This article will run in the RESERVIST Magazine, Issue 2, 2018.
By: Anastasia M. Devlin
Lt. Steve Graff usually spends his days as a resource manager for the Reserve Program at Coast Guard Headquarters. He works on getting the billets with the right competencies in the locations where there is mission demand.
Graff has more than a decade of military recruiting experience, and, last year, he decided to see if he could visit the other end of the accession process.
He applied to the mentor program for the Coast Guard’s Training Center in Cape May, N. J., to offer his experience in support of recruits like himself.
As the coordinator for the mentor program, Parocha said his office receives more than a hundred applications to the program annually.
“We try to pick those people with a diversified career, someone who’s had noteworthy assignments – someone who can talk about what the Coast Guard does outside basic search and rescue,” said Parocha.
With around 40 companies graduating from Cape May each year, Parocha said they try to pair up the right mentor with the right company. The mentor application process for 2019 begins in late fall, and mentors are notified of their selection just before the end of the year. “Everyone likes to give back, and we’re blessed to be an organization that likes to invest in their future. That’s what we’re getting with these mentors.”
In March, Graff drove out to be the mentor for Company 03-18, which is part of the Direct Entry Petty Officer Training, or DEPOT, program. The program was specially designed to bring prior-service and well-qualified civilians into the Coast Guard.
Graff, himself a former member of the Navy and the Air National Guard, said he understood the challenges of coming to a new service and new career later in life.
Normally, with the eight-week boot camp, mentors meet with the company three times, but because DEPOT is a three-week program, their mentor only meets with the company once before graduation. (Parocha said this is on track with the regular boot camp, whose first encounter with their mentor is also around the three-week mark.)
Graff spent the evening at an informal get-together celebrating the recruit’s last night as a company together.
“They were about half active duty and half reservists, mostly in their 30s,” said Graff. “These people had a lot of life experience they were bringing to the Coast Guard, and it was great to see the level of talent. They weren’t students just out of high school – we’re bringing in mid-level professionals, and it was great to meet them.”
After an evening discussing the basics of a first-tour career in the Coast Guard, Graff spent a chilly morning checking in on recruit training, meeting Parocha and the company’s leadership team, and finally, attended the company’s graduation at the TRACEN Cape May gymnasium.
There, he praised them on all they’d accomplished in the long process of becoming fellow service members, cautioning them not to look too carefully at which component they’d chosen.
“We’re all one team, one fight,’” said Graff, “fully capable of serving together to defend our nation,” as shipmates who “may one day be called upon to serve anytime, anywhere.”
He closed his remarks with a reminder to his new fellow Coast Guardsmen: “Take care of your family, yourself, and your shipmates, and be ready to serve your country. This is not a full-time or part-time job, it is a career to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
LT Steven Graff, with the Coast Guard Office of Reserve Affairs, shakes the hand of a graduate during the graduation ceremony for members of the Direct Entry Petty Officer Training class 03-18, Thursday, March 29, 2018, at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J. Graff volunteered to act as the company’s mentor during their training and provided them insight on what serving in the Coast Guard was like. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer John Edwards.
LT Steven Graff, with the Coast Guard Office of Reserve Affairs, listens as Capt. Owen Gibbons, commanding officer of Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., introduces him during the graduation ceremony of the Direct Entry Petty Officer Training class 03-18, Thursday, March 29, 2018. Graff volunteered to act as the company’s mentor during their training and provided them insight on what serving in the Coast Guard was like. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer John Edwards