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cadet blogs

A Summer to Remember

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Weeks Photo My 2/c summer experiences have been nothing short of amazing. Since the end of the school year, I have shot pistols, learned the Rules of the Road (ROTR), flown helicopters, practiced conning T-boats, and sailed a yacht to some of the nicest ports in New England! Not to mention, all of this was done with my best friends. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I’ll be the first to tell you that I am beyond satisfied with this summer and it isn’t even over yet. All of these activities are covered in the 2/c summer training program, along with Cadre Summer, which starts for me in one week. I could write a novel about my summer experiences but, for the sake of space, I’ll just write about Coastal Sail and the Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP).

 

Coastal Sail is a two-week training program for 2/c cadets. We are divided into teams of six or seven, provided a sailing yacht and safety officers, and then sail approximately 280 miles along the coasts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The trip is divided up into nine legs, ranging anywhere from 15 to 40 miles. We spent each night in a different port, some of which were Newport, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Block Island. While underway, each cadet had the opportunity to be Watch Captain (in charge of the yacht) for an entire day. This was an incredible experience for me; it was like being the Commanding Officer of a Coast Guard cutter. As the Watch Captain, I decided when to set sail and when to motor and, along with my navigator and helmsman, successfully navigated the ship from Hyannis to Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts. Other daily duties included mess cook, deckhand, and in-port Officer of the Deck (OOD). For the latter half of my transit, a thick fog descended on the water, reducing visibility to only a few hundred feet. This was a stressful time for me but, from the knowledge I acquired in ROTR, I knew what fog signals to sound and was able to confidently coordinate passing arrangements with nearby vessels. After we safely moored up in Cuttyhunk, we sat down at the table and debriefed the entire day. As a crew, we reflected about what worked and what could’ve gone better. The debrief proved invaluable to me, as my classmates’ advice helped me to better my leadership style and learn more about myself.

 

CATP has been the highlight of my summer thus far. Six classmates and I were flown down to Aviation Training Center Mobile for a week of Coast Guard aviation exposure. This consisted of listening to pilots talk about their experiences, playing with multi-million dollar simulators and, most importantly, actually getting some stick time. I was given the opportunity to fly a Dolphin helicopter (MH-65) for about an hour, which was incredible. The pilot gave me the controls and said to me “The world is your oyster.” I will never forget hearing those words as I took the Dolphin’s controls…I simply felt free. Able to go wherever I wanted. From that point on, I knew piloting helicopters is what I want to do in the Coast Guard. Other memorable events throughout the week included jumping into Pensacola Bay to be hoisted up by the Dolphin, touring the Gulf Strike Team’s warehouse, and also getting some stick time behind the HC-144 Casa Ocean Sentry (fixed wing).

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you enjoyed it! As always, I am more than happy to field any questions or elaborate on my experiences! Just shoot me an email at Zachary.W.Weeks@uscga.edu.

 

More about Zach.

 

Understanding the Long Blue Line

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo Chase Hall bears a striking resemblance to a ghost town during the summer months. Sitting here in the Cadet Watch Office on Sunday duty, I haven’t had much action come my way. The only thing that happened was having someone stop in for a quick visit. He was a Class of 2009 graduate who wanted to look at the Memorial Wall that is located on the quarterdeck. This wall contains the names and images of Academy graduates who died in the line of duty, along with a brief description of their service and whatever event called for their sacrifice. When he returned, I asked him if he had any special connection to someone on the wall. “Yes”, he told me. One of his classmates from 2009 had died in the 2012 helicopter training crash in Mobile and his picture now hung on the wall. On a rainy, quiet New London day, one of this man’s classmates had taken a few minutes out of his undoubtedly busy trip through the area just to see his deceased classmate’s picture.

 

From the minute we enter Swab Summer, all of us cadets are told about something called the Long Blue Line. It’s a metaphor for the connection among every Coast Guardsman, past, present, and future. Honesty is revered here, and if I am to follow that virtue, I have to tell you I never really gave much thought to the concept of the Long Blue Line. Yes, it’s pretty cool to remember that generations of inspiring and strong Coasties have come before me, and that generations will follow but that was usually the extent of my reflection. That visit from a past graduate made me better understand the Long Blue Line.

