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Back-to-School Blues Following an Incredible Summer

(Athletics, Just for Fun, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Corcoran Photo Back-to-School Blues: (Noun) The act of going back to school when all you really want to do is go to the beach, soak up some rays, and forget that school even exists for the time being.

 

Unfortunately, the back-to-school blues are a very real thing here at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The whole corps of cadets is lucky to participate in different summer training schedules every year and we are always upset when our time comes to an end. But before I jump into how sad I am that the school year is starting, why don’t I tell you a little bit about what my 2/c summer had to offer.

 

As a 2/c at the Academy, everyone is required to be a cadre in some shape or form. And before you ask, not every cadre is some mean, yelling 20-something year old, making the incoming freshman do push-ups or as we like to call it, “push deck.” There are several types of cadre including: Swab Summer, AIM, CGAS, Eagle, and the best one – Waterfront. I was lucky to be chosen as a waterfront cadre this summer where I spent my days teaching the swabs anything and everything that had to do with sailing. Being a cadre for three weeks was definitely a learning experience not only for the swabs, but for the cadre as well.

 

However, the highlight of my summer came from the Coastal Sail Training Program. In this program, groups of six to eight cadets and one to two safety officers are assigned a yacht and a port call schedule for about eight days and the cadets are in charge of sailing to each destination every day. Not only is this program a learning experience for leadership and followership, but it was also so much fun! We sailed to places that I have never been to before including: Block Island, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and other famous places in New England. This was a great way for everyone to be able to bond with their classmates and learn more about each other, while also learning more about nautical science.

 

Of course there were many other things I had a chance to do this summer including getting my pistol marksmanship (and shooting a gun for the first time), becoming Rules of the Road qualified which is a test every cadet must get a 90% on before they graduate, becoming proficient at driving the T-boats down at waterfront, and also spending at week at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City where we learned more about the aviation side of the Coast Guard. Also, on my three weeks of leave in the beginning of the summer, I got to spend a week in California visiting my best friend who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and also spent a week in Virginia Beach with my family.

 

Needless to say I had a very busy, but interesting summer this year so I am very sad to see it come to an end. However, I decided to try out for the women’s varsity soccer team this year instead of run cross country so I am excited to see how our soccer team does this year! School on the other hand…that’s a different story.

 

As always if you have any questions about anything feel free to email me! Samantha.E.Corcoran@uscga.edu.

 

More about Samantha.

 

Cadre Summer: Coastal Sail

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Hey there CGA blog readers. As promised, I said I would write a blog about my coastal sail experience. Coastal Sail is a program with two objectives in my mind. First, we have to learn how to sail a 44-foot sail boat on our own. Second, we have to learn the most difficult type of leadership: leading peers.

 

The Coastal Sail program is two weeks long. The first few days are spent learning how to set sails, what lines control what, how to moor up to and depart from a dock, and recover a man overboard. Also, we load on all of the food we will need for the voyage. After that, we set sail. The voyage is from the Academy to Block Island, Block Island to Falmouth, Massachusetts, Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket, Nantucket to Hyannis, Hyannis to Woods Hole, Woods Hole to Newport, Newport to Stonington, and Stonington to the Academy. As you can see, we sailed a lot. We pulled into a different port every day, so we never had to sail at night, and we got to see some of every port.

 

I can’t say I had a favorite port. Every one of them was unique and cool. I’ve been to some of those places before, but seeing the marina side was totally different. I loved walking around the piers, seeing the different types of boats and people. I spent every port call with my buddy doing pretty much the same routine. We go for a run first to get a sense of the scene. Then we would walk around looking for ice cream spots and people watching. After we got ice cream, we would check out the boats, talk about the ones we would want, and imagine a life with enough money to afford some of the gigantic yachts we would see. I had a ton of fun in port, and my “routine” is a little bit of an oversimplification, but it makes the point.

 

My true passion during the trip was sailing. I had never sailed before Coastal Sail but I developed a passion for it. I didn’t learn everything there was to know about sailing a boat by the end, but I learned a ton. My passion underway was below decks doing navigation. I liked trying to figure out the optimal course to make us go faster, while trying to keep us in the relative direction we wanted to be going. My most memorable experience underway was sailing from Hyannis to Woods Hole. We were in 20 knots of wind and high seas. Everyone that went below decks was getting sea sick from the rolls, and we were heeled over almost thirty degrees. I spent about three to four hours below deck making sure we weren’t going to run aground, because we were transiting through a lot of shallow water, and with the wind and rolls it was hard to stay on course. It was a rough day. I have no idea how I didn’t get sea sick. But, we ended up making it safely to Woods Hole, so I felt like my efforts were worth it.

