When people think of American military enlistment options, the ones that are most likely to come to mind are the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. Another choice available to those looking to serve their country is Coast Guard enlistment. The most common type of Coast Guard enlistment is active duty, but recruits may opt to join the reserves if their geographic area and desired field have reserve openings available.
Active duty Coast Guard enlistment requires a commitment to serve wherever needed, which can be stateside or overseas. This commitment lasts for no less than eight years total. The most common breakdown of service is four years on active duty and four years of inactive duty in the reserves. Active duty commitments may also be as short as three years or last up to six years in certain circumstances. The exact enlistment contract length is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Recruits must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for active duty Coast Guard enlistment. All applicants must be U.S. citizens or have resident alien status, and be fluent in English. No recruit may be younger than 17 years old with parental consent to join, or older than 27 years old. An applicant who previously served in the military or is attending an "A" school, or job training after boot camp, may be able to enlist up to age 32.
Certain educational requirements are also in place for active duty recruits. To be eligible for Coast Guard enlistment, all applicants must have a high school diploma and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and physical examination. In certain circumstances, a General Educational Development (GED) may suffice, but this determination is made on a case-by-case basis by the Coast Guard recruitment office.
Reserve units of the Coast Guard may be called into active duty at any time that their service is needed. The service commitment for reserve Coast Guard enlistment typically consists of much less time than the active duty contract. Generally, reservists commit to serving two days a month and two weeks a year.
Applicants who are interested in reserve Coast Guard enlistment are required to meet most of the same qualifications as those who choose active duty status. The primary difference in the requirements is the age limit. Reservists may be up to 39 years old at the time of enrollment. Additionally, a candidate must typically live within 100 miles of a Coast Guard station that has reserve opportunities available in the desired field to qualify for enlistment in the reserves.