When Josh joined the Coast Guard his career moved very fast. He was a non rate for seven months before he got orders to A school which lasted eight months (one of the longest in the CG). Out of A school we got orders to Cape May and he advanced to Petty Officer 2nd Class (E5) within eight months after that. Advancement in the Coast Guard is based on a points system awarded by a test score, time in rate (your job), time in rank, total time in the CG, sea time (time on a boat) and award points. Since Josh had zero time at sea, zero award points, eight months in rate and rank and two years in total time, his advancement was pretty much based on his test score. He was very proud of himself and excited for his career. He immediately worked on getting qualified to take the next test up and was able to test for E6 by 2010, just under a year after he had made 2nd.
And then the Coast Guard changed. The downturn of the economy had caught up with the military and no one was getting out. No advanced spots were opening up so the number of people advancing declined drastically. For IT’s (Josh’s rate) the advancement number was zero for about a year. Even after that year, the number has continued to be around 3-5 per test, with one fluke of 20. Josh has continued to test awesomely but his name continues to drop on the list because that’s all he has going for him. At this point in his career he has one month of sea time, 3 award points, 5 years in rate, 4.5 years in rank and 6.5 years in total time. Compared to the guys he’s up against, who have been in for 10+ years, he has nothing.
Some people would say that he doesn’t deserve to advance because he hasn’t been in long enough and he’s barely been out to sea but I disagree. I see it as a problem within the Coast Guard. Josh’s rate as an IT is not a “sea going rate.” There are actually few opportunities for him to get stationed on a boat. But aside from that, in what other career field are the people who know their position well and perform excellently backburnered by the guys who have more time on the job? Essentially, doing a good job and advancing quickly has now become something that works against Josh. And he’s not the only one affected by this sort of Catch 22. The husband of one of my closest friends is an ideal Coastie who has performed beyond above expectations throughout his entire career but is now stuck because he has advanced so quickly.
My point in sharing all of this is to explain why Josh’s attitude about his career in the Coast Guard has taken a turn since those first few years. Retiring from the Coast Guard was not Josh’s initial plan but after the first few years of a promising career, it was something we had started to consider. Over the past two years those considerations have started to dissipate though and we’d decided that we’re definitely getting out once this contract is up. And then yesterday, possibility opened up once again in Josh’s Coast Guard career and things changed a little.
While we were in Cape May, Josh worked to finish up his college courses and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology Management (IT work – the same as what he does in the CG). At that point, he decided to apply to become a recruiter for two reasons. First to gain experience in a different field and also because he loves sales and thought recruiting was the closest duty to sales in the CG. Secondly, to get stationed in an urban area where there’d be colleges nearby to work on his Master’s degree. Of course he was selected for recruiting but unfortunately, because of the government cutting education funding for military members combined with the higher cost of Master’s courses, he hasn’t been able to work on his second degree. He started talking about trying to use his Bachelor’s to advance his Coast Guard career and looked into direct commissioning as an officer. The first problem we saw was Josh’s number of dependents. If you’re married and have more than one child, you must get a waiver in order to become an officer. The second problem we saw was that even though Josh’s degree is a technology degree (only certain degrees qualify for direct commission), it is also a management degree which does not qualify. He had to turn in his transcripts for approval and wait to see if it would count.
Yesterday, he got word that his degree was approved. The person in charge of commissioning spoke with him and not only told him that he was good to move forward with the application process but also said that getting a dependents waiver shouldn’t be a problem. So now Josh must write a personal narrative, get letters of recommendation, get a physical and interview. The deadline is the beginning of February and the board will review everything in March so we should know by April. If Josh is selected, we’ll be moving this summer. Being an officer, specifically an IT, means that our options for where we can move decreases, with DC and St. Louis being the two major hubs for Josh’s prospective position. He will also have to re up his contract for another 4-5 years from the time of accepting his commission.
It’s funny how fast things can change once you think you have everything planned out. Of course if Josh is selected, our problems with moving around are not solved. But in my mind of positive thinking, a smaller selection of job options means a higher chance of staying in the same area. If we get DC, we can buy a house in the suburbs and potentially stay there for the rest of Josh’s career (there are positions in both Arlington and Alexandria). In the meantime, I’m getting way ahead of myself and too excited over the prospect of advancement in Josh’s career. I’m so proud of Josh and everything he has accomplished over the past six years and I’m ready to see him be rewarded for it. Fingers are crossed!