Greetings from the Thetis! I know that you may think the title of this blog entry is a little wacky; normally people use the opposite of these chronological terms, but hear me out! I am coming up on the last 20 days of my Thetis adventure. At this point, I have become comfortable with the crew and the boat, aware of most of the evolutions that occur underway on an Eastern Pacific ocean patrol, and all of the moving parts finally connected in my mind (at least on a basic level). I have stood break in watches from the engine room (oiler and security), up to the combat/intelligence side, up to the bridge, where I have spent the majority of my time (as Quarter Master of the Watch, OOD and Conn). Because I went to summer school my third class summer, I was never before immersed into shipboard life that will most likely be mine in the coming year. The largest success of my summer, if not seeing a live sloth in the Panamanian rainforest, is my level of comfort and familiarity with life afloat. This "great" success may come across as menial, but living in 270 feet in the middle of the ocean with over 100 souls is not something to which most people are accustomed. Standing watch every eight hours and participating in damage control drills, as well as fulfilling collateral duties certainly makes the time pass quickly, but takes some getting used to. I also try to still be creative and stay active in my fitness and intellectual indulgences (working out and reading/writing). I am beginning to get the hang of it and will certainly appreciate the scheduling secrets I have found here next year.
I do plan to go afloat next summer. I have enjoyed my time on Thetis and have made relationships and connections that I believe will be long lasting throughout my career in the Coast Guard. I have to say that the crew is incredible. Every day, their kindness and willingness to improve my time on board, or to teach me something new, has astounded me, up from the seamen and firemen, to the petty officers, chiefs, and officers. I have been continually surprised, I am pleased to say, by the help I have received, the advice I have been administered, and the concern and legitimate interest I have been shown. I have fun standing watch, finding myself laughing harder than I thought possible at things that only the four people on the bridge would find funny, probably because we were standing up there for hours together, sweating through our ODUs, teaching new crew members how to steer the ship and find contacts. I have learned more than I probably did all semester, or at least it feels that way. For the past two months, I have been drinking from a fire hose of knowledge, and it hasn't stopped yet! If I am lucky enough to get a crew half as good as the one on the Thetis, I will be more than happy with my ensign billet. I guess I just never expected the crew of my firstie summer cutter to actually care about my cadet-self enough to teach me something, and to give me an unforgettable experience. It seems sentimental, and I have time on board yet, but even from this point, I can see the advances made in my professional persona. I am excited for my next year of school because I'll finally be able to drive on base, take on some responsibility, continue to take classes (that I have already used a lot in the fleet this summer: waves and tides, meteorology, nautical science, and even creative writing). I have to say that if time skipped this year, and I was suddenly an ensign on board a cutter, I would feel comfortable with that and eager to get my career going. It will be weird going back to school where the rules will seem remarkably strict and at times silly and the consequences different from now. In the fleet if you make a mistake, you will be chastised by a chief, or an officer, scolded, and will be a little embarrassed, learning your lesson through mentoring and example. At school, we get demerits, sometimes without a lesson learned.
Sorry for the lengthy entry, but I have a lot to say on the matter. Through it all, I wouldn’t change a thing because from this extremely diverse summer experience, I pull a greater understanding of what I have in store for me when I finally make it to graduation. So full circle: this summer has been and is a window, from which I can see what lies ahead. I have been awarded a taste of freedom and responsibility, of what I am actually training for as I spend one last year trudging from academic building to academic building, going to corps-wide lectures and taking the PFE, this is what is coming. And I think I like it. And I'm excited to start for real.