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cadet blogs

A Dispatch from the Arctic

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Kearney Photo Ahoy all ye blog readers!


"Polar Bear! 1 mile ahead. Port Bow." The all-hands announcement ignited a storm of eager sailors and scientists alike, as large-lensed cameras were brought out on the deck of the Healy and a plethora of oohs and ahhs followed. I am writing to you after witnessing yet another polar bear upon this wonderful Arctic ice; the unique wildlife, along with the breathtaking, illuminated horizon, provides a constant reminder of the awe-inspiring world north of the Arctic Circle.


Despite the recreational views, the science work has continued in full force this past week. A mooring recovery and deployment were conducted in order to obtain data on the North Slope boundary current, shelf break, and the Pacific water’s path into the Arctic Ocean. The moorings are reused, with this most recent mooring reaching its 10th deployment since 2002. The depth of this particular mooring reached 147 meters.


Along with the moorings, we have continued to conduct the Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) casts. The scientists and crew recently painted creative and unique images upon Styrofoam cups that were attached to our deep sea CTD cast. The water pressure at that depth dramatically shrunk the cups. The depth of the cast reached 3,744 meters, and as a result, the Styrofoam cups are tiny, beautiful, and a wonderful memento of our time in the Arctic.


For the duration of the current science mission, six Coast Guard Academy senior cadets have embarked on Healy in order to gain final fleet experience before obtaining their officer commissions next spring. 1/c Marina Stevens, 1/c Elise Sako, 1/c Gabriel Patterson, 1/c Anthony Orr, 1/c Abby King, and myself are currently onboard the ship and have crossed into the Chukchi Sea for the first time. While onboard, we are in a watch rotation where we will either obtain their Bridge Watchstander and Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) qualifications, or their Technician of the Watch (TOW) qualification. During their sophomore and senior summers, Coast Guard Academy cadets are sent into the fleet in order to garner skills in seamanship, ship engineering, and leadership.


And last, but most certainly not least, the Saturday morale night consisted of a highly competitive sumo wrestling tournament. Our well-trained and Olympic fit athletes donned the giant sumo suits in order to grapple in this marvelous spectacle of pure grit and determination. SN Redhorse won the overall competition, while MK2 Martin won the Most Creative category. The event was a delightful way to end the week, for both spectators and competitors alike!


Follow the ship via our track-line updates on Icefloe (, and we will catch you on next week’s installment.


More about Zachary.


Summer, Take 2

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo As you might recall, in the last entry of the epic chronicle that is my cadet blog, I was sitting in a Seattle Starbucks discussing my time on the USCGC Midgett. Right now, I’m sitting in another food venue (seems to be a trend here...); but, this time, it’s the mess deck of the Barque Eagle, the Coast Guard tall ship and Academy’s training vessel. And, I might add, the only active duty tall ship in the U.S. military. Maybe the World Cup final will start playing on the mess deck TV, but to be quite honest, my faith in the ability to find satellite signal out in the Atlantic Ocean is weak.


Third class summer is broken into two parts. I, along with my classmates onboard Eagle right now, all started off at a cutter, small boat station, or playing late-season sports. Thus, we’re currently fulfilling the second half of our training on Eagle. These weeks are all about learning the “traditional” skills of sailing and navigation. We have bridge and engineering qualifications similar to those at our first units; but, in addition, we now have celestial navigation, damage control, and deck seamanship activities in which to participate as well. We have used sextants and stars to plot position, climbed the rigging and hauled lines to set sails, qualified helm and lookout, studied for the damage control exam, and learned the engineering watch stander round. So, in essence, we get to act out Pirates of the Caribbean for a month and a half. Arrgh!


Eagle is the distinctive feature of third class summer; most cadets will never sail on this ship again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, due to my desires to be Swab Summer cadre and to see icebreaking and other units as a firstie; but, I’m grateful to have had the chance to be on Eagle. The mission of the Coast Guard Academy is to create officers “with a liking for the sea and its lore,” and I believe Eagle and the traditions that surround it get us as close to that lore as we’ll ever be. Knowing how mariners have sailed throughout the years helps us to see how things have changed: what has improved and what is missing, what our roles as sailors demand now versus in the past, what new challenges we face. Having this background in square rigger sailing, a seemingly old-fashioned art, actually helps us understand the modern Coast Guard. It’s a unique experience of the Academy training program!


(And if you were wondering… the TV never did work.)


More about Abby.


Week 9: What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo When people asked me this question when I was younger, I never would have imagined that I’d be transiting across the Pacific Ocean, inspecting buoy chains and shackles, or exploring small tropical islands and atolls. Whoa! And I’m fortunate to know what I’ll be doing for the first five years after graduating from college…or at least, I know that I’ll be part of the Coast Guard. I can’t say that I have a definite answer to the “what do you wanna do…” question beyond that.


The training objective for this summer is to provide us with an opportunity to serve in the role of a junior officer at a Coast Guard unit, in my case, aboard a cutter. I feel that this summer has done a fairly decent job of doing that. As my past blogs from this summer have shown, I’ve been busy working on many different project and qualifications at one time. Thankfully, since the cutter and crew returned to home port last weekend, this past week has been our stand-down period, meaning that most days are off, which provided me a chance to explore Guam a little more (how about those evening farmers markets and Japanese supermarkets!) While I still want to get out and do some hiking (“boonie stomping,” as it’s called here), this week has been great for catching up on some much needed rest. As always, this means that I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my future in the Coast Guard. What am I going to do when I graduate?


That question has been posed to Andy and me many times this summer. At this point, I don’t know what I’d like to do. I can see myself going to any platform of cutter or even going to a sector to do prevention (marine inspections). From what I’ve been told, going to certain platforms upon graduation can limit one’s career path in the Coast Guard. I would like to make service in the Coast Guard a career, so I’ve been spending a lot of time considering what I’d like to actually do long term. As I begin to figure that out, I can better decide which platform upon graduation would be best for preparing for that long-term specialty. Many Coasties have said that the best thing to do upon graduation is to go to a large cutter, and that is certainly an option, but I’m not planning to be a cutterman—that’s not why I joined the Coast Guard. I’ve been told that an ensign tour on a cutter is very valuable for young officers, but I am not fond of the idea of waiting two additional years before locking onto a specific career path just for a “valuable learning opportunity.” If I make the most of my first assignment, can’t I get the most valuable learning experience that will best prepare me for that career path? It’s not that I absolutely will not go to a cutter; in fact, I’d be happy with a buoy tender like Sequoia.


