1/c summer has already begun. Change of Watch marked the beginning of the cadet summer training period, and my classmates and I were frocked as 1/c cadets before graduation. This was a huge milestone for me and for our class. It’s crazy to think that we’re college seniors and 75% of the Academy experience is now in our rearview mirror. It has flown by but at the same time it feels like it’s been a lifetime.
I quickly packed out my room and moved all of my stuff down to Regimental Row, where summer staffers and company commanders will be living. It was a monumental task—so much trash was thrown away by the Corps of Cadets that an extra dumpster was rented for the week of pack out!
After an 18-hour flight to Juneau, Alaska, I reported aboard USCGC Liberty, a 110-foot patrol boat. The crew has been very welcoming, and I am doing my best to learn everything I can from the ship’s Executive Officer, a CGA 2013 graduate. This week has flown by! From my observations over the past week, it is evident that the crew is tight-knit, the unit has a healthy operational tempo, and the crew is willing and able to help newly reported-aboard personnel. I have begun breaking in as in-port Officer of the Deck and Quartermaster of the Watch, and the crew has helped me qualify for these watches. I believe that at the current pace and so long as I keep up my work ethic, these qualifications are realistic and attainable. I honestly had no idea what to expect—good crew, bad crew, good leadership, or poor leadership. But, the crew is great, and the command cadre has been willing to help me understand what I need to in order to get ready for ensign life. I hope to learn much from the Executive Officer’s dealings with personnel, technical knowledge on piloting and navigation, and his ability to keep morale high while also balancing mission effectiveness.
The motif of this week has really come back to the core tenants of the Commanding Officer’s command philosophy—family, mission, and ethos. If I could sum up the advice given to me by the Commanding Officer, it would probably be mission first, people always. Even though it is our duty to carry out the mission aboard the cutter, taking time for personal development and family is equally important. Keeping this in mind, morale and mission do not necessarily need to compete for time and attention. There is no reason why the mission can’t be fun.
As for the plethora of junior officer advice given to me over the past week, some things stand out. There is a divide between having no backbone and arrogance. It is important to keep a good workspace, maintain professionalism, and set the example, but also to show your human side, especially on a smaller platform with a tighter-knit crew. For me, the biggest takeaway so far has been when I know an answer, be confident, and project it. When I have no idea, or I have less than 75% certain, it is ok as a junior officer to just say, “I don’t know, can you show me?” It seems this is the key to success for maintaining the balance between arrogance and spinelessness. The Commanding Officer, or the senior most officer of the ship, is a familiar face. During my 3/c summer, he was the operations officer aboard the medium endurance cutter I was on. One thing that I observed two summers ago and what I am observing now is that the CO on this cutter is, above all, decisive. He is able to make decisions on the fly and sometimes with insufficient information, but he sticks to his decisions and is confident in his directives. This too, I am quickly finding out, is why our country pays Coast Guard officers.
During the past week on the cutter, I initially had feelings of regret or that I had made a mistake by not doing 11 weeks attached to this boat. However, despite the valuable experience at this unit, I am not directly responsible for any personnel. I’m glad that I opted to spend the second half of my summer on Regimental Staff because although I may have less underway time, those experiences and problem solving opportunities will also prepare me for junior officer life.
In other news, next month, I’m running another half marathon and taking a road trip with my dad over leave. I’m running another race in July with ENS Engelhardt, so that should be fun, too. I can’t wait for Swab Summer to kick off!
More about William.