A wide range of technical skills including those in electronics, information technology, computer systems, aviation, administration, finance, contracting, mechanics, security, and maritime industry can be developed by serving in the Coast Guard.
Although retention rates are high: 89% for black enlisted members; 91% for officers, according to Capt. Robert Stohlman, chief of the office of diversity, the challenge in reaching senior levels in the organization is directly related to the lack of role models and mentors currently in those positions.
“The number of minorities who graduate from the [Coast Guard] Academy are statistically low, but we’re working hard to increase the diversity of the corps of cadets to allow them opportunities to advance to senior officer levels including captains and admirals,” says Stohlman. For this year’s 2013 academy class, 16% of minorities were accepted, 2% of which were African American.
To improve retention and develop staff for higher levels of responsibility, the Coast Guard is emphasizing a mentoring network to help guide personnel in navigating their careers. Service people are also offered tuition assistance and the ability to pursue master’s degrees while on-duty.
As of July, of a total number of 203,768 Marines who are on active duty, 20,958 are African Americans. The result of no special retention programs is evident. Since the late 1990s, the number of black officers has declined. According to a report conducted in late 2007, black enlisted Marines were overrepresented in occupations such as food service, traffic management, supply administration, and operations. Black officers were also highly concentrated in aviation ordnance, financial management, electronics, maintenance, and ground electric maintenance, but underrepresented in tank and pilot occupations. Young black Marines are less likely to choose infantry occupations and more likely to choose careers in the area of support.
But black Marines were found to re-enlist in high percentages: in 2006, first-term enlistment for blacks was 40.4% in comparison to 23.8% for whites; second-term enlistment was 75.2% for blacks and 64.8% for whites; and third-term enlistment was 86.7% for blacks and 86.6% for whites.
Salary listings are similar across branches—a full-time, entry-level (E-1) enlisted member can earn $15,000 to $17,000 for their first year of service. A full-time, entry-level (O-1) commissioned officer can earn approximately $40,000, given that they come on board with four years of training. In correlation with the salary, service members are allotted certain allowances, which may vary depending on the branch. The general allowances include housing, family separation, clothing, and personal. But there are also incentives and special pay for specific career tracks, such as aviation career incentive pay, career enlisted flyer incentive pay, and hazardous duty incentive pay.
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.