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Charting Your Course

You are about to get underway on an eight-week journey* that will take you to a level where you can serve your country with professionalism and effectiveness. You will develop confidence, teamwork skills and learn what it means to live in accordance with our Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.

The training is tough. We save lives and enforce the law. This is too important and challenging for those who are unprepared. Your training can be broken down by color and stress level into a few identifiable stages:

*Basic Training is eight weeks long. However, if you are held back in training for disciplinary, medical, or academic reasons, it could be longer.


Week 1: Stress High

Start your travel to Cape May well rested. During your first night here, you will sleep in the clothes you arrive in, so make sure you travel comfortably.

Upon arrival at the Philadelphia International Airport, all recruits must report immediately to the USO office located in the secure side (not the ticket counter side) of Terminal A-East. Use the elevator adjacent to Gate A-6-A to get to the USO on ground level. A USO volunteer will be at the office to assist you with the rest of your trip. If you were issued a meal check by MEPS and have not used it prior to arriving at Philadelphia Airport, you are authorized to fill out the meal check and provide it to the USO Manager. The USO has a variety of foods available.

Company Formation

Week 2: Stress High

After forming week you will be assigned to a Recruit Training Company, and meet your Company Commanders (CCs). If you are like most people, your lead CC and assistant CC will be among the most significant influences in your life. They will ensure that you overcome the challenges of training and make the transition from civilian to Coast Guard member. Your first weekend with your company will be a challenging time for you. You will learn how to act as a member of a team, and how to obey orders. Many recruits find this the most difficult period in basic training.

Prepare yourself for this. Remember that the beginning is hard but you will quickly learn how to meet the many requirements and challenges placed upon you. Your objective here is simply to get “squared away” and begin your transformation.

Learning the Basics

Week 4: Stress High

Your first order of business is an introduction to physical fitness and required knowledge. You will start learning military drill, military customs and courtesies, and begin basic Coast Guard orientation. The more required knowledge you can memorize before you arrive for training, the better off you will be.

Practical Training

Week 5: Stress Medium

Your training during this period will be much more practical and hands-on. You will learn fire fighting and marksmanship. You will learn about line handling and seamanship, and you will also continue with classroom instruction.

At the end of the fourth week of training, you will take the mid-term exam. When you pass this exam, your training will take a significant turn. You will have the opportunity to submit your preferences for the geographic location of your first assignment. The Coast Guard will then assign you to a ship or shore unit depending on the needs of the service while attempting to match that need with your location preferences. Rest assured that every non-rate assignment offers the same opportunity for a successful start to your career.

The Coast Guard has a priority to fill certain billets as follows: Operational Afloat, Operational Ashore, Operations Support, and finally General Support. Therefore, the majority of all recruits find their first duty is operational. You will be required to contact your new unit and speak with a designated sponsor who will give you the information you need to make a successful transition to new duties.

Preparation for Your First Unit

Week 6: Stress Medium

At the end of the fifth training week, you receive orders to your first assignment and things start happening quickly. By this phase of training, you are conducting yourself as a member of the armed forces. Your training is progressing through practical areas, like first aid and watch standing. Learning about your military entitlements will also prepare you for upcoming travel arrangements and graduation. All of these details will be taken care of prior to your departure from Cape May.


Week 8: Stress Optimal

Graduation is the culmination of the Recruit Training program and a proud moment for the graduates, their families and the Training Center staff. Graduation ceremonies are usually held each Friday morning at 1100. The ceremonies are typically held outdoors. In the event of inclement weather, graduations are held in the Training Center gymnasium. The family of each recruit is sent a letter informing them of the details of the graduation ceremony.

For more information on graduation, parents may check the Cape May website.

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