Of course the next question is, what is this specific career path that I want? I’ve changed my answer to this question many times, or rather, added answers to this question. The nice thing about having a career in the Coast Guard is that I can develop a specialty and then a subspecialty. I haven’t quite nailed down a subspecialty yet (but that’s mostly because I don’t really know what’s out there); I do think I’ve determined my desired specialty: organizational improvement. As I look back at my life, I’ve always been excited about taking whatever group that I’m part of—school, church youth group—to the next level of efficacy and efficiency. I love developing ideas for improving the way we do things. How can it be better for our people? How can we provide a better product or service? I can’t stand for status quo.


Over the next few months before we put in our dream sheets for our first billet, I’m going to be talking to officers at the Academy and elsewhere about how I put my drive to improve to work for the Coast Guard. From my experience talking with officers so far, everyone has their own opinion, so I’ll have to take these comments and this advice and synthesize it before making my decision. That analysis has already begun this summer, and I am glad that I’ve had these past two months to begin to understand where I fit into the Coast Guard.


Ok, this is a long (and maybe somewhat rambling) blog, so I’ll pause here. I have two weeks left in Guam. Let’s hope that there aren’t any tropical storms that threaten the island. If that’s the case, we may have to get underway again to avoid the storm! We actually went offshore for about 30 hours this past weekend for a storm. Hopefully next week I’ll have some exciting Guam exploration stories to share!


More about Justin.


Week 8: Sizing up the Coast Guard

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Hafa Adai! (Traditional island greeting.) We’re in Guam!!


I can’t say that I have too much to report on leadership - or Coast Guard-wise. We finished our AToN work and then made the transit back to home port. Time passed quickly, nothing out of the ordinary from last week, and now here I am, writing from GUAM! It’s crazy to think that I’m here and to look back on where I’ve been so far this summer. What incredible opportunities!


Although we have three weeks left aboard Sequoia, we will not be underway any more. To me, it feels like a journey has come to a conclusion. Guam, it seems, has been my destination for the summer, and I’ve finally made it. This is the home stretch. Time to finish up our qualifications, start passing on the collateral duties I’ve assumed, and to explore the area—who knows when I’ll get the chance to visit Guam again.


While we were making our trip back, I thought it would be fun to do some calculations and comparisons to help wrap my mind around how far we had come—that was one thing that hit me this week—how BIG the world is! That is certainly something you can’t really feel until you cross over more than 2/3 of the Pacific Ocean in a 225’ cutter.


From Oahu to Kwajalein to Apra Harbor, Guam, Sequoia traveled approximately 3,536 nautical miles (4,069 statutory miles). Sequoia is approximately 0.037 NM (1 NM ≈ 6,076 feet). That means that we traveled a distance equivalent to approximately 95,488.88 the ship’s length. Now, that doesn’t help much in picturing how far that is, especially if you haven’t seen or been on a 225’ cutter.


Let’s think of the distance we traveled compared to the length of a football field. The length of Sequoia would be equivalent to a length of 0.038 inches (maybe it’s easier to measure in millimeters: 0.96 mm, not even one full millimeter!) Whoa! And the ship seems so large to me. How small we must be!


Let’s take Guam as another example. It’s smaller than Oahu, but larger than Kwajalein Island. Its area is approximately 549 km squared. Compare that to the earth’s surface area: 5.1 x 108 km squared. Again, hard to picture that scale, even if you have a globe in front of you. Let’s go with the football field again. On a football field, Guam’s relative size would be 8.9 inches squared, which is a square with 2.988-inch sides. It’s pretty cool to me to think how far I’ve gone this summer! And yet the expanse of the Pacific Ocean is so hard to wrap my head around. It’s a great reminder that (and here comes the cliché…but it’s very applicable here) we often get focused on the immediate things in front of us—standing watch, completing projects, sleeping and waking, eating meals, but there is such a huge world out there. I’m so fortunate to get to experience these more remote parts of it!


It may be a summer of work and little rest, but it’s giving me the perspective and refreshing that I need to complete my last year at the Academy. I’m looking forward to going back and in a little less than one year joining the operation Coast Guard as an officer. Woohoo! Let’s go!


More about Justin.


Sector Honolulu

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Cantrell Photo What an amazing summer it has been so far! I got to Hawaii five weeks ago and have loved every second since! It is beautiful here and there is a ton of stuff to do so you never get bored. I was assigned to Sector Honolulu for the second half of my summer and I have been able to learn a lot about the Coast Guard from the ashore side. While at sector I was immersed into six different areas of operation that report to or are attached to sector. Learning about the different areas of sector prevention and response helped me to gain perspective on what I may want to do in my Coast Guard career and opportunities I can take to lead me there.


When I haven’t been working, I have been going to a ton of different, but equally beautiful, beaches. I have also hiked to a lot of mountaintops and waterfalls, snorkeled, swam, and eaten different foods. The views here are like nothing I have ever seen and the color of the water is unreal.


All in all I have had an incredible summer so far and I still have three weeks of leave at home to look forward to. I am ready to take a break and relax with my friends and family. I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to come out here.


I know Swab Summer is in full swing so I am sending my best to the Class of 2018. I know they are in good hands with the Class of 2016 and I’m sure they are learning a lot!!


More about Sara.


Each Summer is Better Than the Last

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Krakower Photo As I sit here on the mess deck of USCGC Seahawk, I look back on a summer that has allowed me to experience more than I ever thought I would ever be given when I first applied to the Coast Guard Academy over three years ago. When I applied, I really did not understand much about the Coast Guard, despite my best intentions to learn. When I applied, I was also much less knowledgeable of the world, my surroundings, and what occurs outside of our 50 states. This summer has given me the final push required to complete my four-year tenure at the Coast Guard Academy. Want to hear about it? Just keep on reading!


