Surfman Billet

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Surfmen are the embodiment of the Coast Guard’s 169-year lifesaving heritage. When the pressure drops and the air is thick with salt, an art form is passed down to a new generation on the heaving decks of Motor Lifeboats. The veteran Surfman regales eager greenhorns with tales of courage and tragedy. Despite the marvel and glory inherent in the title “Surfman”, it is a constant challenge to fill these historic billets, certify new Surfmen, and provide opportunities to meet career milestones. Initiatives implemented to create a sustainable pool of Surfman routinely fail, resulting in billet gaps, fatigue, and low job satisfaction. The Performance, Training, and Education Manual (PTET) identifies flawed environments and ineffective reward or…show more content…
To train and retain the optimal number of Surfmen we must standardize instruction, consolidate training billets, and create an effective incentive program.

2. The National Motor Lifeboat School (NMLBS) located on the Columbia River Bar should be the central hub for Surfman training and certification. Surfman Trainer billets should be reprogrammed to general Surfman billets, and only NMLBS Instructors should sign off certification standards. Requiring a NMLBS instructor to be the signature authority for certifications will bring the surf program in line with other high risk training programs, ensure standard training techniques, and rapidly disseminate best practices. Surfman certification is currently only earned through On the Job Training (OJT) at the member’s unit. The PTET states OJT “uses unit specific knowledge and skills to improve an individual’s job performance”. Surfman certification requirements can only be met by driving a boat into breaking waves greater than 8’ under the watchful eye of a certified
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To ensure certification gains are permanent, an effective incentive program must be instituted that ensures a career as a Surfman exists. Currently, the advancement path for a Surfman is blended with other Boatswain’s Mates (BM). The BM advancement path routinely pulls Surfmen away from the surf to pursue career milestones. At the end of this assignment season, EPM reports that nine Surfmen jobs out of 125 will not be filled. Opponents might argue that there is already an effective incentive by giving all Surfmen who complete back to back tours in the surf assignment priority “3”; however, all Surfmen are required to complete back to back tours anyway. Furthermore, even with priority “3” after two consecutive tours, Surfmen normally don’t earn the competencies to serve on cutters, so they leave the program to fill small boat station career milestone billets, fall victim to high year tenure, or retire early. Offering an advancement path within the Surfman Instructor program ensures the highest levels of training, retains Surfmen who desire to stay in the surf, and provides a clear career path to attract Prospective
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