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cadet blogs

Greetings from the USCG Fleet!

(Just for Fun, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Belanger Photo So, I have not written as blog since right before I graduated so I thought I would send in a quick little message. It has been quite a journey since graduation. Well, I got stationed in Kodiak, Alaska. It defiantly wasn’t my top choice due to the fact that I am a Florida boy, but while we were in port over the summer I got to explore the island and take in all of its beauty. I really enjoyed all of the hikes and fishing that I got to do over the three months I was in Kodiak. We left for dry dock in the middle of August and that is when my journey began. I arrived in Seattle at the end of August and from there I went on a temporary assigned duty (TAD) to the CGC Seneca out of Boston.

 

It was a great experience sailing back in the warmth of the Caribbean with a brief stop in Roatan, Honduras. Honestly, you think Honduras and immediately disregard it but it was one of the best islands that I have ever visited. It was friendly, reasonably priced, and beautiful. It is home to one of the largest reefs in the world and from most spots you can just walk into the water from the beach and swim to them.

 

After that tour wrapped up in the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to go back to the Academy and help out in the Nautical Science department on the training vessels that the cadets train on. I was there for two weeks working with the instructors and 2/c and it was a blast. Honestly, I was hesitant at first but it provided me with the opportunity to not only catch up with friends but also get better at thinking further ahead when driving a ship. I really owe a great deal of thanks to CDR Mike Turdo and his team in the Naut Sci department for accommodating me for those two weeks.

 

From there I travelled down to Charleston, South Carolina to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) to begin boarding officer school. I honestly have to say it was the best time I have had in the Coast Guard so far. This training provides boarding team members with the opportunity to learn more about Coast Guard and U.S. policy when conducting boardings in the high seas and in U.S. waters. We had liberty on the weekends to explore the area. It was great working with other classmates and enlisted members from different parts of the country and getting to know each and every one of them.

 

From there I flew back to Seattle where Munro was still dry dock for a short week and I was off again (TAD) to the CGC Legare. I honestly have to say that I enjoyed every moment on board. We conducted fishery patrols and I got to experience a .50 caliber shoot along with a MK-75 shoot (that’s the big gun on front of a 270’). We also got to conduct helicopter operations and a large number of small boat operations. It was truly rewarding. I got to finish a lot of my progress on board in regard to my underway deckwatch officer qualification. I also got to catch up with my classmates that were also on board.

 

You think this would end my adventure, but it doesn’t! At the beginning of January, I flew from the Legare on a MH-60 inbound for Myrtle Beach. After spending a day in Myrtle Beach I flew up to Norfolk, Virginia. My flight wasn’t scheduled until later in the week so it gave me a few days in Virginia, an area that has a large Coast Guard presence. I was able to catch up with a few friends, along with my academic advisor and professor from the Academy. I departed at 0300 on a Friday inbound for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where I met up with yet another 270’ from Virginia. As of right now I am currently underway on the CGC Forward with yet more classmates! We have had an exciting patrol so far and have had a busy schedule. My classmates on board are all studying for their boards (which is a test) for their deck watch officer letter. I am close to having mine as well so it has been great studying with them!

 

Since graduation I have travelled over 10,000 miles and have had the opportunity to meet up with tons of classmates all over the East Coast. It has been quite a trip so far, but I am ready to head back to my ship. Hopefully, that will happen soon—but in the life of a junior officer, you never know!

 

If you have any questions regarding the academy or life as a Coast Guard junior officer, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at Nathan.D.Belanger@uscg.mil!

 

More about Nathan.

 

Former Cadet Blogger – A Return on Investment

(Life as a Junior Officer) Permanent link
Wowtschuk Photo Howdy, shipmates! The relationship I have with my editor can be compared with some of the great duos throughout history. She has been the grill to my Foreman, the Nike to my Lemieux, the steroids to my Armstrong, and now, by pressuring me out of retirement for one last “Blog of the Century,” she has become the Pacquiao to my Mayweather. And, like “Money,” I hope to, once again, become TBBE (The Best Blogger Ever) through solid fundamentals, impeccable style, and timely hugs.

 

Let me start by bringing everyone up to speed on what I have accomplished so far as a commissioned officer in the United States Coast Guard (this will be brief). In a nutshell, I moved to the PNW, went to the Arctic Ocean three consecutive summers, moved to Texas, grew a beard, and am currently maximizing the U.S. Government’s return on investment in my education. In the hopes of imparting some valuable insights about life after the Coast Guard University, I am going to share my experience during each of these chapters of my life.

 

I begin my journey in the PNW, or Pacific Northwest for all you out-of-touch, non-organic eating, macro-beer drinking, mainstream entertainment enjoying, melanin sufficient southeasterners. Moving to Seattle? The first thing I recommend doing is reject the corporate mainstream fashion value of the lames, and start cultivating your own individual style. This involves wearing a working class hat, having thick rimmed glasses (bonus if you actually need them to see), growing facial hair popular in the 19th century, sporting a t-shirt with some sort of anti-establishment message, and rocking multi-colored socks. As a general rule of thumb, wear clothing only popular prior to 1992, because you don’t want to stand out. Once you have learned to march to the beat of your own drum, and fully embraced hipster “counter culture,” you can begin to appreciate all the PNW has to offer.

 

The Arctic Ocean is an incredibly fragile ecosystem, virtually untouched by civilization, and contains some of the most endangered animals known to man. Fortunately, the polar bear does not fall into this last category. Polar bears are some of the most incredible animals alive but they are not endangered (seriously, look it up). They were so common, that when sighted I would invariably think “oh cool, ANOTHER polar bear...let me know when it turns into a narwhal”.

 

Texas is the opposite of Seattle in just about every way imaginable. Upon entering the state, I was issued a hand gun, a Texas state flag, and a copy of George Strait’s Greatest Hits. I did not realize people actually wore cowboy outfits as a serious fashion decision. As a native New Yorker, it has been a slow, and at times, painful adjustment to the Texas culture. If you remember nothing else, remember to shape your cowboy hat. It will save you an embarrassing night at the local dance club.

 

Finally, as a Coast Guard representative at a top engineering research institution, I hold myself to the highest of standards. I understand my role as a graduate student, and embrace the notion that my job is to work hard and learn as much as possible. The Coast Guard is investing in me and I must return the investment in full. This involves avoiding the many distractions present at a major university, or pitfalls as I like to call them. Here are a list of pitfalls that I am regularly challenged with: waking up whenever I want, discounted menu options until 11 p.m. at local dining establishments, SEC Division I college football games, interacting with young women who are more interested in the social aspects of college than the educational ones, traveling, and, of course, the most dangerous pitfall of all, not adhering to the Coast Guard uniform and grooming standards.

 

I think this “Blog of the Century,” lived up to its hype, much like the “Fight of the Century,” did. I will leave you with these wise words from the greatest boxer of our generation, Floyd “Money” Mayweather: "I am the best. There is nobody better than me.”

 

Fun Fact: I am allergic to apples.

 

More about Bo.