1/c Andrew Ratti and I have been through almost every Academy summer together. We were swabs together, we were cadre together, and this year, we were both given the opportunity to go to Sector Southeast New England…and Israel. Sector was an interesting few weeks, learning about what the Command Center entails, and how thorough and critical the prevention and response departments of a sector truly are. We knew, however, that the opportunity at sector was only filler for the remaining weeks of our first phase together – the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) program in Israel. Along with 1/c Gever, we joined 27 other service academy cadets on a three-week adventure to the Holy Land. It was eye opening, and words can’t express the wonders we saw. From the Ramon Crater to the Dead Sea, from the Golan Heights to the Jordan River, from the Sea of Galilee to Tel Aviv; it all was an adventure and incredible earning experience. Until you’ve been to Israel, you don’t understand what is happening over there. You can guess from media outlets that are biased, and you can make your own opinions, based upon the inaccuracy being reported. But until you visit the Middle East, there’s no room to judge, or understand, what is going on, and why certain agreements just will not work. That trip was amazing, and very much worth the time off from USCG operations.


Despite that, we came back to the United States, and I headed to the USCGC Seahawk, an 87-foot patrol boat in Panama City, Florida (I know, my summer was extremely difficult). Here, I’ve worked on getting Inport Officer of the Deck qualified, Crewmember of the Watch qualified, and getting the many, many signatures that come with the Academy personal qualification standard (PQS) packet. We’ve only been underway for five to six days since I’ve been here my five weeks, but next week is underway every day until I leave. The crew has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot about what I want to do when I get out into the fleet. It also gave me my ideas as to what I want to put in for as my billet choices, which, somehow, is only seven months away.


So to put it short and sweet, this summer has been the best summer since I’ve been here. Each summer was better than the last, which I guess is the way it’s meant to be. I’m excited to take my leave, but I’ll be just as excited to head back to the CGA and finish this last year of school. That butter bar is getting closer and closer!


More about Sam.


Week 7: A Ton of AToN

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo “AToN” is short for aids to navigation; in the case of the cutter Sequoia, that means buoys! This week was my first experience with buoy operations, and, wow, was it tiring. Thankfully we had about 30 hours off in the middle of the week to relax and rest, not to mention that it was in a very neat location: Kwajalein Atoll. (Have you ever heard of it?)


But back to AToN. There are many moving pieces (literally and figuratively) to buoy operations. I spent the first day on the bridge (pilothouse of the cutter) observing from there. The bridge team not only supervises the on-deck activities but also monitors our position and ensures that the cutter is riding so as to provide the best platform for the workers. Administrative work also takes place on the bridge during buoy operations: recording information about the wear on the buoy and its chain, making notes about the evolution, etc. Being on the bridge requires patience and focus. The days working buoys are long, and for the personnel on the bridge, most of the day is spent standing and staring at a computer screen or out the window.


Work on the buoy deck is not at strenuous as I expected but still requires a great deal of focus and attention, as safety is one of the key concerns for everyone. The crew works methodically and smoothly, in a well-choreographed manner, each member knowing his responsibilities for each step of the process. The procedure is a bit involved but time moves quickly. Andy and I spent an afternoon working on deck, and the hardest part about it was surviving the heat!


We are only about 500 miles from the equator, so the sun is pretty hot and the days are long (not to mention that the longest day of the year was only about a week ago)! The crew still wears the dark blue operational dress uniforms (ODUs) or a dark blue coverall suit. These absorb the sunlight and trap in body heat. On top of that they wear life vests, adding another heat-trapping layer to the ensemble. Plastic hard hats keep head heat well confined, too. At the end of the day, I was covered in sweat, sunscreen, and grime from the buoys. Needless to say, my shower that night felt great. After a long afternoon and evening of hard work, it felt good to clean off and relax for a while before going up to watch on the bridge.


Now, of course, for the reflection on it all: the focus for this week has been personnel well-being and safety. It’s pretty intuitive for physical labor, but on Coast Guard cutters (and elsewhere, of course), it applies to everyone onsite. As I mentioned before, the bridge team must stay focused and alert; their well-being is as important as those on deck. If the bridge team loses focus, there could be serious consequences in the event of a casualty.


At the same time, however, the commanding officer and operations officer must also balance the completion of the mission with the crew’s well-being. It is hard for me to put myself in their shoes since I do not have any supervisors pressuring me to ensure that the job is done. As I see it, one form of mitigating this issue is to slow down the work schedule. Instead of three buoys each day, maybe we do two or even one. But that, of course, leads to another issue. The longer we stay out, the longer the crew has to stay away from home. Already this cutter has been away since the middle of April, and it has a long operational schedule. The crew is underway more often than not. I’ve got to give it to them—there are strong, resilient, and incredible people who work diligently and with determination despite the long work days and busy schedules.


Speaking of busy, I have other work to do, so I’ll sign off here. Until next week…when I’ll be writing from GUAM!


More about Justin.


Who Doesn't Love Sailing Around the Caribbean?

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Cannon Photo This summer has been unforgettable. Not only was I able to sail around the Caribbean for five weeks, but I was able to sail with some of my best friends. Eagle was an adventure of its own, with the tiring 0400-0800 watches, countless sail stations (where we would set the sails), and being surrounded by the same group of people in tight quarters for over a month straight. Despite this, I can honestly say that I had an overall positive experience. I made so many new friends just by working together during this time, and I grew more as a person than I had ever anticipated.


The highlights of my time on the boat was definitely the port calls, specifically Puerto Rico and Aruba. In Puerto Rico, my friends and I were able to jump off waterfalls in the country's national rainforests. I do not know many people who can say that they have done that at some point in their life. In addition, Aruba was incredibly clean, the beaches were white as snow, and the food was out of this world! Some folks struggled to find the positives when times got tough, but I am happy I was able to experience Eagle so early in my career. My knowledge was amplified, I befriended even more of my classmates, and I learned to have a lot more respect for the enlisted personnel in the Coast Guard. They are some of the hardest workers I have ever met, and I cannot wait to have the privilege of working with the enlisted personnel again in less than three short years.


This summer continually gets better and better, and I cannot wait to get back to the Academy in the fall to continue where I left off!


Go Braves, Go Books, Go Bears!


More about Colton.


Phase I of Firstie Summer!

