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Cadre Summer: Coastal Sail

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Hey there CGA blog readers. As promised, I said I would write a blog about my coastal sail experience. Coastal Sail is a program with two objectives in my mind. First, we have to learn how to sail a 44-foot sail boat on our own. Second, we have to learn the most difficult type of leadership: leading peers.

 

The Coastal Sail program is two weeks long. The first few days are spent learning how to set sails, what lines control what, how to moor up to and depart from a dock, and recover a man overboard. Also, we load on all of the food we will need for the voyage. After that, we set sail. The voyage is from the Academy to Block Island, Block Island to Falmouth, Massachusetts, Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket, Nantucket to Hyannis, Hyannis to Woods Hole, Woods Hole to Newport, Newport to Stonington, and Stonington to the Academy. As you can see, we sailed a lot. We pulled into a different port every day, so we never had to sail at night, and we got to see some of every port.

 

I can’t say I had a favorite port. Every one of them was unique and cool. I’ve been to some of those places before, but seeing the marina side was totally different. I loved walking around the piers, seeing the different types of boats and people. I spent every port call with my buddy doing pretty much the same routine. We go for a run first to get a sense of the scene. Then we would walk around looking for ice cream spots and people watching. After we got ice cream, we would check out the boats, talk about the ones we would want, and imagine a life with enough money to afford some of the gigantic yachts we would see. I had a ton of fun in port, and my “routine” is a little bit of an oversimplification, but it makes the point.

 

My true passion during the trip was sailing. I had never sailed before Coastal Sail but I developed a passion for it. I didn’t learn everything there was to know about sailing a boat by the end, but I learned a ton. My passion underway was below decks doing navigation. I liked trying to figure out the optimal course to make us go faster, while trying to keep us in the relative direction we wanted to be going. My most memorable experience underway was sailing from Hyannis to Woods Hole. We were in 20 knots of wind and high seas. Everyone that went below decks was getting sea sick from the rolls, and we were heeled over almost thirty degrees. I spent about three to four hours below deck making sure we weren’t going to run aground, because we were transiting through a lot of shallow water, and with the wind and rolls it was hard to stay on course. It was a rough day. I have no idea how I didn’t get sea sick. But, we ended up making it safely to Woods Hole, so I felt like my efforts were worth it.

 

My leadership developed even more during coastal sail. I had two main lesson learned. First, leadership can be simplified down to accomplishing the mission and motivating people. Most people can tell someone else to do something that needs to be done, but that is only half of leadership. The other half is people. You have to be able to motivate people to want to do their job, and you have to take care of your people. If you can accomplish the mission and if you can figure out how to motivate your people, you will be a great leader. The second lesson I learned was more about what attributes people use to lead. For instance, one of my friends on my boat came into the program knowing how to sail. He had what is called expert power. His knowledge of sailing helped him to lead the rest of us because we didn’t know what we were doing for the first few days. Even after that, we still looked to him for his advice on specific sailing maneuvers. There are many other types of leadership. I’ve seen good leaders and I’ve seen bad leaders. As a result, I’ve tried to make myself the best leader I can be by reading books and reflecting on my experiences.

 

In the end, I loved Coastal Sail. I had a ton of fun, and I learned a lot. I would go again in a second. Looking back over the whole summer, I grew tremendously. That is a testament to the Academy as a 200-week leadership development program – it really works.

 

More about Hunter.

 

Small Boat Station Life

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo For the second half of my summer training program, I went to small boat station Ponce de Leon Inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Officers in the Coast Guard don’t get stationed at small boat stations, so this was the only opportunity I would get to experience one. My friend, Katie Neubig, and I were lucky enough to be stationed together, and we had a blast in our six weeks there. We earned our Communications Watchstander qualifications in the first two weeks and then spent the next weeks trying to get boat crew sign-offs, standing watch, and helping the crew around the station.

 

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we and the crew ran, played ultimate Frisbee, or surfed in the morning before boat checks. The work day went from around 0730 to 1500. Day-workers were done after the work day; people on duty had to stay at the station all night. Katie and I lived on the station, but we alternated which of us day-worked each day, so one of us could technically leave after 1500. Usually we just ended up staying at the station and catching up on sleep, though. We had our fun on the weekends. We had the opportunity to go to Disney World and a NASCAR race. For the NASCAR race, we were given free tickets and went to participate in the flag unfurling ceremony on July 5. It ended up being rained out, but we got to go back the day after in civilian clothes to watch the postponed race since we had the tickets. While in uniform on the first day, we went to victory lane and ran into a group of men who each had a medal of honor. We were star struck. These were real American heroes. We looked one of them up, and found out they’d fought in Vietnam. I think Sergeant First Class Gary Littrell ended up saying, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” the next day.

