I served on 2 small boat stations, a cutter (ship), and a recruiting station. My best experience, ever, by far, was saving lives at sea. I did over 500 rescues, I was at some very, very busy locations. People at risk on the open ocean are helpless, living minute to minute, fearful, and pulling them to our Coast Guard decks, getting them out of danger, was like Christmas and New Years and your Birthday all at once. Problem is, we were all always too busy in the rescue to celebrate it, which we did later, yes with beer, at the nearest seaside bar off duty. Different time, maybe, but I always felt calm and happy and really alive after a rescue, beer or no beer. I think we all did.
The expressions on the faces of the people we rescued were a mixture of fear, (sometimes outright terror), concern, and gratitude. We actually had some survivors try to hand us money. One person, after we wouldn't take his money, fished out a roll of tape, and taped a 100 bill to the side of our boat secretly at about midnight while we tied him up safely, when we weren't looking. The boat seaman found it in the light of the next day while we were doing boat checks. We used to tell people, 'hey, you pay your taxes, right? you don't owe us a thing. just pay your taxes.'
For me the saddest experiences were when there was nothing we could do, when someone passed at sea, drowned, and we had to recover their remains. I was disgusted, angry, mad, every time, in accordance with the age and circumstances of the person's passing, but I used it and made certain we were always ready to go, that no equipment failure or omission would ever cause us a shred of remorse in any rescue. If someone died young, and for a foolish reason, that made me the maddest.
Saving lives was an amazing experience, by far the best job experience I've ever had in my life. Think about that.
A close second sad experience was stopping drug smugglers. Cartels are run by criminal psychopaths, and to see how badly they treat everyone was and is disgusting. Most smuggling crews were happy, I repreat, happy, to get busted by us. Once we had them, at least they'd get clean drinking water, a shower, hot food and a blanket, even if they were in cuffs, and they'd be smiling and happy we busted them, happy to see us. Drug dealers are psychopaths. And their crews would eat anything, they were so hungry, so dehydrated. Damned shame.
So, good luck to you, and trust me when I say that if you choose the USCG, all the effort you will put in will be well worth it. And, I did a B.S. and M.S. and had a career after I left the service, 25 years ago. With all due respect to my later employers, The Coast Guard was and is a good job, best rewards I ever had, saving people from awful situations.
And, I never started out with that in mind, never set out with all that knowledge, I was just looking for a job and some travel and some technical training. It all just happened to me, and it's not recruiting hogwash. I am a 50% service connected disabled coastie today, and yes, I'd do the USCG all over again in a second.