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CADET BLOGS

cadet blogs

The Ensign Experience

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Schroeder Photo Hi once again from Kodiak, Alaska! A couple weeks ago, I returned from a three-week patrol in the Gulf of Alaska. I was able to qualify as Quarter Master of the Watch (QMOW), which basically means I was in charge of charting the ship’s position. I also was able to stand watches driving the ship. It was pretty cool to know that I was in charge of safely maneuvering a 378-foot vessel! While I was underway I learned a great deal, I had a lot of stuff thrown at me, and I was able to really understand what it might be like next year at my first unit after graduation. We got to see several whales; do a couple fish calls and catch a lot of halibut; and we got a port call in Seward, Alaska. Seward was amazing, I saw two glaciers, one I hiked to and another I took a boat to. It was also nice just to see the mainland of Alaska. All the hard work I put in at the Academy during the academic year definitely pays off in the summer. I have gotten to see so many amazing places I never thought I would see; who else could say they got to live/travel in Alaska for 11 weeks?

 

Since we have been back in port, Kodiak has gotten even more beautiful. Everything is green, there are wildflowers all over, and when it is sunny there is no better place to be. I have gone salmon fishing, hiking, and had a few bonfires on the beach and at the river. While I have been in port, I have also been standing Officer of the Deck (OOD), which means that, under the instruction of an officer, I am in charge of the ship’s routine and safety for the day. I definitely had a lot of paperwork assigned to me, just like I will be sure to have next summer when I report to my ensign billet. So even with all the hard work, it is definitely worth it because I am getting the ensign experience now and will be somewhat prepared for my life as an officer.

 

I have about three and a half weeks left here in Kodiak until I go home for a few weeks before school starts, and I have a lot to look forward to. Next week, I will go to Boarding Team Member (BTM) school. A BTM is someone who goes on boardings of other vessels while the boat is underway. So that is pretty cool. I will also be getting pepper sprayed (not so cool), and get to re-qualify in pistol, and qualify in rifle shooting. So although I still have some time left here, and I have been busy, I definitely have some things to look forward to. I have also made so many friends and professional connections with the crew aboard the Munro. The Coast Guard is a small service, so more than likely I will see some of these people again, which is exciting. Being here has also given me a completely different perspective on what I want to do for my ensign tour. It is hard to believe that in just a few short months, I will receive my billet list and have to decide where I want to spend two years of my life. And in less than a year I will (hopefully) graduate and receive my commission and get to go to a real unit like this one.

 

More about Jade.

 

A Summer to Remember

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Weeks Photo My 2/c summer experiences have been nothing short of amazing. Since the end of the school year, I have shot pistols, learned the Rules of the Road (ROTR), flown helicopters, practiced conning T-boats, and sailed a yacht to some of the nicest ports in New England! Not to mention, all of this was done with my best friends. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I’ll be the first to tell you that I am beyond satisfied with this summer and it isn’t even over yet. All of these activities are covered in the 2/c summer training program, along with Cadre Summer, which starts for me in one week. I could write a novel about my summer experiences but, for the sake of space, I’ll just write about Coastal Sail and the Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP).

 

Coastal Sail is a two-week training program for 2/c cadets. We are divided into teams of six or seven, provided a sailing yacht and safety officers, and then sail approximately 280 miles along the coasts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The trip is divided up into nine legs, ranging anywhere from 15 to 40 miles. We spent each night in a different port, some of which were Newport, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Block Island. While underway, each cadet had the opportunity to be Watch Captain (in charge of the yacht) for an entire day. This was an incredible experience for me; it was like being the Commanding Officer of a Coast Guard cutter. As the Watch Captain, I decided when to set sail and when to motor and, along with my navigator and helmsman, successfully navigated the ship from Hyannis to Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts. Other daily duties included mess cook, deckhand, and in-port Officer of the Deck (OOD). For the latter half of my transit, a thick fog descended on the water, reducing visibility to only a few hundred feet. This was a stressful time for me but, from the knowledge I acquired in ROTR, I knew what fog signals to sound and was able to confidently coordinate passing arrangements with nearby vessels. After we safely moored up in Cuttyhunk, we sat down at the table and debriefed the entire day. As a crew, we reflected about what worked and what could’ve gone better. The debrief proved invaluable to me, as my classmates’ advice helped me to better my leadership style and learn more about myself.

