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Graduation? Wasn't It Just R-Day!?

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Glock Photo Wow! Did these past four years fly by! It truly feels like R-Day was just the other day. And, yet, there are so many wonderful memories in between. In a way, I am a very different person than when I first began my journey at the Academy. Not only have I learned a lot in terms of academics, but I have learned so many life lessons that have matured me beyond belief. And best of all, I have made amazing friends along the way.

 

Looking back on the difficulties of the past four years, I am happy to say that it was all worth it – and I would absolutely do it again. There is no experience like the Coast Guard Academy. Not even the other military academies can equate to the type of friendships and relationships that are developed here, both with other cadets and with the faculty.

 

Now, I am stationed at the Coast Guard Academy Admissions Office until I report to flight school in September. As a cadet I would never had imagined myself saying this, but I am honestly very excited that I am stationed at the Academy for the summer (and it was my first choice for my pre-flight school billet). Why would I possibly want to stay at the Academy after graduation? Well, besides the fact that I volunteered for Admissions during my cadet career and am well-known amongst the admissions faculty, I thought that it would be very interesting to be around for one more Swab Summer, and to help run it from an officer's point of view. This way, I would have observed Swab Summer as both a swab, a cadre, and a supervisor. I also thought being the Chase Hall Duty Officer (for one day, the officer in charge of the building where all of the cadets live), would be an interesting collateral duty because I had been a suboordinate to the CHDO for four years. I have seen others fulfill the roles I am now fulfilling as an officer, and I find that transition fascinating and rewarding. And, the Academy has given me so much, and it is nice to give back before I head to Pensacola, Florida.

 



More about George.

 

Look, Mom, I’m Steering a Cutter!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo I just returned from my six-week summer training aboard Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Thunder Bay and I had an amazing time! As I reflect on my time there, it’s incredible how quickly my six weeks went, but I also feel as if I had been there for a longer time than that. I had become integrated into the crew, the work schedule, and the cutter lifestyle. Academy life and the people there seem really distant. There is quite a difference between Academy Coast Guard and actual-fleet Coast Guard. It’s hard to explain how exactly, other than it’s difficult to reconcile the two different Coast Guards in my head. Sure, we have the same uniforms and we know the same indoc, but that seems to be the only thing that links us with the rest of the Coast Guard (and I even had a former Academy instructor as the commanding officer of my cutter!) I have to remember, however, that the Academy is an educational and training facility, not an operational/working location, so that can account for the sharp contrast.

 

Whatever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed my time aboard Thunder Bay (“the T-Bay”). The cutter is stationed in Rockland, Maine, and it is beautiful there. It was exceptionally special to me because the cutter’s area of responsibility (AOR) was the same coast of Maine off of which I had sailed a few years prior on an Outward Bound sailing expedition! As I mentioned, I felt like a regular member of the crew. I learned so much information about this specific cutter and about cutters in general. My catch phrase for my time there was, “It feels great to be operational.” I was assisting with and completing Coast Guard operations, which felt extremely rewarding.

 

Our cutter completed some very exciting and interesting evolutions and trainings while I was there, and these enriched my experience considerably. What enhanced my time there the most, however, was working toward getting qualifications. I left with an in-port watchstander (security) qualification letter and a helm and lookout qualification letter. These two “quals” mean that I would be allowed to stand duty while the cutter was in port and that I am able to man the helm (the wheel) of the cutter.

 

Getting these qualifications requires a significant amount of time training—called “breaking-in”—and learning the proper procedures for both normal and emergency situations. Training concludes with a board, a session of questioning to determine if I am knowledgeable to be considered qualified and to be trusted to stand watch or “mind the helm.” It’s quite humbling to think that at just age 19 I am qualified to stand security watch for a huge and expensive piece of property or that I can steer the cutter and am responsible for keeping her from running into any danger. I can’t find the proper word to describe how I feel with these qualifications. Scared and stressed are not right, but those are close to the feeling. I guess I could say I feel the added weight of responsibility. Nevertheless, it is really exciting at the same time that I have proven myself capable to hold these qualifications! I can’t wait to go home and tell everyone how I steered a Coast Guard cutter!

