a general commissioning source like Officer Candidate School and choosing your first and subsequent assignments in the specialty.

Related Enlisted Careers

Boatswain’s Mate