It All Began with a Recruiter

Coast Guard District 11 NewsBy Fireman Jordan Akiyama

The Coast Guard is a multi-mission capable organization. From keeping waterways navigable with aids to navigation, saving lives and preserving the environment with search and rescue and environmental protection, to ice patrols in the frigid waters of the Arctic, these jobs define the service and its 220 years of history. However, every Coast Guardsmen had a beginning, every rescuer had a start, and every enlisted member went through the same process to join the Coast Guard, and it all began with a recruiter.

Recruiters are notoriously thought of as used car salesmen. They prey on naïve kids and sell the flashy dreams of the better life.

“Parents think recruiters are snatching children up in the middle of the night and sending them off to Vietnam,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Warren Weatherford, a recruiter out of Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California. Weatherford said that for a recruiter, that’s one of the hardest misconceptions to get over.

Seaman David Flores, a Coast Guard reservist recruited by Weatherford, affirms that he was not snatched up in the middle of the night. Flores, who has been enlisted since July 2010, remembers when he first met with Weatherford.

“I did a Google search of Coast Guard recruiters in the area and happened to find Petty Officer Weatherford’s e-mail among them,” said Flores. “After a few e-mails shot back and forth between us, we decided to meet at his office. He answered all of my questions to the best of his ability, as well as got me a pretty good deal coming in.”

A recruiter is there to lay down the foundation for the entire Coast Guard by ushering in new recruits. It is through their integrity and judgment that future Coast Guard men and women are chosen. Recruiters are the filters that shift through a multitude of applicants to find those worthy of wearing Coast Guard blue.

“Ultimately the recruiters have the final say as to who joins and who doesn’t. I don’t have to put in anyone that I don’t want to serve with,” said Weatherford. “Recruiters recruit in their own image. We look for people who fit within our core values.”

Thousands of candidates that try to enlist in the Coast Guard every year and less than a quarter of them will qualify to join.

“I’ve handled about 1,500 people in a year and a half trying to join the Coast Guard and I’ve only put in 22.”

According to Weatherford, only 25 percent of candidates eligible for military service will pass the screening process. Many candidates are disqualified for having medical conditions such as attention deficit disorder or asthma. However, the number one disqualifying factor for a majority of people is weight.

The Coast Guard is always looking for bright men and women to join their elite ranks; however, the recruiting process takes time. Before an eligible candidate can enlist, the recruiter does a thorough background check that involves looking at past medical records and searching for any criminal history. From the time he took his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, it took Flores eight months to go to basic training.

Recruiters need to be dynamic, personable, patient and flexible. Their tactics and demands change as the services needs and purposes change.

“The biggest push right now is reservist. Its Coast Guard Recruiting Commands focus,” said Weatherford.

This year, the Coast Guard is looking to recruit about 1,300 reservists. As a way to maximize this recruiting process, the Coast Guard has procured mobile temporary additional reserve recruiters, also known as T.A.R.R.’s, to enlist skilled individuals such as fire fighters, police officers and other federal employees.

“When I started the recruitment process, I didn’t know what I could do until after I got my ASVAB scores back,” said Flores. “Depending on how I scored, it would determine what I could go into. Thankfully I scored alright on it and I had my pick of whatever I wanted.”

Flores knew what rate he was going to pursue before enlisting.

“It was kind of cool going through boot camp and already knowing what I was going to be doing.”

Coast Guard recruiters are looking to set up shop on Coast Guard instillations. Coast Guard Island has the very first recruiting office on a Coast Guard base. According to Weatherford, it is a pilot program that hopes to strengthen bonds with Coast Guard Island and the active duty members.

“Coasties sell this better than anybody,” said Weatherford. “You’re recruiting even when you’re not recruiting. When you’re out there telling people about how cool your job is, you’re helping the recruiting process. It’s easier for 100 people to talk to 100 people. Also, there was a need with the Officer program. You need to go through a recruiter for the officer program. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

The Coast Guard is a tapestry constantly being weaved. Displayed across it is a story of the services past, present and future. It is a rich story told by its members and the recruiter is like the needle ushering the story along. Every Coast Guardsmen had a beginning, every rescuer had a start, and every enlisted member went through the same process to join the Coast Guard. However different a story that beginning may be, it all began with a recruiter.

For more information on joining the Coast Guard, visit

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