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cadet blogs

Enjoying Alaska

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Corcoran Photo Greetings from Kodiak, Alaska! I hope everyone who is reading this is having a great summer whether it is being spent working, at school, or simply just relaxing.

 

I’m learning a lot here aboard the USCGC Munro. We are now on week seven of being here so it has gotten to the point where it’s kind of funny for us to see new people report on board. For instance, all of the freshly minted ensigns from the Academy who graduated in May are starting to report to their new units and two have reported to Munro already. It’s kind of funny to us that we can show them around a little and demonstrate to them what we have learned while being here.

 

The weather here is very unpredictable. For the most part, it’s cloudy and/or foggy. However, randomly the sun will come out and then other times it will start pouring out of nowhere. We have learned to not take the sunny days for granted though.

 

When we got back from our patrol, fellow cadet blogger, Jade Schroeder, and I enjoyed fishing for salmon and cooking what we caught by a bonfire near the river. It was so much fun! However, the time really flies here in Kodiak since it stays light out for so long. We finally realized how late it was when the sun finally went down around 11:30. The lighting situation is very confusing. Luckily, we have no windows in our stateroom on the boat, so we can go to sleep whenever we want.

 

I’m having a great time learning a lot and exploring the island of Kodiak, but I also can’t wait to go home and see my family and the new puppy my parents got while I was away. She is a border collie and black lab mix and she looks adorable!

 

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Samantha.E.Corcoran@uscga.edu.

 

More about Samantha.

 

The Ensign Experience

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Schroeder Photo Hi once again from Kodiak, Alaska! A couple weeks ago, I returned from a three-week patrol in the Gulf of Alaska. I was able to qualify as Quarter Master of the Watch (QMOW), which basically means I was in charge of charting the ship’s position. I also was able to stand watches driving the ship. It was pretty cool to know that I was in charge of safely maneuvering a 378-foot vessel! While I was underway I learned a great deal, I had a lot of stuff thrown at me, and I was able to really understand what it might be like next year at my first unit after graduation. We got to see several whales; do a couple fish calls and catch a lot of halibut; and we got a port call in Seward, Alaska. Seward was amazing, I saw two glaciers, one I hiked to and another I took a boat to. It was also nice just to see the mainland of Alaska. All the hard work I put in at the Academy during the academic year definitely pays off in the summer. I have gotten to see so many amazing places I never thought I would see; who else could say they got to live/travel in Alaska for 11 weeks?

 

Since we have been back in port, Kodiak has gotten even more beautiful. Everything is green, there are wildflowers all over, and when it is sunny there is no better place to be. I have gone salmon fishing, hiking, and had a few bonfires on the beach and at the river. While I have been in port, I have also been standing Officer of the Deck (OOD), which means that, under the instruction of an officer, I am in charge of the ship’s routine and safety for the day. I definitely had a lot of paperwork assigned to me, just like I will be sure to have next summer when I report to my ensign billet. So even with all the hard work, it is definitely worth it because I am getting the ensign experience now and will be somewhat prepared for my life as an officer.

 

I have about three and a half weeks left here in Kodiak until I go home for a few weeks before school starts, and I have a lot to look forward to. Next week, I will go to Boarding Team Member (BTM) school. A BTM is someone who goes on boardings of other vessels while the boat is underway. So that is pretty cool. I will also be getting pepper sprayed (not so cool), and get to re-qualify in pistol, and qualify in rifle shooting. So although I still have some time left here, and I have been busy, I definitely have some things to look forward to. I have also made so many friends and professional connections with the crew aboard the Munro. The Coast Guard is a small service, so more than likely I will see some of these people again, which is exciting. Being here has also given me a completely different perspective on what I want to do for my ensign tour. It is hard to believe that in just a few short months, I will receive my billet list and have to decide where I want to spend two years of my life. And in less than a year I will (hopefully) graduate and receive my commission and get to go to a real unit like this one.

 

More about Jade.