 

CATP has been the highlight of my summer thus far. Six classmates and I were flown down to Aviation Training Center Mobile for a week of Coast Guard aviation exposure. This consisted of listening to pilots talk about their experiences, playing with multi-million dollar simulators and, most importantly, actually getting some stick time. I was given the opportunity to fly a Dolphin helicopter (MH-65) for about an hour, which was incredible. The pilot gave me the controls and said to me “The world is your oyster.” I will never forget hearing those words as I took the Dolphin’s controls…I simply felt free. Able to go wherever I wanted. From that point on, I knew piloting helicopters is what I want to do in the Coast Guard. Other memorable events throughout the week included jumping into Pensacola Bay to be hoisted up by the Dolphin, touring the Gulf Strike Team’s warehouse, and also getting some stick time behind the HC-144 Casa Ocean Sentry (fixed wing).

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you enjoyed it! As always, I am more than happy to field any questions or elaborate on my experiences! Just shoot me an email at Zachary.W.Weeks@uscga.edu.

 

More about Zach.

 

Incredible Experiences Underway

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hello! Good morning from South America. Hanna and I are more than halfway done with our time on the USCGC Thetis, which is crazy to think about. We have been underway for over a month, more than four weeks of living in a 250-foot space. We have been extremely operational this patrol in terms of the crew (not necessarily Hanna and me). However, we have been required to and are expected to rise to multiple occasions, participating in complex evolutions that require a lot of coordination on the bridge. Hanna and I are still breaking in underway Officer of the Deck (OOD), which means that we spend eight hours each day on the bridge, learning how to drive the ship and respond to any issues that an old ship like the mother Thetis is likely to encounter.

 

We have had a very exciting cruise and in the past weeks, we have experienced some things that I'm sure will make some of our classmates envious. In addition to the action of an Eastern Pacific patrol, we had a swim call where the entire crew was invited to jump off of the flight deck into the big blue Pacific! I tried to do a flip but ended up landing much less than gracefully. The entire crew busted out laughing and when I emerged; I also struggled to harness my laughter. (I was pretty sore the next day.) I was amazed by the clarity of the water and the temperature was refreshing; all in all probably my favorite day to date. After we swam around the cutter for two hours, Hanna and I had barely dried off before we were told to put on boat crew helmets! We got to ride in our small boat, an experience that was exhilarating and fun. As the boat bounced from wave to wave with a surprising amount of speed, I thought about how cool it would be to be a boarding officer and ride it for real! Hanna and I were soaked by a wave as we climbed off of the little boat, grasping the Jacob’s ladder as we scrambled back onto the Thetis. Later that night, I started to break in as Helicopter Control Officer (HCO). The job is not terribly complicated but it's important because it orchestrates the communications needed to operate our helo. I enjoyed speaking into the three different radios and look forward to my next session.

 

Hanna and I moved up to a stateroom when the new ensigns came on board. THE NEW ENSIGNS ARE HERE! They met us at our port call and it was so good to see our friends from the Academy, still smiling from graduation, but they were quickly a little stressed because it’s overwhelming for sure. I was so happy to see them come aboard. It is amazing to think that, at this point, Hanna and I can actually help someone else with getting to know the boat. We are just excited to change things up. Living in the stateroom is a complete 180 from female crew berthing. It’s a lot quieter, a lot less crowded and, honestly, it's boring. The women on board took us in like one of their own, and we had shared quite a few nights of gossip, laughter, and silliness that is only natural when 12 women are living in a small area. We had a lot of fun down there, and we learned that if you open yourself up, and expose your inner goof (mine isn't very "inner"), people have an easier time relating to you and mutual respect is almost certain. I know that the enlisted-officer boundary is one to be maintained but living with someone for a month will bring you together, especially underway, especially on the Thetis.

 

I am having a whirlwind of a summer. I have been lucky enough to get email from friends and family, which really brightens my days.  I learned that for my down time next year underway, I really need to buy some sort of iPad or tablet thing and load it with music and media because I only have an album of Taylor Swift’s (1989) that I know literally every word to, and probably half of the ship has her songs stuck in their heads. (I LOVE TAYLOR SO IT'S OKAY). I am excited to go home because I haven’t been home since Christmas, and my sister and I really need to reunite because I miss her terribly. She is one of my frequent emailers. Her one liners are my favorite; one specifically, "I got my nails done today, it was great!" Thanks for that.

 

More about Lucy.

 

James' 1/c Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Greetings! It is hard to believe that the operational part of my 1/c summer is coming to a close and that, in less than a month, I will be reporting back to the Coast Guard Academy early to assume the duties of Regimental Communications Officer. As I have stated in my earlier blogs, the Academy summers are what I feel make it stand out from civilian colleges. During the summer, you gain practical and technical knowledge that you can capitalize on in your future career as a Coast Guard officer. The summer also gives cadets a chance to utilize the theoretical knowledge they have learned in their courses and test it out in the fleet.

