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Aruba, Jamaica, Ooh I Wanna Take Ya’

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo After San Juan, Puerto Rico; we sailed to Aruba; then Cozumel, Mexico; and ended in Miami, Florida. (Jamaica wasn’t one of our port calls, but we were singing the Beach Boys’ song “Kokomo” all the way from Puerto Rico to Aruba.)


My parents met me in Puerto Rico. They flew down from Pennsylvania and spent a week there to see me and to take a vacation for themselves (but mostly to see me). I hadn’t called home much lately since I was preoccupied with studying during finals week, and there’s no cell phone reception at sea, so it was nice to catch up with them. The next day, my friends and I explored the fort in San Juan and then went shopping in the area. We had three days in each port, two of which we had liberty, and one of which we gave tours on Eagle.


The first day in Aruba, I volunteered for a community service project repainting an elementary school. The hours I got that day count towards my community service requirement for this semester, and it was a fun opportunity to leave a mark on a foreign country. The second day of liberty, I spent with Eva’s parents at a resort. For dinner, Mr. Sandri caught a red snapper, and we went to a local restaurant called the Old Cunucu house where they prepared the fish as an appetizer for us. The food there was delicious.


In Mexico, my friends and I went snorkeling. The water in the Caribbean is so clear in some places that you can see the whole way to the bottom. Being a great vacation spot, Cozumel offered so much to do, but we were limited in our time there.


One really nice thing about being underway is that you don’t have to worry about money. There’s not much that you can buy when you’re at sea, so all the money you earn is saved for the port calls. This is definitely another benefit of going to a service academy. We not only get our education paid for, but we also get to travel to amazing ports and have some money to spend while there. I wouldn’t say it’s free because we work hard, but it is definitely more than worth it. I felt so privileged when in Aruba, I turned to my friend and said, “It’s okay that we didn’t snorkel today. We can just do it in Cozumel next week.” Just thinking about how much I got to do and see this summer makes me so excited to see what my future in the Coast Guard holds.


More about Sarah.


Kicking Off Fall Semester

(Academics, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo With CAP week over, fall semester is about to kick off. The fall semester, so I have experienced last semester, is a term where each cadet, whether returning from leave, completing Swab Summer, or pumped up from coordinating cadre summer, is still learning their new roles as a cadet. The 1/c are either in command positions on Regimental or Company Staff, or are acting as division officers in one of the eight companies. The second class are finding themselves as budding leaders, having completed the execution of the Swab Summer training program, and are either re-buying into the system or growing weary of it, longing for graduation. The new cadets, having completed Swab Summer, wait for classes to start in anxiety, yet are jubilant having completed quite possibly the hardest summer of their lives. As third class cadets, we are still underclassmen, yet not leaders, but not quite followers. We are labeled as “role modelers” or those underclassmen who have been around the block, and need to guide the fourth class cadets to success in their first year. Third class, so I’ve been told by the brass at our meetings, is typically “the missing class” or the class at the Academy that fades into the background. There is an excellent opportunity to do the bear minimum as a third class, but there is also an excellent opportunity to find what you really enjoy, and more importantly, what you do not enjoy. CAPT Pulver, the Commanding Officer on Eagle, encouraged our class to use this precious time to find out who we are as cadets, and to not squander it.


I am excited to start the school year, and my schedule is packed tightly. This is potentially my hardest semester at the Academy, with some very challenging courses. Fortunately, I have a few classes that I am looking forward to as I progress into my major. Admittedly, I am nervous for a few of them, but my attitude from Swab Summer remains constant: if thousands before me have done it, so I can too and do it well at that. I am enjoying the privileges of 3/c year, and as one of my mentors put it today after church, I am “entering the final third of my cadet career.” That is to say, that the Academy experience is divided into three parts: swab summer, fourth class year, and the rest. In truth, Swab Summer did feel as long as fourth class year, and the first week of 3/c year was like it never happened it was so fast. This year, I hope to explore my personal interests, while also achieving the same level of academic and military success. I also hope to get into better shape…


That is the beauty of the Academy, the reason I wake up and put on uncomfortable leather shoes every day: we are all here for the same reason, and we will help each other out until the day we commission. Some of us struggle physically, others academically, but everyone here has something to offer, and has their own way of helping someone else out.


More about William.


What We Really Did on Eagle

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo This summer, I had the opportunity to sail through the Caribbean on America’s Tall Ship. The first five weeks of summer I spent on Eagle with about 150 of my classmates and around 50 permanent crew members. (That’s a lot of people for only 295 feet of ship.) We got on board the day after the last final, and immediately started working. We loaded tons of food into the storage areas and then set sail.


