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Things Learned Onboard the Thetis

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Ahoy!

 

I am writing to you now halfway through my summer. I am still underway on the Thetis and we have been pretty busy as of late. Patrol is a pretty exciting part of a cutter’s operations and the crew does a lot of preparation to get underway. A cutter uses its patrols to train newly reported crew, to carry out the actual operations of the vessel and to keep the boat working smoothly because, like a car, a cutter needs to be run in order to stay operable.

 

So, I am still breaking in OOD, or Officer of the Deck (thus standing double watches), which means that I spend eight hours a day on the bridge, conning the vessel for the watch as well as overseeing the general safety and operations on the bridge.

 

I have learned a lot in the past weeks since I have last blogged.

  • Making pipes (announcements over the intercom) is an art. In the time that I have been on the boat, about 7 percent of the pipes I have made have been comically incorrect. The crew now jokes with me constantly about my sub-par pipes. The worst was my reveille pipe. I tried to make the wake-up call when the outside speakers to the ship weren't on. I attempted to make the announcement again and again and didn't realize that the rest of the ship was hearing me repeat the wake-up call over and over. Everyone thought I did it on purpose!
  • Be careful not to fall out of your rack (bed) when you are extremely tired. Once, after a very long night on the bridge, I went to bed and woke up thinking I was still on the bridge. I proceeded to jump off of my top rack, which was approximately six feet from the deck and had a nice sized bruise for the next week.
  • You never get tired of the sunsets. They are stunning and different every night. The colors are breathtaking and the clouds take on a dramatic part of the sky.
  • Like the sunsets, I am in awe of the stars. They are so beautiful. Being out on the ocean with an open sky is incredible and cannot be recreated on land.
  • I now know how to route memos on the ship and update manuals.
  • People love morale. Even when it is at my own expense, I like the thought of making people laugh and smile.
  • It’s all about the people. As an officer, the best thing you can do is to make your people happy. You do this by making sure they know that they are valued, respected, and trusted to do their jobs. There is a chief on the boat who lives by this concept; he says that “your people should do their job because they want to, not because they are scared of what will happen if they don’t.”

 

Okay, so there will be more to come. I can’t believe that we are already halfway through the summer and our new officers are coming. It will be fun to see friends from school!

 

I have been experimenting with finding ways to work out on board and my lacrosse coach helped me out in that respect. I am also trying to develop my officer’s presence; it is weird to think that my time at the Academy is limited and that the fleet is that much closer.

 

More about Lucy.

 

Hello From the Thetis

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hey, how are you?! I am emailing you from the bridge of the USCGC Thetis! I have been really busy out here with my classmate and best friend, Hanna! We have been underway for a little more than a week and I just wanted to check in with a little blog entry. We both just qualified Quarter Master of the Watch, so we can finally take part in the watch rotation.

 

So first things first: I can't believe that I am a first class cadet. It seems like such a short time since I signed up to blog in 2012, a fourth class, with bright and wide eyes, lost in the first year of my cadet career. I was excited and nervous and worried that I wouldn't make it to be cadre and forget about being a firstie! They were the cadets exuding confidence, ready to take on the fleet and the world. They could drive cars and go to Panera for dinner on almost any day of the week. It was like watching a dream, or a unicorn, some mythical creature that I wasn't sure was really real. But here I am, my shields are blue, and I find myself completely surrounded by the big blue, underway, firstie summer.

 

I think that even though we weren't underway for the first week, that was probably the most challenging and overwhelming. This is because first impressions, although they can be forgotten over time, are paramount to the initial reaction people have toward you, especially for cadets going into the fleet. I think that the Coast Guard as a whole, although excepting of cadets from the Academy for summer programs, is also very cautious when they arrive. As a cadet, you are handed the responsibility of building relationships with enlisted so that, over the summer, a mutual respect is forged that will build from seaman-cadet into more valuable ones, like chief-officer. If there is one thing that being on a 270' has taught me, it is that these boats are not that big and everyone on board has a purpose, one that is vital to the success of mission execution and safety. We need to build trust, prove ourselves worthy of that respect and also show that, as future officers, we respect the Coast Guard family and are familiar with the jobs of all on board the cutter.

 

When you report to a cutter, be it for your firstie summer or your first billet after graduation, you have to be humble, ready to learn, and appreciative of all that the crew does to welcome and teach you. I have learned so much just from listening and watching and standing watch with non-rates, all of whom work extremely hard and are expected to do so much for the unit.

 

As a cadet this summer, I see the enlisted side, and the officer side, and also the keel, the balancer, which is the chief's mess. The chiefs pulled me aside and taught me that all junior officers and even senior officers must depend on the experience and knowledge of the chiefs to help them run the cutter. The chiefs are a connection between the officers and the rest of the crew. And this chief's mess has been incredibly accepting of Hanna and me and they have already taught us so much but they are fair and also let us know when we have made a mistake.

 

I couldn't tell you if I was ready to put a 270' down on my wish list next year because I'm not sure that drug busting and migrant interdiction is for me but I am open to it. My goal for this summer is to learn, have fun, mature and start to edge into the next stage of my Coast Guard career. If time passes as fast as it has for the past three years, I am sure that next summer will be here in a blink!

 

I will try to update you some more and I hope everyone is having a great summer!

 

More about Lucy.

