Coast Guard offices on coasts busier after Sept. 11 attacks

Sara Drewry

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a three-part series about military enlistment.

Although Iowa is thousands of miles from a coastline, the U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Des Moines is seeing an increase in enlistment interest.

Chief Danny Lawson, recruiter in charge, said his office has seen an increase in people coming in and calling the office with interest in joining.

“We have had numerous people showing their patriotism and wanting to serve their country,” he said. “We don’t have an exact number of recruits right now . We can definitely say that the interest is up, though.”

Lawson said the Des Moines office is only one of two recruiting offices in the state of Iowa. The other is in Davenport. Both offices have only been around for two years.

“We are in the Midwest, far from the coast, and we have an awareness problem,” he said. “Most of the offices are on the coast and more established. So if ours is showing an increase, then others around the country definitely should be as well.”

Lawson said many of the interested individuals are over the age limit to join.

“A third of the interested ones coming in are above the age limits and have a higher education,” he said. “They are showing their patriotism and want to offer their services to the Coast Guard. However, because of their age, I can’t accept them.”

Lawson said veterans are also interested individuals.

“We can accept some of them that have already served,” he said.

The last third of the individuals, he said, are within the accepted age limits of the Coast Guard.

“We are attempting to process the majority of them right now,” Lawson said.

He said it takes a while to process applications and conduct background checks for potential Coast Guard members.

Chief Bill Carson, public affairs and ceremony officer for the Coast Guard in Cape Maine, N.J., said his base has not seen an influx in enlistment yet, because it takes a while for the time needed for processing.

“By the time the recruits get . to basic training, it has been at least a month,” he said. “But our recruiting branches are seeing a definite increase in interest.”

He said he has heard a number of responses from potential recruits about serving in the Coast Guard.

“The majority of them have expressed an interest due to patriotism,” Lawson said.

Carson said he thinks all military services are receiving more attention due to patriotism.

Lawson said the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Transportation rather than the Department of Defense, under which the other four operate.

“Two hundred years ago, the Coast Guard was strictly law enforcement,” he said. “The job was to defend the coast and stop smugglers.”

Since then, Lawson said things have progressed and the Coast Guard has been combined with military services.

“Our mission is quite a bit different than other services,” he said. “Only one of our duties is to guard the mainland of the U.S. and surrounding territories.”

Lawson said the Coast Guard also works as law enforcement to control migration and environmental spills.

It also acts as drug enforcement and search and rescue crews, he said.

“Everyday we are out doing something,” he said.

Carson said he thinks many of those interested in joining the Coast Guard do so because it is a life-saving service.

“We are about humanity,” he said. “Day in and day out – we take care of our environment, the general public, boating, aids and navigation.”