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cadet blogs

July: The Eagle Experience

(Just for Fun, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Coburn Photo As I am writing this, I am one week into my summer leave and two weeks away from my 3/c year at the Academy. To say that the past 11 weeks out in the fleet were exciting would be an understatement. Leaving South Padre, I was excited to see my friends from school, but also sad to be leaving all the awesome people that I met while at my station. The Coast Guard is truly an amazing community and I learned that firsthand while in Texas. After a day of travelling to the Academy, a night of no sleep and then a bus ride leaving the Academy at 4 a.m., we arrived in Staten Island, New York. There we were able to catch glimpses of the other half of our class leaving as we shuffled onto Eagle in our trops with sea bags over our shoulders. We were given the lowdown and attended safety briefs before they granted us liberty, which meant we were allowed to go out and explore New York City. After leaving New York, we sailed for a little over a week down to Philadelphia for a tall ships festival. During that week, we encountered a storm that tore our main course sail. It was around 6 a.m. and the emergency sail stations alarm went off. This created a whole lot of chaos in a room of 15 sleeping girls. We all got dressed as fast as we could and reported up to our masts. It was pouring rain and thundering and lightning. Luckily, we were able to take down the sail and the situation didn’t end too badly. At the time it was not a very fun experience, but it gave us some good sea stories to tell while giving tours in port.

 

It was really cool coming into Philadelphia because we got to see the other tall ships and there were a lot of people watching us pull in. While on liberty we were able to tour our sister ship the Sagres and many others in the area. After Philly, we had four days underway before we reached Bermuda. On the 4th of July we arrived at the beautiful island of Bermuda. The water was a gorgeous clear blue and the weather was perfect. We had three days on the island and they were filled with (many) trips to the beach, shopping in the small towns, and tasting the different cuisines. I had one day of duty when I gave tours and it was really interesting because the question that I was asked a lot was what it was like to be a woman in the military. Many of the people that came on board were from different countries and the idea of women in the military was very unusual to them. After Bermuda, we sailed 11 days to Maine and finished up getting our qualifications as well as passing the Damage Control Test. We completed our journey in Boston and while I was going to miss seeing my friends every day, I was very excited to be heading home. Eagle was a lot of hard work and the sleeping situations weren’t ideal but it was a great bonding and learning experience for the Class of 2018.

 

More about Mimi.

 

How We Wound Up Back Here

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Chang Photo We ended up pulling into port two days early, which meant two extra days of exploring Seattle… not a bad deal. In a city full of coffee shops and galleries, I spent those days drinking espresso and observing art, seemingly being cultured while in reality I was buzzed from the caffeine and Washington atmosphere. Then, I extended my stay in Seattle to hang out with two of my best friends, where we climbed Washington’s Mount Rainier, went to Portland and splurged on movies. I didn’t want to leave the West Coast but my home is New York. I spent two weeks with my family, exploring museums and parks and getting my Chinese food fix. My cousins drove me to the Academy on the 15th and that’s how we wound up back here.

 

The main difference this year is that I’m in a new company. Personally, it’s a little unnerving because I’m pretty awkward but everyone’s really friendly and I have a good division. In a way, I can relate to the new fourth class more because we’re both in the situation where we’re surrounded by new people and a bigger role than what we had before. It’s not unlike the first few days I was on USCGC Mellon; it just takes time to get used to your surroundings. Other than that, things are going great and we have the physical fitness exam (PFE) this afternoon. Can’t wait!

 

More about Olivia.

 

Leading Ourselves, Leading Others

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Keeley Photo Happy Coast Guard Day! I am almost done with my 1/c summer and must say that I am surprised by how much I’ve learned about life in the fleet. My summer began on CGC Waesche, a 418’ cutter out of Alameda, California where I spent 10 days afloat for a proficiency cruise. This is just a trip for the cutter to ensure that its crew knows what they are doing and how to properly drive the ship before it goes out on a long patrol. From there, I attended a one-week leadership program called Rocky Mountain High, a Christian program consisting of hiking, camping, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting in Colorado! Finally, I made my way onto the 270’ CGC Tahoma where I am as I write this. The Tahoma is currently underway but I am not allowed to say where. I’ll just say that it has taken me to a place I have never been before and have greatly enjoyed.

