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cadet blogs

My Love of Aviation

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Roesch Photo So it has been forever since I’ve written an entry, but it has all been because I’ve been so busy! My 2/c year flew by and before I knew it, I became a 1/c cadet. Wow…that is something I never expected to say (at least so soon)! Life really turned around after 2/c summer and became exponentially better – so much better that time is just racing right by! Even now as I’m writing this entry, I only have one more week left of my 1/c summer training. The next time I will be doing actual fleet things will be after I graduate and am an ensign – now THAT is a scary thought!

 

This summer has by far been the greatest experience I’ve had as a cadet. I’ve been at Air Station New Orleans for the past month and absolutely love life. Last year during my 2/c summer in the Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP), a one-week “intro” into aviation, I really fell in love with flying and it got me super motivated to become a pilot. I remember thinking while I was there, “This would be really awesome to do for my 1/c summer!” Now having checked that box and experienced pilot life I can say wholeheartedly, “This would be really awesome to do for my entire career!” Needless to say, I will be applying for flight school once the firsties start putting in their billet choices. The possibility of being at an air station and being involved with the aviation community makes me so happy and excited. How many people can say that about their job right after graduating college?

 

I could literally talk forever about how much I love flying and aviation, so I will just leave it at that! Aside from that, I’m looking forward to heading back to the Academy and starting my final year as an undergraduate. It has been a long time coming (since I went to college for a year before coming to the CGA) and I’m ready to move on! But I look forward to all of the milestones 1/c year will have. It will be the last year I am in such close proximity to my friends, so I plan on taking every opportunity to enjoy the time I have left living next door or right around the corner from my best buddies. I am still in disbelief. I am writing this entry because I felt like my time at the Academy would never end, but now I can really see the light at the end of the tunnel and I cannot wait to start my next adventure.

 

More about Allie.

 

The End of the Beginning

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Greetings from the Thetis! I know that you may think the title of this blog entry is a little wacky; normally people use the opposite of these chronological terms, but hear me out! I am coming up on the last 20 days of my Thetis adventure. At this point, I have become comfortable with the crew and the boat, aware of most of the evolutions that occur underway on an Eastern Pacific ocean patrol, and all of the moving parts finally connected in my mind (at least on a basic level). I have stood break in watches from the engine room (oiler and security), up to the combat/intelligence side, up to the bridge, where I have spent the majority of my time (as Quarter Master of the Watch, OOD and Conn). Because I went to summer school my third class summer, I was never before immersed into shipboard life that will most likely be mine in the coming year. The largest success of my summer, if not seeing a live sloth in the Panamanian rainforest, is my level of comfort and familiarity with life afloat. This "great" success may come across as menial, but living in 270 feet in the middle of the ocean with over 100 souls is not something to which most people are accustomed. Standing watch every eight hours and participating in damage control drills, as well as fulfilling collateral duties certainly makes the time pass quickly, but takes some getting used to. I also try to still be creative and stay active in my fitness and intellectual indulgences (working out and reading/writing). I am beginning to get the hang of it and will certainly appreciate the scheduling secrets I have found here next year.

 

I do plan to go afloat next summer. I have enjoyed my time on Thetis and have made relationships and connections that I believe will be long lasting throughout my career in the Coast Guard. I have to say that the crew is incredible. Every day, their kindness and willingness to improve my time on board, or to teach me something new, has astounded me, up from the seamen and firemen, to the petty officers, chiefs, and officers. I have been continually surprised, I am pleased to say, by the help I have received, the advice I have been administered, and the concern and legitimate interest I have been shown. I have fun standing watch, finding myself laughing harder than I thought possible at things that only the four people on the bridge would find funny, probably because we were standing up there for hours together, sweating through our ODUs, teaching new crew members how to steer the ship and find contacts. I have learned more than I probably did all semester, or at least it feels that way. For the past two months, I have been drinking from a fire hose of knowledge, and it hasn't stopped yet! If I am lucky enough to get a crew half as good as the one on the Thetis, I will be more than happy with my ensign billet. I guess I just never expected the crew of my firstie summer cutter to actually care about my cadet-self enough to teach me something, and to give me an unforgettable experience. It seems sentimental, and I have time on board yet, but even from this point, I can see the advances made in my professional persona. I am excited for my next year of school because I'll finally be able to drive on base, take on some responsibility, continue to take classes (that I have already used a lot in the fleet this summer: waves and tides, meteorology, nautical science, and even creative writing). I have to say that if time skipped this year, and I was suddenly an ensign on board a cutter, I would feel comfortable with that and eager to get my career going. It will be weird going back to school where the rules will seem remarkably strict and at times silly and the consequences different from now. In the fleet if you make a mistake, you will be chastised by a chief, or an officer, scolded, and will be a little embarrassed, learning your lesson through mentoring and example. At school, we get demerits, sometimes without a lesson learned.

