The Commandant of the Coast Guard is the highest-ranking member of the organization. He or she is a four-star Admiral and is appointed by the President of the United States, upon confirmation by the Senate. Unlike the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Commandant is not a voting member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, he or she participates in all meetings and functions of the Joint Chiefs. He or she reports to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard
The Coast Guard’s most senior enlisted member is the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG). The MCPOCG serves as the senior enlisted representative of the Coast Guard and primary enlisted advisor to the Commandant. The MCPOCG must be a living example of the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. Individuals who are selected to serve in this prestigious position must possess the highest standards of professionalism and personal integrity. Responsibilities of the MCPOCG include advising the Commandant on matters concerning the morale and welfare of active duty, reserve and retired enlisted members and their families.
The Coast Guard officer corps is comprised of graduates from the United States Coast Guard Academy and Officer Candidate School, plus a number of direct commission programs. The officer corps provides leadership and professional development to all hands. The Coast Guard officer corps is largely involved in duties that provide direct or indirect leadership to day-to-day activities of the deployable, mobile or shore-based forces that execute our missions.
Chief Warrant Officers
Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officers (CWOs) are prior enlisted members who were selected to become specialized members of the officer corps. As such, they hold a unique organizational position and provide comprehensive knowledge and management in a technical specialty, such as marine inspection.
Coast Guard officers are graded on their performance regularly and after meeting time-in-grade requirements and continuing education requirements, promotion eligible candidates are reviewed and selected by a promotion board. The board selects those promoted in their selected pay-grade. The number promoted depends on actual and forecasted vacancies in each pay grade and on the maximum number of officers authorized by Congress.
Chief Petty Officer
In the Coast Guard, a chief petty officer carries unique responsibilities. With the exception of the U.S. Navy, no other armed force throughout the world either carries the responsibilities or grants the privileges to its senior enlisted personnel comparable to the privileges and responsibilities of a Coast Guard chief petty officer. The mission of the chief petty officer is to provide leadership to the enlisted force and advice to Coast Guard leadership to create mission-ready maritime forces. Some who reach senior enlisted leadership go on to become Command Master Chief Petty Officers and serve as the commanding officer’s principal enlisted advisor on issues and policies concerning morale, welfare, job satisfaction, discipline, utilization and training. In this position, they report directly to the commanding officer.
Once Coast Guardsmen complete recruit training they leave as an E-2 (Seaman Apprentice, Airman Apprentice or Fireman Apprentice) or an E-3 (Seaman, Airman or Fireman). Their first assignment may be to a Coast Guard unit (cutter, station, sector, etc.) or to a technical school (“A” school) to learn one of the Coast Guard’s job specialties, commonly known as a “rating.” (A detailed explanation of all ratings available in the Coast Guard, including guides to the kinds of jobs rate-related training can lead to in the civilian world, can be viewed under the “Enlisted Opportunities” section at www.gocoastguard.com.)
Members can advance as far as master chief petty officer in individual ratings. Advancement is competitive and only the best-qualified Coast Guardsmen are advanced. In order to be advanced, an enlisted Coast Guardsman must obtain a recommendation from the commanding officer; complete performance qualification tasks; complete required rating course; successfully complete any required service schools; fulfill time in service and time in pay grade requirements; meet security requirements; be in the proper path of advancement for their rating; and compete in service wide examinations, if applicable. After taking the exam, advancement depends on actual and forecasted vacancies in the rating and pay grade and on the maximum number of additional petty officers authorized for advancement.