 

Briefly, a few other highlights from my time aboard the T-Bay. We acted as an escort for a Navy aircraft carrier (those things are HUGE!) while, apparently, both former Bush presidents were on board the carrier. I participated in a mounted firearms training with the crew—we were shooting at foam fenders dropped in the ocean for us. I observed a boarding operation as a small boat crew member and even had the chance to coxswain (steer) the boat while we practiced drills for coming alongside a moving vessel!

 

Now I am headed to CGC Eagle for five weeks of additional cutter training. Expect a blog on my stories and reflections from that!




More about Justin.

 

Do You Believe in Miracles?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Wowtschuk Photo Hello, Shipmates! Well, it is official, I can dodge bullets. Tomorrow I am changing my name to Thomas Anderson (you can call me Neo), and putting in for a billet on the Nebuchadnezzar (just look up the reference people; I don’t have time to explain). All joking aside, somehow I graduated and have received what only a few select individuals in history have had the privilege to receive, a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the United States Coast Guard Academy. No matter how hard they try, they can never take that away from me. Oh yeah, I was also handed some sort of letter that says something about officers and the Coast Guard and commissioning or something, I’m not really sure what it is, but I’m not going to worry about it, it’s probably nothing.

 

This blog was almost never written, it has now been a few weeks since graduation and my motivation to write a blog about the Academy, for the purposes of promoting the Academy (fo’ free) has been waning. Luckily for you all, I was inspired the other day, partly by the crack of my editor’s whip and partly by the kind words of a German artist.

 

It was halfway through a flight back from let’s say Not Europe, when I decided to start up a conversation with the man sitting to my right. He was a large man, average height but radially challenged and tended to use his own stomach as a substitute for the provided food tray. He wore a grey skull cap on his head, out from which protruded flowing unkempt white hair that came down to just above his shoulders. His face was tired looking, with a deeply set pair of fierce blue eyes, a broad nose, and a white goatee with hairs stretching well below the chin line. He wore an old embroidered vest which revealed skinny white arms covered in an array of colorful flowers, sparrows and doves. His voice was part Mike Tyson, part Truman Capote, and part Hugo Stiglitz. He told me about the art work he was working on, inspired by the Euro Cup; he was covering soccer balls in paint and kicking them at a large blank canvas (Michelangelo would be proud). Although this man and I had nothing in common, I felt a deep connection with him. I thought to myself, “If this man can dedicate his life to terrible art, I can dedicate an hour of my time to an amazing blog.”

 

It has now been several days since that flight, and in about three hours I will begin my drive out to Seattle, my first ship, and my new life. I am not exactly sure what to expect, but if the Academy has taught me anything it is that I can expect to find competent, hardworking, and selfless people wherever I go.

 

Fun Facts:

  1. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t see: Frankfurt, Nuremburg, Prague, Vienna, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Naples, Pompeii, and Rome in twelve days.
  2. Frankfurt has the world’s best cabarets
  3. Red plastic cups are not sold in the Czech Republic
  4. McDonalds in Vienna do not provide ketchup
  5. Wedding rings are worn on the RIGHT hand in Serbia
  6. Italians love 1980s fashion
  7. And, evidently, Rome was NOT built in a day

 

More about Bo.

 

Farewell, Texas!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Driscoll Photo So here I am: my last week in south Texas. It’s hard to believe that I’ll be leaving on Friday for the second phase of my summer training. These past five weeks here have taught me lots about enlisted life, how to handle small boats, and what the Coast Guard does beyond search and rescue (SAR).

 

Since I’ve last written, I’ve participated in several interesting patrols, and some not so interesting ones. Instead of talking about that, I’ll talk about the other aspects of the Coast Guard that I’ve been privileged to experience. The Executive Petty Officer (XPO) arranged for us to see the Marine Safety side of the Coast Guard. We went to Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) Victoria, Texas, to shadow their personnel there. In my opinion, the marine safety field is very boring. They inspect marine casualties and vessels and facilities to make sure that they don’t pollute our waterways. It involves lots of paperwork and checking grimy corners for leaks. In my opinion, not for me.

 

A much better experience for me was my time with Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) at Port O’Connor. The Aids to Navigation (AToN) mission appeals to me: I love how precise it is, the nice hours, and the hands-on experience you get every day. During my two days with the ANT, I did more things than I had done for several weeks here at the station. Placing buoys and correcting off-station buoys was a lot of fun. After my brief experience with the ANT, I am going to look more at getting on an AToN cutter for my firstie summer assignment, or my first billet.