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Wu Photo I cannot believe I am already a first class cadet at the Academy and the Class of 2018 is reporting in. Similar to third class summer, firstie summer is spent out in the operational Coast Guard. For my first phase, I got the chance to be on CGC Venturous, a 210’ cutter out of St. Petersburg, Florida. A female classmate of mine and I met the cutter mid-patrol in Corpus Christi, Texas and from there we went underway to Cozumel, Mexico and then back to home port in Florida. I enjoyed the experience on Venturous and found it very beneficial. Before my first phase, I had almost no exposure to the operational fleet since I was on Eagle for part of my third class summer and then at the Naval Academy on their Yard Patrol boats. I remember one of the first things our Executive Officer told my classmate and I when we first reported to Venturous was the importance of being a “sponge.” I kept that in mind throughout the phase and got a lot of hands-on experience being on a 210’. As a firstie, the main difference this summer from third class summer is that as a third class you are treated as a Junior Enlisted so you do a lot of manual labor and saw the physical tasks involved in running a boat. As a first class, my classmate and I were given a stateroom to stay in and treated as a Junior Officer. We shadowed the officers, ate in the wardroom and oversaw all the decision making that maintains a functioning boat and crew. It was a lot of hard work and long hours on watch as we got qualified as Navigation Petty Officers of the Watch (NPOW) and Basic Damage Control Practical Qualification Standards (DCPQS). We were also given the opportunity to conn the 210’ (give orders on how to maneuver the cutter) in man overboard drills. It was interesting to see and experience everything we learned in the classroom. During the drill, for example we saw how the surface area of the cutter played a factor in helping recover the man overboard dummy faster.


Our time in Cozumel was a great break from being underway. My classmate and I got to go dune-buggying as well as scuba diving. It was an amazing port call and it refreshed the crew for the last leg back to home port. It was inspirational to see a Commanding Officer work for his crew. He was always taking the crew’s best interest to heart, looking for good port calls and when the crew needed a break, the CO had a very well-timed swim call as well as a couple of low key days that allowed crewmembers to catch up on sleep. Once we got back to home port, we got a week of stand down (which means, unless you have assigned duty, you do not need to be on the boat). It gave the crew time to spend with their families and be at home. During that time, I got to explore the beautiful St. Petersburg. The other cadets and I also got to a little trip to Disney World for a few days. We definitely made the most out of our five-week phase; learning as much as we could from the crew while having fun along the way.



More about Ellie.


2/c Summer – Best Summer at the Academy Yet

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Wow! A lot has happened since my last blog post in early March. I finished my fourth academic semester at the Academy, found out that I will be going on exchange to the Naval Academy for a semester of study in the fall, and have completed the first half of my 2/c summer training at the Academy. Time does fly! Before beginning the “summer term,” I was told by several upper-classmen that 2/c summer was the best summer by far at the Academy, and am happy to report that they were most defiantly right!


Because the rising 2/c cadets (equivalent of a junior at a civilian college) are the only students on campus for the first half of the summer, we had to move rooms while the rest of the corps moves out of the barracks for their summer tour in the fleet. It was strange moving out of my normal home in Hotel Company back to my old stomping grounds in Delta (where I did my 4/c year) for the summer, but it was definitely nice to catch up with friends in that wing area that I don’t see as often during the school year.


After the rest of the corps had left the Academy we began our first week of summer training: 100th week. Marking the midpoint of a cadet’s career at the Academy, during the week Cape May Company Commanders (think Marine drill instructor but Coast Guard style) come to the Academy to train the soon to be 2/c in becoming effective cadre that will train the swabs (incoming cadets). The week resembles a brief return to Swab Summer (our version of boot camp), but during the period we also learned a lot about effective leadership and became much closer as a class. At the end of the week, we had our formal promotion from 3/c to 2/c cadets, retook our oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and received the privilege of civilian clothes and weekend shorts (meaning you can leave the Academy on Saturday and not return until Sunday). Although a slightly stressful week, I definitely took away from the week some quality lessons on leadership and self-discipline.


Following 100th week was range week, where my classmates and I were able to qualify as pistol marksmen. This marked the first time I had shot a pistol and it was cool to learn tricks and pointers on shooting from the range personnel. Also during this week the Class of 2014 graduated from the Academy. It was a neat experience for me to be part of the graduation ceremonies, and it gave me a moment to observe what I will be experiencing in just two short years.


"2/c Summer - Best Summer at the Academy Yet (Continued) PDF 



More about James.


So Many Different Experiences…All at Once!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Driscoll Photo This summer has been amazing. I spent the first half in Washington, D.C., and the second half in Newport, Rhode Island (life could be a lot worse, but I’m just happy that I haven’t been assigned to the middle of nowhere in Texas or Alaska!)


Yesterday marked the end of my second week aboard CGC Juniper, a 225-foot oceangoing buoy tender home-ported in Newport. I reported aboard in the middle of June on a Saturday, had two days to hang out with friends and get used to living on a boat, and then Monday hit.


That first Monday morning, we got underway at 0800 for a full week of buoy-tending. I was so overwhelmed at first: I didn’t know where anything was, or how anything worked! I definitely felt like a fish out of water. I slowly got my feet underneath me and figured out shipboard life, which was good, because I didn’t have much time for anything else after standing watch on the bridge for 12 hours a day! I love being on the bridge though. You can see so much, and I really like how the junior officers get a lot of practice steering the ship. One of my classmates and I got the opportunity to practice our ship-handling skills during man overboard (MOB) drills; it was cool to take something we’ve practiced on the Thames River in Nautical Science lab classes and apply it to “the real Coast Guard.” MOB drills are much easier when you have thrusters in your bow and stern that can move the ship sideways! (I’m really happy though that my classmate Justin Davis and I didn’t “disqualify” in the MOB contest, unlike some of the others!)


My first week came to an interesting close when we almost hit a submarine outside of New London, and then saved a sea turtle! We had a really close call with a submarine on the surface as it was transiting toward New London, and Juniper was returning to Newport. The bridge team hadn’t realized until the last minute that the small black dot near the water was actually a submarine: our commanding officer ordered emergency backing bell (emergency astern) to avoid a collision at sea. That was scary but really cool! Just two hours later, we saw a leatherback sea turtle tangled in fishing line. We deployed our small boat and helped untangle the sea turtle. The feeling of helping a helpless sea turtle is unparalleled!


