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cadet blogs

A Rewarding Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Pourmonir Photo So summer break is awesome. I love going to the beach and spending nights out on the town with my friends. You must be thinking that you can’t wait to go to college so that you can spend your summers just as I like to, but you must be wondering if that’s even possible. I mean going to the Coast Guard Academy means you don’t really have a summer break right? No. I thought so too, from everything I had heard, but it’s possible. This summer I was stationed at Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During your third class summer you either go to a small boat station, like I did, or a cutter. I got the chance to do both.

 

On the 11th of May I reported to the station. I reported late because I had a race for Men’s Varsity Crew. I was scared it would be hard to get to know everyone since I came the day after the other three cadets I was stationed with, but I was way off. Everyone was so friendly. I learned a ton. I helped to interdict 51 migrants in only four days. I spent a total of seven days on the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark, a fast response cutter out of Miami, Florida. In less than a week, I was allowed to stand duty as a lookout and watch the migrants. Seriously. I was responsible for the control and safety of 51 Cuban migrants. Everything from meals to bathrooms breaks I had to help control. At only 19 years old. I don’t know about you, but I considered that a huge responsibility that required a lot of trust in a person. I was humbled to be trusted with such an important task. I learned that while I did spend a ton of my summer on Fort Lauderdale’s beach and out in the city of Fort Lauderdale, it is a lot more rewarding to spend your summer learning how to serve your country and take part in some of the many missions the Coast Guard has. Interdicting migrants is one of money, but in just a few days I learned the difficulty and responsibility that every Coast Guard member accepts when they assume the duties as a member in a military service that focuses on helping others and protecting our coasts.

 

More about Keemiya.

 

Looking Back on the Summer So Far

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Okay, so I guess I should take a deep breath and remember all that I have done this summer. Although it seems to be a bit of a blur, I can say that it has been the busiest, most rewarding, and, yes, fun summer thus far. I started in the range, ending my first week with a sharpshooter ribbon for pistol shooting (who knew that the cheerleader could pick up a gun for the first time and shoot five points away from expert?!) Actually, to backtrack, my summer started officially at home for three weeks of leave, but it seems so distant and disconnected from my Connecticut summer that it’s easy to forget. I passed my ROTR test, Rules of the Road that is, after range (I tell my friends back home that it is like drivers ed but for boats). To pass the test, everyone needs a 90%, so the whole week is dedicated to taking practice tests and studying. Next came prep week, and as a waterfront cadre, I spent the week learning how to teach swabs how to sail and familiarizing myself with the sailboats and the small motor boats used by the cadre to corral the sailing swabbies. Now I am about to finish my week of T-boats, which is basic ship handling. We spent the week anchoring, docking, and practicing man overboard drills on unlucky life rings. Next week starts the end of my summer: coastal sail, where I will tour the coast of New England on a 44-foot sailboat with my fellow cadre.

 

It may seem that I left out the bit about Swab Summer (my memoir of a waterfront 1 cadre) but I have to admit that I missed a month of my summer training due to medical reasons and so my cadre experience and flight experience week were both casualties. The worst feeling was that my cadre section was doing things, training, having fun with each other at school. I guess one good thing about missing so much of my summer is that I realized how much I loved my school, my friends, and my adventures! It seemed to get real for me, missing out, how much I really wanted to be in the Coast Guard. And I think that when I had this revelation, many other of my classmates had opposite ones. Several of my classmates have left. It’s hard to see them leave but now is the time that we start tasting leadership, responsibility, and are expected to uphold the standards. Sorry that I have been a bit long-winded, but I just wanted to say that starting my third year here (as a 2/c), I am very excited to lead my peers and shipmates, to be on boats, and to make the world a better place through the Coast Guard even more so than I was the day I arrived on R-Day.

 

More about Lucy.

 

