The Coast Guard Academy is about the school semesters and the summer training periods. After two long semesters of assignments and homework, people are anxious to go off to their summer assignments. And for a good reason, I loved my third-class summer! It was the most motivational eleven weeks of my cadet experience. Over third-class summer, people of your grade are sent all over the United States and foreign countries via cutters, Eagle, or Small Boat stations. During these two months, you work out in the fleet and gain experience about what it truly means to perform the Coast Guard missions.
During my third-class summer, the Academy sent me to the cutter Forward and the cutter Northland. During the first month, I lived in Brooklyn, New York, and dayworker on the cutter Forward, helping their crew as they reconstructed the ship in drydock. During the days, I would paint hulls, and sand, learn about fire protection, and most importantly, learn about the crew’s lives. At night I would take subways across Manhattan and explore New York City. One of the most exciting parts of working in drydock was seeing firsthand the cutter’s construction and how contractors and Coast Guard engineers worked together to complete the renovations. The highlight of this part of my summer was when I learned how to weld. I learned how to mig and tig weld steel and aluminum and even helped to create pieces for the ship.
For my second month, I spent time on the cutter Northland. The cutter was on patrol and was in Panama. I passed through the Panama Canal and completed a patrol with them. During that time, I truly learned what it meant to live at sea for most members of the Coast Guard. It was demanding but so rewarding. We trained for damage control, case responses, and flight deck tiedown. During the month that I was on board, we had 4 cases. At all hours of the day and night, we would rush to the flight deck and assist the pilots as they took flight to the emergency.
One such instant was on the last legs of the patrol. Everyone was ready to go home when a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft in the area spotted a group of six lost at sea. Immediately all alarms went off on the ship. I rushed to my helo station and sent off the helicopter to search for the missing people. They found and retrieved them on a small, deserted island. Six people had been stranded there for eleven days and were in poor condition. We were so lucky to be in the right location at the right time to save these people’s lives. So many people every day fall victim to the sea. Their story and others remind me how important life is and the importance of the missions of the Coast Guard.
So many of my friends and classmates have stories much like mine about their time during third-class summer. Learning about the mission and the people of the Coast Guard is one of the most rewarding experiences of the Coast Guard Academy.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or want to know more about summer training at the Academy, feel free to contact me.