Inside the Gates: Coast Guard turns to signing bonuses for the first time to attract new recruits

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 12:51 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -The United States Coast Guard continues its mission of protecting the nation’s shore despite a big challenge.

“We have a big active duty shortage,” said Lt. Simon Sekitoleko of the Coast Guard Recruiting Command out of Washington, D.C. He estimates the service needs 4,500 active duty personnel for all occupations.

Sekitoleko blames the shortage on the pandemic.

“Going to schools to recruit is our biggest help,” Sekitoleko said. “But with schools being closed for almost a year-and-a-half, it just didn’t do us any favors.”

The Coast Guard has taken a new approach to attract new recruits. It has become the last branch of the military to offer signing bonuses.

“Because of the shortage we’ve had, that’s why we’re giving up some of those bonuses as an incentive, as a way to incentivize people to come in and join,” said Sekitoleko.

The bonuses are not small.

“If you actually have a bachelor’s degree and you enlist, you’re getting a $10,000 bonus,” Sekitoleko said. “If you have an associate’s degree, it’s a $5,000 bonus.”

That money is paying off for the Coast Guard.

Bethel’s Matthew Kapsner and Gabriel West, of Big Lake, recently enlisted at the service’s Anchorage recruiting station.

“I never saw myself doing anything else that would be worth it, I guess,” said Kapsner. “I never saw myself going to college or anything.”

“I’m very excited,” West said. “I know boot camp is probably going to be very challenging, but I’m ready to push myself.”

The two will soon head off to start their military careers, with a few extra dollars in their pockets.

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