Expect the Unexpected

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo Back in late April when 2017 was briefed by the Cadet Training Branch, we received handbooks on what we should expect for 3/c summer. There was the expected: conduct standards, some sign-offs, and a template on evaluation for the end of the summer. But this summer's turn of events has been unexpected. Following Eagle, my unit was switched last minute to another cutter close to home. Today I passed my Repair Party Electrician (RPE) board (oral examination). On Eagle, we learned Damage Control basics, that is, how to control fire, flooding, and general emergencies in a maritime environment. I was never exposed to firefighting or emergency response growing up, but learning the basics on Eagle piqued my interest. When I came aboard my summer unit after Eagle, I made it my goal to obtain the advanced qualification. After completing that qualification early, I flipped to the back of the book to see what was left: Repair Electrician. I knew nothing about electricity before I got on this boat, and admittedly I was a bit intimidated by something I knew nothing about. Luckily, my unit is preparing for Tailored Ship's Training and Availability (TSTA), which measures (on an annual basis) each unit's knowledge, efficiency, and strategy in responding to a wide variety of emergencies, from an engine room fire to a man overboard pickup. There's been a drill almost every day, and the cadets were given the opportunity to participate in each one. I started to learn more and more about setting up casualty power systems from the emergency diesel generator, how to electrically and mechanically isolate a space, and the principles behind power generation. I found myself studying something I never thought I would be interested in, and the Electrician's Mate Chief on board and other electrician's mates took the time out of their day to go over the qualification. I surprised myself and passed the board, and now I'm RPE-qualified. Who'd a thunk I would be interested in electricity?

 

This summer has exposed me to different parts of the Coast Guard, interacting with different people from different backgrounds, from Operation Specialists to Food Service Specialists. There are many different personalities, both good and bad. That was unexpected. Nearly everybody at the Academy behaves in a uniform manner, and strictly adheres to the honor concept. There are people in the fleet who do not do this, to my surprise, and even people who don't like cadets for no reason. The Coast Guard is like any other organization: there are really good people and there is the handful of not so good people. In their defense, we sometimes get in the way and there's times where we can't help out, but we mean well. Luckily, this is only a small fraction of people in the "real" Coast Guard. Most people are welcoming and curious, and receptive to having cadets aboard their unit, especially the command. The other 3/c cadets and I attended a wardroom outing with all of the officers in Charleston, and there was some great conversation. Charleston was one of my favorite port calls; another surprise. Having visited Aruba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Charleston had the most to do, some of the friendliest people, and the best weather. Admittedly, Aruba was a close runner-up. Another shocker, my girlfriend surprised me by showing up to the base I just pulled into! I am excited for leave in a few days, and I plan on going to Busch Gardens in Virginia, seeing old (and new) friends, reading, and working out. The biannual Physical Fitness Examination is coming up soon, so most cadets are ramping up their workouts to get their best score. But in a few more days and I would be home enjoying leave!

 

Finally home, I find myself bored. I saw all of my friends from high school, and while we laughed like old times, we all have different interests. For many of my friends, they are almost done or halfway through college. They are coming to terms with finding jobs in a year or so, and it seems like we have all grown up. Being home for me now is somewhat boring, I no longer get the same satisfaction from the stuff I did in high school. At 20, the boardwalk is familiar like the back of my hand, and there isn’t much else to do in South Jersey. Today I went up to Philadelphia to find something to do, and I will be leaving for Busch Gardens in a week. I am, however, looking forward to seeing the Statue of Liberty over leave, as it’s something I’ve never done before. I spent a night in Chase Hall after flying into Providence Airport, and it was strange being back. I felt a sense of ownership, and I guess that is natural when you are allowed to look around and not have to square around the hallways. Leave won’t last forever—I need to order books soon…

 

I’ve also finally sent in some pictures. Check them out! 

 

More about William.

 

Week 9: What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo When people asked me this question when I was younger, I never would have imagined that I’d be transiting across the Pacific Ocean, inspecting buoy chains and shackles, or exploring small tropical islands and atolls. Whoa! And I’m fortunate to know what I’ll be doing for the first five years after graduating from college…or at least, I know that I’ll be part of the Coast Guard. I can’t say that I have a definite answer to the “what do you wanna do…” question beyond that.

 

The training objective for this summer is to provide us with an opportunity to serve in the role of a junior officer at a Coast Guard unit, in my case, aboard a cutter. I feel that this summer has done a fairly decent job of doing that. As my past blogs from this summer have shown, I’ve been busy working on many different project and qualifications at one time. Thankfully, since the cutter and crew returned to home port last weekend, this past week has been our stand-down period, meaning that most days are off, which provided me a chance to explore Guam a little more (how about those evening farmers markets and Japanese supermarkets!) While I still want to get out and do some hiking (“boonie stomping,” as it’s called here), this week has been great for catching up on some much needed rest. As always, this means that I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my future in the Coast Guard. What am I going to do when I graduate?