 

Beautiful Kodiak

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Corcoran Photo When I heard I was going to be sent to Kodiak, Alaska for the summer, I won't lie – I was anticipating a cold, long summer. I was not expecting to have all of these unforgettable experiences and stories to tell! So far my summer has been great onboard the USCGC Munro, which is a 378-foot Hamilton-class cutter home-ported in Kodiak. Prior to arriving in Kodiak, I had never been to Alaska. I have to admit, it is a gorgeous place! The mountains are beautiful and I feel like I'm constantly looking at a painting – not actual nature.

 

While in Alaska, I have learned a lot about what life will be like as a future Coast Guard junior officer. It definitely will have its challenges but I have also found the work to be very rewarding. I'm excited for my future career and this summer definitely has solidified my decision to become a Deck Watch Officer after I graduate from the Academy.

 

I have had time to explore Alaska while I've been here. Unfortunately, it has been mostly foggy and overcast or raining since we've been here but there was one gorgeous, sunny day that we spent visiting the beaches of Kodiak. The views were outstanding. We also hiked what the locals call the easiest trail on the island called Old Women's Peak. Sadly, we definitely looked like old women hiking it. Needless to say, we took many breaks.

 

Right now, I am out at sea on the Munro seeing what life is like underway as a junior officer. While most of my time is spent working, we have gotten to do many fun things as well. So far I've caught a halibut almost half my size when we had a fish call, I have gotten to shoot one of the ship's guns on Memorial Day, and yesterday all of us cadets helped make pizza for the crew! It has certainly been a great experience that I will never forget.

 

I can't wait to see what the rest of my summer is going to be like onboard the USCGC Munro!

 

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at: Samantha.E.Corcoran@uscga.edu.

 

More about Samantha.

 

Alaskan Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Schroeder Photo Hello from Kodiak, Alaska! I am spending my summer on the USCGC Munro, a 378-foot white hull cutter along with four of my friends from the Academy. So far it has been a pretty cold summer (40s-50s) but also a beautiful one. I have seen so much wildlife including otters, bald eagles and whales! And have been able to go on a bunch of hikes and trails as well. Currently, I am underway in the middle of the ocean somewhere and life aboard a ship is hard work but also very rewarding. I have learned a lot so far and have even had the chance to drive the ship, fish, and shoot some of the ship’s guns.

 

The Academy is a difficult institution to graduate from; classes are hard and the extracurricular activities including military obligations can be strenuous. Our summers at the Academy remind each cadet what the ultimate goal is: to commission as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. These summer experiences give us a glimpse of what we can look forward to. For me, I only have a year left, so this summer the officers and enlisted on my boat are treating me as if I was already a junior officer. They have given me many tasks to complete while still standing watch and maintaining the plan of the day. It has been busy but I also think this experience is going to teach me a lot (I have already learned so much in three weeks!) and prepare me to be the best ensign I can be.

 

More about Jade.

 

Five Lessons for the Class of 2019

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Wow! This semester has really flown by! My sincere apologies in not blogging earlier – between lacrosse, schoolwork and extracurricular activities, blogging had been put on my proverbial back burner. To the Class of 2019 arriving here for R-Day, I was hoping to impart five lessons I learned at the Academy that might prepare you for what you can expect in your undergraduate experience. Hope you enjoy – here we go:

 

5. New England is cold: For those readers hailing from southern states – New England is cold! And it’s just not cold during those typical winter months, it honestly doesn’t get what I would consider warm (consistent mid-60s) until May. That being said, all the snow can be fun; we missed a total of three days of classes (two back-to-back) and had a few late base openings and early closings due to the inclement weather that descended on New London this winter. Just be prepared to bundle up in the wintertime!

 

4. The CGA grounds are hilly: The bluffs that the Academy are situated on offer spectacular, scenic views of the Thames River. However, these views do come at a price so be prepared to feel like you’re always walking uphill when on campus. On the bright side, the hills do work miracles for your calf muscles (as do the staircases in Chase Hall – don’t even think about using an elevator).

 

3. The Academy is kinda like Hogwarts: Silly as it may sound, CGA and the fictional wizardry school do have a lot of similarities. When you arrive you are sorted into different companies (i.e., “Houses”) where you dine, live and make the majority of your friends. Although there is no Slytherin Company here, there are rivalries that come out in inter-company sports (Quidditch, however, isn’t offered).

 

2. The summers are awesome: Back on a serious track, a lot of cadets will tell you that the CGA summers really make this place stand out as special and different than civilian schools. Gaining practical knowledge in real Coast Guard units or learning leadership with your classmates are rewarding experiences that would be tough to mimic elsewhere. Not to mention, all the new and exciting places your training will take you (I’ve gotten to go to Bermuda, France, Canada, Maine, Boston, and Key West to name a few).

 

1. The friendships you make run deep: To end on an important note, because of all the rough military training you will go through with your classmates, you will develop bonds that run deeper than any friendships that you had in high school. It is no wonder that so many cadets marry each other or are the best man or maid of honor at a classmate’s wedding. The connections I have made with people at the Academy are something that I honestly treasure the most.

 

Thanks for reading! As always, if you have any questions for me about the Coast Guard Academy, Coast Guard, or military life, feel free to shoot me an email at: James.D.Engelhardt@uscga.edu. If you are a Class of 2019er, I look forward to meeting you in the fall. Go Bears!

 

More about James.