 

A Summer to Remember

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Weeks Photo My 2/c summer experiences have been nothing short of amazing. Since the end of the school year, I have shot pistols, learned the Rules of the Road (ROTR), flown helicopters, practiced conning T-boats, and sailed a yacht to some of the nicest ports in New England! Not to mention, all of this was done with my best friends. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I’ll be the first to tell you that I am beyond satisfied with this summer and it isn’t even over yet. All of these activities are covered in the 2/c summer training program, along with Cadre Summer, which starts for me in one week. I could write a novel about my summer experiences but, for the sake of space, I’ll just write about Coastal Sail and the Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP).

 

Coastal Sail is a two-week training program for 2/c cadets. We are divided into teams of six or seven, provided a sailing yacht and safety officers, and then sail approximately 280 miles along the coasts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The trip is divided up into nine legs, ranging anywhere from 15 to 40 miles. We spent each night in a different port, some of which were Newport, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Block Island. While underway, each cadet had the opportunity to be Watch Captain (in charge of the yacht) for an entire day. This was an incredible experience for me; it was like being the Commanding Officer of a Coast Guard cutter. As the Watch Captain, I decided when to set sail and when to motor and, along with my navigator and helmsman, successfully navigated the ship from Hyannis to Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts. Other daily duties included mess cook, deckhand, and in-port Officer of the Deck (OOD). For the latter half of my transit, a thick fog descended on the water, reducing visibility to only a few hundred feet. This was a stressful time for me but, from the knowledge I acquired in ROTR, I knew what fog signals to sound and was able to confidently coordinate passing arrangements with nearby vessels. After we safely moored up in Cuttyhunk, we sat down at the table and debriefed the entire day. As a crew, we reflected about what worked and what could’ve gone better. The debrief proved invaluable to me, as my classmates’ advice helped me to better my leadership style and learn more about myself.

 

CATP has been the highlight of my summer thus far. Six classmates and I were flown down to Aviation Training Center Mobile for a week of Coast Guard aviation exposure. This consisted of listening to pilots talk about their experiences, playing with multi-million dollar simulators and, most importantly, actually getting some stick time. I was given the opportunity to fly a Dolphin helicopter (MH-65) for about an hour, which was incredible. The pilot gave me the controls and said to me “The world is your oyster.” I will never forget hearing those words as I took the Dolphin’s controls…I simply felt free. Able to go wherever I wanted. From that point on, I knew piloting helicopters is what I want to do in the Coast Guard. Other memorable events throughout the week included jumping into Pensacola Bay to be hoisted up by the Dolphin, touring the Gulf Strike Team’s warehouse, and also getting some stick time behind the HC-144 Casa Ocean Sentry (fixed wing).

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you enjoyed it! As always, I am more than happy to field any questions or elaborate on my experiences! Just shoot me an email at Zachary.W.Weeks@uscga.edu.

 

More about Zach.

 

Incredible Experiences Underway

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hello! Good morning from South America. Hanna and I are more than halfway done with our time on the USCGC Thetis, which is crazy to think about. We have been underway for over a month, more than four weeks of living in a 250-foot space. We have been extremely operational this patrol in terms of the crew (not necessarily Hanna and me). However, we have been required to and are expected to rise to multiple occasions, participating in complex evolutions that require a lot of coordination on the bridge. Hanna and I are still breaking in underway Officer of the Deck (OOD), which means that we spend eight hours each day on the bridge, learning how to drive the ship and respond to any issues that an old ship like the mother Thetis is likely to encounter.