 

That question has been posed to Andy and me many times this summer. At this point, I don’t know what I’d like to do. I can see myself going to any platform of cutter or even going to a sector to do prevention (marine inspections). From what I’ve been told, going to certain platforms upon graduation can limit one’s career path in the Coast Guard. I would like to make service in the Coast Guard a career, so I’ve been spending a lot of time considering what I’d like to actually do long term. As I begin to figure that out, I can better decide which platform upon graduation would be best for preparing for that long-term specialty. Many Coasties have said that the best thing to do upon graduation is to go to a large cutter, and that is certainly an option, but I’m not planning to be a cutterman—that’s not why I joined the Coast Guard. I’ve been told that an ensign tour on a cutter is very valuable for young officers, but I am not fond of the idea of waiting two additional years before locking onto a specific career path just for a “valuable learning opportunity.” If I make the most of my first assignment, can’t I get the most valuable learning experience that will best prepare me for that career path? It’s not that I absolutely will not go to a cutter; in fact, I’d be happy with a buoy tender like Sequoia.

 

Of course the next question is, what is this specific career path that I want? I’ve changed my answer to this question many times, or rather, added answers to this question. The nice thing about having a career in the Coast Guard is that I can develop a specialty and then a subspecialty. I haven’t quite nailed down a subspecialty yet (but that’s mostly because I don’t really know what’s out there); I do think I’ve determined my desired specialty: organizational improvement. As I look back at my life, I’ve always been excited about taking whatever group that I’m part of—school, church youth group—to the next level of efficacy and efficiency. I love developing ideas for improving the way we do things. How can it be better for our people? How can we provide a better product or service? I can’t stand for status quo.

 

Over the next few months before we put in our dream sheets for our first billet, I’m going to be talking to officers at the Academy and elsewhere about how I put my drive to improve to work for the Coast Guard. From my experience talking with officers so far, everyone has their own opinion, so I’ll have to take these comments and this advice and synthesize it before making my decision. That analysis has already begun this summer, and I am glad that I’ve had these past two months to begin to understand where I fit into the Coast Guard.

 

Ok, this is a long (and maybe somewhat rambling) blog, so I’ll pause here. I have two weeks left in Guam. Let’s hope that there aren’t any tropical storms that threaten the island. If that’s the case, we may have to get underway again to avoid the storm! We actually went offshore for about 30 hours this past weekend for a storm. Hopefully next week I’ll have some exciting Guam exploration stories to share!

 

More about Justin.

 

Each Summer is Better Than the Last

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Krakower Photo As I sit here on the mess deck of USCGC Seahawk, I look back on a summer that has allowed me to experience more than I ever thought I would ever be given when I first applied to the Coast Guard Academy over three years ago. When I applied, I really did not understand much about the Coast Guard, despite my best intentions to learn. When I applied, I was also much less knowledgeable of the world, my surroundings, and what occurs outside of our 50 states. This summer has given me the final push required to complete my four-year tenure at the Coast Guard Academy. Want to hear about it? Just keep on reading!

 

1/c Andrew Ratti and I have been through almost every Academy summer together. We were swabs together, we were cadre together, and this year, we were both given the opportunity to go to Sector Southeast New England…and Israel. Sector was an interesting few weeks, learning about what the Command Center entails, and how thorough and critical the prevention and response departments of a sector truly are. We knew, however, that the opportunity at sector was only filler for the remaining weeks of our first phase together – the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) program in Israel. Along with 1/c Gever, we joined 27 other service academy cadets on a three-week adventure to the Holy Land. It was eye opening, and words can’t express the wonders we saw. From the Ramon Crater to the Dead Sea, from the Golan Heights to the Jordan River, from the Sea of Galilee to Tel Aviv; it all was an adventure and incredible earning experience. Until you’ve been to Israel, you don’t understand what is happening over there. You can guess from media outlets that are biased, and you can make your own opinions, based upon the inaccuracy being reported. But until you visit the Middle East, there’s no room to judge, or understand, what is going on, and why certain agreements just will not work. That trip was amazing, and very much worth the time off from USCG operations.

 

Despite that, we came back to the United States, and I headed to the USCGC Seahawk, an 87-foot patrol boat in Panama City, Florida (I know, my summer was extremely difficult). Here, I’ve worked on getting Inport Officer of the Deck qualified, Crewmember of the Watch qualified, and getting the many, many signatures that come with the Academy personal qualification standard (PQS) packet. We’ve only been underway for five to six days since I’ve been here my five weeks, but next week is underway every day until I leave. The crew has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot about what I want to do when I get out into the fleet. It also gave me my ideas as to what I want to put in for as my billet choices, which, somehow, is only seven months away.

 

So to put it short and sweet, this summer has been the best summer since I’ve been here. Each summer was better than the last, which I guess is the way it’s meant to be. I’m excited to take my leave, but I’ll be just as excited to head back to the CGA and finish this last year of school. That butter bar is getting closer and closer!

 

More about Sam.