 

My leadership developed even more during coastal sail. I had two main lesson learned. First, leadership can be simplified down to accomplishing the mission and motivating people. Most people can tell someone else to do something that needs to be done, but that is only half of leadership. The other half is people. You have to be able to motivate people to want to do their job, and you have to take care of your people. If you can accomplish the mission and if you can figure out how to motivate your people, you will be a great leader. The second lesson I learned was more about what attributes people use to lead. For instance, one of my friends on my boat came into the program knowing how to sail. He had what is called expert power. His knowledge of sailing helped him to lead the rest of us because we didn’t know what we were doing for the first few days. Even after that, we still looked to him for his advice on specific sailing maneuvers. There are many other types of leadership. I’ve seen good leaders and I’ve seen bad leaders. As a result, I’ve tried to make myself the best leader I can be by reading books and reflecting on my experiences.

 

In the end, I loved Coastal Sail. I had a ton of fun, and I learned a lot. I would go again in a second. Looking back over the whole summer, I grew tremendously. That is a testament to the Academy as a 200-week leadership development program – it really works.

 

More about Hunter.

 

A Summer in Review

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Hello CGA blog readers! It’s that time of year again, when everyone returns from their awesome summer assignments with stories to share and classes to look forward to. I was pretty up to speed with my blogs about the 2/c summer experience up until I became a cadre and got pretty busy. So I won’t waste words talking about my first few summer activities: Range, Rules of the Road, T-boats, and aviation training. However, looking back on my summer, the highs and the lows, I have to backtrack to mid-May. In May, I went into the doctors’ office because my shoulder was all out of sorts. I had dislocated it during a rugby match in early May, and I knew it was time to get it checked out. After an MRI, I learned I had severely torn my labrum (shoulder) and chipped a bone in my shoulder as well. With Swab Summer weeks away, I decided to wait to have surgery until after summer training. I don’t write that because I want people to pity the situation, or for people to think that I’m tough. I write that because I chose to forgo surgery to train the Class of 2018, and that passion to train the incoming swabs was more important to me than surgery. I would dare so far as to say that many of my fellow cadre had the same sense of passion about it as I did. So, for all the parents and future cadets out there, please know that your cadre are passionate about training you, and they chose to do your cadre for a reason.

 

Anyway, fast forward a couple months from May, and Swab Summer was just around the corner. I was home for a week off but I couldn’t get Swab Summer off my mind. Instead of living it up for that week, I spent hours reading books on leadership and preparing physically to train the incoming swabs. Additionally, I set goals for myself as a cadre. I wanted to be fair and respectful foremost. However, I also wanted to be a teacher. As cadre 1, it is easy to slip into a role of being a strict disciplinarian, but I wanted to break from that. Additionally, I wanted to instill a sense of pride in the Coast Guard and to teach them about what we do, in the hopes that it would unite them as a team and motivate them to perform.

 

As cadre 1, my job was to break down the civilian identities of the swabs; basically train them on uniform standards and drill; introduce the core values; and basically indoctrinate them. That is a high set of expectations, and I was lucky enough to have an excellent section of cadre to work with. We meshed well with personalities and work well as a team. After about a week, we were rolling as a team, supporting each other, backing each other up, and balancing the work load/responsibilities. By the end of week two, we were exhausted. People don’t realize, but cadre work just as hard as the swabs if they are doing it right. In addition to leading from the front and doing all the physical work that the swabs do, we have to figure out how to train them most effectively, and we have to take care of their physical and mental needs (like clinic visits and chaplain/counselor visits). We would stay up long after the swabs went to sleep, for me often not going to sleep until after midnight. We would discuss the day, what went well or didn’t go well, medical appointments, and we would plan for the upcoming day. As the last week arrived, we were exhausted and spent, but we pushed on.

 

A Summer in Review (Continued) 

 

More about Hunter.

