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cadet blogs

Week 8: Sizing up the Coast Guard

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Hafa Adai! (Traditional island greeting.) We’re in Guam!!

 

I can’t say that I have too much to report on leadership - or Coast Guard-wise. We finished our AToN work and then made the transit back to home port. Time passed quickly, nothing out of the ordinary from last week, and now here I am, writing from GUAM! It’s crazy to think that I’m here and to look back on where I’ve been so far this summer. What incredible opportunities!

 

Although we have three weeks left aboard Sequoia, we will not be underway any more. To me, it feels like a journey has come to a conclusion. Guam, it seems, has been my destination for the summer, and I’ve finally made it. This is the home stretch. Time to finish up our qualifications, start passing on the collateral duties I’ve assumed, and to explore the area—who knows when I’ll get the chance to visit Guam again.

 

While we were making our trip back, I thought it would be fun to do some calculations and comparisons to help wrap my mind around how far we had come—that was one thing that hit me this week—how BIG the world is! That is certainly something you can’t really feel until you cross over more than 2/3 of the Pacific Ocean in a 225’ cutter.

 

From Oahu to Kwajalein to Apra Harbor, Guam, Sequoia traveled approximately 3,536 nautical miles (4,069 statutory miles). Sequoia is approximately 0.037 NM (1 NM ≈ 6,076 feet). That means that we traveled a distance equivalent to approximately 95,488.88 the ship’s length. Now, that doesn’t help much in picturing how far that is, especially if you haven’t seen or been on a 225’ cutter.

 

Let’s think of the distance we traveled compared to the length of a football field. The length of Sequoia would be equivalent to a length of 0.038 inches (maybe it’s easier to measure in millimeters: 0.96 mm, not even one full millimeter!) Whoa! And the ship seems so large to me. How small we must be!

 

Let’s take Guam as another example. It’s smaller than Oahu, but larger than Kwajalein Island. Its area is approximately 549 km squared. Compare that to the earth’s surface area: 5.1 x 108 km squared. Again, hard to picture that scale, even if you have a globe in front of you. Let’s go with the football field again. On a football field, Guam’s relative size would be 8.9 inches squared, which is a square with 2.988-inch sides. It’s pretty cool to me to think how far I’ve gone this summer! And yet the expanse of the Pacific Ocean is so hard to wrap my head around. It’s a great reminder that (and here comes the cliché…but it’s very applicable here) we often get focused on the immediate things in front of us—standing watch, completing projects, sleeping and waking, eating meals, but there is such a huge world out there. I’m so fortunate to get to experience these more remote parts of it!

 

It may be a summer of work and little rest, but it’s giving me the perspective and refreshing that I need to complete my last year at the Academy. I’m looking forward to going back and in a little less than one year joining the operation Coast Guard as an officer. Woohoo! Let’s go!

 

More about Justin.

 

Sector Honolulu

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Cantrell Photo What an amazing summer it has been so far! I got to Hawaii five weeks ago and have loved every second since! It is beautiful here and there is a ton of stuff to do so you never get bored. I was assigned to Sector Honolulu for the second half of my summer and I have been able to learn a lot about the Coast Guard from the ashore side. While at sector I was immersed into six different areas of operation that report to or are attached to sector. Learning about the different areas of sector prevention and response helped me to gain perspective on what I may want to do in my Coast Guard career and opportunities I can take to lead me there.

 

When I haven’t been working, I have been going to a ton of different, but equally beautiful, beaches. I have also hiked to a lot of mountaintops and waterfalls, snorkeled, swam, and eaten different foods. The views here are like nothing I have ever seen and the color of the water is unreal.

 

All in all I have had an incredible summer so far and I still have three weeks of leave at home to look forward to. I am ready to take a break and relax with my friends and family. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to come out here.

 

I know Swab Summer is in full swing so I am sending my best to the Class of 2018. I know they are in good hands with the Class of 2016 and I’m sure they are learning a lot!!

 

More about Sara.

