Advancement through Education

Coast Guard reservists practice plotting charts during the Reserve Coxswain College course held in Portland, Ore., Aug. 28, 2015. More than a dozen Coast Guard reserve students from all over the west coast attended the college in order to hone their boat handling skills. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Coast Guard reservists practice plotting charts during the Reserve Coxswain College course held in Portland, Ore., Aug. 28, 2015. More than a dozen Coast Guard reserve students from all over the west coast attended the college in order to hone their boat handling skills. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

In 1941, the passage of the Coast Guard Reserve and Auxiliary Act was brought into existence to bolster the war efforts during WWII. At the conclusion of WWII, most temporary and regular reserve members either transferred into inactive duty or altogether discharged from service.

Almost a decade later, in 1950, Congress allocated funds for the establishment of a paid drilling reserve to support the Coast Guard’s growing port security operations. In October of that year, a Coast Guard Reserve unit was formed in Boston and it remains the foundation of what the Coast Guard reserve program is today.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lowell Belany, a reserve boatswain's mate out of Coast Guard Station Vallejo, Calif., takes the helm while navigating waypoints along the Columbia River during the Reserve Coxswain College in Portland, Ore., Aug 28, 2015. Students attending the college were required to plot out and navigate to waypoints using different on land reference points along the Columbia River. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Lowell Belany, a reserve boatswain’s mate out of Coast Guard Station Vallejo, Calif., takes the helm while navigating waypoints along the Columbia River during the Reserve Coxswain College in Portland, Ore., Aug 28, 2015. Students attending the college were required to plot out and navigate to waypoints using different on land reference points along the Columbia River. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

In the Coast Guard, reserve and active duty members are expected to advance at the same speed. For some rates, such as Boatswain’s mate, these advancements for reservists can prove more difficult that others due to lack of time on deck.

In order for a Boatswain’s mate to progress from 3rd class to 2nd class they are required to be fully coxswain qualified. This means having the knowledge and training to handle a boat, watch out for their crewmembers, conduct search and rescue operations and battle onboard emergencies.

In a year, reservists are only required to drill one weekend each month. This gives them a total of 36 drill days out of 365 days. When reservists are not drilling, they have fulltime jobs or attend school as fulltime students.

This year, for the first time on the west coast, Coast Guard Station Portland, Oregon, has established a Reserve Coxswain College to help with the advancement of junior reserve Boatswain’s mates.

“Having a school in Portland was an opportunity that I could not pass up,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Lum, a reserve boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Vallejo, California. “It is very hard to make our next rank without a proper school. We come in one weekend a month to get our qualifications, and end up having to relearn next month what we have forgotten over the course of a month.”

Coast Guard reservists practice towing evolutions during the Reserve Coxswain College course held in Portland, Ore., Sept. 1, 2015. While at the college, the students learned different towing methods, chart plotting, navigation, emergency casualty control as well as several different boat handling skills. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Coast Guard reservists practice towing evolutions during the Reserve Coxswain College course held in Portland, Ore., Sept. 1, 2015. While at the college, the students learned different towing methods, chart plotting, navigation, emergency casualty control as well as several different boat handling skills. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Lum explains that by the time he is done with the course in Portland, he is confident that he will be able to return to his home-station and get his coxswain qualification without any problem.

“Another great thing about this course is that I will also be able to take the skills I have learned here and pass them on to my shipmates in Vallejo,” said Lum.

While there has been a Coxwain C-School program in Yorktown, Virginia, many reservists on the west coast find it hard to get over to that course due to budget constraints with the cost of travel or scheduling conflicts due to the long distance.

During the two-week course, organized by members of Station Portland using the Yorktown curriculum, members from all around the region spend their days going through the numerous competencies it takes to become a qualified Coast Guard Coxswain. This includes chart plotting and navigation, basic boat handling, various towing evolutions and emergency casualty control, as well as other essential performance qualifications.

“After completing the course they will have to go back to their units, get their competencies signed off, take an oral board and complete a check-ride,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Fleischmann, the training petty officer at Station Portland. “The whole goal is to get them the hands on, repetition and boat knowledge so they can get qualified and go on to teach others.”

The reserves are a vital function of the Coast Guard. They are held to the same standards as active duty members and are always ready to be called during a time of need.

A Coast Guard reservist helps establish a tow during a towing exercise held by Coast Guard Station Portland instructors in Portland, Ore., Sept. 1, 2015. Boatswain's mates are required to learn several different methods of line handling while working aboard Coast Guard small boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

A Coast Guard reservist helps establish a tow during a towing exercise held by Coast Guard Station Portland instructors in Portland, Ore., Sept. 1, 2015. Boatswain’s mates are required to learn several different methods of line handling while working aboard Coast Guard small boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Through the Reserve Coxswain College, reserve members will be better trained and more confident in their abilities to both lead and act when called upon. These students will be a source of knowledge for junior and future Coast Guard members who will follow in their shoes.

“Doing my regular drilling, it would probably take me a year or more to become a coxswain at my home station,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Samson, a Reserve Boatswain’ Mate at Station Los Angeles Long Beach in California. “With this course, when I get back to my unit, I feel confident that I can say, ‘Yes, I know how to do this.’”

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