 

It’s definitely been a busy summer bouncing from place to place. The main lessons I am taking away, however, are not simply what to expect on a Coast Guard cutter. Rather, I’ve learned many valuable lessons on how to enter the real world after hanging out with ensigns as they arrived at their new units. I was able to help many of them move into their apartments, get settled, and figure out how to check into their units. Many issues arose that I would have never thought to prepare for. I have seen everything from not being able to prove that you receive a paycheck from the Coast Guard, to checking into your apartment when your roommate hasn’t submitted their paperwork and has essentially locked you out, to regular insurance issues.

 

The Academy may prepare us to lead others but we also have to be ready to lead ourselves and to face stressful situations with courage and ease. My former shipmates all handled themselves very well when, if it were me, I would have been quite panicky. One ensign was told, on her way to her new apartment with her belongings in tow, that she wouldn’t be able to move in for another two months. She was forced to live in a hotel for 10 days, find a storage unit for her things, and then stay the rest of the time in her room on the cutter right up until it went underway. She had only about two days to move into her apartment when it was finally ready before having to leave for three months. Yet, she is doing fine now and has learned a lot from it. Things come up that are completely out of our control. As future officers and leaders, we just have to accept what happens, try our best to remedy the situation, and stay positive for everyone around us.

 

I never expected to take so much away from this summer. I can’t say I feel completely prepared for life after the Academy but am more aware of what to anticipate and now know to prepare for the uncontrollable. Finally, the last lesson I took away is pretty obvious but still ignored by many. That is to use your friends from the Academy. Everyone is going to have issues and those issues may seem like the world to them until they realize they have a support system of friends dealing with the same things. Many, if not all, of the new ensigns I was able to hang out with made it through their troubles with the help of their classmates and family. I love knowing that I will have a support net under me when I leave the Academy. Until then, we can all make the best of it this year!

 

~Melissa

 

More about Melissa.

 

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.

 

Adapt and Overcome

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Auzenbergs Photo It still hasn’t hit me yet that 4/c year is officially over. These 315 days since R-Day flew by in a whirlwind of emotions and experiences and, without wasting any time, we’re now being shipped out to every corner of the United States for our summer assignments! Two classmates and I are headed to Corpus Christi, Texas to work at Station Port Aransas for five weeks. We boarded the bus at 0330 on Saturday morning, excited to see the station, meet the people we will be working with, and for our full day of travel from Providence to Texas.

 

Unfortunately, it is now 1130 Sunday morning and we still haven’t gotten on our last flight connection from Dallas to Corpus Christi! Major thunderstorms and tornado warnings in Texas last night caused our flight to Dallas from Philadelphia to be delayed and standing in the window of the terminal B21, we watched our last connection from Dallas to Corpus Christi pull out onto the runway. After a few hours on standby for the next flight that was at 2230, we were told there was no more room, and that it was the last flight of the night. We booked new tickets for a 1030 flight the next morning and decided there was no way we were sleeping in the airport that we had just spent that last six hours in (especially in our trops because our bags with extra clothes were in limbo somewhere between Dallas and Corpus Christi), so we got a hotel room for the night and after being up for 20 hours and slept like babies. In the morning we woke up to thunder and lighting, and without much hope, headed back to the airport around 0800 for the 1030 flight. No surprise at all, we found out that it had been cancelled, so now here we sit, back in terminal B21, praying that the 1200 flight that we got seats on will bring us better luck!

 

To me, this whole situation is a sort of reminder of what we are doing here. Whether it be at the Academy, our summer assignments, or in the fleet as officers, this is a job, not a vacation, and it is not supposed to be easy! That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be plenty of fun and unique experiences, really cool port calls or incredible locations that we may be assigned to, because there will be! But it is all one massive learning experience, and I have no doubt it is going to be worth it in the end. The Coast Guard is all about reaction time, adjusting to changes on the fly, and overcoming any issues that may arise! So far, I think we’re doing alright.

 

More about Gabrielle.