Getting us all on the same page – HSWL releases updated “Sea Legs” reference guide for our loved ones

Graphic for Dialouge with the MCPOCG series.

This blog post is the fifth in a series titled “Dialogue with the MCPOCG,” written by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell. As the Coast Guard’s senior enlisted leader, Cantrell is responsible for advising the Commandant on workforce issues, and advocating for military benefits and entitlements. He will periodically use this platform to pass information to the Coast Guard workforce.

Written by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven W. Cantrell

It’s been said, through a couple variations of the same quote, that understanding comes to us in the following sequence: First, we don’t know what we don’t know; then, we know what we don’t know; and finally, we know what we know.

Starting out in the Coast Guard is no different.

You show up, either at Training Center Cape May, N.J., the Coast Guard Academy or Officer Candidate School, and you commence “drinking from the firehose,” as they say.

In addition to all the information we must learn about the Coast Guard’s history, missions and our jobs, there’s also a lot of personnel items we must know about to be successful – pay, health care, personal finances, TDY and PCS orders, protocol and customs, and what to do when we’re getting ready to leave the service.Sea_Legs_cover

Although information pertaining to all those personnel items is shared with us early on and often, our spouses, children and loved ones don’t get the same exposure to it all – especially loved ones of our newest joins.

But, we’re working hard to improve those communications.

I recently attended a presentation by the Guardian Spouses, a group of Coast Guard dependents of active-duty Coast Guardsmen assigned to Training Center Cape May or one of the tenant command aboard the TRACEN. They volunteer their time to provide valuable information to the spouses and future spouses (boyfriends and girlfriends) of Coast Guard men and women about to graduate Recruit Training.

Additionally, I’ve seen the Coast Guard’s Ombudsman Program expand greatly in the time since I joined. Coast Guard ombudsmen are better connected and better resourced than ever before. And, you can obtain great information and communicate directly with ombudsmen through the Coast Guard Ombudsman Registry.

But, the principal resource I want to plug right now is a Coast Guard life and services handbook called Sea Legs.

Sea Legs is a guide to help those with a close personal tie to a member of our workforce smoothly transition to a military lifestyle. It’s been around for years, with MCPOCG #10 Skip Bowen’s wife Janet as the principal driving force behind its creation. Recently, though, Sea Legs has been updated and was published earlier this week.

It’s perfect for the spouse of a new member, but it’s also great for parents, kids and others who are close enough to our members that they anticipate going through some of the ups and downs of the military lifestyle.

Leaders at all levels are encouraged to share this resource with their teams.

The information is accessible right now in the following formats:
• The entire 76-page PDF can be viewed or downloaded at
• The information is organized by chapter and is navigable via the menu on the left side of the Sea Legs website at

In the near future, we also plan to print a few thousand hard copies to go to TRACEN Cape May, recruiting offices, and military entrance processing stations so that our future members’ loved ones can have access to the information right from the start.

MCPOCG Cantrell shows and early draft of the updated Sea Legs reference guide to the Cape May Guardian Spouses Club at Training Center Cape May Oct. 24, 2014.

MCPOCG Cantrell shows an early draft of the updated Sea Legs reference guide to the Cape May Guardian Spouses Club at Training Center Cape May Oct. 24, 2014.

If you’re married like me, imagine how much more comfortable your spouse would have felt about the upcoming transition to being a Coast Guard spouse if he or she was handed this reference guide before you shipped off to basic training. Think about what a huge headstart it would have given them!

My hat goes off to everyone who worked hard to make the Sea Legs update happen. This was a collaborative effort by the Office of the MCPOCG and the Health, Safety and Work-Life Directorate (CG-11) and talented and dedicated people across all of the CG-1 directorates, particularly: Shay Cook and Christine Degraw who oversaw the project and consolidated edits and recommendations; Claudia Isaacoff who put the website together; Chris Rose who laid out the print version; and PAC Kyle Niemi in my office who is helping to market this to our workforce.

A very special thanks go to members of the Guardian Spouses and the Cape May Spouses Club, who reviewed early drafts and provided recommendations and resources. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also thank my wife Janet, who was really passionate about getting the updates done and ensuring the publication remained the great resource that it is.

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