 

Sorry for the lengthy entry, but I have a lot to say on the matter. Through it all, I wouldn’t change a thing because from this extremely diverse summer experience, I pull a greater understanding of what I have in store for me when I finally make it to graduation. So full circle: this summer has been and is a window, from which I can see what lies ahead. I have been awarded a taste of freedom and responsibility, of what I am actually training for as I spend one last year trudging from academic building to academic building, going to corps-wide lectures and taking the PFE, this is what is coming. And I think I like it. And I'm excited to start for real.

 

So, until next time,
1/c Lucy Daghir
Lucy.M.Daghir@uscga.edu

 

More about Lucy.

 

James' 1/c Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Greetings! It is hard to believe that the operational part of my 1/c summer is coming to a close and that, in less than a month, I will be reporting back to the Coast Guard Academy early to assume the duties of Regimental Communications Officer. As I have stated in my earlier blogs, the Academy summers are what I feel make it stand out from civilian colleges. During the summer, you gain practical and technical knowledge that you can capitalize on in your future career as a Coast Guard officer. The summer also gives cadets a chance to utilize the theoretical knowledge they have learned in their courses and test it out in the fleet.

 

My summer started when another 1/c cadet, four 3/c cadets, and I reported aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter. Although the Valiant was home-ported out of Naval Base Mayport, Florida, I was never north of the Florida Straits during my time on her. We picked up Valiant south of Key West on a law enforcement patrol in the Florida Straits. Underway would be the operative word describing my time aboard the cutter, as 37 of the 42 days I was attached to Valiant were spent out at sea; first on patrols in the Florida Straits and later in the northern Caribbean, primarily in the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti. Although the copious amounts of sea time did mean a lack of reliable communication with family and friends, it did give me a plethora of operational experience that I feel some of my other classmates might have missed out on—and I still got some amazing port calls in Key West, Guantanamo Bay, and Grand Turk.

 

In the Coast Guard they say that District Seven (the southeastern U.S., where I was serving aboard Valiant) is the “tip of the spear” operationally, and that was unquestionably true for my time on Valiant. I certainly have to tip my hat to members of that crew, who were chiefly responsible for the interdiction and repatriation of almost 300 illegal Cuban and Haitian migrants during my month and a half on board. The hard work that went into performing at that high level certainly gave me a greater appreciation for all that the big white-hull cutters do. I was especially appreciative of the opportunities to participate in gun exercises, flight operations with a Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Borinquen, and migrant operations. I also got valuable experience breaking in as both Conning Officer and Deck Officer (the person responsible for the driving and operations on board a cutter), which gave me a chance to utilize what I had learned in my Nautical Science courses at the Academy.

 

As much as I enjoyed the first half of my summer aboard Valiant, I got a chance to experience a totally different side of the Coast Guard during the second half at Air Station Clearwater (Florida). As a cadet who hopes to go directly to flight school from the Academy (keeping my fingers crossed!), it was an amazing opportunity to spend five weeks with aviators and flight crews, learning how the air station operationally supports search and rescue and law enforcement operations in District Seven. I was able to not only learn more about flying and the aircraft, but also all the logistical and mechanical services that keep Coast Guard aircraft flying. I was especially grateful to all the members of the air station who were kind enough to give me experience both working on the aircraft and participating in operations with rescue swimmers and load masters.

 

My biggest takeaway from this summer is that no matter how much you think you know about Coast Guard operations, there is always more to learn. Participating in migrant interdictions on board Valiant and on aircraft out of Clearwater gave me a greater understanding of a Coast Guard mission that I previously had little exposure to. Additionally, my operational summer gave me a greater appreciation for the hardworking personnel across the Coast Guard. The willingness of the crews on the cutter and at the air station to include me in their day-to-day tasks only confirms what I already knew—that members of the Coast Guard l are truly top-caliber employees and people.

 

Well, that pretty much sums it up. The next blog I write will most likely be when I am back on the beautiful grounds of the Coast Guard Academy campus. If you have any questions for me about the Academy or Coast Guard Operations, I invite you to email me at James.D.Engelhardt@uscga.edu. Until next time, fair winds and following seas!

 

More about James.