 

In addition to seeing other sides of the Coast Guard, I successfully qualified as a communications watchstander. In essence, I stand watch for four hours at a time, listening to various radios in case someone calls “MAYDAY.” This station isn’t too busy SAR-wise, but we do a lot of law enforcement work to make up for that. In fact, in my five weeks here, I have only heard the SAR alarm sound twice. Some of the cases I’ve seen have been interesting: lots of disabled boats needing assistance. What else have I done here?

 

The highlight of my time here has been my OC exposure. I’m not sure how much I can talk about it, but needless to say, it hurt. A lot. You need to be sprayed to carry OC as a boarding team member or officer, but you only need to do it once. It was extremely painful; they say that fair-skinned individuals react the worst, and I can believe it. One of my friends described it as “the devil peeing in your eyes.” You can’t see anything and have the hardest time doing simple tasks. I’m just glad it’s over.

 

And just like pepper-spraying, my time in South Texas is over.

 

More about Peter.

 

Ocean Racing

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Capuzzi Photo While most of my classmates are at the Academy, diligently preparing for the arrival of the Class of 2016, I, along with some other members of the Dinghy and Offshore Sailing Teams, are in Newport, Rhode Island as part of the Coast Guard Academy’s Summer Ocean Racing Program.

 

The Summer Ocean Racing program presents a unique opportunity for select cadets from the sailing teams to spend a summer on the New England sailing circuit, racing against professional sailors and similar programs from the Naval and Merchant Marine academies. The program is made up of several smaller regattas that culminate in the New York Yacht Club Annual Series and the Newport to Bermuda Race.

 

For the first two weeks of the summer, ocean racers from the classes of 2013 and 2015 came together to start practicing and preparing for the busy summer season. Meanwhile, the Class of 2014 was busy being “reoriented to military life” by the Cape May company commanders, the elite enlisted men and women responsible for training all of the Coast Guards enlistees at Training Center Cape May, New Jersey. The company commanders used the first day of the week to demonstrate the training environment, but spent the rest of it teaching us the tools and techniques they used to accomplish this. This week was also significant because it marked the Class of 2014’s halfway point in our Academy careers: 100 weeks of our 200-week training program completed. And at the end of the week, our hard work was rewarded when we were promoted to second-class cadets.

 

After that action-packed week, the next was quite the opposite. Rules of the Road class kept us trapped in a classroom for hours on end as we memorized important navigation rules to prevent collisions. At the end of the week, we took a final exam to prove our knowledge and earn our certification.

 

With two weeks of the Ocean Racing program already completed, the second-class ocean racers finally got to join the team. After only four days of being together as a full crew, the crew of Glory, a J/44 racing sailboat, headed to Stamford, Connecticut for the Around Block Island race. The 186 nautical mile race started and finished in Stamford. Unfortunately, the breeze velocity was extremely low, turning a 36-hour race into a 44-hour ordeal. The last five nautical miles took six hours to complete, our anemometer reading 0.00 knots of wind for several of those hours.

 

After the ABI race, it we got another week of practice before a weekend of buoy racing. Unfortunately, our first regatta was cancelled due to high winds and rough seas. Instead of taking the day off, we sailed into the Race, the strait between Fishers Island and Little Gull Island where all the water flows into Long Island Sound. We spent a couple of hours getting tossed around by 12 to 15 foot waves, which was great fun. The next day, Glory was leading the entire fleet when a misplaced line caused a spinnaker douse to go awry, but we recovered quickly enough to secure a third place finish.

 

For the past five days, we’ve been in Newport, Rhode Island, for the New York Yacht Club Annual Series. The first race was an 18-mile jaunt around one of the islands in Narragansett Bay. We sailed pretty well and were happy with our performance. The next race was a simple four-leg buoy race. The wind was very light, but that was no excuse for our subpar performance. Fortunately, we sailed much better the second day, crossing the line before any other service academy boat.

