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cadet blogs

Summer Training: Ship Handling

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Swab Summer is THREE weeks away. It is crazy to think that in 21 days, I will be training a new class of future officers. I can wait to get started, but in the meantime I have plenty of training myself. This past week, I participated in the summer ship handling program, which trains cadets the basics of seamanship aboard a 40-foot tug boat.


So what do I mean by seamanship? There is a lot that goes into it. For example, have you ever thought about starting a boat vs. starting a car? Unfortunately, turning on large vessels isn’t as easy as turning a key! There is a long checklist that needs to be completed before turning a T-boat on and getting underway. Throughout the week, we practiced other aspects of seamanship including: getting underway from the pier, docking, line handling, dropping anchor, driving the ship on the helm, controlling the throttle, and giving the commands to drive the ship. Most days, we would get underway to get practical experience on the T-boat. Then, in the afternoon, we would learn the theory behind it all, and then we would practice again on our simulators at the Academy. The simulators are cool because you can set up almost any scenario: getting underway, docking, and driving the ship, to name a few. The simulator was pretty cool and was very helpful practice.


That’s the summary of the T-boat program. The coolest part of the week was Wednesday, when my group spent all day underway. We went down to the boat at about 0800, and we were able to start it all by ourselves. Then, our supervising safety officer arrived and we got underway. I had the honor of getting the boat underway, docking it, and getting it underway again! Then, our safety officer threw a life ring overboard and screamed, “man overboard!” I was a little surprised, but I knew what I had to do because we had practiced man overboard drills on the simulator the day before. I had to turn the ship around to circle back to the life ring. Also, I had to be sure to get close enough to the life ring (at a slow speed) without hitting it. Then, we recovered the life ring with a boat hook. The rest of the day, we alternated commanding the cutter, anchoring, and man overboard drills. Around noon, we anchored the T-boat and had a swim call. We had the pleasure of jumping off the side of the boat into the freezing cold water. The water was so cold I could hardly spend a few minutes in it! After the swim call, we had a cookout on the deck and relaxed for a while. Then we got back underway for more practice. Overall, it was an awesome day. I learned a lot from the practical experience, and I enjoyed working with my group.


If you have any questions at all about the Academy, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you!


More about Hunter.


Week 4: Steadying on Course

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Much of the same this week–working on collateral duties and other projects during the day and liberty or duty in the evenings. It’s still a “Charlie period” for us, which means that our cutter is in maintenance mode–the crew is working hard to fight rust and paint or fix and tune up equipment. We can’t get underway at all because important systems and components of the ship are either inoperable or not in a “ready-enough” status.


This is a quick explanation of cutter statuses (or at least what I understand of them…). When a cutter is underway, the status is Alfa. When cutters are in port, most of the time they are in a Bravo status, which means that the cutter is equipped and ready to get underway in an emergency and the work done during the day does not prohibit the ship from doing so. The Bravo status is accompanied by a number, which indicates in how much time a cutter must get underway should an emergency call come. For example, if the status is Bravo - 24, the crew knows that, if they were to get a call saying the cutter had to get underway, each crewmember would have up to 24 hours to return to the ship and be prepared to go. Of course, if a crewmember is on leave, s/he does not have to return to the ship were there to be a recall of some sort. Charlie periods (maintenance) are great times for the crew to take leave—these past few weeks have seen a crew size of approximately 1/3 fewer members. They’ll all be back for when we get underway at the end of the week! That’s right; we’re headed back to Guam soon!


Anyway, since this week there were no special events to write about, I’ll explain how standing watch (or, having duty) works and what qualifications we are working on right now. Andy and I are working on our in-port security watch stander qualification. In addition to learning a lot of basic knowledge about the ship’s systems (for initial response in case of an in-port emergency), we also have to stand “break-in” watches where we learn and practice proper security watch protocol. Because we are not fully qualified, Andy and I are on a “1-in-3” duty rotation; we stand duty once every three days. The nickname for this duty rotation is called “the motivation rotation”–it definitely motivates us to get qualified. Standing so watch so often has definitely limited our liberty (exploration) time here on the island. But, as I say, we’re here to train–to work and to learn–not to have a vacation, so I’m not complaining.


The most valuable thing, to me, about standing watch is that I get a chance to have long discussions (think, 6-hour long discussions) with whichever crewmember is the qualified watch stander. I love hearing about their experiences–good and bad–and their aspirations. These members of our enlisted corps have some great ideas! It’s also super valuable to hear about the things that they really appreciate from their leaders and the things that irk them. As a developing officer, this feedback is awesome! I’ve been keeping notes. It may be years before I am able to really do anything with them, but that’s OK.


Well, that was my leadership reflection (more or less) for the week. Will write again soon!



More about Justin.