 

Each Summer is Better Than the Last

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Krakower Photo As I sit here on the mess deck of USCGC Seahawk, I look back on a summer that has allowed me to experience more than I ever thought I would ever be given when I first applied to the Coast Guard Academy over three years ago. When I applied, I really did not understand much about the Coast Guard, despite my best intentions to learn. When I applied, I was also much less knowledgeable of the world, my surroundings, and what occurs outside of our 50 states. This summer has given me the final push required to complete my four-year tenure at the Coast Guard Academy. Want to hear about it? Just keep on reading!

 

1/c Andrew Ratti and I have been through almost every Academy summer together. We were swabs together, we were cadre together, and this year, we were both given the opportunity to go to Sector Southeast New England…and Israel. Sector was an interesting few weeks, learning about what the Command Center entails, and how thorough and critical the prevention and response departments of a sector truly are. We knew, however, that the opportunity at sector was only filler for the remaining weeks of our first phase together – the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) program in Israel. Along with 1/c Gever, we joined 27 other service academy cadets on a three-week adventure to the Holy Land. It was eye opening, and words can’t express the wonders we saw. From the Ramon Crater to the Dead Sea, from the Golan Heights to the Jordan River, from the Sea of Galilee to Tel Aviv; it all was an adventure and incredible earning experience. Until you’ve been to Israel, you don’t understand what is happening over there. You can guess from media outlets that are biased, and you can make your own opinions, based upon the inaccuracy being reported. But until you visit the Middle East, there’s no room to judge, or understand, what is going on, and why certain agreements just will not work. That trip was amazing, and very much worth the time off from USCG operations.

 

Despite that, we came back to the United States, and I headed to the USCGC Seahawk, an 87-foot patrol boat in Panama City, Florida (I know, my summer was extremely difficult). Here, I’ve worked on getting Inport Officer of the Deck qualified, Crewmember of the Watch qualified, and getting the many, many signatures that come with the Academy personal qualification standard (PQS) packet. We’ve only been underway for five to six days since I’ve been here my five weeks, but next week is underway every day until I leave. The crew has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot about what I want to do when I get out into the fleet. It also gave me my ideas as to what I want to put in for as my billet choices, which, somehow, is only seven months away.

 

So to put it short and sweet, this summer has been the best summer since I’ve been here. Each summer was better than the last, which I guess is the way it’s meant to be. I’m excited to take my leave, but I’ll be just as excited to head back to the CGA and finish this last year of school. That butter bar is getting closer and closer!

 

More about Sam.

 

Week 7: A Ton of AToN

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo “AToN” is short for aids to navigation; in the case of the cutter Sequoia, that means buoys! This week was my first experience with buoy operations, and, wow, was it tiring. Thankfully we had about 30 hours off in the middle of the week to relax and rest, not to mention that it was in a very neat location: Kwajalein Atoll. (Have you ever heard of it?)

 

But back to AToN. There are many moving pieces (literally and figuratively) to buoy operations. I spent the first day on the bridge (pilothouse of the cutter) observing from there. The bridge team not only supervises the on-deck activities but also monitors our position and ensures that the cutter is riding so as to provide the best platform for the workers. Administrative work also takes place on the bridge during buoy operations: recording information about the wear on the buoy and its chain, making notes about the evolution, etc. Being on the bridge requires patience and focus. The days working buoys are long, and for the personnel on the bridge, most of the day is spent standing and staring at a computer screen or out the window.

 

Work on the buoy deck is not at strenuous as I expected but still requires a great deal of focus and attention, as safety is one of the key concerns for everyone. The crew works methodically and smoothly, in a well-choreographed manner, each member knowing his responsibilities for each step of the process. The procedure is a bit involved but time moves quickly. Andy and I spent an afternoon working on deck, and the hardest part about it was surviving the heat!