 

Now, we’re almost to the end of the program. On June 15, we’ll be departing Newport and racing to the island of Bermuda. This four-day race will be the culmination of out training. Upon our arrival, we’ll have a few days of rest and relaxation in Bermuda. Then we’ll get on with the rest of our summer. Bring on the swabs!

 

For more information on the Summer Ocean Racing program, check us out on Facebook as USCGA Ocean Racing.

 

More about Nick.

 

Underway Journal

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
Nolan Photo What you are about to read (in the PDF linked below) are my daily entries about my 1/c summer experience underway on the USCGC Sycamore. I’ve tried to define all the Coast Guard specific terminology and phrases I’ve used so that you have a better idea of what I’m talking about. I spent approximately six weeks aboard the Sycamore and during that time I spent a few days in her home port of Cordova, Alaska, transited over a week in the open ocean to Honolulu, Hawaii and then spent my remaining time in TSTA . These entries are as much for my own posterity as they are for your edification, so they include references not only to specific people, but also to time spent on liberty as well as operational time. I hope that these entries may help give you some insight on the 1/c summer experience, and possibly into your responsibilities as a Junior Officer in the fleet as well. It’s important to keep in mind that the Academy is not a goal in and of itself, but rather a means to reach that goal: becoming an officer in the United States Coast Guard.

 

Underway Journal (Continued) PDF Icon 

 

More about Stephen.

 

A Cadet’s Conniption

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Chavarria-Aguilar Photo Looking back now, I remember my last few days at the Academy being nothing less than extremely hectic. It was one of those transition periods that just make you want to pull your hair out. After returning from our last regatta, exhausted and borderline grumpy, all I wanted to do was crawl into my rack and sleep the next day away. I had it all planned out, to take full advantage of the weekend before my departure to Florida; I, for one, was in no rush.

 

However, much to my dismay, I was not greeted by my clean and cozy abode, but rather an unsurpassable mountain of junk - junk that did not belong to me. Now, I have thrown many fits in my lifetime, but I cannot remember a conniption that compares to the one that I pitched that night. Apparently, two upper-class cadets (whose names I have chosen to omit for their own safety) failed to realize that someone was still living in that room before they decided to move in, if moving in is what you want to call it. Unfortunately, my roommate had already left for her summer assignment and could not share my exasperation. I will not burden you with the details of my rage, but I finally managed to calm down enough to take action. You’ve seen the Hulk, right? Yeah, anyhow, gathering what was left of my things was no easy feat. I had to come up for air on multiple occasions before I could dive back into the abysmal clutter that had engulfed my beloved room. The following morning I managed to get the rest of my things down the hall, into my friend’s room, moved in a bit, and then packed out from there. Silly, I know.

 

However, I’d like to say that my experience, as infuriating as it was, taught me a good lesson. My friends and I now laugh at how foolish I had acted that night, and I am partially willing to admit that I might have, maybe… definitely overreacted. With this in mind, I try to remind myself to demonstrate a little patience and tolerance in similar antagonizing situations.

 

That night also reminded me how close my shipmates and I have become in the mere 12 months we’ve spent together. Everyone needs to let off a little steam now and then. Usually, at least for me, such pressure releases are not a pretty sight. However, I can always rely on my dear classmates to be there for me (cough-cough, 4/c Stoddard, cough, 4/c Dana, 4/c Simon). Despite the short amount of time I have know these gals for, I regard them to be three of the best friends I’ve ever had. You don’t get that kind of bond at regular college.

 

More about Alexis.

 

Station Life

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Chavarria-Aguilar Photo At last, the academic year is behind me as I stroll forward into a sun-filled, adventure-packed, adrenaline-pinching summer! If you didn’t already know, each summer, cadets are cast into new and exciting experiences that help expand their understanding of the Coast Guard. For instance, last year, I spent seven weeks doing this little thing called “Swab Summer.” Well, since that is sort of self-explanatory, I will skip ahead to what this summer has had in store for me. Again, each and every cadet has his or her own exceptional story to tell, and although I cannot speak for my classmates, I can tell you that my experience thus far has only strengthened my resolve to attend the Academy.