 

This man wasn’t in the Coast Guard anymore and I couldn’t tell you if he had even set foot on base since his commencement. Yet, he is probably a paradigm of a member of the Long Blue Line for that very reason. Being a part of the Long Blue Line is not just saying you’re a temporary part of some rich history, and you had a job where you got to ride a boat or a helicopter, and went to some old school in Connecticut. It is knowing people, seeing how they impact your life, and how they’ve impacted the lives of everyone else in the fleet. It’s acknowledging that you’ll never meet anyone quite like the people you met while you sailed and flew and saved. It’s taking a few minutes to detour out of your crazy life to your alma mater and say “hello” to the memory of your classmate, even after you’ve said “goodbye” to the service itself.

 

There’s a reason people are quick to tell me and other cadets about the people they knew in the Coast Guard, whether they themselves were ever directly involved or if they had family and friends who joined. The thing about the Long Blue Line is you don’t ever lose your place. You could make it your career, or a first job; either way, you’ll touch someone in both known and unknown ways. Because you hold that place, you might very well find yourself in front of the Memorial Wall years after graduation and, because you hold that place, a quiet cadet watch-stander may be contemplating the meaning behind your seemingly simple actions.

 

More about Abby.

 

Pilot Shadow Program Recap

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Sandri Photo Last spring, three friends and I had an opportunity to spend a weekend at Air Station Cape Cod for the Pilot Shadow Program. This program is organized by the Academy’s Aviation Division and allows for cadets to experience air station life by hanging out in the barracks and accompanying the crew on flights.

 

I had a chance to ride in an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter out of Air Station Atlantic City two summers ago. The crew carried out an exciting two-aircraft drill. The experience was awesome but with R-Day on the horizon and having limited knowledge of the Coast Guard, I was not considering flight as a possible career path.

 

This time around, we were able to look at station life as a possible future. Some highlights of the trip were flying the fixed-wing CASA airplane through a storm as snowflakes pelted the windshield, doing a door-open flyover of Boston in the MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter, and having lunch with one of the pilots until he was called away on a search and rescue case.

 

I’m still not sure what I want to do in the Coast Guard but the Pilot Shadow Program opened my eyes to a new possibility.

 

More about Eva.

 

2/c Summer Part 1: 100th Week

(Overcoming Challenges, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo When most college students finish their finals, it is a relief. The end of finals week means either going home to see family and friends or going on vacation. Not for us. 2/c summer begins with 100th Week, which marks the halfway point in our time at the Academy (200 weeks). There are some great videos on YouTube that explain it but basically the Company Commanders (CCs) from Cape May, New Jersey, where enlisted Coast Guard members go through basic training, visit the Academy to train the 3/c for the cadre role that they will fulfill later in the summer.

 

On the Monday morning after finals, I was woken up at 0500 to yelling and strangers banging on my door. The voices screamed, “Get out on this bulkhead right now!” My roommate and I ran into the hallway and braced up into the position of attention against the nearest wall. Girls were yelled at for hair and earrings that were not within regulations and guys were yelled at for not shaving. It was like Swab Summer for the rest of the morning; we were given objectives and punished with exercises when we didn’t meet them. It was a lot better than Swab Summer for me though because things were explained to us. We didn’t do anything without a reason. They yelled at us to remind us how it feels. They were harsh with uniform inspections to remind us to respect the uniform and get us out of just going through the motions.

 

Throughout the rest of the week, it became more of a learning environment. The CCs would pull a few people aside to run inspections or incentive training sessions. This gave us the opportunity to practice being cadre and develop a command presence. It was a very valuable experience for future Swab Summer cadre.

 

We also spent time in the classroom working through team-building activities and developing leadership philosophies. I met with the other Eagle cadre, who I will be working with this summer, to come up with a description of how we want to lead and train the Class of 2019.

 

The week ended with a group run, a leadership reaction course and a surface rescue mission. The leadership reaction course provided each of us with the opportunity to lead a small group of people to find a solution to a problem. For the surface rescue mission, we broke into groups and used maps to locate life-size 100-pound dummies and carry them miles to reach a base area. Each task was challenging and brought my classmates together in ways we hadn’t experienced since Swab Summer.

