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cadet blogs

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.

 

More about Lucy.

 

2/c Summer Part 2: Recommitment, Cadre Moving On and Memorial Day

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Ritchie PhotoReflecting on Recommitment

 

At the end of 100th Week, the Class of 2017 had our Recommitment Ceremony where we once again took the oath we had taken on R-Day, changed our shoulder boards, and received the privilege to wear civilian clothes. Since the ceremony was delayed and I had a plane to catch, I had a mini-ceremony of my own. Because of this, I ended up being the first one in my class to be promoted to 2/c, the first one to wear civvies in Chase Hall, and the first one to go on leave for the summer. You’d think I would be really excited about this but I found myself unhappy. I was disappointed that I could not stand with my class and renew the oath with them. They say that in the military, you sometimes have to sacrifice being at important events. I didn’t realize that it went both ways. The Coast Guard family really watches out for you and will try to work with you in making plans, especially when getting home to family.

 

Our Cadre Graduated?! 

 

Having the first three weeks of leave meant that I wasn’t at the Academy for Commencement. The great Class of 2015 graduated in May. Graduation from an academy means so much more than graduating from any other college. Each member of the Class of 2015 not only received a diploma but also a commission as an ensign in the Coast Guard and a handshake from President Obama. It’s a pretty big deal.

 

Why was this graduation so important to me? The Class of 2015 is my cadre class. They were responsible for training my class. We followed them from the beginning of our experience and now we have to be the leaders that they were to us. The Class of 2015 has left my class huge shoes to fill. When we graduate, we will continue to follow them by taking their places as they will move onto their next units.

 

It is a reminder that my class is halfway through our Academy experience and of the great responsibility we will have beginning this summer. It poses the question, “Are we ready?”

 

I think we are.

 

The Meaning of Memorial Day 

 

For Memorial Day weekend, I took a road trip to Kansas with my dad. There is a famous attraction in Wichita called the Keeper of the Plains. If you walk over the bridge there, you’ll find a memorial park. It was the perfect thing to run into on the day before Memorial Day.

 

Nowadays, so many people celebrate Memorial Day by hosting backyard barbeques or going shopping. People forget what Memorial Day is really about. It is about remembering those who gave their lives in serving our country. It is for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. There is a great poem titled “Freedom is not Free.” I challenge you to look it up. That is what Memorial Day is about.

 

Memorial Day is not about the people who serve today, though we may serve in honor of the true honorees. It is not a day to praise veterans and survivors but to mourn with them over their shipmates lost. It is a day to stand beside the families of those who have lost someone for the sake of our country and hear the stories that they carry on.

 

I stood with my dad looking at a memorial as a lady came and placed a rose on it. She started crying and we knew she had lost someone whose name was etched there. It was such a beautiful and sad moment. I didn’t know what to do. Part of me wanted to give her a hug but I knew I could never understand her loss. I decided to continue looking at the memorial, avoid eye contact, and give her space. A minute later, she came up to us and told us she had lost her brother in Afghanistan a few years ago. The memorial included the war on terrorism as an ongoing fight. It was the most powerful memorial I have ever visited.

 

Moments like that make it real. Moments like that remind me of why I serve. I serve to protect my country and am so proud to be part of something bigger than myself. I want to save lives and solve problems peacefully. There is no better way to do that than by serving in the Coast Guard.

 

When you thank me for my service, I know you’re not just thanking me. Because I am part of something so much bigger than myself, I represent the soldiers stationed all over the world and those who have lost their lives fighting. You are thanking all of those people when you say thank you to a serviceman or woman. Even though we may never meet them or have the chance to convey that message, it is a reminder that we proudly serve beside them and we honor them in our service.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Land of Opportunity

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Chang Photo “I’m sailing away, to a land of opportunity…” are the lyrics I sometime hear when aboard the USCGC Eagle for our five weeks of summer training. Other times, I can barely distinguish the howling winds of the sea from the blood rushing in my ears after standing a midnight watch. I don’t even know how to begin describing Eagle. Most of us lovingly call it the “Dirty Bird.” This is because it can get pretty gross when you have nine hardworking people living in a small room with a broken A/C unit. However, this is all irrelevant compared to the things you get to do on this boat.

 

Climbing up to the very tops of the masts and being able to see the Milky Way, waking up for morning duty and watching the sunrise, finding you are totally focused on what you have to do and learning about yourself in little increments to the point where you almost lose perception of time makes it all worthwhile. Eagle has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes while on board but I think I’m a better person because of it. We have one more week to go until phase change in Staten Island, New York, and nine more days until I ship off to the USCGC Mellon!

 

More about Olivia.

 

One is Silver and the Other’s Gold

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Culp Photo For me, coming home from the Academy for leave means coming home to an onslaught of family members, old friends and dogs. During my few weeks back in Nebraska, I wound up seeing everyone from church members to high school friends to future cadets and their families (shout-out to all the Cornhuskers who apparently read my blog religiously, by the way – you’re awesome!). Just like it’s the people at the Academy who make that experience special, it’s these people on the home field that make leave something that I look forward to every year.

 

However, it is very challenging to maintain any sort of long-distance friendship. I stayed close to about four high school friends after I started at the Academy. Getting Facebook back 3/c year helped a little, but still, I wound up letting go of a lot of friendships. As a cadet, you just don’t have the time when you have so much homework and military responsibilities, varsity sports, and, of course, all of the new and wonderful relationships demanding your attention.

 

I don’t write this to make you apprehensive or to recommend that you ignore all of your high school friends (please, please, please don’t do that!) but to show you the hope behind the reality. I don’t get as much time as I’d like to talk to my handful of closest high school friends during the academic semester, thanks to the aforementioned demands; and with jobs and classes and families back home, my friends are engaged in difficult and time-consuming balancing acts as well. But, with these girls, even just the quickest text or carving out one hour for a phone call every couple of months keeps our friendship strong. And then, when I come back home each winter and summer, we pick right up where we left off – of course, there’s always a quick update about whatever happened that semester and then it’s off to our next adventure in the wild Midwest! So, you might not ever be as close as you once were and you might unfortunately stop talking to some people completely but chances are you’ll find that your best friends stay close to you – just in a different way. And then they become one of the best things about home.

 

I encourage all of you prospective cadets (especially Class of 2019 – R-Day is in less than a week! Gasp!) to start thinking about what your friends mean to you. Think about the support they’ve shown you, the excitement they had when you decided to leave home for the Academy, and the good times you had with them. Be prepared for loss – it comes with the appointment – but also be grateful for those people who love you and will be there to welcome you home. You’ll come to realize even more acutely than you did before just how integral those few people are to your life.

 

More about Abby.