 

Understanding the Long Blue Line

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo Chase Hall bears a striking resemblance to a ghost town during the summer months. Sitting here in the Cadet Watch Office on Sunday duty, I haven’t had much action come my way. The only thing that happened was having someone stop in for a quick visit. He was a Class of 2009 graduate who wanted to look at the Memorial Wall that is located on the quarterdeck. This wall contains the names and images of Academy graduates who died in the line of duty, along with a brief description of their service and whatever event called for their sacrifice. When he returned, I asked him if he had any special connection to someone on the wall. “Yes”, he told me. One of his classmates from 2009 had died in the 2012 helicopter training crash in Mobile and his picture now hung on the wall. On a rainy, quiet New London day, one of this man’s classmates had taken a few minutes out of his undoubtedly busy trip through the area just to see his deceased classmate’s picture.

 

From the minute we enter Swab Summer, all of us cadets are told about something called the Long Blue Line. It’s a metaphor for the connection among every Coast Guardsman, past, present, and future. Honesty is revered here, and if I am to follow that virtue, I have to tell you I never really gave much thought to the concept of the Long Blue Line. Yes, it’s pretty cool to remember that generations of inspiring and strong Coasties have come before me, and that generations will follow but that was usually the extent of my reflection. That visit from a past graduate made me better understand the Long Blue Line.

 

This man wasn’t in the Coast Guard anymore and I couldn’t tell you if he had even set foot on base since his commencement. Yet, he is probably a paradigm of a member of the Long Blue Line for that very reason. Being a part of the Long Blue Line is not just saying you’re a temporary part of some rich history, and you had a job where you got to ride a boat or a helicopter, and went to some old school in Connecticut. It is knowing people, seeing how they impact your life, and how they’ve impacted the lives of everyone else in the fleet. It’s acknowledging that you’ll never meet anyone quite like the people you met while you sailed and flew and saved. It’s taking a few minutes to detour out of your crazy life to your alma mater and say “hello” to the memory of your classmate, even after you’ve said “goodbye” to the service itself.

 

There’s a reason people are quick to tell me and other cadets about the people they knew in the Coast Guard, whether they themselves were ever directly involved or if they had family and friends who joined. The thing about the Long Blue Line is you don’t ever lose your place. You could make it your career, or a first job; either way, you’ll touch someone in both known and unknown ways. Because you hold that place, you might very well find yourself in front of the Memorial Wall years after graduation and, because you hold that place, a quiet cadet watch-stander may be contemplating the meaning behind your seemingly simple actions.

 

More about Abby.

 

Five Lessons for the Class of 2019

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Wow! This semester has really flown by! My sincere apologies in not blogging earlier – between lacrosse, schoolwork and extracurricular activities, blogging had been put on my proverbial back burner. To the Class of 2019 arriving here for R-Day, I was hoping to impart five lessons I learned at the Academy that might prepare you for what you can expect in your undergraduate experience. Hope you enjoy – here we go:

 

5. New England is cold: For those readers hailing from southern states – New England is cold! And it’s just not cold during those typical winter months, it honestly doesn’t get what I would consider warm (consistent mid-60s) until May. That being said, all the snow can be fun; we missed a total of three days of classes (two back-to-back) and had a few late base openings and early closings due to the inclement weather that descended on New London this winter. Just be prepared to bundle up in the wintertime!

 

4. The CGA grounds are hilly: The bluffs that the Academy are situated on offer spectacular, scenic views of the Thames River. However, these views do come at a price so be prepared to feel like you’re always walking uphill when on campus. On the bright side, the hills do work miracles for your calf muscles (as do the staircases in Chase Hall – don’t even think about using an elevator).

 

3. The Academy is kinda like Hogwarts: Silly as it may sound, CGA and the fictional wizardry school do have a lot of similarities. When you arrive you are sorted into different companies (i.e., “Houses”) where you dine, live and make the majority of your friends. Although there is no Slytherin Company here, there are rivalries that come out in inter-company sports (Quidditch, however, isn’t offered).

 

2. The summers are awesome: Back on a serious track, a lot of cadets will tell you that the CGA summers really make this place stand out as special and different than civilian schools. Gaining practical knowledge in real Coast Guard units or learning leadership with your classmates are rewarding experiences that would be tough to mimic elsewhere. Not to mention, all the new and exciting places your training will take you (I’ve gotten to go to Bermuda, France, Canada, Maine, Boston, and Key West to name a few).

 

1. The friendships you make run deep: To end on an important note, because of all the rough military training you will go through with your classmates, you will develop bonds that run deeper than any friendships that you had in high school. It is no wonder that so many cadets marry each other or are the best man or maid of honor at a classmate’s wedding. The connections I have made with people at the Academy are something that I honestly treasure the most.

 

Thanks for reading! As always, if you have any questions for me about the Coast Guard Academy, Coast Guard, or military life, feel free to shoot me an email at: James.D.Engelhardt@uscga.edu. If you are a Class of 2019er, I look forward to meeting you in the fall. Go Bears!

 

More about James.