“Like moral responsibility, discipline is a word with more than one meaning. Sometimes discipline is used to mean punishment, but the real meaning of discipline can be described by the words ‘right attitude’…”
I’ve held that passage somewhere in the back of my mind since Swab Summer. The Coast Guardsman’s Manual page 212 was a cadre favorite, and we certainly spent enough time holding the book out at arm’s length until our shoulders burned like mad to drill it firmly into our heads. I hadn’t consciously recalled it for the past three years; I never thought I would actually use “discipline” in that context.
This summer, however, I experienced a peculiar sort of déjà vu. I stood on the fantail of a Coast Guard fast response cutter (FRC), holding a blanket spread out at arm’s length, pinning it to the deck by my boots. At our speed of advance of 28 knots, plus a headwind, the blanket acted as a giant kite, and I strained to keep my arms straight and hold it up. On the other side of the makeshift barrier was a female Cuban migrant attempting to take a sea shower on deck after several days at sea. For security reasons, we couldn’t let migrants inside the hull of the ship, so the blanket I held up was her only source of privacy. If I dropped it, I’d have left her exposed in front of all the crew members and migrants living and working on deck. As my muscles started to burn, I reflexively recited page 212 in my head… “The real meaning of discipline can be described by the words ‘right attitude’…” and I realized that however strange the situation seemed, and however much difficulty I was having, I really didn’t mind this job at all.
I split my five-week 1/c summer tour between the USCGC William Flores, an FRC then operating out of Key West, and the USCGC Sitkinak, a 110-foot patrol boat based out of Miami. On both cutters, we spent the majority of our patrols engaged in migrant interdiction. Between the two units, more than 70 migrants crossed our decks in that five-week period.
I was fascinated by the AMIO process, but surprised at first that it held little of the “glamour” or “action” that people like to talk about. Most of our time was not spent chasing non-complaint vessels, or suppressing riots, or pulling drowning victims out of the water. Most of our time was spent with administrative work and ensuring that basic, sanitary living conditions were maintained for our guests while they were onboard: identifying individuals, finding out where they came from, translating, providing them food, showers, clean clothing.
Summer Experiences (Continued)
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