So many people love Cape May as a vacation destination—and rightly so! I wrote about it in one of my earliest posts, What is Cape May known for? However, there’s something else that is so much more significant—the Coast Guard in Cape May. If you’ve ever walked around Washington Mall, you’ve likely seen the recruits out and about. Many of the shops and restaurants treat them to special privileges which just makes me love Cape May even more. Two local spots that frequently support the “coasties” (as they are affectionately called) are Coffee Tyme and Primal restaurant.
Once, years ago, my daughter, my husband and I were in the Ebbitt Room for dinner. Toward the end of the evening, a gentleman stood up and announced that his son has just graduated from the academy. The pride in his voice was clear and strong. In honor of his son, he was buying the everyone a drink! We went over to congratulate the son and thank the dad. I could not help getting choked up as I shook their hands. It was a very Cape May experience.
The training Center Cape May is the sole training center for the entire enlisted workforce. It’s the 5th largest base in the Coast Guard and is considered to be the Coast Guard’s Hometown. The training center is on Sewell Point, which has a long history of naval presence dating back to the American Revolution. If you have visited the Cape May Nature Center, you have certainly seen the base. In 1948, all entry level training on the East coast was moved to Cape May and all of it was consolidated in 1982. More than 4,000 young recruits begin their training in Cape May each year. There are five resident training programs including: Recruit Training, Direct Entry Petty Officer Training, Company Commander School, Recruiter School and Recruiter-in-Charge School. Recruit Training is a foundational 53 day program and upon completion recruits will be members of the United States Coast Guard. It is very rigorous training—both mental and physical. The other specialized trainings vary in length. If you are interested in learning more, you can get the details here.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the over 350 military and civilian folks who are aligned to Training Center. Cape May is their home and many are raising families there. The have a unified mission “Transforming the recruits of today into the Coast Guardsman of tomorrow while providing superior mission support.”
Feel the Love
As I said before, there’s a lot of love for the Coast Guard in Cape May. Perhaps the clearest example of it is the Cape May County Coast Guard Community Foundation. This amazing nonprofit routinely does so much in support of the coast guard recruits. Every graduation is celebrated along Pennsylvania & Pittsburgh Avenue wish our country’s newest members of the Coast Guard a fond farewell and best wishing for their new destination and duties. They have so many programs aimed at helping the recruits feel welcome, supported and part of the Cape May community.
Every spring they hold the Southern New Jersey Coast Guard Ball which is open to the community as well. This black tie event is the kick off for Coast Guard Community Week, a week of special events throughout Cape May county in support of the coast guard. There are other events throughout the year as well, such as the Coast Guard Community Festival which features tours of the ship, a static helicopter display, entertainment, live demonstrations and more! This free event attracts more than 5,000 visitors a year. Unfortunately, it was canceled for 2022 due to weather, but hopeful for 2023. I invite you to check out their website to learn all about the support they provide and how you can help!
Operation Fireside is another great program that provides a sense of community to the Coasties. A Red Cross initiative, it connects Coast Guard recruits with local families who will host them for the holidays. These young men and women are far from home and family. What a wonderful way to offer support and get something so special in return. One day we hope to be in Cape May full time and I look forward to the opportunity to sign up and welcome them into our home!
I know this was not my typical post, but it’s such a huge part of what makes Cape May such a special destination! When we went to the West Cape May Christmas Parade last year and the Coast Guard led the parade, it was so heartwarming to me. I am always to touched when I see them out and about throughout town. Did I give you a little more insight into the Coast Guard in Cape May? I really hope so!
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