More than halfway done with 3/c summer, I can say that it has been the best summer of my life so far. I sailed from the Academy to Puerto Rico, through Drake’s Passage in the Virgin Islands, to Aruba and on to Cozumel, Mexico. I was part of the navigation team while transiting through Drake’s Passage, qualified as a Helmsman/Lookout, received my Damage Control Qualification letter, and actually steered Eagle all by myself during a rough night. I saw the Milky Way in the middle of nowhere in the South Atlantic, traded shoulder-boards with a Mexican Navy lieutenant, climbed around 500-year-old Spanish forts, and did all of this with the best of friends.
Now I am at home awaiting my next cutter, USCGC Dependable, down the street from my house, to get underway in a few days. I plan on completing my Quartermaster of the Watch Qualification and Advanced Damage Control Qualification in the next five weeks. Ok, there are definitely parts of the summer that stink, like waking up at 0330 to stand watch, cleaning unmentionable parts of bathrooms, and barely fitting into my rack on Eagle. After having a bad day in the rain, standing watch, and not getting a whole lot to eat, and finally getting to bed on Eagle after being up for over 30 hours with no sleep, there’s nothing to do but laugh hysterically with the guys in your berthing area at the dumbest stuff and pass out, and then do it all again. But that’s all part of the junior enlisted experience.
My summer isn’t over yet, but I already have some big takeaways, aside from my qualification letters. I am learning what seaman and fireman go through during their first tour. It is was interesting to meet people right out of basic training, people who are the same age, or even younger, who are doing the same job. They are the “real” Coast Guard people (non-cadets, officers, and enlisted), and it is eye-opening to interact with junior enlisted people as opposed to just officers and cadets (and the occasional) Chief Petty Officer at the Academy. I rubbed elbows with so many different Coast Guard members this summer, from admirals to seaman apprentices and everyone in between, but mostly with my shipmates, who make up the most diverse, hilarious, intelligent, and hardworking Corps of Cadets on the planet. I am learning what it means to work hard, what it means to properly mentor and be mentored, and how to take care of your people. I’m learning all of the right things to do as a junior officer, and more importantly, what NOT to do when I get the privilege to lead. I am home now as my cutter is in stand-down, and we are waiting to get underway in the next week. It is very strange being home, seeing how almost nothing has changed in South Jersey except maybe a new sidewalk or something minor. I have changed a lot, and coming home has changed my perspective on myself and the place where I grew up.
More about William.