My second week aboard Juniper was just as busy as my first. I spent the week working on the deck, with the non-rates who maintain the buoys that Juniper services. Buoy tending is dirty work, but I enjoy it. I had the opportunity to “shoot the tube:” crawl inside a hallow whistle buoy to scrape the marine life out of it, but I panicked when I got inside the tube. I hope we have another whistle buoy to service before I leave, so I can conquer my fear! I have a newfound respect for all the work and dirty stuff the “deckies” (the non-rates in the deck department) do. I look forward to seeing what the next week brings!


I will write more about what I learn in a later entry. Until then, as always, contact me at if you have any questions or comments. Finally, having celebrated my three-year anniversary of R-Day last Friday, I want to wish the incoming Class of 2018 the best of luck! I hope to see all of you in the fall!



More about Peter.


Week 6: When Rubber Meets the Road

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Or maybe this week’s reflection blog should be called “When Rudder Meets the Ocean.” (It’s a poor pun, but oh well; maybe I’ll have better luck next time.)


Now, on to this week’s report and reflection. Whew was this a hard one! First week underway, and it was technically a short week because, due to crossing the International Date Line, we lost a day (we skipped forward—aren’t time zones crazy!?).


Where to start? This week was definitely a lot more hectic than last week. For the first few days it was non-stop for me and Andy. On top of standing watch—now as break-ins for junior officer of the deck (which I’ll explain in a bit)—we trained in drills, attended damage control (DC) classes, and added more collateral responsibilities to our work lists. For the first few days, as I got adjusted to the schedule, I had very little free time. I’ll walk you through the schedule and explain each thing as I go.


A day might start at by waking up at 0300 to get ready for watch on the bridge. On the bridge, I was working on my junior officer of the deck (JOOD) qualification. This means that I was the officer of the deck’s (OOD’s) assistant. The OOD is in charge of directing the ship’s movement (steering, navigation, etc.) and overseeing everything going on aboard the ship. The JOOD’s job is to assist with that oversight and to help take care of the admin associated with it. As JOOD, I recorded the weather, tracked our position, announced events on the cutter’s plan of the day (POD), monitored navigation equipment, and served as an extra set of eyes for lookout. It was a lot to do, but that helped the four-hour watch go by quickly. Of course, I was also working on demonstrating various proficiencies, such as how to take initial action upon report of an emergency, as I progress in the qualification process. And as always, it was enjoyable talking with the crewmembers on watch with me—it’s always exciting to hear about their past experiences, their goals, and their knowledge of the Sequoia. There are even some other members of the crew who were breaking-in JOOD with us. It was nice to have a partner or two to help learn and study the material—thank you Andy and BM3 Hall!


When the Rubber Meets the Road (Continued) PDF 


More about Justin.


The Next Adventure

(Overcoming Challenges, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Lukasik Photo Post-graduation, I’ve found myself in a strange period of limbo. While most of my classmates have reported in to their new ensign billets and started work out in the fleets, my orders are still pending. I know where I’m going and what I’ll be doing; I’m just anxiously waiting official clearance to go. In the meantime, here I am, back at the Academy for a somewhat-awkward two-something-week period, waiting for my next adventure to start.


At the end of April, I received an email from the U.S. Fulbright Commission saying that I had been selected to receive a 2014 U.S. Student Award to study in Mauritius. Since that time, life has been an absolute whirlwind of paperwork and preparation and anticipation. Reply to the Fulbright Commission; fill out their paperwork; notify my Coast Guard chain of command; fill out their paperwork; get screened for an OCONUS billet; attend the Fulbright Orientation; meet at Coast Guard Headquarters; and, in the meantime, arrange for an apartment, university enrollment, a car, a bank account, a cell phone, and all other things necessary for life in a tiny island country in the middle of the Indian Ocean. My post-grad leave period has not been restful, but it’s been as exciting as it has been baffling. At the Academy, our instructors and mentors always implied that being an ensign is in large part an exercise in figuring out how to do tasks that you’ve never learned how to do with very little help or instruction. If that’s true, then I’ve dived right into ensign life headfirst!


This isn’t to say, however, that I’ve been entirely without help. There are two real ways to get through a task you have no idea what you’re doing: stumble through with trial-and-error, or, make a connection with someone who does know what they’re doing. In the past couple of months, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with people who were not only able to help me but were generously willing to take time out of their day to help me with this mind-boggling moving-abroad process. I owe a special thanks to LT Stephen Elliott and his family. LT Elliott, coincidentally, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Mauritius back in 2005 (I wish I’d known that when I was applying!) and his wife’s family lives on the island. They’ve been enormously helpful in guiding me through the ins and outs of moving to an remote island far off the sub-Saharan African mainland and giving me some idea of what to expect when I arrive. I can’t say that the prospect of moving to a dot of an island on the other side of the world isn’t daunting still, but with the help of LT Elliott and family, it’s become a little less scary.


I’m supposed to receive my official orders this week, as my original orders to Sector New York were finally cancelled this past week so that the new ones could be processed. As soon as I have those in hand, I’ll be booking the soonest possible flight to take me away from the U.S. for the next two years and off to my new home in Mauritius.


The Fulbright Scholarship will cover the first nine months of my studies, but the Coast Guard has authorized me to stay in Mauritius for two years so that I can complete a Master’s degree, for the duration of which I’ll be relying on my ensign salary to cover tuition and living (thankfully both are relatively low overseas!). I’ll spend two years pursuing a part-time M.A. in Economics from the University of Mauritius and also working part-time as an intern at the Maurice Ile Durable Commission, a government-sponsored sustainability initiative for the island. In the meantime, partially in conjunction with my Master’s thesis but somewhat in extension of it, I will be researching the marine and coastal space use conflicts of the artisanal fishing industry and the growing tourist industry in Mauritius in hopes of helping these competing sectors achieve a more sustainable system of resource usage in the future. This will, interestingly enough, bring me into contact with our service’s parallel on the other side of the world – the Mauritian Coast Guard. Our services have had very little interaction in the past, but I’m excited to see how they operate and if there’s any potential for greater exchange in the future.


