Summer training continues here at the Coast Guard Academy. My section, cadre 1a, was at the Academy last week for Rules of the Road (ROTR) training. To be honest, ROTR is one of the more difficult things to explain to people outside of the Coast Guard. I usually say that ROTR is kind of like drivers ed, but for ship driving instead of cars. The ROTR book (which is what we were trained on all week) is like a legal document, which describes the proper action to be taken to avoid collisions at sea; however, there are many other parts of the book in addition to collision avoidance.
The purpose of the ROTR training is to pass a deck watch officer exam at the end of the week. As officers, we will all qualify as underway officer of the deck (OOD) at some point, and it is the OOD’s responsibility to ensure safe navigation of the ship. The ROTR exam was a 50-question, closed book test, and we needed a 90% to pass! The test covers over 200 pages of material, including: lights and day shapes (on vessels); conduct of vessels in sight of each other; conduct of vessels in restricted visibility; and much more. To add to the challenge, the rules differ internationally and inland. As you can probably tell at this point, the ROTR test is difficult.
I spent about three hours each night studying for ROTR in addition to the five hours in class each day. After class, I would clean swab rooms, work out, eat dinner, study, repeat. It was certainly a challenging week, but it paid off. Thanks to great instructors and a lot of studying, I passed my ROTR test Friday afternoon with a 100%. I was very happy with that because I aspire to be a deck watch officer in the fleet, and I tested well on the material that I will need for the rest of my career. The rest of my class did exceptionally well too. Out of a class of over 30, only three cadets did not pass. That is an extraordinarily high percentage, considering we only had four days of class due to Memorial Day. The typical passing rate for that week is 60%, and overall, the passing rate for any given week is about 70%.
I think the main reason so many people passed is that we didn’t want to take the test again. At the Academy, you have to pass the closed book ROTR exam. If you fail, you must continue to retake it over and over again until you get a 90%. After you have passed, you may take the exam open book. We have to retake the ROTR exam every four years (I think) for the duration of our careers, so even captains in the Coast Guard are taking this exam.
ROTR is a very difficult exam to pass in a week, but I am glad it is that way. Previously, ROTR was part of our junior year nautical science class, but with the demands of other academics and sports, the passing rate for ROTR was very low. Now, we spend one week on it so that we can focus.
If you have any questions about summer training at the Academy, please feel free to email me at Hunter.D.Stowes@uscga.edu.
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