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cadet blogs

How Much I've Learned, How Much I've Changed

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo More than halfway done with 3/c summer, I can say that it has been the best summer of my life so far. I sailed from the Academy to Puerto Rico, through Drake’s Passage in the Virgin Islands, to Aruba and on to Cozumel, Mexico. I was part of the navigation team while transiting through Drake’s Passage, qualified as a Helmsman/Lookout, received my Damage Control Qualification letter, and actually steered Eagle all by myself during a rough night. I saw the Milky Way in the middle of nowhere in the South Atlantic, traded shoulder-boards with a Mexican Navy lieutenant, climbed around 500-year-old Spanish forts, and did all of this with the best of friends.

 

Now I am at home awaiting my next cutter, USCGC Dependable, down the street from my house, to get underway in a few days. I plan on completing my Quartermaster of the Watch Qualification and Advanced Damage Control Qualification in the next five weeks. Ok, there are definitely parts of the summer that stink, like waking up at 0330 to stand watch, cleaning unmentionable parts of bathrooms, and barely fitting into my rack on Eagle. After having a bad day in the rain, standing watch, and not getting a whole lot to eat, and finally getting to bed on Eagle after being up for over 30 hours with no sleep, there’s nothing to do but laugh hysterically with the guys in your berthing area at the dumbest stuff and pass out, and then do it all again. But that’s all part of the junior enlisted experience.

 

My summer isn’t over yet, but I already have some big takeaways, aside from my qualification letters. I am learning what seaman and fireman go through during their first tour. It is was interesting to meet people right out of basic training, people who are the same age, or even younger, who are doing the same job. They are the “real” Coast Guard people (non-cadets, officers, and enlisted), and it is eye-opening to interact with junior enlisted people as opposed to just officers and cadets (and the occasional) Chief Petty Officer at the Academy. I rubbed elbows with so many different Coast Guard members this summer, from admirals to seaman apprentices and everyone in between, but mostly with my shipmates, who make up the most diverse, hilarious, intelligent, and hardworking Corps of Cadets on the planet. I am learning what it means to work hard, what it means to properly mentor and be mentored, and how to take care of your people. I’m learning all of the right things to do as a junior officer, and more importantly, what NOT to do when I get the privilege to lead. I am home now as my cutter is in stand-down, and we are waiting to get underway in the next week. It is very strange being home, seeing how almost nothing has changed in South Jersey except maybe a new sidewalk or something minor. I have changed a lot, and coming home has changed my perspective on myself and the place where I grew up.

 



More about William.

 

Summer Training: Coast Guard Aviation

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Hello CGA blog readers! I am now five weeks into my summer training at the Academy, and I’m having a blast. Last week, I reported to Elizabeth City, North Carolina for the Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP). In sum, CATP is a basic aviation familiarization program for cadets. Cadets are split between Elizabeth City and Mobile, which are the two biggest Coast Guard air stations. I went to Elizabeth City with 13 of my classmates and I had a great time all week.

 

The goal of CATP is to immerse cadets in Coast Guard aviation for a week so that we can see if we like it. It’s an extremely relaxed environment but there is no pressure to pursue aviation because of going to CATP. I went just to see what our aviation program was all about even though I had no intention of going to flight school. After the week was over, I had a lot more respect and understanding for the aviation side of the service, but I know I want to be underway for a long time in my career.

 

Overall, CATP was awesome, and I could talk about what we did forever but I’ll limit myself to the three coolest things I got to do while I was there. On Tuesday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting the Aviation Survival Technician (AST/ rescue swimmers) instructors. One of the senior chiefs there was in the movie The Guardian, and he talked to us for a little bit about his role in the movie. The AST facility is top of the line. They have a massive pool with equipment that can simulate hurricane force winds and massive waves so that the swimmers can feel what it’s like to be in a real rescue scenario. Also, they have two platforms to practice entry into the water from helos. The senior chief talked about the AST program and then we got to go in the pool for a ropes challenge. We had to climb a 30 foot rope, which was hanging next to a series of 10 foot ropes in a line. We were supposed to get up the first rope and carefully work our way down the line of other ropes. It was tough! I only made it to the third 10 foot rope before I let go. Only one person in my group of 14 finished. However, we were told that the ASTs can all finish it, which put into perspective how fit they really are.

 

Later that day, I was able to fly in a C130J, which is the Coast Guard’s long fixed wing aircraft. The C130J is used for spotting vessels/people in search and rescue cases, air dropping supplies from the cargo hold, spotting illegal fishing vessels, and many more missions. The C130 is fixed wing, which means that it is a plane, versus rotary (helicopters). During flight school, pilots choose which type of aircraft they want to fly (rotary vs. fixed wing), and then they receive specialized training in that aircraft. Anyway, I got to fly in the C130 and for most of the flight I was in the cockpit. After we took off, I got to ask the pilots questions and listen in on the communications. Then, they let me fly for a little while. It was awesome! It wasn’t all that hard to fly in a straight line with all the technology there to help, but it was still really cool. For the rest of the flight, we observed as the pilots practiced landing and taking of (touch and go’s) from an airport in West Virginia.

 

The following day, I was hoisted in a rescue basket. That was by far the coolest thing I got to do. We met some salty Coast Guard auxiliarists, who brought us to the lift site in their private vessel. Then, the helo arrived. I didn’t expect it, but the helo was ridiculously loud over water so close to us, and there was water spraying all over the place. The helo got low to the water, and then the rescue swimmer jumped out. At his signal, I jumped in the water and swam over to him. Then, he dragged me through the water on my back in a typical rescue technique, and he put me into the basket. It was loud the entire time, wind from the rotors made it hard to breathe, and pellets of water flying at 70+ knots pelted me in the face. But, despite all that, I could only think of how cool the experience was. I was hoisted all the way up to the helo, where I high fived one of the crew, and I was immediately lowered back down. The swimmer took me out of the basket and back toward the boat. I thought the whole experience was awesome. Now, I have a much better understanding of what the helo rescues are like in real life.

 

To wrap up, CATP was awesome. We had fun stuff to do every day as part of the program, and at night we could go to the beach, fish, work out, hang out, or do whatever we wanted pretty much. I’m glad I went.

 

As always, feel free to email me with questions! Hunter.D.Stowes@uscga.edu.

 



More about Hunter.