 

My summer started when another 1/c cadet, four 3/c cadets, and I reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter. Although the Valiant was home-ported out of Naval Base Mayport, Florida, I was never north of the Florida Straits during my time on her. We picked up Valiant south of Key West on a law enforcement patrol in the Florida Straits. Underway would be the operative word describing my time aboard the cutter, as 37 of the 42 days I was attached to Valiant were spent out at sea; first on patrols in the Florida Straits and later in the northern Caribbean, primarily in the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti. Although the copious amounts of sea time did mean a lack of reliable communication with family and friends, it did give me a plethora of operational experience that I feel some of my other classmates might have missed out on—and I still got some amazing port calls in Key West, Guantanamo Bay, and Grand Turk.

 

In the Coast Guard they say that District Seven (the southeastern U.S., where I was serving aboard Valiant) is the “tip of the spear” operationally, and that was unquestionably true for my time on Valiant. I certainly have to tip my hat to members of that crew, who were chiefly responsible for the interdiction and repatriation of almost 300 illegal Cuban and Haitian migrants during my month and a half on board. The hard work that went into performing at that high level certainly gave me a greater appreciation for all that the big white-hull cutters do. I was especially appreciative of the opportunities to participate in gun exercises, flight operations with a Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, and migrant operations. I also got valuable experience breaking in as both Conning Officer and Deck Officer (the person responsible for the driving and operations on board a cutter), which gave me a chance to utilize what I had learned in my Nautical Science courses at the Academy.

 

As much as I enjoyed the first half of my summer aboard Valiant, I got a chance to experience a totally different side of the Coast Guard during the second half at Air Station Clearwater (Florida). As a cadet who hopes to go directly to flight school from the Academy (keeping my fingers crossed!), it was an amazing opportunity to spend five weeks with aviators and flight crews, learning how the air station operationally supports search and rescue and law enforcement operations in District Seven. I was able to not only learn more about flying and the aircraft, but also all the logistical and mechanical services that keep Coast Guard aircraft flying. I was especially grateful to all the members of the air station who were kind enough to give me experience both working on the aircraft and participating in operations with rescue swimmers and load masters.

 

My biggest takeaway from this summer is that no matter how much you think you know about Coast Guard operations, there is always more to learn. Participating in migrant interdictions on board Valiant and on aircraft out of Clearwater gave me a greater understanding of a Coast Guard mission that I previously had little exposure to. Additionally, my operational summer gave me a greater appreciation for the hardworking personnel across the Coast Guard. The willingness of the crews on the cutter and at the air station to include me in their day-to-day tasks only confirms what I already knew—that members of the Coast Guard l are truly top-caliber employees and people.

 

Well, that pretty much sums it up. The next blog I write will most likely be when I am back on the beautiful grounds of the Coast Guard Academy campus. If you have any questions for me about the Academy or Coast Guard Operations, I invite you to email me at James.D.Engelhardt@uscga.edu. Until next time, fair winds and following seas!

 

More about James.

 

3/c Summer and the Benefit of Summer School

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Fruhwirth Photo It is crazy to think, as I sit here writing this, that I am now a 3/c and beginning my second year at the Academy! Spring semester flew by and before I knew it I was boarding Eagle and setting off on a five-week adventure. Very quickly my classmates and I acclimated to underway life, getting into the routine of standing duty and getting qualified in things such and Helm and Lookout as well as Auxiliary/Engineering. It was a wonderful learning experience, especially being able to interact with enlisted personnel and officers alike. The port calls weren’t too bad either: Key West, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; Norfolk, Virginia; and Staten Island, New York!

 

After I departed Eagle, I returned to the Academy for the six-week long summer school program allowing me to take Calculus II and Organizational Behavior and Leadership (OBL). I was placed in Foundations for Calculus first semester of 4/c year, then Calculus I second semester. The reason I am in summer school is due to my major; I am a technical major (Marine and Environmental Sciences) and must have Calculus II completed before my 3/c academic year begins. So here I am! An added bonus — taking OBL will actually give me a free period next semester, which will definitely help me out academically.

 

It is absolutely unreal to see parts of Swab Summer unfold and not being a swab this time! It’s so cool to see my mentors take on the role as cadre, while also seeing a new class that will take our place as lowest on the totem pole—it is a very exciting time here at the Academy! Amazing how fast this year has gone by!

 

More about Ainsley.