 

We have had a very exciting cruise and in the past weeks, we have experienced some things that I'm sure will make some of our classmates envious. In addition to the action of an Eastern Pacific patrol, we had a swim call where the entire crew was invited to jump off of the flight deck into the big blue Pacific! I tried to do a flip but ended up landing much less than gracefully. The entire crew busted out laughing and when I emerged; I also struggled to harness my laughter. (I was pretty sore the next day.) I was amazed by the clarity of the water and the temperature was refreshing; all in all probably my favorite day to date. After we swam around the cutter for two hours, Hanna and I had barely dried off before we were told to put on boat crew helmets! We got to ride in our small boat, an experience that was exhilarating and fun. As the boat bounced from wave to wave with a surprising amount of speed, I thought about how cool it would be to be a boarding officer and ride it for real! Hanna and I were soaked by a wave as we climbed off of the little boat, grasping the Jacob’s ladder as we scrambled back onto the Thetis. Later that night, I started to break in as Helicopter Control Officer (HCO). The job is not terribly complicated but it's important because it orchestrates the communications needed to operate our helo. I enjoyed speaking into the three different radios and look forward to my next session.

 

Hanna and I moved up to a stateroom when the new ensigns came on board. THE NEW ENSIGNS ARE HERE! They met us at our port call and it was so good to see our friends from the Academy, still smiling from graduation, but they were quickly a little stressed because it’s overwhelming for sure. I was so happy to see them come aboard. It is amazing to think that, at this point, Hanna and I can actually help someone else with getting to know the boat. We are just excited to change things up. Living in the stateroom is a complete 180 from female crew berthing. It’s a lot quieter, a lot less crowded and, honestly, it's boring. The women on board took us in like one of their own, and we had shared quite a few nights of gossip, laughter, and silliness that is only natural when 12 women are living in a small area. We had a lot of fun down there, and we learned that if you open yourself up, and expose your inner goof (mine isn't very "inner"), people have an easier time relating to you and mutual respect is almost certain. I know that the enlisted-officer boundary is one to be maintained but living with someone for a month will bring you together, especially underway, especially on the Thetis.

 

I am having a whirlwind of a summer. I have been lucky enough to get email from friends and family, which really brightens my days.  I learned that for my down time next year underway, I really need to buy some sort of iPad or tablet thing and load it with music and media because I only have an album of Taylor Swift’s (1989) that I know literally every word to, and probably half of the ship has her songs stuck in their heads. (I LOVE TAYLOR SO IT'S OKAY). I am excited to go home because I haven’t been home since Christmas, and my sister and I really need to reunite because I miss her terribly. She is one of my frequent emailers. Her one liners are my favorite; one specifically, "I got my nails done today, it was great!" Thanks for that.

James' 1/c Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Greetings! It is hard to believe that the operational part of my 1/c summer is coming to a close and that, in less than a month, I will be reporting back to the Coast Guard Academy early to assume the duties of Regimental Communications Officer. As I have stated in my earlier blogs, the Academy summers are what I feel make it stand out from civilian colleges. During the summer, you gain practical and technical knowledge that you can capitalize on in your future career as a Coast Guard officer. The summer also gives cadets a chance to utilize the theoretical knowledge they have learned in their courses and test it out in the fleet.

 

My summer started when another 1/c cadet, four 3/c cadets, and I reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter. Although the Valiant was home-ported out of Naval Base Mayport, Florida, I was never north of the Florida Straits during my time on her. We picked up Valiant south of Key West on a law enforcement patrol in the Florida Straits. Underway would be the operative word describing my time aboard the cutter, as 37 of the 42 days I was attached to Valiant were spent out at sea; first on patrols in the Florida Straits and later in the northern Caribbean, primarily in the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti. Although the copious amounts of sea time did mean a lack of reliable communication with family and friends, it did give me a plethora of operational experience that I feel some of my other classmates might have missed out on—and I still got some amazing port calls in Key West, Guantanamo Bay, and Grand Turk.

 

In the Coast Guard they say that District Seven (the southeastern U.S., where I was serving aboard Valiant) is the “tip of the spear” operationally, and that was unquestionably true for my time on Valiant. I certainly have to tip my hat to members of that crew, who were chiefly responsible for the interdiction and repatriation of almost 300 illegal Cuban and Haitian migrants during my month and a half on board. The hard work that went into performing at that high level certainly gave me a greater appreciation for all that the big white-hull cutters do. I was especially appreciative of the opportunities to participate in gun exercises, flight operations with a Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, and migrant operations. I also got valuable experience breaking in as both Conning Officer and Deck Officer (the person responsible for the driving and operations on board a cutter), which gave me a chance to utilize what I had learned in my Nautical Science courses at the Academy.

