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CADET BLOGS

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.

 

Incredible Experiences Underway

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hello! Good morning from South America. Hanna and I are more than halfway done with our time on the USCGC Thetis, which is crazy to think about. We have been underway for over a month, more than four weeks of living in a 250-foot space. We have been extremely operational this patrol in terms of the crew (not necessarily Hanna and me). However, we have been required to and are expected to rise to multiple occasions, participating in complex evolutions that require a lot of coordination on the bridge. Hanna and I are still breaking in underway Officer of the Deck (OOD), which means that we spend eight hours each day on the bridge, learning how to drive the ship and respond to any issues that an old ship like the mother Thetis is likely to encounter.

 

We have had a very exciting cruise and in the past weeks, we have experienced some things that I'm sure will make some of our classmates envious. In addition to the action of an Eastern Pacific patrol, we had a swim call where the entire crew was invited to jump off of the flight deck into the big blue Pacific! I tried to do a flip but ended up landing much less than gracefully. The entire crew busted out laughing and when I emerged; I also struggled to harness my laughter. (I was pretty sore the next day.) I was amazed by the clarity of the water and the temperature was refreshing; all in all probably my favorite day to date. After we swam around the cutter for two hours, Hanna and I had barely dried off before we were told to put on boat crew helmets! We got to ride in our small boat, an experience that was exhilarating and fun. As the boat bounced from wave to wave with a surprising amount of speed, I thought about how cool it would be to be a boarding officer and ride it for real! Hanna and I were soaked by a wave as we climbed off of the little boat, grasping the Jacob’s ladder as we scrambled back onto the Thetis. Later that night, I started to break in as Helicopter Control Officer (HCO). The job is not terribly complicated but it's important because it orchestrates the communications needed to operate our helo. I enjoyed speaking into the three different radios and look forward to my next session.

 

Hanna and I moved up to a stateroom when the new ensigns came on board. THE NEW ENSIGNS ARE HERE! They met us at our port call and it was so good to see our friends from the Academy, still smiling from graduation, but they were quickly a little stressed because it’s overwhelming for sure. I was so happy to see them come aboard. It is amazing to think that, at this point, Hanna and I can actually help someone else with getting to know the boat. We are just excited to change things up. Living in the stateroom is a complete 180 from female crew berthing. It’s a lot quieter, a lot less crowded and, honestly, it's boring. The women on board took us in like one of their own, and we had shared quite a few nights of gossip, laughter, and silliness that is only natural when 12 women are living in a small area. We had a lot of fun down there, and we learned that if you open yourself up, and expose your inner goof (mine isn't very "inner"), people have an easier time relating to you and mutual respect is almost certain. I know that the enlisted-officer boundary is one to be maintained but living with someone for a month will bring you together, especially underway, especially on the Thetis.

 

I am having a whirlwind of a summer. I have been lucky enough to get email from friends and family, which really brightens my days.  I learned that for my down time next year underway, I really need to buy some sort of iPad or tablet thing and load it with music and media because I only have an album of Taylor Swift’s (1989) that I know literally every word to, and probably half of the ship has her songs stuck in their heads. (I LOVE TAYLOR SO IT'S OKAY). I am excited to go home because I haven’t been home since Christmas, and my sister and I really need to reunite because I miss her terribly. She is one of my frequent emailers. Her one liners are my favorite; one specifically, "I got my nails done today, it was great!" Thanks for that.

 

More about Lucy.

 

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.

 

Awesome Summer Adventures

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Coburn Photo I cannot believe that it has been almost one year since I arrived at the Academy for R-Day last June. The time has really flown by and I am learning so much about the Coast Guard each and every day. Right now, I am on South Padre Island, Texas at a small boat station with another cadet. So far, this experience has been awesome. At first I was a little nervous but the crew has been very welcoming. They are always helping us and teaching us new seamanship skills. South Padre is one of the busiest stations in the country; not only have we been able to see how the Coast Guard works during real search and rescue missions, but we have actually been able to participate and it is incredible.

 

The weather down here is amazing. It has not dropped below 80 since we arrived and the beaches are great. We are allowed to go out and explore the island and, since it is so small, almost everything is within walking distance. We are at the station for two more weeks and then we will be flying back to New London to board Eagle. On Eagle, we will be travelling down to Philadelphia for the Tall Boat Show, which will be really cool, and then we will be cruising down to Bermuda (I am really excited for that part). It is going to be a lot of work but most of my friends are going to be on the same phase so I will be able to see them all again! Toward the end of July, we will end the voyage in Boston and then I will go home for three weeks of leave. On August 16th, I will report back to the Academy for my 3rd class year. I cannot wait to be part of Charlie Company and meet the new 4th class. To all of you soon-to-be-swabs out there: good luck this summer, have fun and try not to worry too much. Y’all will do great!

 

More about Mimi.

 

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors!

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo Today I was walking to lunch when I spotted an officer in the distance. I prepared to issue the proper formal greeting and salute…then found myself doing a hilarious little half-salute, half-overexcited wave thing as I exclaimed, “Hey, Commander! How’s it going?” Why the sudden adjustment of military customs? That particular commander happened to be one of the Academy’s sponsor parents, whose family I had visited several times! So, conflicting thoughts of “officer – salute now!” and “Hey, I know him!” resulted in a unique new gesture of acknowledgement. Maybe I can get that into our military etiquette book…

 

During Swab Summer, the incoming 4/c has the chance to fill out an application for a sponsor family. You are asked questions about where you are from, what activities you enjoy, how you feel about pets, etc. Each cadet is then matched with a family and gets the chance to have dinner with them over the summer. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for my own sponsor parents – there are truly no two more gracious and caring people! Plus, hanging out with their menagerie of creatures makes for a very good time indeed! It’s wonderful to be able to go over to a regular home and spend the night watching movies, eating delicious meals, bringing friends over, and doing homework somewhere that is NOT your Chase Hall room! These families are always there to provide support as we navigate the rough channels of Academy life. Sometimes I’ll come off of a tough week at school, frustrated and tired but then, I head over to my sponsors’ and get a chance to relax and refocus under their encouragement. It makes a world of difference at a challenging institution!

 

Each cadet has the choice to get a sponsor family officially assigned. What has never ceased to amaze me, however, is the willingness of every family to just pick up random cadets and adopt them as well. I experienced this with the aforementioned officer and his family – having met them at the Academy chapel, I wound up over at their house frequently enough that they had no choice but to call me their sponsor cadet. They perfectly exhibit the across-the-board generosity of all of the sponsors in the program. It seems like every family is thrilled to adopt more cadets than just those assigned to them! The corps is truly blessed to have such a strong support base during our four years here. If you are an incoming cadet, please strongly consider finding a sponsor, even if home is just a few hours away! You will not regret it – and your friends, who will undoubtedly wind up following you over to their home at some point, will be just as grateful!

 

More about Abby.