Of course, the Fulbright experience isn’t all about work; it’s designed to promote both academic and cultural exchange, and Fulbright students and scholars are expected to get involved in the local community as much as possible. This is the part that makes the experience exciting, and I’ve already looked into a number of great outlets to get to know the island and its people better. Mauritius is considered a tropical paradise, and outdoor recreation is huge. From an active mountain biking and cycling community, to scuba diving groups, to hiking tours, there seems to be no lack of collections of people getting together to explore all of the natural wonders Mauritius has to offer. I hope to keep up my triathlon training as well, and if there’s not a team present on the island, I’ll start one!


I’ll do my best to maintain this blog while abroad. I know as a cadet applying for scholarships that I would have liked to have had the chance to hear about the experiences of Coasties going off on experiences such as Fulbright, so I’ll be here as a resource for any others following the same path. Anyone in the Honors Program or others who have questions about Fulbright or study abroad opportunities, never hesitate to email me at



More about Jessie.


Onboard a Cutter

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Quintero Photo It’s the middle of June and I have already been on board a 270-foot cutter for a month now. As a 1/c cadet, during the summer on board a cutter, you are expected to act like a junior officer. The first week onboard we were in port making preparations for going out to sea. The Cadet Training Department at the Academy issues booklets that are used to track a cadet’s progress. They test your knowledge on the bridge, in the engine room, regarding law enforcement and fire fighting.


Our first port call was New York City during Memorial Day weekend and Fleet Week. On our way into the harbor, we paid our respects to the 9/11 memorial, which was an honor. We also passed right by the Statue of Liberty, which was cool. NYC was very inviting to the military that whole week because certain dining and entertainment establishments had discounts for military. After we left NYC, we head out to the Atlantic where we engaged in law enforcement boardings.


Being out at sea is very relaxing because you are away from civilization. However, it is hard for some people to give up using their phones, Twitter or Facebook, but I find it quite calming. Then, when you are up in the bridge you can see many miles and also see whales or dolphins every day.



More about Carlos.


How Much I've Learned, How Much I've Changed

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo 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.


Summer Training: Coast Guard Aviation

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Hello CGA blog readers! I am now five weeks into my summer training at the Academy, and I’m having a blast. Last week, I reported to Elizabeth City, North Carolina for the Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP). In sum, CATP is a basic aviation familiarization program for cadets. Cadets are split between Elizabeth City and Mobile, which are the two biggest Coast Guard air stations. I went to Elizabeth City with 13 of my classmates and I had a great time all week.


The goal of CATP is to immerse cadets in Coast Guard aviation for a week so that we can see if we like it. It’s an extremely relaxed environment but there is no pressure to pursue aviation because of going to CATP. I went just to see what our aviation program was all about even though I had no intention of going to flight school. After the week was over, I had a lot more respect and understanding for the aviation side of the service, but I know I want to be underway for a long time in my career.


Overall, CATP was awesome, and I could talk about what we did forever but I’ll limit myself to the three coolest things I got to do while I was there. On Tuesday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting the Aviation Survival Technician (AST/ rescue swimmers) instructors. One of the senior chiefs there was in the movie The Guardian, and he talked to us for a little bit about his role in the movie. The AST facility is top of the line. They have a massive pool with equipment that can simulate hurricane force winds and massive waves so that the swimmers can feel what it’s like to be in a real rescue scenario. Also, they have two platforms to practice entry into the water from helos. The senior chief talked about the AST program and then we got to go in the pool for a ropes challenge. We had to climb a 30 foot rope, which was hanging next to a series of 10 foot ropes in a line. We were supposed to get up the first rope and carefully work our way down the line of other ropes. It was tough! I only made it to the third 10 foot rope before I let go. Only one person in my group of 14 finished. However, we were told that the ASTs can all finish it, which put into perspective how fit they really are.


Later that day, I was able to fly in a C130J, which is the Coast Guard’s long fixed wing aircraft. The C130J is used for spotting vessels/people in search and rescue cases, air dropping supplies from the cargo hold, spotting illegal fishing vessels, and many more missions. The C130 is fixed wing, which means that it is a plane, versus rotary (helicopters). During flight school, pilots choose which type of aircraft they want to fly (rotary vs. fixed wing), and then they receive specialized training in that aircraft. Anyway, I got to fly in the C130 and for most of the flight I was in the cockpit. After we took off, I got to ask the pilots questions and listen in on the communications. Then, they let me fly for a little while. It was awesome! It wasn’t all that hard to fly in a straight line with all the technology there to help, but it was still really cool. For the rest of the flight, we observed as the pilots practiced landing and taking of (touch and go’s) from an airport in West Virginia.


The following day, I was hoisted in a rescue basket. That was by far the coolest thing I got to do. We met some salty Coast Guard auxiliarists, who brought us to the lift site in their private vessel. Then, the helo arrived. I didn’t expect it, but the helo was ridiculously loud over water so close to us, and there was water spraying all over the place. The helo got low to the water, and then the rescue swimmer jumped out. At his signal, I jumped in the water and swam over to him. Then, he dragged me through the water on my back in a typical rescue technique, and he put me into the basket. It was loud the entire time, wind from the rotors made it hard to breathe, and pellets of water flying at 70+ knots pelted me in the face. But, despite all that, I could only think of how cool the experience was. I was hoisted all the way up to the helo, where I high fived one of the crew, and I was immediately lowered back down. The swimmer took me out of the basket and back toward the boat. I thought the whole experience was awesome. Now, I have a much better understanding of what the helo rescues are like in real life.


To wrap up, CATP was awesome. We had fun stuff to do every day as part of the program, and at night we could go to the beach, fish, work out, hang out, or do whatever we wanted pretty much. I’m glad I went.


As always, feel free to email me with questions!


More about Hunter.


Week 5: Halfway Gone

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo I might have waited too long to write this. We are now underway from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands. We haven’t crossed the date line yet, but we’re getting close…just a few more days.


Anyway, my fifth week out here has come and gone, and I can hardly remember what I did that is worth writing about—“worth,” as in, haven’t written about it before. The week went quickly, and Andy and I both worked hard to get our qualification packets signed off (one has to demonstrate knowledge of the various aspects of whatever qualification being worked on). We’re doing well, but we have quite a bit left to learn and memorize before we’ll be ready to be watchstanders ourselves. It keeps us busy and takes a lot of time. We have to balance getting qualified with getting our other assignments (collateral duties) complete. It’s part of learning to be a junior officer (ensign, lieutenant junior grade, lieutenant). And just when we thought we had it with regard to being in port, we got underway. And that is a whole new ballgame (but I’ll write about that next week!).


