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What To Expect Once You Graduate – Afloat Operations

Stefanie Senkow
January 28, 2021

Aloat Operations
NEW LONDON, Conn. – So, you’ve graduated from the Academy and are about to embark on your first tour as a Coast Guard officer. You’ll most likely go to sea, reporting to your ship three months after graduation. Here’s a general overview of what this assignment will be like.

Your Primary Duty Will Be Either…

...A Deck Watch Officer or a Student Engineer. Deck Watch Officers (DWO) are the Commanding Officer’s direct representative on the bridge of the ship. They lead the bridge team while underway, navigate and maneuver the ship, and execute the mission, ensuring the safety, security, and operation of the ship. Student Engineers keep machinery running safely, stand watch, and train to lead engineering watch team. Once qualified, Student Engineers are Engineers of the Watch (EOW)Both positions require successful completion of a lengthy qualification process.

“I was a Deck Watch Officer on a 270’ Medium Endurance Cutter, the CGC NORTHLAND in Portsmouth, Virginia, for my first tour,” said LTJG Tim O’Loughlin. “I actually started qualifying as a cadet at the Academy, where I completed some prerequisites aboard CGC EAGLE during summer training. As a newly commissioned officer I earned my Quartermaster of the Watch qualification, which allowed me to start breaking in as a Deck Watch Officer. I finished the qualification process aboard CGC NORTHLAND.”

You’ll be assigned to a Division and might lead it.

You will be responsible for enlisted members of the crew, including highly experienced personnel from whom you will learn a great deal. Divisions commonly include Engineering, Navigation, Supply, and Deck.

“When not standing watch, I was Assistant Navigator, assigned to the Navigation Division,” said LTJG O’Loughlin. “I made sure charts were prepared before sailing, and I assigned the Conning Officers for Special Sea Detail,” said LTJG O’Loughlin. Special Sea Detail is an enhanced state of readiness with “all hands on deck” to ensure the safe passage and operation of the ship in restricted waters and/or during complex evolutions.

You’ll have responsibilities assigned by the Watch, Quarter and Station Bill (WQSB).

Every member of the crew has a job during every type of evolution undertaken by the ship. These assignment are posted as the WQSB. You’ll learn and perform your duty during man overboard evolutions, main space fires, flight operations, medical evacuations and much more. This is the essence of teamwork at sea. The crew trains regularly in order to be ready when the time comes.

Collateral duties

Every shipboard officer is assigned one or more collateral, or secondary, duties. These can range from Boarding Officer to Wardroom Treasurer, to Public Affairs Officer or Morale Officer. Every assignment brings tremendous opportunity for growth and professional development.


...Prepares you for second and third tours as a Coast Guard officer. As a Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) seeking an assignment in Afloat Operations, you can expect to serve in positions of greater responsibility, such as:

  • Operations Officer aboard a 225’ buoy tender
  • Commanding Officer of an 87’ patrol boat
  • Executive Officer of a 154’ patrol boat
  • Navigator on a U.S. Naval vessel, on exchange from the U.S. Coast Guard

Find out what your first assignment has in store for you.