Hello to all my readers from a little fishing village on the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) in Texas. I’m one week into my first phase summer assignment to Coast Guard Station Port O’Connor, Texas. And I’m glad to say that it’s turning out to be a lot better than I expected!
I stayed an extra week at the Academy for a crew regatta, namely ECACs. Staying in Chase Hall an extra week without carry-on was miserable; I would not go through it again. I think the worst part was knowing that all my friends out in the fleet were doing cool things and performing all kinds of Coast Guard missions. At ECACs, we did not do well. The crosswind was terrible, and it messed me up, both mentally and with my steering. In the petite finals, I drifted into the big, orange 500 meter buoy, and effectively stopped the boat. We recovered nicely after that, but still lost. At least I got to leave that weekend, after ECACs, for Texas. Flying to Texas was a daylong ordeal. I had three flights and two long layovers. At least US Airways bumped all uniformed personnel up to first class while flying into Houston! Finally, I arrived in the middle of nowhere to begin my five-week experience.
It has been a blast (so far). After checking in to my station, I got right to work. This summer, we are supposed to qualify as “communications watch-standers” and work on getting sign-offs for boat crewmember qualifications. “Communications watch-stander” (comms w/s) is a fancy way of saying you are qualified to operate the radio and respond to different scenarios on Channel 16, etc. My biggest mistake was saying “over AND out” at the end of transmissions. In the fleet, despite what you see on TV, “over and out” is a joke: “over” means that you want a response, and “out” means that you are done with the transmission. (Putting the two together cancels them out, and you look like an idiot.) Breaking in as comms w/s is really boring, because you have to get sign-offs on different qualification standards while standing four-hour watches. Even though it’s boring, you never know when you are going to get a distress call over the radio. (There have been a few close calls while I stood watch…)
In addition to comms w/s, we are supposed to be working on boat crewmember qualifications as well. Here in Port O’Connor, the station’s assets include a 41-foot UTB, three 25-foot Defender-class RBS, and a 24-foot shallow-water boat. Getting underway (u/w) on these boats is a lot of fun, but also requires a lot of work. So far, I’ve seen a little bit of what these boats can do. One night, we did helicopter operations (helo ops) out on the training flats. It was cool to see how the helo dropped the basket to the boat, especially when it was pitch-black out. On another day, I went along with a boarding team to observe a high-interest vessel (HIV) boarding. The ship we boarded had recently visited a rather unfriendly country; when we boarded, we swept the vessel for any threats and checked all the crew’s passports. For safety, I stayed with the boarding officer and checked logs and passports. It was still pretty cool. My goal is to get u/w at least once a day, so I can start getting sign-offs for boat crew.
The next few weeks will be busy, but I’ll make sure to have lots of fun. During that time, I will be out of touch, but don’t hesitate to ask questions of anyone as 2016 gets ready for Swab Summer. For those of you lucky to get appointments, I would highly recommend running at least twice a day (especially when it is hot) and drinking lots of water. I hope you all know the mission like the back of your hand. Good luck, and see you when the Corps returns in August!!
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