I think I’ll keep this one short since my others have been fairly lengthy. But I have to put something of substance in here before signing off for a few more days. Let me think. Leadership lesson…ah, here we go, although, I suppose this is more about being a manager, but that’s something that leaders have to learn how to do and how to balance.


A leader, acting as a manager, not only should have the big picture (vision), but should communicate that to his/her people (that’s the leadership side of things). As a manager, it is important to set clear deadlines and give clear tasks. One supervisor said, “I want at least one project done this week.” To me, that’s not very clear. I think I understand what this leader was trying to do. From what I’ve heard and seen, the followers are sometimes hard to motivate and person probably doesn’t want to come across as overbearing and unnecessarily authoritative. By saying, “I want something done,” the leader is giving the workers leeway and autonomy with their work. The problem, however, is that in this case, when the workers are easily distracted away from crucial projects to do work on other necessary, but not-so-crucial projects and tasks, the result is that nothing gets accomplished.


I know now that when I’m in a management position, I will give clear direction as to what needs to be completed and by when. Checkpoint deadlines are good, too, and helps keep the workers accountable. As far as the autonomy piece, I will try (easier said than done, of course) to get input from the workers. I can ask questions such as, “What’s a reasonable timeline?” “Which projects should have priority?” And most importantly: “How can I best assist you in getting this done?” To me, this last question exemplifies a principle of leadership that I strongly adhere to. I want to be involved with the work that my team is doing. Yes, I may not have the technical know-how or the skill to be a huge help, but being there for some part of the process, doing what I can, shows that I care about the project, too, and that I haven’t just given my people something to do that I don’t want to do or don’t care to do. It also, I think/hope, communicates to my people that they can bring up concerns. When I’m there working on the project with them, they can say, “See, this is taking much longer than I expected.” From there we can reassess our goals. Now, I know that some people say that a good leader should be able to “disappear” and leave the team to complete the project or task on its own. Yes, I think that is good for a team—it’s empowering, for sure—but, I don’t think that means that the leader is completely out of the loop and inaccessible. I want to see leaders who are present and observing, even lending a hand if possible.


Wow, that got long rather quickly. Well, I shall cut it off for now. When I write again I’ll be at the beginning of the date instead of at the end of it (we’ll have crossed the international date line)! Cheers!


More about Justin.


Now, For Our Future Presentation…

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo What better place to be eating breakfast right now than a Starbucks in Seattle, Washington? This summer, I’ve been assigned to the USCGC Midgett, a 378-foot cutter based in Seattle and responsible for patrols from the equator and northward. What an awesome experience it’s been! If you’re a prospective student, you’ve heard this too many times… but, summer assignments are definitely one of the highlights of being a cadet. I, along with two other 3/c (huzzah, we got promoted!) and two 1/c, picked up Midgett in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. We then patrolled in northern waters, including a port call in Kodiak, and then sailed back down here to Washington. I’ve never been to any of those places before, which has made for a great time of discovery! There is so much to see in Seattle, and Alaska has one of the loveliest natural environments I’ve encountered!


As someone with a definite travel bug, it’s been so neat to visit these places. But, really, the most important part of this assignment to the Midgett has been meeting the crew and learning everything about the boat. So much goes on a cutter this size – boarding ops, navigation, and a personal favorite of mine, flight ops. And even off the boat, we’ve been able to see various facets of the Coast Guard – we visited Air Station Kodiak, and this coming week will be checking out sector Seattle. We’ve been running around on board, getting qualified in helm and lookout, staring at stars for celestial navigation, and looking at the engineering departments; the energy never stops! I truly had a wonderful time underway with Midgett.


This summer has also had an undeniable impact on my future plans. Everybody asks at some point what I want to do when I commission in four years, and honestly, I had only a couple vague ideas. You might be in the same spot, if you’re thinking about attending here or getting ready for Swab Summer (t-minus 23 days for 2018!); don’t worry. There are so many things to do in the Coast Guard; you will find something that you will love. After being here in Seattle, and being on an Alpat (the nickname for an Alaskan patrol), I am all the more certain that I will put in for one of the cutters engaged in icebreaking ops, namely Healy. For one, I am still interested in the northern environment; for another, I liked Alaska; for another, I still get really excited when I see whales, which is a good thing for the science on Healy of which I’m hoping to be a part; and finally, I wouldn’t mind being stationed here in Seattle! Icebreaking ops are looking all the more intriguing after this summer. But then again, that air station and the aviation communities are pretty neat too, more so than I realized at first… so I guess I’m not fully decided. But hey, I’ve got two more summers ahead to help me decide!


More about Abby.


3/c Summer Assignments

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Racz Photo The summer following your first year at the Academy is spent serving the Coast Guard in various places. Some cadets end up going to small boat stations, where they have the chance to learn about small boat operations within the Coast Guard. Others, like me, get sent to a cutter to experience life underway completing different missions. I, along with one of my classmates, was sent to CGC Valiant out of Mayport, Florida. But due to repairs being done on Valiant, I was first sent to Savannah, Georgia for the first two weeks of my summer. Once there, I lived the not so glamorous side of the Coast Guard. My first few weeks of my summer assignment were spent painting, loading and unloading, and making overall repairs to the cutter. Though this was not my definition of fun, I can definitely say that it was an eye opening experience. Going through it, I now know the hardships that enlisted members in the Coast Guard go through. It is a lot of work, but rewarding in the end.


After two weeks, Valiant finally left Savannah and headed out to sea for a short patrol. Out at sea I got to experience many things that I never thought I would get the chance to. I took part in many different drills and helped out with other underway operations. It was a time that I will never forget. Yes I’m sacrificing time home with friends, but this type of experience was why I joined the Coast Guard. I have cherished every minute that I have had on Valiant. In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading to Eagle where I will have a different kind of experience. I can’t wait to finish the rest of my summer and get the next year at the Academy started, though I’m going to enjoy the rest of my time in the fleet.


More about Benjamin.


Extended Opportunity 1/c Cadet

(Academics, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Quintero Photo The spring semester has finally come to a close! The last couple of weeks in the semester at the Academy are always very busy, because it seems like the professors throw all the projects and papers toward the end. I remember thinking at the beginning of the semester how easy school was, and I knew it meant that school would get harder toward the end.


