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USCG's First English Language TP Recruit Grads
by U.S. Coast Guard Author
January 1, 2023

On August 16, 2022, five new recruits got off the bus at Training Center Cape May, New Jersey to begin a pilot recruit training program for the Coast Guard ... the English Language Training Program or ELTP.

U.S. Coast Guard recruits begin instruction at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) as part of the Army's Echo Company at Joint Base San Antonio on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas on September 1, 2022. The recruits will return to Training Center Cape May upon completion of the 10-24 week DLIELC program and progress through the follow-on weeks of the normal recruit training process. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Katie Shveda.)
U.S. Coast Guard ELTP recruits begin instruction at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) as part of the Army's Echo Company at Joint Base San Antonio on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas on September 1, 2022. The recruits will return to Training Center Cape May upon completion of the 10-24 week DLIELC program and progress through the follow-on weeks of the normal recruit training process. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Katie Shveda.)

Since as early as 2019, at the Council on Recruit Basic Training (CORBT), the Coast Guard brought up the struggles that recruits that spoke English as a Second Language (ESL) were having stemming from English comprehension.

Historically, recruits were not tested using the English Comprehension Language (ECL) exam at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) prior to shipping out to Cape May. Some recruits were tested at Cape May by the Educational Services Officer after being identified as failing to meet academic or recruit standards by the company commander staff.

In 2020, two more factors shaped the landscape for starting the program – a shortfall in recruitment and the emphasis on diversity initiatives. The Coast Guard Force Readiness Command (FORCECOM) identified the need to address attrition in recruit training to be able to send qualified people to operational units feeling the personnel shortfall.

Being such a small service with approximately 55,000 personnel, every person matters for the Coast Guard to operate a multi-mission, interoperable fleet of 243 cutters, 201 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, and over 1,600 boats. Each position that isn’t filled has an exponential, negative impact on our effectiveness not to mention increased stress and workload for those left to fill in the gaps.

The service recognized the value of a diverse workforce, and the asset multilingual recruits could be in an era where fewer people are desiring to serve in the military – as little as 9% according to a recent 2021 DoD survey of young adults who said they would consider military service.

Besides just taking their place and achieving success at a new duty station, many service members have gone on to become interpreters for some of the Coast Guard’s more sensitive missions around the globe. Removing barriers allowed the Coast Guard to bolster its effectiveness and ability to project influence and build partnerships with both local and international audiences.

The service’s stated goals were that every single person can pursue and achieve personal growth and professional success in a culture that not only attracts the best of America’s diverse population, but encourages America’s best to stay. The ELTP offers opportunities for recruits with a variety of language backgrounds, not only Spanish - the predominant minority language the Coast Guard sees apply.

In support of the Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Linda Fagan’s guiding principle of Transforming our Total Workforce, through the collaboration between FORCECOM, CGRC, and Training Center Cape May, the service continues to examine ways to bridge those hurdles that would stop someone from being successful in the Coast Guard.

This year the Coast Guard received funding to establish a memorandum of agreement with the Defense Language Institute English Language Center (DLIELC) and the Army’s Echo Company, a unit that provides a learning environment to Initial Entry Soldiers for English Language Training and prepares them for the mental and physical demands of Basic Combat Training in support of Army operational requirements, to implement the ELTP program.

After an initial onboarding at Training Center Cape May during which recruits are issued uniforms, medically screened, and officially hired, they travel to Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland to join the Army’s Echo Company. While part of Echo, recruits participate in physical fitness, military orientation, daily inspections, formation movements, team building and other activities to learn and conform to military standards before they begin the ELTP.

The ELTP at the Defense Language Institute will require a minimum of 10 weeks to receive an accredited diploma but can also require up to 24 weeks to earn a qualifying ECL score if needed. Upon completion of the ELTP, recruits then come back to Cape May to finish the last 5 weeks of traditional Coast Guard recruit basic training before reporting to their first unit after graduation.

“I want students to leave with a sense of confidence, pride, and excitement for the future. We are laying the foundations for what they will experience in recruit training and at their first duty station,” said Petty Officer First Class Benjamin Scudder, Coast Guard company commander and instructor at DLIELC.

On December 22, 2022, the first two ELTP recruits graduated with recruit company C-203, successfully completing the Coast Guard’s basic training program.

U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Pedro Perez Torres (left) and Seaman Madelin Germonsen Santos (right) graduate basic training with recruit company Charlie-203 at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, New Jersey on December 22, 2022. Torres and Santos are graduates of the Coast Guard’s new English Language Training Program, which assists recruits who could struggle in basic training due to language barriers by sending them to a military language school to become proficient in English prior to beginning their training in Cape May. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannon Kearney.)
U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Pedro Perez Torres (left) and Seaman Madelin Germonsen Santos (right) graduate basic training with recruit company Charlie-203 at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, New Jersey on December 22, 2022. Torres and Santos are graduates of the Coast Guard’s new English Language Training Program (ELTP), which assists recruits who could struggle in basic training due to language barriers by sending them to a military language school to become proficient in English prior to beginning their training in Cape May. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannon Kearney.)

“I commend each Coast Guard recruit who will participate in the ELTP for not only their courage, but also for their dedication of wanting to make a difference in the Coast Guard,” said Capt. Warren Judge, commanding officer of Training Center Cape May. “Together we are better.”

Seaman Madelin Germonsen Santos, one of the recent graduates, said that she really appreciated the Coast Guard’s new program as it helped her to complete the full recruit training requirements and become a full member of the active-duty workforce. She also highly recommends the program to those who are on the fence about joining the service.

“The DLIELC program taught me things that I never learned in elementary school,” Germonsen said. “Conversational exercises and reading books helped me learn a lot,” she added.

Additionally, she is inspired to become an instructor herself hoping to help those who would follow in her footsteps and maybe even become a company commander in the future.

According to the Commandant of the Coast Guard’s Ready Workforce 2030 Vision, diversity and inclusion are no longer an afterthought in organizational culture; employers must actively demonstrate how they are ingrained not only into their mission sets but also their recruiting strategies. It is expected that employers accommodate different styles of thinking and create work environments that enable and empower all types of workers to connect.

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