While on Eagle, my shipmates and I had to work hard to earn sign-offs and qualifications. We were given packets at the beginning of the summer with lists of tasks to complete. Once we completed a task, a person qualified in that area would initial that we’d done so far. Once we had all the sign-offs for a category, we could take a board, an oral test, to earn that qualification. We were expected to be helm and lookout and engineering auxiliary qualified by the end of the five weeks. On top of these qualifications, we had several hours of damage control training and were able to take a written test at the end to earn that qualification. Additionally, in the first 11 days, while we sailed from New London to Puerto Rico, we had to memorize the names of all the lines on the ship and parts of a sail. We had to pass these two tests to earn liberty in the first port.


It was easy to get bogged down by the workload and close quarters, but I tried to stay positive. I was really looking forward to sailing the Caribbean after a long school year, but when I got to Eagle, I was surprised by all the work I found out we’d have to do between port calls. For the first few days, I was exhausted and not in the best mood, but I realized that my attitude would have to change if I wanted to make it through the summer. I took on a more optimistic approach, thinking about the great port calls that lay ahead and just the pure opportunity of it all. No other college students that I know get to take a five week field trip to amazing vacation spots with 100+ close friends for free. This opportunity was incredible, and I wasn’t going to waste it with any more negativity. When you live so close to so many people, though, their attitudes rub off on you. It became hard to not let other people’s attitude affect my goal to stay positive. I relied on the port calls to keep me going, and they made it all worth it. (See more in my next blog post.)


More about Sarah.


Are You a Sailor?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Pourmonir Photo Are you a sailor? No? Me either. It is completely okay though, because soon you will be. I don’t know if that sounds exciting to you, but if it doesn’t it definitely should. You are missing out on some of the funniest and craziest times you could ever have. This summer I had the opportunity to sail up the entire East Coast on the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle. Never heard of it? Here it is! It’s beautiful! I have some pictures if you want to check them out. I got to climb all the way to the royals! Those are the highest sails on the entire ship. While over a hundred feet above the deck of the ship, I got to spend time with my shipmates in an environment most people couldn’t even imagine. We sailed all the way up to Sydney, Nova Scotia, and then to St John’s, New Found land.


After that we anchored in New York. You guessed it, right in front of the Statue of Liberty. If you haven’t seen New York City at night, imagine how beautiful it looks from 100 feet up right next to the Statue of Liberty. Absolutely beautiful is the only way I could describe it. The things you can do in the Coast Guard are amazing. Don’t worry if you haven’t traveled much, because the Coast Guard can make that dream a reality.


More about Keemiya.


The Unbelievable Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Beck Photo We’re all finally back at the Academy and I can’t believe how many different experiences my classmates had over the summer. Returning as 3/c is exciting but not nearly as great as the summer that’s quickly coming to a close. For the first five weeks of the summer, I served on the Coast Guard Cutter William Flores, a fast response cutter stationed in Miami, Florida. In the three weeks we were underway, we took on quite a few Cuban migrants and helped transfer 1,800 lbs. of illegal drugs. I qualified as Quartermaster of the Watch (QMOW) and Alien Migrant Watchstander and was included in the duty rotation just like any other crew member. It was motivating to really feel like I had a noticeable impact and was on the front lines of many Coast Guard missions.


One specific sea story I’ll share takes place off the coast of central Florida one morning around 8:30. I was standing QMOW and the commanding officer was the only other person on the bridge with me, steering and navigating the cutter. It was a calm day and there wasn’t much radio traffic until Sector started alerting us of two small rafts near the coast full of illegal migrants. I sprang into action, plotting the point relayed by Sector that designated the location of the rafts and advised the CO on course and speed to arrive at the location. As great as getting qualified was, it was even more exhilarating to get to use what I’d learned in a real situation. In the end, we retrieved both sets of migrants and began their processing. Crossing from Cuba is inherently dangerous so bringing them on our cutter is as much humanitarian as law-enforcement.


The second half of my summer was spent on Eagle. In six weeks, I traveled from Miami to St Johns, Canada and back to New York. The whole experience was really positive for me and I got to know many of my classmates better. Not many things can beat the feeling of being on deck at 3 a.m. with the engine off and all the sails up under clear, starry skies.


Overall, this summer was the most diverse and exciting I’ve ever had. It was all hard work but so rewarding with great port calls and many things to learn. Over leave I traveled to Europe for the first time and had a blast. After all the running around this summer, it’s a little nice to be back in Chase Hall surrounded by familiar faces and routines.


More about Laura.