 

Before I begin, let me briefly explain how 3/c summer (the time between freshman and sophomore year) is set up. Although it may vary for some people, rising 3/c cadets have two separate assignments, which span roughly six weeks each. After that, we all get leave for three more weeks before we return to the Academy to start classes. In most cases, one of the two assignments is spent on Eagle, however, I know some people who are split between two units, such as a cutter or a station. Others, like me, spend the first part of the summer in the fleet before returning to the Academy to take summer classes. Since I opted to take Introduction to Calculus instead of jumping straight into Calculus I during my first semester, I am now playing catch up. In order to graduate on time, I have to sacrifice time in the fleet to take Calculus II this summer. However, I am more than content in my current position. “Summer School” will be an intriguing adventure in itself.

 

In the end, I was assigned to Station Port Canaveral in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Although I will be not be sailing on Eagle this summer, I am excited to acquaint myself with what small boat station life is like. After pounding the books for nine months, I am beyond stoked to be here. Currently, I am kicking back with a delicious chocolate milkshake, watching the afternoon storms roll in on my afternoon of liberty.

 

Life in the Academy and life in the fleet are significantly different. As a cadet, you sometimes feel sheltered at the Academy. This screened perspective is somewhat narrow, with my main focuses being academics, athletics, and military training. However, the Academy’s military instructions hardly pertain to fleet life. My summer experience has helped me expand my outlook, giving me a glimpse of what to expect when I graduate. Although I will not go into detail about those experiences in this blog entry, I will say that you can learn a lot in just a few weeks.

 

More about Alexis.

 

2c Summer...BEST ONE YET?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Nelson Photo I am writing to you from the Baltimore airport on my way back from three weeks of leave. I had a ton of fun with my family, surfing, camping, hiking and generally working on my tan. It was an awesome three weeks, but I am finding myself at the end of it. And as always, I am confronted with so many different emotions, sadness of leaving my family but excitement at returning to my buddies and an appreciation for returning to work. Rest is good but to a point – then it is time to get back to the hard work I have been blessed with. So here is what my summer looks like:

 

Week 1: I will be spending about six hours a day in a classroom learning rules of the road (affectionately referred to as ROTR). Though it will not be the most exciting part of the summer, it is super important if I want to be a ship driver (Conning Officer). So, as exciting as it was to read the driving manual before getting to drive a car, I will do it just as eagerly hoping to one day drive a cutter.

 

Week 2: Tugboats. I am not entirely certain what this week will hold but I am sure that it will involve several hours on the Thames River driving tugboats – which as a sailor, I am stoked about!!

 

Week 3: Prep Week. Dear class of 2016, we, as your cadre, really do put in A LOT of effort into making your life simpler – though it will not appear that way when you show up :). This is the week when we clean and organize the swab rooms. We will be filling all of drawers with the issued gear, waxing and buffing the decks, and generally making the place spotless for your arrival.

 

Week 4: I FLY TO JAPAN! So exciting, as I was accepted for an exchange program with the Japanese Coast Guard. I am very excited to meet the Japanese Coast Guard cadets and to see beautiful Japan. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to represent my Coast Guard Academy, but also incredibly nervous…anyone know how to speak Japanese?

 

Week 5: While trying to recover from extreme jetlag (however worth it), I am hoping to participate in a marine safety internship. After getting commissioned, I am very interested in the marine safety prevention and inspection side of the Coast Guard. To my knowledge, this would include inspecting ships that come into port for marine structural safety, unwanted cargo, etc. I am not entirely certain what that part of the Coast Guard involves, but I think it sounds awesome! So hopefully I will be able to participate in this internship to understand it better.

 

Weeks 6 - 8: Cadre…oh yes, this cadet will become, “2/c Nelson, Ma’am.” Wow! I cannot believe that I am here. Only two years ago, I, “Swab Nelson,” and only dreamed of being like my cadre. Now I am in their shoes. I pray that the superior leadership and maturity that I saw displayed in my cadre will be something that I can model and display for my swabs.

 

Week 9: I am not entirely certain what I am going to do with this week but probably get my wisdom teeth pulled. Oh. Joy. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil to being an officer.

 

Week 10: The corps returns to now include the Class of 2016. Welcome. Hopefully we will greet you as the finest class of 4/c because the finest class, the Class of 2014, trained you.

 

God bless, Class of 2016! Get pumped. Take this time to prepare mentally. The biggest difficulty you will face this summer will be yourself.

 

More about Jessica.