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CADET BLOGS

cadet blogs

Open Fire

(Athletics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Hi everyone! The summer training period here at the Academy is in its third week. Last week I had the opportunity to shoot pistol as part of our range week training, and I was also part of the commencement ceremony for the graduating seniors.

 

Range week was very interesting. Monday morning was spent in a classroom setting where we learned about the safety procedures for shooting at the range, and we also learned about the .40 Sig Sauer pistol. The Sig is the standard pistol used in the Coast Guard and it was very cool learning how to take it apart. In the afternoon, we were able to practice our aim at the pistol range with lasers that registered where our shots were landing on a computer that displayed the target. Tuesday was our first day of shooting. Many of my classmates had never shot before, but many others, including me, had shot pistols before. However, I found that my shooting experience didn’t really translate into higher scores. The minimum score to qualify as a marksman in pistol is a 114 out of 150, and I only got a 79. Some of my classmates qualified on the first day, but many returned on Wednesday. After some additional coaching, I felt much more comfortable shooting, and I ended up qualifying with a score of 118. That isn’t a really high score but I was happy to improve so much from the day before. There are three levels of qualification, marksman, sharpshooter, and expert (these range from the minimum qualification score to the maximum). I’m not sure exactly what the ranges are but sharpshooters and experts get to add a pin to their pistol qualification ribbon. Many of my classmates also qualified that day and by the end of the week, everyone qualified. The Academy range instructors pride themselves on a 100% qualification rate, so if you’re concerned about passing, have no fear! We have great teachers.

 

This blog only scratches the surface of my range experience but I really enjoyed it overall. I learned that experience does not necessarily translate into good technique, but with proper training and a little practice, it is possible to qualify quickly.

 

Commencement was a major event as well. I had the honor of being in the cordon, which is hard to explain to be honest. Our responsibility was to make an isle of bodies saluting as the official party arrived and departed. The official party was RADM Stosz, ADM Papp, and Secretary Johnson (the Secretary of Homeland Security). The commencement ceremony was great. There were speeches by the distinguished graduate (ENS Jocis), RADM Stosz, ADM Papp, Secretary Johnson, and CAPT McCauley. At the end of the ceremony, the new ensigns tossed of their cadet shoulder boards and covers, donning their new ensign covers and shoulder boards. Then, each of the new ensigns gave their first salutes. As part of Coast Guard tradition, the ensign gives a silver dollar to the first person they salute, so that was special to see. After commencement, the ensigns packed out of Chase Hall for the final time and they headed off to begin their careers as commissioned officers in the greatest sea going service in the world. It was a bittersweet day for those of us left behind, as we watched many of our friends, teammates, and mentors departing the Academy. I hope to serve with many of them in the future.

 

If you have any questions about any of the summer programs, admissions events, tours and visits here at the Academy, please email me at Hunter.D.Stowes@uscga.edu.

 

More about Hunter.

 

Week 2: Work Done vs. Have Fun

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Well, week two went by in a blur! (And I thought week one went quickly.) Let’s see what we did this week. Monday and Tuesday were more drill days, but this week, the cutter’s crew was performing drills for casualties that could happen while the cutter is in port. I participated a little bit, but we took the time to work on our in-port qualifications. They are coming slowly but surely. I definitely spend more time this week after the workday to continue making progress.

 

On Wednesday, we woke up early to attend a firefighting school at the Naval schoolhouse at Pearl Harbor. Due to administrative technicalities, we weren’t allowed to participate in the actual firefighting, but we did get a good deal of classroom review of the shipboard firefighting principles.

 

Thursday was a morale day for the crew since there were no drills we had to make up. We played a game of softball in the morning and then liberty was granted to all members of the crew who were not part of the afternoon in-port drills. I took that afternoon to catch up on some sleep and then it was back to work on drawing schematics of some of the systems on board. The most difficult one is the fire main, which provides sea water throughout the ship to fight fires. It can be challenging at times trying to “chase” the piping, but I find it a fun puzzle.

 

Finally, on Friday, we got underway again for our final drill—the “Final Exercise Problem,” or FEP. We had simulated fires, leaks in the ship’s hull, personnel injury (including our commanding officer!), and a man overboard practically all at once. The crew passed and did exceptionally well. Andy and I were even able to help out a little by being messengers when internal communications went down. I was on duty that evening, so I stayed up from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. standing the security watch. It was a long six hours, but I made it! Then Memorial Day weekend began!

 

Slept most of the day Saturday, went to church and did some crazy hiking in the mud on Sunday, and rested and relaxed on Monday. I’m ready for the next few weeks of being in port in a “Charlie” period (basically the crew is working on maintenance for the ship, so we can’t get underway). Andy and I will be hard at work to get qualified and we’re going to start taking over collateral (extra) duties like ensigns would have.

 

As far as reflections for this week, some take-aways, it’s hard to say. I was doing so much more instead of observing like I did last week. I guess I can talk about this: the work/fun balance. Being in Hawaii for the first time is great—there are so many different things that I want to do and experience. I want to explore while I have the chance. I don’t know when I’ll be back—and for this long! At the same time, however, we have been sent here to experience life in the Coast Guard. As an acting junior officer, that means that we have a lot to learn (all those qualifications and collateral duties that I was talking about up above). Upon first arriving to the ship, there are quite a few things that we’re required to learn and have completed within a short time. As I mentioned, there were several times this week that I worked into the evening instead of going out. Over the weekend, however, I did not make any progress toward those qualifications. Part of me is worried that I won’t complete my work in time (these are not small projects that we have to complete), and I feel slightly guilty for not taking advantage of my time more. At the same time, however, one of the officers pointed out (in passing, actually), that being the JO that is always on the boat after the work day gets old really fast. There is a balance that each person much find with how much time s/he spends outside of the workday and duty getting assignments and projects completed and getting off the ship for some rest and relaxation (although resting here doesn’t mean leaving the ship, since the crew and I don’t have a residences of our own to “go home” to each night).

 

I suppose part of me is worried that if I continue at this pace and if the weeks pass as quickly as this one, I won’t be able to get my work done. At the same time, however, the other part of me reassures me saying, “It’ll get done. You have plenty of time left and you know how hard you have to work.” I think the other thing that is so difficult is that these projects are (1) much longer term than I am used to and (2) require a significant amount of assistance (teaching, verifying, correcting, etc.) of other individuals on the ship. I’m hoping that these next few weeks in port will prove to be beneficial for getting a lot of work done. At the same time, my time in Hawaii is slowly getting shorter, and there are still quite a few things on my list of things I want to do/see before I leave.

 

I know that it’s good to set goals, and I have—both long term and short term. Interestingly enough, the short term goals are harder to keep. I may set certain goals for myself for a given day, but things come up, people need help with something, the person I need isn’t around, you name it—something always throws off my plans. Normally in situations like this, I remove myself from the place from which the distractions come; unfortunately, my work needs to be done on the ship, which is where the distractions are coming from.

 

Nevertheless, my resolve to keep working hard has not and will not diminish. I’ll keep pushing through. This is certainly a challenge, but I know that I am up for it!

 

I’ll let you know how it goes. Until next week!

 

 


More about Justin.