Jan 09


Skip BowenHanging up the uniform need not mean walking away from the opportunity to continue to serve others.  There are a number of efforts that have emerged in recent years as a way to enable veterans to continue to serve their communities and their country.

Recently, I learned about the U.S. Coast Guard Retiree to FEMA Reservist Initiative, spawned through conversations about how Coast Guard retirees can help meet the disaster response personnel needs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  I asked Charles “Skip” Bowen, former Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard, to share the background on this new program.

VSB: Tell us about this innovative initiative and how it came together.

Bowen: As a new co-chair of the Commandant of the Coast Guard National Retiree Council, I was looking for ways that Coast Guard retirees could “give back” by applying the experience they gained during their military service. Throughout my own Coast Guard career, I took pride knowing that I was part of a humanitarian service; search & rescue and emergency response are the missions that initially attracted me to the Coast Guard and are largely why I remained for so much of my career. I know that many Coast Guard retirees share my desire to continue to serve by applying our training and skills where they are most needed.

During my research, I learned that FEMA — one of our sister agencies within the Department of Homeland Security — is experiencing a personnel shortage in its Reserve program.  Over 2700 FEMA Reserve positions are vacant.

I know that many Coast Guard retirees share my desire to continue to serve by applying our training and skills where they are most needed.

After further exploration and many conversations with respected colleagues, it became clear that Coast Guard retirees’ experience in disaster response, rescue, hazardous material handling, survivor support and recovery operations could bring a reliable and dedicated source of support to help meet FEMA’s current response and recovery needs.

Our dialogue led to the creation of the U.S. Coast Guard Retiree to FEMA Reservist Initiative.

This effort is intended to increase “the depth, reliability and skill set of FEMA’s incident workforce … (by enhancing) its corps of intermittent employees who serve on the ground during disasters…” 

The Initiative provides an opportunity for Coast Guard retirees to support one of several Incident Workforce Cadres. These include, but are not limited to, roles in acquisitions, disaster emergency communications, disaster field training operations, hazard mitigation, logistics, safety and security.


VSB: Are there any prerequisites to be eligible to participate? Is there specific training that will be required?

Bowen:  While there is no age restriction, FEMA’s Conditions of Employment includes the following stipulation: I understand the Agency may ascertain the fitness of applicants as to health, character, knowledge and ability before appointing them to the Reservist Program.

Once a Coast Guard retiree is accepted, he or she will participate in an in-house FEMA training program. FEMA Reservists are trained and qualified to perform a myriad of tasks during a disaster response.  When they are deployed, Reservists will be reimbursed for travel and paid as intermittent FEMA employees.


VSB: How can veterans from the other Armed Forces lend their support to this new program?

Bowen:  Reaching out to Coast Guard retirees will serve as Phase I and “proof of concept” for a larger initiative targeting all military veterans. During the second phase, our Council will work with FEMA to reach out to retirees from the other Armed Forces.  Phase 3 will entail a targeted effort toward all military veterans in general and to wounded warriors in particular.


VSB: Where can our readers learn more about this opportunity?

Bowen: Interested Coast Guard retirees can learn more about how they can help fill a critical need in FEMA’s disaster response and recovery capabilities by visiting:



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