Coast Guard Required Knowledge For USCG Basic Training

Okay Coast Guard recruits, if you were allowed to read and memorize only one single page from this entire website, it would be this one. There are a lot of very important things you really need to know before setting foot in the Cape May Training Center and I cover them all in the Coast Guard Boot Camp Survival Guide, BUT at an absolute minimum, do NOT leave for USCG Basic Training without knowing your 11 General Orders of a Sentry, your USCG Rates and Ranks, and your USCG Chain of Command. These 3 items constitute your Coast Guard Required Knowledge.


11 General Orders (of a Sentry)

#1: To take charge of this post and all government property in view.

#2: To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.

#3: To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.

#4: To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guard house than my own.

#5: To quit my post only when properly relieved.

#6: To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me all orders from the commanding officer, field officer of the day, officer of the day, and officers and petty officers of the watch.

#7: To talk to no one except in the line of duty.

#8: To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.

#9: To call the petty officer of the watch in any case not covered by instructions.

#10: To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.

#11: To be especially watchful at night, and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.


Rates and Ranks

For your first ZERO TWO weeks at Cape May you will be addressing and responding to your Company Commanders in a sir or ma'am sandwich - "Sir, yes, sir!" or "Ma'am, yes, ma'am!".  They are no longer doing the sandwiches at TRACEN Cape May. For yes or no questions or if they ask you if you understand something you will simply sound off with "Yes Sir!" or "No Ma'am!". For almost everything else it will be "Aye, aye sir!" or "Aye, aye ma'am!" which essentially means "I understand your order and I will comply (execute your order)".

At some point toward the end of week ZERO TWO or the start of week ZERO THREE, you will be expected to refer to people by their rate (Enlisted) or their rank (Officers).

So here is what you need to know that I wish I knew before going. You need to memorize the title of every pay grade from E-1 to E-9, W-2 to W-4, and O-1 to O-10. That part is easy. The HARD part is that you also need to memorize the shoulder insignia and collar device for all the Enlisted, and the shoulder insignia, collar device, and lacing for the entire Officer Corps.


The shoulder insignia, collar device and (for Officers) lacing, are the various embroidery items that are attached to their uniforms. The idea is that when you are walking past someone on base, you should be able to look at their shoulder or collar and address them properly. The hardest part of remembering this information is that you will have to literally describe it in words. Let me give you an everyday example of what takes place when you are leaving the galley (cafeteria) so you get a better idea.

Petty Officer Allen: PIERCE!

Seaman Recruit Pierce: Pierce I, Petty Officer Allen!

Petty Officer Allen: Pierce, what is the title of an Echo Seven (E-7) pay grade?

Seaman Recruit Pierce: Petty Officer Allen, Seaman Recruit Pierce, the title of an Echo Seven is Chief Petty Officer.

Petty Officer Allen: What does the shoulder board insignia of a Chief Petty Officer look like?

Seaman Recruit Pierce: Petty Officer Allen, Seaman Recruit Pierce, the shoulder board insignia of a Chief Petty Officer looks like ZERO THREE Gold Chevrons BELOW ZERO ONE Gold Rocker.

Petty Officer Allen: Very well, go away.

That type of exchange takes place several times a day so you need to know how to describe all of them. You also just got a glimpse of the proper way to respond / speak while in recruit training. You'll learn more about how to speak and respond correctly in chapter ZERO SIX. The important take away here is that the descriptions are made bottom to top, with frequent use of the preposition ‘below’ to describe that order. Everything has a quantity and a color. Plus correct communication protocol.

I talk more about how to speak and respond correctly in chapter ZERO SIX of the Coast Guard Boot Camp Survival Guide and I cover all of the descriptions for every single USCG Rate and Rank from E-1 to E-9; O-1 to O-10; and CWO2 to CWO4 in chapter ZERO ONE. All of this Coast Guard Required Knowledge has been updated to reflect the changes that happened in 2017.

USCG Chain of Command

Last Updated On: 14 SEP 18 ***
Last Date Validated: 20 SEP 18

Secretary of Homeland Security: Kirstjen Nielsen

Commandant of the Coast Guard: Admiral Karl L. Shultz

Deputy Commandant for Mission Support: Vice Admiral Michael F. McAllister

Force Readiness Commander: Rear Admiral Brian Penoyer

Commanding Officer: CAPT Owen Gibbons

Executive Officer: CDR Brian Krautler 

Command Master Chief: CSCM David Pace

Training Officer: CDR Scott Rae

Regimental Officer: CDR Christopher Young

Battalion Officer: LTJG Matthew Navetta

Battalion Commander: BMCM Cory Wadley

USCG Current Chain of Command | Coast Guard Required Knowledge For USCG Basic Training

*** In the military you write the date in the fashion that you see here. It's the day first, followed by the abbreviated month, and ending with the year. Get used to it now. You will be doing it this way at the Cape May Training Center as well.

If you are shipping out close to the update date, this will likely be it. If you are shipping out later, keep an eye on this page and I'll update it as often as I get the latest one.

My Last Note Here: If you think that memorizing all of this information is difficult - well, you are right - BUT I have bad news for you. You will have to memorize ALL OF IT and you will be quizzed on it EVERY SINGLE DAY. I guarantee you that if you make it to Coast Guard Basic Training Graduation, that you will know all of this by heart. The question you want to ask yourself is: Do I want to learn this information now, before I go, or do I want to learn it all when I get to Cape May and I'm running on 5 hours of sleep (on a good day) and having to learn 20 other things every day? It's up to you. To each his own.

I hope you found this article informative. If you'd like, you can check out some more FREE articles on Coast Guard Boot Camp Training by following the site menu at the top of this page.

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As always, thank you for your support.


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