 

A Super Busy Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Ellis Photo Hi Everyone!

 

Sorry it’s been so long since I lasted posted, but I have had a super busy summer. Here’s just a little taste at some of the things I did:

 

1. The week after finals, the Class of 2016 participated in 100th week. This marks the halfway point of our time here at the Academy. Cape May Company Commanders come to the Academy and remind us of what it feels like to be a swab and teach us ways to instruct our swabs to prepare them for the Coast Guard. At the conclusion of this week, we officially became 2/c cadets.

 

2. I also took my Rules of the Road (ROTR) test. Every 2/c has to take a weeklong course explaining the rules that ships have concerning right of way. So, it’s basically like a driving test – but for boats. For example, sailboats have right of way over powerboats. We also had to memorize all the lights that different types of boats have. At the end of this week, we took a 50 question test, that in order to pass we must earn a 90%.

 

3. After these two weeks, I participated in Summer Ocean racing again. This year, we competed in the Newport-Bermuda Race. The race took us five days to complete due to the lack of wind for the majority of the race. This was an amazing experience and I had a lot of fun.

 

4. The final thing I did this summer was cadre duty. The last three weeks of the summer I was a waterfront cadre. This consisted of me training the swabs how to sail every day. At night, I joined Foxtrot and acted as Swab Summer cadre. It was in these three weeks that I learned how to lead a group of swabs. This proved to be a lot harder than I would have imagined. We had to explain to this group of people how the Coast Guard and the Academy worked and prepare them for the school year. Being a cadre was one of the most rewarding things I have done at the Academy – being able to say that I helped train a new class that will, in four years, become CG officers.

 

This is just a small taste of what I did this summer. And now I’m ready to get back to school. This semester, I look forward to taking more of my major specific classes and well as being an MAA for Foxtrot Company. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at Kayla.M.Ellis@uscga.edu.

 

More about Kayla.

 

But It Won’t Be Long, ‘Til I Get on Back Home

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Kukich Photo Swab Summer was rough the first time around, but it was definitely even more difficult the second round as a cadre. After many weeks of preparation, I began my cadre experience on 20 July relieving my classmates who had been Cadre 1, or trainers for the first three weeks in this circumstance. After just three days, I had lost my voice from a combination of illness and loudly trying to direct the swabs and by the fourth day had to correct behaviors of some swabs with the voice of others. A week of rest at another training program came and went while the newest members of Delta Company sailed aboard the Eagle. When I made the trip up to Maine to meet the swabs for the return, I felt just as drained as when they had left. And somehow that feeling continued, that exhaustion, that fast pace, that cyclic behavior that some people can only describe as insanity.

 

The cadre experience was not without purpose however; I learned more about my personal leadership style in those three weeks than I have my entire cadet career. As cadre, like with my peers, I discovered that I struggle with public speaking even with positional power. I found out that even though I have different interests than my classmates, most of us came to the Academy for the same reasons and have the same goals in mind. And I learned that while I might not be able to form a perfect mentor/mentee relationship with every one of the 32 swabs in Delta, if they were willing to listen and I was a persistent teacher, I could pass on the skills others had taught me.

 

There were dozens of rewarding experiences sprinkled throughout cadre summer to offset the challenges, such as running to morning calisthenics in the dark with a flood warning in effect. Just a few were opportunities like running the PFE with a swab and being able to coach her alongside another cadre and her classmates – she ran the mile and a half nearly three minutes faster than the previous time. Then reassuring a swab to step off the high dive in the pool while treading in the water below with a lifeguarding tube – he jumped three times that morning. And showing the swabs of Delta how to retire the colors, particularly dress ship flags posted on the football field, as a team they ceremoniously lowered 26 signal flags on the Coast Guard’s birthday with my guidance.

 

Some cadre considered the summer simple. Being given positional power is a great tool and can lead to very effective transformation of behaviors. But to develop the swabs and truly instill the character traits of a Coast Guard officer required personal leadership for me. As the capstone event of the summer came to a close, I had the opportunity to lead some of the last cadences with my company. I chose an Army cadence “Get on Back Home” which I had learned before coming to the Academy and then again as a swab myself. It reminded me that the cadre experience was not simple for me, but well worth the journey to travel full circle and keep pushing until I get on back home.

 

More about Sarah.