The United States Coast Guard’s Officer in Charge (OIC) certification—be it for Afloat, Ashore, or both—requires an astounding depth and breadth of knowledge spanning every aspect of Coast Guard operations. But all the technical know-how in the world is for naught if the OIC candidate does not possess the maturity, professionalism, and dedication to duty necessary to exercise effective leadership and to ensure all Coast Guardsmen under his or her command fully understand their responsibilities and have the requisite skills and to fulfill them.

When evaluating candidates, an OIC Review Board can reference more than a dozen manuals and publications to determine how well they have mastered subjects such as Search and Rescue,  Navigation, Civil and Naval Engineering, Boat Operations, Ordnance, Investigations, and Command at Sea, to name a few. Just as important, however, is the Board’s used of open-ended questions that require potential OICs to display the ability to adapt their training and education to real-life situations, both in emergency settings and in the course of carrying out the Coast Guard’s missions on a routine basis.

OICs are expected to establish a command environment in which all Coast Guardsmen know their duties and following procedures is second nature. Of the handful of disciplinary actions the Coast Guard takes against OICs each year, far and away the most frequent charge is fostering a poor command climate.  

OIC Ashore certifications include multi-mission and Aids-to-Navigation. Of the two ratings currently eligible for OIC certification, Boatswain’s Mate (BM) and Electronics Technician, the training of ETs make their initial OIC certification more likely to be for an Ashore facility rather than Afloat. The reason is relatively straightforward: while an ET can reach the paygrades of E8 (Senior CPO) or E9 (Master CPO) without any OIC certification, Boatswain’s Mates must be OIC-certified both Ashore and Afloat in order to reach the same paygrades in their rating.

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