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cadet blogs

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!


More about Hunter.


Week 5: Halfway Gone

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo I might have waited too long to write this. We are now underway from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands. We haven’t crossed the date line yet, but we’re getting close…just a few more days.


Anyway, my fifth week out here has come and gone, and I can hardly remember what I did that is worth writing about—“worth,” as in, haven’t written about it before. The week went quickly, and Andy and I both worked hard to get our qualification packets signed off (one has to demonstrate knowledge of the various aspects of whatever qualification being worked on). We’re doing well, but we have quite a bit left to learn and memorize before we’ll be ready to be watchstanders ourselves. It keeps us busy and takes a lot of time. We have to balance getting qualified with getting our other assignments (collateral duties) complete. It’s part of learning to be a junior officer (ensign, lieutenant junior grade, lieutenant). And just when we thought we had it with regard to being in port, we got underway. And that is a whole new ballgame (but I’ll write about that next week!).


I think I’ll keep this one short since my others have been fairly lengthy. But I have to put something of substance in here before signing off for a few more days. Let me think. Leadership lesson…ah, here we go, although, I suppose this is more about being a manager, but that’s something that leaders have to learn how to do and how to balance.


A leader, acting as a manager, not only should have the big picture (vision), but should communicate that to his/her people (that’s the leadership side of things). As a manager, it is important to set clear deadlines and give clear tasks. One supervisor said, “I want at least one project done this week.” To me, that’s not very clear. I think I understand what this leader was trying to do. From what I’ve heard and seen, the followers are sometimes hard to motivate and person probably doesn’t want to come across as overbearing and unnecessarily authoritative. By saying, “I want something done,” the leader is giving the workers leeway and autonomy with their work. The problem, however, is that in this case, when the workers are easily distracted away from crucial projects to do work on other necessary, but not-so-crucial projects and tasks, the result is that nothing gets accomplished.


I know now that when I’m in a management position, I will give clear direction as to what needs to be completed and by when. Checkpoint deadlines are good, too, and helps keep the workers accountable. As far as the autonomy piece, I will try (easier said than done, of course) to get input from the workers. I can ask questions such as, “What’s a reasonable timeline?” “Which projects should have priority?” And most importantly: “How can I best assist you in getting this done?” To me, this last question exemplifies a principle of leadership that I strongly adhere to. I want to be involved with the work that my team is doing. Yes, I may not have the technical know-how or the skill to be a huge help, but being there for some part of the process, doing what I can, shows that I care about the project, too, and that I haven’t just given my people something to do that I don’t want to do or don’t care to do. It also, I think/hope, communicates to my people that they can bring up concerns. When I’m there working on the project with them, they can say, “See, this is taking much longer than I expected.” From there we can reassess our goals. Now, I know that some people say that a good leader should be able to “disappear” and leave the team to complete the project or task on its own. Yes, I think that is good for a team—it’s empowering, for sure—but, I don’t think that means that the leader is completely out of the loop and inaccessible. I want to see leaders who are present and observing, even lending a hand if possible.


Wow, that got long rather quickly. Well, I shall cut it off for now. When I write again I’ll be at the beginning of the date instead of at the end of it (we’ll have crossed the international date line)! Cheers!


More about Justin.