 

As much as I enjoyed the first half of my summer aboard Valiant, I got a chance to experience a totally different side of the Coast Guard during the second half at Air Station Clearwater (Florida). As a cadet who hopes to go directly to flight school from the Academy (keeping my fingers crossed!), it was an amazing opportunity to spend five weeks with aviators and flight crews, learning how the air station operationally supports search and rescue and law enforcement operations in District Seven. I was able to not only learn more about flying and the aircraft, but also all the logistical and mechanical services that keep Coast Guard aircraft flying. I was especially grateful to all the members of the air station who were kind enough to give me experience both working on the aircraft and participating in operations with rescue swimmers and load masters.

 

My biggest takeaway from this summer is that no matter how much you think you know about Coast Guard operations, there is always more to learn. Participating in migrant interdictions on board Valiant and on aircraft out of Clearwater gave me a greater understanding of a Coast Guard mission that I previously had little exposure to. Additionally, my operational summer gave me a greater appreciation for the hardworking personnel across the Coast Guard. The willingness of the crews on the cutter and at the air station to include me in their day-to-day tasks only confirms what I already knew—that members of the Coast Guard l are truly top-caliber employees and people.

 

Well, that pretty much sums it up. The next blog I write will most likely be when I am back on the beautiful grounds of the Coast Guard Academy campus. If you have any questions for me about the Academy or Coast Guard Operations, I invite you to email me at James.D.Engelhardt@uscga.edu. Until next time, fair winds and following seas!

 

More about James.

 

3/c Summer and the Benefit of Summer School

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Fruhwirth Photo It is crazy to think, as I sit here writing this, that I am now a 3/c and beginning my second year at the Academy! Spring semester flew by and before I knew it I was boarding Eagle and setting off on a five-week adventure. Very quickly my classmates and I acclimated to underway life, getting into the routine of standing duty and getting qualified in things such and Helm and Lookout as well as Auxiliary/Engineering. It was a wonderful learning experience, especially being able to interact with enlisted personnel and officers alike. The port calls weren’t too bad either: Key West, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; Norfolk, Virginia; and Staten Island, New York!

 

After I departed Eagle, I returned to the Academy for the six-week long summer school program allowing me to take Calculus II and Organizational Behavior and Leadership (OBL). I was placed in Foundations for Calculus first semester of 4/c year, then Calculus I second semester. The reason I am in summer school is due to my major; I am a technical major (Marine and Environmental Sciences) and must have Calculus II completed before my 3/c academic year begins. So here I am! An added bonus — taking OBL will actually give me a free period next semester, which will definitely help me out academically.

 

It is absolutely unreal to see parts of Swab Summer unfold and not being a swab this time! It’s so cool to see my mentors take on the role as cadre, while also seeing a new class that will take our place as lowest on the totem pole—it is a very exciting time here at the Academy! Amazing how fast this year has gone by!

 

More about Ainsley.

 

Aviation Summer Assignment

(Class of 2016) Permanent link
Frost Photo At the Academy, they always say, “The days are long, but the weeks are short.” This has become such a cliché phrase to me, but I honestly don’t know how to more accurately describe my time at the Academy thus far. It’s hard to believe I am half way through my 1/c summer, which has been hands down the best experience I have had so far as a cadet. I’m sad knowing that today is my last day at Air Station New Orleans. I’m truly going to miss this place and all the people who have helped me these past several weeks.

 

When we got our summer assignments back in March, I could hardly contain my joy at finding out I would spend five weeks at an air station completely embracing all Coast Guard aviation has to offer. I have to admit, I was a little worried about going to New Orleans by myself. Who would I hang out with? How could I go anywhere by myself in the city? Would I be safe? Despite my excitement, I was nervous.

