I just arrived to Boston aboard CGC Spencer after two weeks underway and after four weeks on Eagle. It has been a really fun summer so far and I have learned so much. I learned a lot about myself, a lot about followership and leadership, and a ton about the Coast Guard. After New York City on board Eagle, we went for 10 days underway to Norfolk, Virginia for a few days in port there. We were all not looking forward to Norfolk, but it turned out to be everyone’s favorite port. The city had an amazing reception for the tall ships coming in and had so many activities for us to do in port. They had free concerts and free shuttles to malls, beaches, Busch Gardens, or waterparks and everyone had fun at all of them. The location of where we were moored up was the coolest, right in downtown Norfolk in the middle of “Harborfest,” a big maritime celebration that happens every year in Norfolk. After that short stay, we headed up the Chesapeake to Baltimore, Maryland, which was one of the coolest harbors to come into. It was tiny and I felt as if we weren’t going to fit, but we made it into the newly redone downtown Baltimore, which had a very old industrious feel with all the bricks and smokestacks. There were plenty of nice places to eat, walk around, and there was also the gorgeous National Aquarium with a huge shark exhibit, otter show, dolphin show, and much more. It proved why it was called the National Aquarium. I only got to spend one night in Baltimore because the next morning I was on a plane with two of my classmates back to NYC. USCGC Spencer was waiting for us in Staten Island.
We eventually made it after a surprisingly long day of travelling, and we left the pier the next morning to be underway for two weeks. It was good to see an operational Coast Guard unit, especially a cutter, which was a rare experience for my class. It is good to just sit back and see how people work. There isn’t too much for cadets to do onboard since we are not yet qualified so we usually get stuck with the bottom of the food chain jobs that take no mental capability. Usually they were not fun jobs, yet someone had to do them nonetheless. It was good to give the crew a break from these jobs, too, since they have to do them all the time. One of my favorite things we got tasked with was unclogging the sewage holding tank. Yes, it was just as much fun as it sounds. DC2 stuck a crowbar up the valve and there came 40 gallons of that lovely #2 all over my newly pressed uniform. So there I sat for the next few hours with a bottle of Clorox, a hose, and a rag, cleaning every nook and cranny in the engine room. I did take a three hour long shower after and enjoyed every minute of it, even though I still smelled afterwards. All these little jobs are good experience for us in our leadership development no matter how much they stink. We learn what the junior enlisted have to go through everyday and we learn an appreciation for what they do as well as every enlisted person on the ship. You get to hear what ticks them off and what makes them happy. You learn what makes a ship work and what can break a ship apart, besides icebergs. Also, with every interaction whether it be Coast Guard related or not, you learn what you want to be like and what you don’t want to be like. You learn about poor leadership and good leadership and it is a great learning tool to feel how each feels as a follower so when you are a leader, you know what to do and how to treat your people. I have learned more about myself this summer than I could have imagined. I saw what hard work gets you in the Coast Guard and the importance of our Honor Concept first hand. This summer puts everything you do at the Academy in perspective. You finally realize why things are the way they are, yet sometimes you find out that the Academy is its own beast that just sometimes doesn’t make sense. All in all, it was a great summer experience and I will bring everything I learned back to the Academy to build upon it, share it, and be an even better role model for my new 4/c.
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