I AM BACK! Although for certain reasons (don’t worry I didn’t get into trouble), I am going to be staying one extra semester at the Coast Guard Academy, this means that I am going to be that much more prepared for when I go into the fleet. I will be what they call a SUPER FIRSTIE. As always, this is a more positive spin on things than most people may initially perceive because I am definitely one of those “glass half-full” individuals, which is why I am so excited to be sharing with you an adventure that happens to be called my second firstie summer.
Part 1: The United States Coast Guard Cutter Juniper
I started my summer a bit early. Because I knew I would be extending into next year, I got a head start on my summer and headed out to Newport, Rhode Island. There, on the naval base, in the farthest corner of an extremely large campus, two Coast Guard 225’s, and a 175’ (all buoy tenders) are moored up. I was sent to the Juniper while it was undergoing some hydraulics maintenance, and for that reason, we never actually got underway. I got to help the crew instead with preparations to participate in Fleet Week, and also to prepare for their scheduled testing of damage control drills and readiness assessments.
I briefly lived the buoy tender lifestyle and learned a lot, despite the fact that we never actually got underway. The crews are smaller, tight-knit, and very family-oriented. I really enjoyed my time on board and was happy to learn that a buoy tender schedule is often like a normal work week, out during the weekdays and in on the weekends (for the most part). I thought this was a pretty big plus to the platform, and made a mental note to remember that… JUST as I was transferring to a ship that was actually going to be getting underway that very weekend.
Part 2: The United States Coast Guard Cutter Forward
Now near and dear to my heart, in hindsight and even while I was underway, I have to say I had an incredible experience on the 270’ out of Virginia. I flew down to Portsmouth from Rhode Island and got underway with the Forward that Monday morning. It was a fast transition, meeting the crew, learning names and jobs and remembering where everything was. I was lucky because I had been on a 270’ my first first class summer, so it was actually a comfort to be back in familiar territory. I was quick to break in as Quarter Master of the Watch, and after qualifying, I stood watch in the CIC or Combat Information Center, and got my qualification for watch standing in there. My real passion is in ship driving when underway, and so toward the end of the patrol when I was allowed to begin breaking in on the bridge. I had a lot of fun learning the rules of the road in the context of an Officer of the Deck (OOD) board, where the specifics matter. The crew was amazing and I had the best time on port calls, a particularly memorable moment being when I was pepper sprayed the day after my birthday on the pier in Boston. Most cadets get this done before going to Boarding Officer School where they leave qualified to be boarding officers as the name may suggest. I got to see many whales, both humpback and right whales, and I got to see our boarding team complete a ton of fishery boardings and then have to put together the reports when someone had violated the law. I departed the ship after a month of being underway and at that point, it was hard to leave. Being underway for a long time is hard, but it really brings you close to your shipmates. This being said, I left the Forward in Portland, Maine, ready for my next adventure.
Part 3: Sector Life
Okay, so I got to switch gears a little bit. Well a lot a bit, for the second part of my summer. As a Marine and Environmental Sciences major, I took a class my junior year that taught me about geographic information systems (GIS). Basically, this is a powerful tool that can be used by anyone for anything. It is a map that you can put information into and analyze said information, combining it with other information that may, when used together, result in geographically savvy and efficient decision making. I use the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) software to create geographic response plans that would allow me to plan for an oil spill in a particular harbor or marine location. If an oil spill were to occur, responders could access my plan and see where the environmentally sensitive areas are, where the facilities that could endanger these areas are, and where they could deploy a boom from (a protection mechanism we use to keep oil away from the places it should stay away from). I took an assignment from District 1 to create these plans for both sector Long Island Sound and also Sector New York. I spent a week working on Long Island Sound, then two weeks on Sector New York (in which I challenged myself to go into the city EVERY night, which I did, and also happened to see Flava Flav in concert). My last day in New York, I was able to fly in the Nassau Police Department helicopter over my area of work, Jamaica Bay, and it was a very cool experience.
Part 4: San Diego
I was extremely lucky because I was able to use my GIS experience at the sectors to fly out to the west coast. Don’t worry though, it was still for GIS! I attended the ESRI user’s conference with my academic advisor, and we were exposed to the wonders and uses of the application that I had been working with for my oil spill planning. People use GIS all over the world to solve spatial dilemmas such as refugee migration, hurricane planning and response, earthquake rescues, police networks…you name it! ESRI put on a show for the crowd of almost 20,000 people! They demonstrated improvements they had made and advancements in the GIS world. It was pretty cool and I saw so many ways to take my oil spill responses to the next level. Not only did I get to attend the conference, but my advisor taught me how to SURF in the mornings! We went five times, and I got to be able to stand up pretty easily by the end. I am now a BIG FAN. Lastly in San Diego, I was able to visit the Scripps Oceanographic Institute. My advisor is a Ph.D. student there and he gave me the full tour of many of the labs and buildings. He introduced me to famous professors and also his own Ph.D. peers. I have always been interested in going to graduate school and now I have a good idea of what I am looking for. California was an amazing experience. And then it was time to get back to work.
Part 5: Back to Work
I flew back from Cali on the Fourth of July. It was cool to see the fireworks from a different perspective as I flew in over Providence, Rhode Island – they look a lot smaller. Now I am back at Sector Long Island Sound. I am working on my geographic response plans combining my New York and Long Island Sound methods to get the job done. While I was in California, I was asked to present my oil spill work in the fall at an oceans-specific conference, so I am now even more excited to put together this plan. I am helping out with a change of command ceremony this week and then next week I will be able to go out into the field and conduct analysis of the harbors I am planning for: New Haven Harbor and Bridgeport Harbor.
Working at sectors has been cool because I have never seen this angle of the Coast Guard before. They work hard in response and prevention; coordinate boat inspections, oil spill response, search and rescue, and port security; and a lot more, too. It is interesting because we actually work with a lot of different non- Coast Guard organizations to complete these missions, and depend on auxiliary Coast Guard members, the New York Navy Militia, local police departments, and park police to achieve everything that needs to be done, which is a lot more than I ever knew before I reported aboard. I have two weeks left of my summer before I can go on leave. It has been a very busy summer and I am honestly very excited to be back at school and not move for a while. I will be graduating in December and am incredibly excited to be in the Coast Guard!!! All of my now-officer classmates have had their 30 days of leave and have now settled into the rigors of junior officer life, all over the country.
Sorry for the lengthy blog!
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