 

Looking back over the past weeks, I couldn’t have asked for a better wardroom to welcome me to NOLA. I instantly felt welcomed when some of the pilots took me to Dat Dog, the iconic hot dog shop the first night that I got there. Throughout my five weeks, I can only say positive things about all of the pilots who included me in outings and activities. Never were my fears of being alone in New Orleans confirmed. Furthermore, the enlisted personnel at Air Station NOLA were some of the best teachers; their knowledge of the helicopters and their respective jobs is incredible.

 

I realize how lucky I am to have gotten to spend part of my 1/c summer at Air Station NOLA. I’ve had some incredible experiences that include: being a “duck” on a training flight for the rescue swimmers, seeing an oil rig at night during a training flight, responding as the Officer of the Day to search and rescue cases, watching parts of the Deepwater Horizon movie being filmed, going on a Port-State inspection of a bulk carrier, getting to sit in the left pilot seat during hoisting training, and getting to fly the helicopter around Lake Pontchartrain. It has been a remarkable five weeks that have only confirmed my desires to fly helicopters for the Coast Guard. For now it’s “See you later Air Station NOLA, and hello Coast Guard Barque Eagle!”

 

More about Christi.

 

Summer 2015

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Martorell Crespo Photo Hi, there! My Eagle summer experience included sailing to Key West, Virginia, the Bahamas and Staten Island. It was so much fun! Not only were the port calls a great adventure but just being on Eagle was, too. We had many damage control trainings in order to get qualified and drills such as man overboard. Although it was sometimes challenging, it was important to learn. Many of us were able to climb up to the royals; we had to memorize all of the pin rails and sails and then were tested on them. It was an interesting experience!

 

Overall, Eagle was not at all bad and the port calls were super fun. Between trying to get qualified and taking tests, most importantly, we got to know our classmates better and made new friends. It was a great opportunity to talk to those people who we didn’t really know yet. In the end, I loved my Eagle experience and all the new and stronger friendships I made.

 

More about Irene.

 

Understanding the Long Blue Line

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo Chase Hall bears a striking resemblance to a ghost town during the summer months. Sitting here in the Cadet Watch Office on Sunday duty, I haven’t had much action come my way. The only thing that happened was having someone stop in for a quick visit. He was a Class of 2009 graduate who wanted to look at the Memorial Wall that is located on the quarterdeck. This wall contains the names and images of Academy graduates who died in the line of duty, along with a brief description of their service and whatever event called for their sacrifice. When he returned, I asked him if he had any special connection to someone on the wall. “Yes”, he told me. One of his classmates from 2009 had died in the 2012 helicopter training crash in Mobile and his picture now hung on the wall. On a rainy, quiet New London day, one of this man’s classmates had taken a few minutes out of his undoubtedly busy trip through the area just to see his deceased classmate’s picture.

 

From the minute we enter Swab Summer, all of us cadets are told about something called the Long Blue Line. It’s a metaphor for the connection among every Coast Guardsman, past, present, and future. Honesty is revered here, and if I am to follow that virtue, I have to tell you I never really gave much thought to the concept of the Long Blue Line. Yes, it’s pretty cool to remember that generations of inspiring and strong Coasties have come before me, and that generations will follow but that was usually the extent of my reflection. That visit from a past graduate made me better understand the Long Blue Line.

 

This man wasn’t in the Coast Guard anymore and I couldn’t tell you if he had even set foot on base since his commencement. Yet, he is probably a paradigm of a member of the Long Blue Line for that very reason. Being a part of the Long Blue Line is not just saying you’re a temporary part of some rich history, and you had a job where you got to ride a boat or a helicopter, and went to some old school in Connecticut. It is knowing people, seeing how they impact your life, and how they’ve impacted the lives of everyone else in the fleet. It’s acknowledging that you’ll never meet anyone quite like the people you met while you sailed and flew and saved. It’s taking a few minutes to detour out of your crazy life to your alma mater and say “hello” to the memory of your classmate, even after you’ve said “goodbye” to the service itself.