A year ago when I was a 2/c (junior) I was preparing to go spend my summer in San Juan, Puerto Rico on 110-foot cutter. The experience I gained in migrant and drug interdiction was once in a lifetime. I am actually an “Extended Opportunity 1/c Cadet,” which in simple terms means I am a super senior!! Since I failed some classes as an underclass I was disenrolled from the Academy after my sophomore year. The Academy always gives cadets a chance to write an appeal to the disenrollment. Due to my extenuating circumstances going on at home, I was essentially given a second chance. So as long as I got better grades, I would be allowed to stay at the Academy. The experience of being disenrolled changed my life around at the Academy, it made me appreciate the Academy more and it also allowed me to mature. From then on I took my studies very seriously and strived to do better. As a cadet struggling academically, I ar was placed on “academic probation.” This meant that I had the same liberty of a 4/c (freshmen), wasn’t allowed out on Fridays or out past 1a.m. on Sunday mornings. The upperclass also keep an eye on your grades to ensure you are staying focused. All these measures are put in place for the cadet’s success. I am thankful to have the opportunity to extend and at the same time get more time to mature. Out of my class 7 students are extending. Some of us are a full year extension and others it is only a half year. We will have to do a lot of things over again, like our first class summer tour. I will not be going on a boat in the Caribbean this summer, but instead will spend my summer on a 270-foot cutter out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The thing I’m going to miss the most about being extended is all the friends I made in my class but I can’t wait to join them out in the fleet!!


More about Carlos.


Summer Training: Ship Handling

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Swab Summer is THREE weeks away. It is crazy to think that in 21 days, I will be training a new class of future officers. I can wait to get started, but in the meantime I have plenty of training myself. This past week, I participated in the summer ship handling program, which trains cadets the basics of seamanship aboard a 40-foot tug boat.


So what do I mean by seamanship? There is a lot that goes into it. For example, have you ever thought about starting a boat vs. starting a car? Unfortunately, turning on large vessels isn’t as easy as turning a key! There is a long checklist that needs to be completed before turning a T-boat on and getting underway. Throughout the week, we practiced other aspects of seamanship including: getting underway from the pier, docking, line handling, dropping anchor, driving the ship on the helm, controlling the throttle, and giving the commands to drive the ship. Most days, we would get underway to get practical experience on the T-boat. Then, in the afternoon, we would learn the theory behind it all, and then we would practice again on our simulators at the Academy. The simulators are cool because you can set up almost any scenario: getting underway, docking, and driving the ship, to name a few. The simulator was pretty cool and was very helpful practice.


That’s the summary of the T-boat program. The coolest part of the week was Wednesday, when my group spent all day underway. We went down to the boat at about 0800, and we were able to start it all by ourselves. Then, our supervising safety officer arrived and we got underway. I had the honor of getting the boat underway, docking it, and getting it underway again! Then, our safety officer threw a life ring overboard and screamed, “man overboard!” I was a little surprised, but I knew what I had to do because we had practiced man overboard drills on the simulator the day before. I had to turn the ship around to circle back to the life ring. Also, I had to be sure to get close enough to the life ring (at a slow speed) without hitting it. Then, we recovered the life ring with a boat hook. The rest of the day, we alternated commanding the cutter, anchoring, and man overboard drills. Around noon, we anchored the T-boat and had a swim call. We had the pleasure of jumping off the side of the boat into the freezing cold water. The water was so cold I could hardly spend a few minutes in it! After the swim call, we had a cookout on the deck and relaxed for a while. Then we got back underway for more practice. Overall, it was an awesome day. I learned a lot from the practical experience, and I enjoyed working with my group.


If you have any questions at all about the Academy, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you!


More about Hunter.


Week 4: Steadying on Course

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Much of the same this week–working on collateral duties and other projects during the day and liberty or duty in the evenings. It’s still a “Charlie period” for us, which means that our cutter is in maintenance mode–the crew is working hard to fight rust and paint or fix and tune up equipment. We can’t get underway at all because important systems and components of the ship are either inoperable or not in a “ready-enough” status.


This is a quick explanation of cutter statuses (or at least what I understand of them…). When a cutter is underway, the status is Alfa. When cutters are in port, most of the time they are in a Bravo status, which means that the cutter is equipped and ready to get underway in an emergency and the work done during the day does not prohibit the ship from doing so. The Bravo status is accompanied by a number, which indicates in how much time a cutter must get underway should an emergency call come. For example, if the status is Bravo - 24, the crew knows that, if they were to get a call saying the cutter had to get underway, each crewmember would have up to 24 hours to return to the ship and be prepared to go. Of course, if a crewmember is on leave, s/he does not have to return to the ship were there to be a recall of some sort. Charlie periods (maintenance) are great times for the crew to take leave—these past few weeks have seen a crew size of approximately 1/3 fewer members. They’ll all be back for when we get underway at the end of the week! That’s right; we’re headed back to Guam soon!


Anyway, since this week there were no special events to write about, I’ll explain how standing watch (or, having duty) works and what qualifications we are working on right now. Andy and I are working on our in-port security watch stander qualification. In addition to learning a lot of basic knowledge about the ship’s systems (for initial response in case of an in-port emergency), we also have to stand “break-in” watches where we learn and practice proper security watch protocol. Because we are not fully qualified, Andy and I are on a “1-in-3” duty rotation; we stand duty once every three days. The nickname for this duty rotation is called “the motivation rotation”–it definitely motivates us to get qualified. Standing so watch so often has definitely limited our liberty (exploration) time here on the island. But, as I say, we’re here to train–to work and to learn–not to have a vacation, so I’m not complaining.


The most valuable thing, to me, about standing watch is that I get a chance to have long discussions (think, 6-hour long discussions) with whichever crewmember is the qualified watch stander. I love hearing about their experiences–good and bad–and their aspirations. These members of our enlisted corps have some great ideas! It’s also super valuable to hear about the things that they really appreciate from their leaders and the things that irk them. As a developing officer, this feedback is awesome! I’ve been keeping notes. It may be years before I am able to really do anything with them, but that’s OK.


Well, that was my leadership reflection (more or less) for the week. Will write again soon!



More about Justin.