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Dear Coast Guard Family: Advice from an Assignment Officer

August 17, 2018

Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.

Nothing impacts Coast Guard life and a service member’s career quite like the assignment process. For many, it often feels like everything hinges on the outcome.

To give a little background: During the assignment process, a “shopping list” of available positions is published. Members utilize this list to construct their e-resume, a communication tool that allows members to express their assignment desires to their assignment officer. Members are encouraged to list as many positions as possible, beginning with the positions they most hope to be assigned to. Once selected for a position, members will receive orders.

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To get some expert insight and to obtain answers to some of your frequently asked questions, I reached out to Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Thornton, the machinery technician assignment officer.

Q:  How can members create a realistic e-resume?

A:  Throughout a member’s career we always hear “make sure you submit a realistic e-resume,” but what is a realistic E-resume? A realistic e-resume depends on the member’s rate, future goals, personal needs and wants and service needs. Because those are different for every member, there is no way to show a “canned” resume that we believe to be realistic. We can offer examples of how to develop the resume and offer advice on how to figure out if your resume is realistic. The best advice I can give is to make sure that you take into account things such as sea-to-shore ratio, jobs that will help towards advancement, personal and family needs, future goals and past unit history. It’s perfectly normal to not fully understand what to put in an e-resume to keep your career moving and your family happy. Your assignment officer is here to assist you in gaining a better understanding of the process. Taking advantage of career counseling is the single most important thing you can do to help during the assignment season. While talking to your AO they will be able to look at your career history, individual personal development record, performance factors, listen to your concerns and personal preferences and then formulate career advice that you can use when developing your resume. Career counseling is offered by all AO’s through Aug 31st – so, if you are tour complete in assignment year 2019 (AY19), I would highly recommend you reach out soon to discuss your career path.

Q:  What should be included in the “comments” section of an e-resume?

A:  The comments section is your chance to explain your e-resume to your AO. You can include reasons why you put certain jobs on your e-resume, personal and family needs and wants, future goals to help explain the jobs listed and more. Depending on the jobs you are asking for, you may be required to put a specific comment in this section. For example, if you are applying for overseas assignment you are required to put the following statement in your comments: “I have reviewed form CG-1300 Parts I-III, and I meet all requirements IAW PSCINST 1300 and received a positive command endorsement.” If your family is enrolled in the special needs program, I would recommend stating in your comments that you have looked at the job locations listed and they meet your family’s requirements. If you are married member-to-member, I would recommend adding a statement in your comments that your top priority is to be collocated with your active duty spouse, if it is indeed your top priority.

Q:  Should members receive career counseling? How important is this step?

A:  Career counseling is the single most important thing you can do to help get you and your family through the stressful assignment process. Calling your assignment officer is never a bad thing and it does not put you on the radar to get an undesirable job. We encourage all members, whether they are tour complete or not, to seek counseling from their AO. It’s a great opportunity to get that one-on-one time with the person who is making the assignment decisions. When counseling, we will look at and discuss your entire career and anything that may affect the assignment process to include: your performance, sea-to-shore ratio, unit history, and future goals. Career counseling is offered every year from May 1 through Aug. 31.  Members do not need to go through their commands during this time to schedule appointments. It is recommended you send your AO an email requesting counseling and they will respond with a date and time.

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Q:  How are assignment decisions determined and what factors are considered?

A:  There are 14 assignment factors that are used to make assignment decisions.  They are listed in COMDTINST M1000.8A and include:

  • Member desires
  • Assignment history
  • Assignment priority
  • Time in geographic area
  • Time at current unit
  • Commanding Officer’s recommendation
  • Service remaining before retirement
  • Service Need
  • Advancement status
  • Performance
  • Willingness to obligate
  • Qualifications
  • Physical condition
  • Service remaining in original enlistment

When assignment officers start the slating process, we use all of the 14 factors to make decisions on where a member is assigned. Some factors to keep in mind to help your chances of getting what you really want are your performance and assignment priority. Your performance is a very important part of the assignment process and one of the factors that you can control. Talk with your supervisors during mid-mark counseling and provide good supporting documentation to help get the marks you deserve. Your assignment priority is also an important assignment factor and also one that you can try to influence. By asking for the higher assignment priority units such as PATFORSWA, afloat and overseas assignments, you can put yourself in a better position to get a follow-on unit that you desire.  Please keep in mind that service need is an assignment factor and may take priority over all others.

Q:  Any guidance for special needs families? Should they notate special needs status in the comments section?

A:  If your family is enrolled in the Special Needs Program, the most important thing you can do is update your status with your Family Resource Specialist (FRS) every three years and also nine months prior to the assignment season. So if you are enrolled in the Special Needs Program and you are transferring in AY19, you should have already reached out to your FRS and made sure that your category and status is accurate and up-to-date. If you have not done this, I would recommend reaching out to your FRS as soon as possible.  When you’re developing your e-resume, it may require some homework to ensure that the locations you’re asking for are approved for the special needs category you are assigned. Please keep in mind that when we slate a special needs family, we will slate the member for the unit they earn on their e-resume then (depending on the Special Needs Program category) seek approval for that location from your FRS. If they deny it, then we have to revisit your e-resume and see what may be left that we can get approved for you. That is why it is very important to do some research on your own, contact your FRS to see if they can screen your top five locations and take full advantage of career counseling from your assignment officer. If you do all of this, you should be setting yourself up for success and hopefully a stress-free assignment year. Direct Access will tell the assignment officer if you are enrolled in the Special Needs Program and what category your family has been assigned. With that said it’s never a bad idea to include a short statement in your e-resume comments that your family is enrolled and that you have screened the locations you are asking for. Disclaimer:  For those assigned a Special Needs category 2 or 3, we are required to verify any location with your FRS.

Q:  What is your best piece of advice?

A:  If you couldn’t tell by my comments above, my best piece of advice for any member is to seek career counseling from their assignment officer. There is no better way to prepare for the assignment season and nothing can take the place of the one-on-one time that you get during career counseling. We are at the end of the career counseling phase, so please reach out soon to schedule that appointment. My other piece of advice is to keep in mind long-term goals when looking at your next assignment. Don’t just look at next year, but look at five or 10 years down the road and ask yourself where you want to be in your career. The decisions you make now for your assignments will affect your career in the future when working towards goals such as advancement to E-9, applying for Chief Warrant Officer, applying for special assignment, obtaining a command position and countless other career paths. It’s good to set shortterm goals but they should always be moving towards that longterm goal for your career.  Remember to seek counseling from your chiefs, command, peers and assignment officer to help develop those long-term goals.

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