Coast Guard recruits and their instructors are already banned from dating each other, but a new Force Readiness Command directive prohibits fraternization in the year after recruits have completed training.
ALCOAST 413/13, distributed in September, lays out new rules for instructor-recruit relationships, banning instructors and former instructors from engaging in or attempting to engage in romantic relationships with newly minted Coast Guardsmen up to a year after their graduation from recruit training.
“Over the past several years, cases of inappropriate personal relationships and sexual misconduct between training center instructors and recruits, recent recruits and other trainees highlight the dangers of this dynamic, especially within the first year of a recruit’s graduation from training,” the message says.
The Coast Guard does not specifically track cases of instructor-trainee relationships, said Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, a public affairs officer for the Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Military Campaign Office. Rather, they are bundled with statistics from a range of prohibited relationships within the service, though those statistics were not readily available at press time.
O’Neil did clarify that the directive is not in response to an epidemic of inappropriate relationships.
“It’s simply a recognition that we can further define these [mentoring] relationships, particularly as they extend beyond everybody’s time at a training command,” he said. “So when there are those mentoring relationships, there is a very distinct reminder that it must remain a professional relationship.”
The new directive broadens existing rules to cover all instructors or former instructors at any of the Coast Guard’s enlisted accession training programs, preventing them from engaging in relationships with anyone who underwent training while they served as trainers. It would apply even if the trainer and trainee served in different locations.
Instructor-trainee relationships were previously banned because of the obvious, unavoidable rank and authority disparities in a training setting. But that dynamic can continue beyond graduation, Coast Guard officials said.
“For the first year following recruit graduation, our newest shipmates are particularly vulnerable to manipulation by persons in positions of authority over them, due to the inherently coercive environment of the recruit training process,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil said that while instructors are encouraged to establish professional, mentor-mentee relationships with recruits, the trust built over the course of training can be breached if an instructor or graduate attempts to replace a professional relationship with an intimate one.
“The potentially coercive relationship between a recruit and a company commander or instructor does not disappear upon the recruit’s graduation from basic training,” he said. “Nor does it dissolve upon the company commander’s or instructor’s transfer from a recruit training billet.”
The Coast Guard’s Cape May, N.J., recruit training center put a similar policy in place four years ago, but it only applied to unit-level relationships.