Summers at Academy, as I am sure you could guess, vary by year. After fourth class year we have two phases of summer training and a leave period. Due to shoulder surgery back in the winter I was not able to travel aboard the Eagle like the rest of my classmates, so unfortunately I do not have any thrilling stories about the high seas. I did however have the opportunity to go to Station New London for five weeks and Cutter Maple in Sitka, Alaska for six.
A typical day at the station consisted of shadowing the watch stander, typically junior enlisted personnel, and then helping the deck force clean and maintain equipment. When time allowed I worked with the Gunner's Mate and Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist on various weapons and pyro. Time spent in the armory was by far my favorite part of being at the station and it broadened my perspective of opportunities in the Coast Guard. Leaving Station New London I had a better idea of how real people used their passions and talents to accomplish a multitude of missions; an application that couldn't be learned in a classroom setting at the Academy.
On June 15th I was medically cleared to go to CGC Maple, a buoy tender in Sitka, Alaska. Prior to this summer I had never travelled west of Pennsylvania: going to Sitka was one of the most wild and amazing experiences of my life. While the cutter was in Charlie status, under repair for the engines, I was able to be a very active member of the in-port crew. I learned dozens of skills with the most prominent being basic damage control, watch standing, and skills to handling weapons. But those were the skills the Academy directly instructed us to learn, skills they felt would be the most helpful for a junior officer to understand. In my opinion however it was the mediocre, monotonous tasks that taught me about the people I want to work with, which is what I most look forward to. I learned how to pull up nonskid and put it down, how to scrape off paint and then re-paint, to dog hatches and close scuttles before going underway, to properly cut an onion, to make a gasket by hand, to start a fire pump, to test general alarms, and to climb the mast at sunset. The crew of the Maple taught me to quote the film "Pitch Perfect", to sing and dance to 'N Sync, to hike mountains and a volcano, to win the show "Chopped", to strut in a Fourth of July parade, and to play shuffleboard. Looking back at this set of skills some may seem more impressive than do others: in all, the development of this skill set allowed me to immerse myself as part of the crew and set expectations for myself as an officer candidate. It was bittersweet to leave Alaska a few days ago, but knowing that I have the opportunity to work with the best crew in the Coast Guard is motivation enough to work hard this school year.
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