So here I am: my last week in south Texas. It’s hard to believe that I’ll be leaving on Friday for the second phase of my summer training. These past five weeks here have taught me lots about enlisted life, how to handle small boats, and what the Coast Guard does beyond search and rescue (SAR).
Since I’ve last written, I’ve participated in several interesting patrols, and some not so interesting ones. Instead of talking about that, I’ll talk about the other aspects of the Coast Guard that I’ve been privileged to experience. The Executive Petty Officer (XPO) arranged for us to see the Marine Safety side of the Coast Guard. We went to Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) Victoria, Texas, to shadow their personnel there. In my opinion, the marine safety field is very boring. They inspect marine casualties and vessels and facilities to make sure that they don’t pollute our waterways. It involves lots of paperwork and checking grimy corners for leaks. In my opinion, not for me.
A much better experience for me was my time with Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) at Port O’Connor. The Aids to Navigation (AToN) mission appeals to me: I love how precise it is, the nice hours, and the hands-on experience you get every day. During my two days with the ANT, I did more things than I had done for several weeks here at the station. Placing buoys and correcting off-station buoys was a lot of fun. After my brief experience with the ANT, I am going to look more at getting on an AToN cutter for my firstie summer assignment, or my first billet.
In addition to seeing other sides of the Coast Guard, I successfully qualified as a communications watchstander. In essence, I stand watch for four hours at a time, listening to various radios in case someone calls “MAYDAY.” This station isn’t too busy SAR-wise, but we do a lot of law enforcement work to make up for that. In fact, in my five weeks here, I have only heard the SAR alarm sound twice. Some of the cases I’ve seen have been interesting: lots of disabled boats needing assistance. What else have I done here?
The highlight of my time here has been my OC exposure. I’m not sure how much I can talk about it, but needless to say, it hurt. A lot. You need to be sprayed to carry OC as a boarding team member or officer, but you only need to do it once. It was extremely painful; they say that fair-skinned individuals react the worst, and I can believe it. One of my friends described it as “the devil peeing in your eyes.” You can’t see anything and have the hardest time doing simple tasks. I’m just glad it’s over.
And just like pepper-spraying, my time in South Texas is over.
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