 

Friday afternoon, we renewed the pledge we took on R-Day and earned our 2/c shoulder boards and the privilege to wear civvies (normal clothes).

 

More about Sarah.

 

Transition to 2/c Year

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo So here we are one day before becoming second class (2/c) cadets. That means in one day we become upperclassmen, we are allowed to wear civilian attire, and are granted a much more liberal liberty. I am typing this while wearing a red cadre shirt. It’s unreal for us but also for the Class of 2015 as they watch us take the reins of leadership and pack their trunks to prepare for their graduation. Only two years ago we were their swabs; that time has gone quickly. Some officers and chiefs around the Academy have moved up a paygrade since I’ve been here, so that is validation that I’ve been here for a while! The days have been slow but the weeks and months have gone by extremely fast.

 

This past week marked 100th Week, which is the halfway point for our class. The Cape May Company Commanders, or the petty officers and chief petty officers who run the enlisted boot camp in New Jersey, instructed us on the basics of leading the new cadets who will arrive on June 29. The first day of 100th Week, we relived our swab lives—taking orders, sounding off, and being pushed physically. As the training progressed, we transitioned into a more instructional environment when the Company Commanders took a back seat as we led each other. Preparing for Reporting-In Day, some of us acted as cadre while others acted as swabs. It was strange yelling at our own classmates but it was part of the process of learning how to address swabs on R-Day. I tried to think back to my cadre, and the maxim that “you will never feel that you are as good as your own cadre” held true for me—it was extremely difficult keeping up the intensity and giving instruction, but we will get better as it as we get closer to R-Day. I did however find it hilarious that I caught myself practicing the same mannerisms and verbiage that my cadre used on me when I was a swab. For the remaining two days, our class completed a team run, conducted land navigation, and worked through the leader reaction obstacle course on a Connecticut army base. It got me pumped up and was a great reminder that I am still a member of the military after a lax 3/c year.

 

3/c year is very laid back and is probably the “least military” out of the four years at the Academy. This is for a good reason—it is the most academically challenging. Sadly, we are saying goodbye to many shipmates before recommitment on Friday. After 3/c year, cadets need to decide if they will commit to serving after completing two more years at the Academy. This past semester was especially difficult and it was the first semester at the Academy that I did not make the Dean’s List. In my last blog post, I mentioned that I switched my major from Government to Management. I was better at writing papers, as this makes up the bulk of work for Government majors but the Management major has many more tests and math-based courses. I wanted to challenge myself and I sure did with the math courses. I did not come close to the academic standard that I upheld during my previous three semesters at the Academy, but I learned the most. To gain acceptance to the Management major, the main hurdles are Financial Accounting and Probability/Statistics. I failed a few tests in both of these classes but I still made it out alright in the end. The way I see it is that while these classes were rough, I learned a lot and it will now allow me to take electives in what I really want to dig into as a Management major. I can’t wait to take electives linked to the required Organizational Behavior (OB) course I took this semester. I discovered that Organization Behavior is something I am good at, and something that I enjoy studying. I look forward to taking classes in OB and Human Resources in the fall.

 

3/c year was indeed an academic struggle. It was information overload with more than 20 credits in the fall. I began to stress over the fact that I probably would be out of the running for a Truman, Marshall, or Rhodes scholarship, which I was actually working toward with professors. But then I realized that I just need to do my best and that what’s really important is learning for the sake of learning. I didn’t come here to win a fancy scholarship—I came here to commission as an officer in the Coast Guard. My biggest mentor at the Academy and my former company chief, AMTCS Cain, reminded me of this when I was stressing out at midterms. He told me to hold on to what makes this place important: receiving a commission in another two years. No matter how it gets done, it will get done and nobody in the fleet will care if I had a 2.0 GPA or a 4.0 GPA. Still, I want to get as high of a GPA as possible because that’s just who I am. Regardless, my future subordinates and superiors will only care if I can lead and be led and have the organizational skillset to be a team player in today’s Coast Guard. Indeed, it is this attitude that I will strive to embody as I take on the role of cadre for the incoming Class of 2019 in late June. Failure is inevitable at this institution and the incoming class needs to understand that failure is the best producer of success—we can only succeed by learning from our past failures.

 

More about Will.