 

The most exciting thing that happened at Station Ponce while we were there was a migrant case. It is unusual to have migrants around central Florida, but we had a case of Haitian migrants one night. It was a weekend, so Katie and I were off. When we arrived at the station, there was only one crew member there, standing the communications watch. She asked us to come help her and explained the case to us. I relieved her at 2000 and stood watch until 0300 the next morning when Katie relieved me. I found it so fascinating to listen to the case progress over the radio and log all the information I heard. It was awesome to be a part of a real Coast Guard mission.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Returning Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Corbett Photo It was a long 142 days to be away from home. Then again I am only from Philly so I don’t have much room to talk as there are cadets from Alaska and other faraway lands. As I ventured out this summer, I kept track of what I needed to do to finally arrive home. I started my journey in Milwaukee. A small station, but a great station. I drove 45-foot and 25-foot boats that could zoom through the water and slice through waves at speeds upwards of 50 mph. (45 knots for those who are nautical.) I saved a life. I lifeguarded for four years in high school and had pulled struggling swimmers to the side, but this was different. A man’s life depended on the training I had. The “wealth” of knowledge one could accumulate in a whole year being in the Coast Guard. I sat in the radio room and answered the call and I sent out our boats with our crew. Everyone knew their position and there I was the rookie, calm, collected and managing the pickup of a 52 year old man who fell into the Milwaukee river system. I did my job and a man’s life was saved.

 

I was pepper sprayed…yes military-grade pepper sprayed, voluntarily. Probably one of the worst experiences of my life, but it was something that needed to be done. There is oh so little room to expand on all stories so I will leave this one to another day.

 

I left the station in high spirits and boarded the CGC Eagle. I knew Eagle was the last part of my trip. I sailed from Miami through awful weather, long midnight watches, and trainings on trainings, until we reached Nova Scotia. Two port calls down and few more to go. Then came Newfoundland, where I scaled coastal cliffs and jumped into iceberg-filled water, and then NYC where I would see my family for the first time in several months. One port call left. I scaled 15 stories in whipping winds and rain aboard the tall ship Eagle. It was the job that needed to be done and another step closer to that goal. Eyes on the prize and I just kept my thoughts toward that last sight of land.

 

The shores of Bourne, Massachusetts came in sight and I knew my summer was coming to an end. As I disembarked, I looked back on the summer with friends and I came to a conclusion that can best be expressed in the quote, “No one ever said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” I stepped out of my father’s car and onto the beaches of Jersey where I spent my summers growing up, and where this leave would be spent. The sand lit up beneath my feet as my weight squeezed the water out. I ignored the scientific reason and preferred to think that sand was welcoming me home. As if I was royalty returning back to my land after a long journey.

 

More about Shane.

 

Guam Greatness

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo After two months on Sequoia and having crossed most of the Pacific Ocean, we finally reached its homeport: Apra Harbor, Guam! What an incredible place! And the third video of my “Pacific Journey to Guam” vlog series will show you some of what I was able to do there. My time there was short, but I got a lot of exploring in and had some pretty amazing experiences. Distinctly unique from the other tropical islands I visited this summer, Guam is home to incredible adventure, warm hospitality, and great memories.

*Special thanks to artist Har Megiddo for the use of his music in this video.

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More about Justin.

 

A Summer in Review

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Hello CGA blog readers! It’s that time of year again, when everyone returns from their awesome summer assignments with stories to share and classes to look forward to. I was pretty up to speed with my blogs about the 2/c summer experience up until I became a cadre and got pretty busy. So I won’t waste words talking about my first few summer activities: Range, Rules of the Road, T-boats, and aviation training. However, looking back on my summer, the highs and the lows, I have to backtrack to mid-May. In May, I went into the doctors’ office because my shoulder was all out of sorts. I had dislocated it during a rugby match in early May, and I knew it was time to get it checked out. After an MRI, I learned I had severely torn my labrum (shoulder) and chipped a bone in my shoulder as well. With Swab Summer weeks away, I decided to wait to have surgery until after summer training. I don’t write that because I want people to pity the situation, or for people to think that I’m tough. I write that because I chose to forgo surgery to train the Class of 2018, and that passion to train the incoming swabs was more important to me than surgery. I would dare so far as to say that many of my fellow cadre had the same sense of passion about it as I did. So, for all the parents and future cadets out there, please know that your cadre are passionate about training you, and they chose to do your cadre for a reason.

 

Anyway, fast forward a couple months from May, and Swab Summer was just around the corner. I was home for a week off but I couldn’t get Swab Summer off my mind. Instead of living it up for that week, I spent hours reading books on leadership and preparing physically to train the incoming swabs. Additionally, I set goals for myself as a cadre. I wanted to be fair and respectful foremost. However, I also wanted to be a teacher. As cadre 1, it is easy to slip into a role of being a strict disciplinarian, but I wanted to break from that. Additionally, I wanted to instill a sense of pride in the Coast Guard and to teach them about what we do, in the hopes that it would unite them as a team and motivate them to perform.

 

As cadre 1, my job was to break down the civilian identities of the swabs; basically train them on uniform standards and drill; introduce the core values; and basically indoctrinate them. That is a high set of expectations, and I was lucky enough to have an excellent section of cadre to work with. We meshed well with personalities and work well as a team. After about a week, we were rolling as a team, supporting each other, backing each other up, and balancing the work load/responsibilities. By the end of week two, we were exhausted. People don’t realize, but cadre work just as hard as the swabs if they are doing it right. In addition to leading from the front and doing all the physical work that the swabs do, we have to figure out how to train them most effectively, and we have to take care of their physical and mental needs (like clinic visits and chaplain/counselor visits). We would stay up long after the swabs went to sleep, for me often not going to sleep until after midnight. We would discuss the day, what went well or didn’t go well, medical appointments, and we would plan for the upcoming day. As the last week arrived, we were exhausted and spent, but we pushed on.

 

A Summer in Review (Continued) 

 

More about Hunter.