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Why Join

The Coast Guard’s only dedicated surge force—the Reserve—is a contingency-based workforce that is trained locally and deployed globally, providing ready and responsive personnel to meet mission requirements within the prioritized focus areas of defense operations; ports, waterways, and coastal security; incident response and management; and mission support.

Qualifications and Training

Generally, qualifications are the same as active duty. All recruits will complete some form of basic training, but the length will depend on your education, experience, and if you have prior service.


As a Reservist, you’ll work side by side with full-time servicemembers. No matter what mission, your assignment will typically have you report for duty two days a month and two weeks a year at a base near your home to maintain your certifications and readiness. Often, you’ll have flexibility to schedule these “drills” to meet your needs.

Opportunities exist to volunteer for shorter- and longer-term activations to support a range of missions with planned operations or contingency response.


The Reserve includes both enlisted and officer members in a diversity of ratings and officer specialties. If your education or experience aligns with one, you may qualify to join at an advanced pay grade or be eligible to apply for a direct commission program. Otherwise, the Coast Guard will provide the specialty training to prepare you for your assignment.


As a Reservist, you’ll enhance your professional experience with available tuition assistance, on-the-job training, and specialized training. You’ll also receive comprehensive low-cost benefits, including healthcare, tuition assistance, life insurance, and a retirement plan.

Unique Paths, with Unique Opportunities

There are many ways to join the Reserve and use your expertise and experience to protect, defend, and save. Some programs even offer expedited training and entry at a higher rank based on your skills.

  • Port Security Units: Among the most intense assignments are the Reserve-exclusive Port Security Units (PSUs). PSUs provide response to natural disasters and security to forward-deployed ports and bases around the world. Learn more about PSUs.
  • Lateral Entry: You may be eligible to enter at a higher rank and have your specialty school assignment waived with prior military service or professional civilian work experience. Your local recruiter will be able to explain what your journey will look like.
  • Direct Entry Petty Officer Training (DEPOT): The three-week Direct Entry Petty Officer Training is an alternative to the full basic training. Geared toward those who will serve as Petty Officers based on their professional or prior military experience, this accelerated course will prepare you to assume your responsibilities as a Petty Officer. 

Selected Reserve Direct Commission Program (SRDC): The Selected Reserve Direct Commission (SRDC) program is a competitive application process where selectees join the Coast Guard Reserve as commissioned officers after a five-week indoctrination course. Depending on factors like experience, you may even be able to start your officer career at an advanced rank. Learn more about SRDC.