 

We are only about 500 miles from the equator, so the sun is pretty hot and the days are long (not to mention that the longest day of the year was only about a week ago)! The crew still wears the dark blue operational dress uniforms (ODUs) or a dark blue coverall suit. These absorb the sunlight and trap in body heat. On top of that they wear life vests, adding another heat-trapping layer to the ensemble. Plastic hard hats keep head heat well confined, too. At the end of the day, I was covered in sweat, sunscreen, and grime from the buoys. Needless to say, my shower that night felt great. After a long afternoon and evening of hard work, it felt good to clean off and relax for a while before going up to watch on the bridge.

 

Now, of course, for the reflection on it all: the focus for this week has been personnel well-being and safety. It’s pretty intuitive for physical labor, but on Coast Guard cutters (and elsewhere, of course), it applies to everyone onsite. As I mentioned before, the bridge team must stay focused and alert; their well-being is as important as those on deck. If the bridge team loses focus, there could be serious consequences in the event of a casualty.

 

At the same time, however, the commanding officer and operations officer must also balance the completion of the mission with the crew’s well-being. It is hard for me to put myself in their shoes since I do not have any supervisors pressuring me to ensure that the job is done. As I see it, one form of mitigating this issue is to slow down the work schedule. Instead of three buoys each day, maybe we do two or even one. But that, of course, leads to another issue. The longer we stay out, the longer the crew has to stay away from home. Already this cutter has been away since the middle of April, and it has a long operational schedule. The crew is underway more often than not. I’ve got to give it to them—there are strong, resilient, and incredible people who work diligently and with determination despite the long work days and busy schedules.

 

Speaking of busy, I have other work to do, so I’ll sign off here. Until next week…when I’ll be writing from GUAM!

 

More about Justin.

 

Phase I of Firstie Summer!

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Wu Photo I cannot believe I am already a first class cadet at the Academy and the Class of 2018 is reporting in. Similar to third class summer, firstie summer is spent out in the operational Coast Guard. For my first phase, I got the chance to be on CGC Venturous, a 210’ cutter out of St. Petersburg, Florida. A female classmate of mine and I met the cutter mid-patrol in Corpus Christi, Texas and from there we went underway to Cozumel, Mexico and then back to home port in Florida. I enjoyed the experience on Venturous and found it very beneficial. Before my first phase, I had almost no exposure to the operational fleet since I was on Eagle for part of my third class summer and then at the Naval Academy on their Yard Patrol boats. I remember one of the first things our Executive Officer told my classmate and I when we first reported to Venturous was the importance of being a “sponge.” I kept that in mind throughout the phase and got a lot of hands-on experience being on a 210’. As a firstie, the main difference this summer from third class summer is that as a third class you are treated as a Junior Enlisted so you do a lot of manual labor and saw the physical tasks involved in running a boat. As a first class, my classmate and I were given a stateroom to stay in and treated as a Junior Officer. We shadowed the officers, ate in the wardroom and oversaw all the decision making that maintains a functioning boat and crew. It was a lot of hard work and long hours on watch as we got qualified as Navigation Petty Officers of the Watch (NPOW) and Basic Damage Control Practical Qualification Standards (DCPQS). We were also given the opportunity to conn the 210’ (give orders on how to maneuver the cutter) in man overboard drills. It was interesting to see and experience everything we learned in the classroom. During the drill, for example we saw how the surface area of the cutter played a factor in helping recover the man overboard dummy faster.

 

Our time in Cozumel was a great break from being underway. My classmate and I got to go dune-buggying as well as scuba diving. It was an amazing port call and it refreshed the crew for the last leg back to home port. It was inspirational to see a Commanding Officer work for his crew. He was always taking the crew’s best interest to heart, looking for good port calls and when the crew needed a break, the CO had a very well-timed swim call as well as a couple of low key days that allowed crewmembers to catch up on sleep. Once we got back to home port, we got a week of stand down (which means, unless you have assigned duty, you do not need to be on the boat). It gave the crew time to spend with their families and be at home. During that time, I got to explore the beautiful St. Petersburg. The other cadets and I also got to a little trip to Disney World for a few days. We definitely made the most out of our five-week phase; learning as much as we could from the crew while having fun along the way.

 

 


More about Ellie.