 

There’s a reason people are quick to tell me and other cadets about the people they knew in the Coast Guard, whether they themselves were ever directly involved or if they had family and friends who joined. The thing about the Long Blue Line is you don’t ever lose your place. You could make it your career, or a first job; either way, you’ll touch someone in both known and unknown ways. Because you hold that place, you might very well find yourself in front of the Memorial Wall years after graduation and, because you hold that place, a quiet cadet watch-stander may be contemplating the meaning behind your seemingly simple actions.

 

More about Abby.

 

Pilot Shadow Program Recap

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Sandri Photo Last spring, three friends and I had an opportunity to spend a weekend at Air Station Cape Cod for the Pilot Shadow Program. This program is organized by the Academy’s Aviation Division and allows for cadets to experience air station life by hanging out in the barracks and accompanying the crew on flights.

 

I had a chance to ride in an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter out of Air Station Atlantic City two summers ago. The crew carried out an exciting two-aircraft drill. The experience was awesome but with R-Day on the horizon and having limited knowledge of the Coast Guard, I was not considering flight as a possible career path.

 

This time around, we were able to look at station life as a possible future. Some highlights of the trip were flying the fixed-wing CASA airplane through a storm as snowflakes pelted the windshield, doing a door-open flyover of Boston in the MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter, and having lunch with one of the pilots until he was called away on a search and rescue case.

 

I’m still not sure what I want to do in the Coast Guard but the Pilot Shadow Program opened my eyes to a new possibility.

 

More about Eva.

 

Things Learned Onboard the Thetis

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Ahoy!

 

I am writing to you now halfway through my summer. I am still underway on the Thetis and we have been pretty busy as of late. Patrol is a pretty exciting part of a cutter’s operations and the crew does a lot of preparation to get underway. A cutter uses its patrols to train newly reported crew, to carry out the actual operations of the vessel and to keep the boat working smoothly because, like a car, a cutter needs to be run in order to stay operable.

 

So, I am still breaking in OOD, or Officer of the Deck (thus standing double watches), which means that I spend eight hours a day on the bridge, conning the vessel for the watch as well as overseeing the general safety and operations on the bridge.

 

I have learned a lot in the past weeks since I have last blogged.

  • Making pipes (announcements over the intercom) is an art. In the time that I have been on the boat, about 7 percent of the pipes I have made have been comically incorrect. The crew now jokes with me constantly about my sub-par pipes. The worst was my reveille pipe. I tried to make the wake-up call when the outside speakers to the ship weren't on. I attempted to make the announcement again and again and didn't realize that the rest of the ship was hearing me repeat the wake-up call over and over. Everyone thought I did it on purpose!
  • Be careful not to fall out of your rack (bed) when you are extremely tired. Once, after a very long night on the bridge, I went to bed and woke up thinking I was still on the bridge. I proceeded to jump off of my top rack, which was approximately six feet from the deck and had a nice sized bruise for the next week.
  • You never get tired of the sunsets. They are stunning and different every night. The colors are breathtaking and the clouds take on a dramatic part of the sky.
  • Like the sunsets, I am in awe of the stars. They are so beautiful. Being out on the ocean with an open sky is incredible and cannot be recreated on land.
  • I now know how to route memos on the ship and update manuals.
  • People love morale. Even when it is at my own expense, I like the thought of making people laugh and smile.
  • It’s all about the people. As an officer, the best thing you can do is to make your people happy. You do this by making sure they know that they are valued, respected, and trusted to do their jobs. There is a chief on the boat who lives by this concept; he says that “your people should do their job because they want to, not because they are scared of what will happen if they don’t.”

 

Okay, so there will be more to come. I can’t believe that we are already halfway through the summer and our new officers are coming. It will be fun to see friends from school!

 

I have been experimenting with finding ways to work out on board and my lacrosse coach helped me out in that respect. I am also trying to develop my officer’s presence; it is weird to think that my time at the Academy is limited and that the fleet is that much closer.