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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 (http://icefloe.net/uscgc-healy-track-map), 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.