It can be surprising and sometimes difficult when your loved one expresses a desire to serve his or her country in the military. As a parent, family member or friend, it is your responsibility to help guide them in the decision-making process, which can take several weeks or even years. You can give them the tools to make a good decision for their future by keeping the following things in mind.
Is the Coast Guard Right for You?
Navigating the mountain of information available in every branch of the military can be intimidating. You can help your loved one determine if the unique mission of the Coast Guard fits his or her personality, interests and values.
Meeting With a Recruiter
The first step to learning more about the Coast Guard is to meet with a recruiter. It is not unusual for parents to accompany their son or daughter to this first meeting, and it is beneficial to come prepared to ask questions about career advancement, health benefits, military life, culture, and other issues that a young enlistee may not consider asking.
Do not leave your recruiter until you feel confident that you are well-informed and ready to discuss the issues at home. It is important for parents to feel comfortable with their child’s decision to enlist, because you will become a part of the Coast Guard family too.
Application and Entrance
The process to enter any branch of the military is daunting, and the Coast Guard is no exception. Research the requirements, tests, and exams in advance so that you can help your loved one prepare.
If the decision to enlist is made, he or she will visit a military entrance processing station (MEPS) where they will:
- Take the ASVAB test (if not already completed)
- Take a physical examination
- Undergo a background screening
You may accompany your child to MEPS but will be asked to wait in a separate area. You can help collect the documents he or she will need, such as medical records, birth certificate, social security card, and driver's license.
Although the final decision to enlist in the Coast Guard is theirs alone, remind them that you are always just a phone call away to give support, advice, or encouragement.
Choosing a Career
You should definitely encourage your loved one to research the Coast Guard career opportunities that are available and help find one that suits their interests and talents well.
Basic Training and Beyond
After MEPS, recruits will either report directly to basic training or participate in the delayed entry program (DEP), which schedules him or her to attend in a few months (for example, following high school graduation). This is the time when you can assist them in wrapping up personal and financial affairs before leaving for basic training.
Though contact is limited in the initial training phase, you will be able to write letters. It is highly encouraged that you also attend your loved one's boot camp graduation, which is a culmination of all the work that has been put into their future. You are a significant part of that, and your support and continued encouragement is a vital key to their success in the Coast Guard.