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cadet blogs

Small Boat Station Life

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo For the second half of my summer training program, I went to small boat station Ponce de Leon Inlet in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Officers in the Coast Guard don’t get stationed at small boat stations, so this was the only opportunity I would get to experience one. My friend, Katie Neubig, and I were lucky enough to be stationed together, and we had a blast in our six weeks there. We earned our Communications Watchstander qualifications in the first two weeks and then spent the next weeks trying to get boat crew sign-offs, standing watch, and helping the crew around the station.

 

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we and the crew ran, played ultimate Frisbee, or surfed in the morning before boat checks. The work day went from around 0730 to 1500. Day-workers were done after the work day; people on duty had to stay at the station all night. Katie and I lived on the station, but we alternated which of us day-worked each day, so one of us could technically leave after 1500. Usually we just ended up staying at the station and catching up on sleep, though. We had our fun on the weekends. We had the opportunity to go to Disney World and a NASCAR race. For the NASCAR race, we were given free tickets and went to participate in the flag unfurling ceremony on July 5. It ended up being rained out, but we got to go back the day after in civilian clothes to watch the postponed race since we had the tickets. While in uniform on the first day, we went to victory lane and ran into a group of men who each had a medal of honor. We were star struck. These were real American heroes. We looked one of them up, and found out they’d fought in Vietnam. I think Sergeant First Class Gary Littrell ended up saying, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” the next day.

 

The most exciting thing that happened at Station Ponce while we were there was a migrant case. It is unusual to have migrants around central Florida, but we had a case of Haitian migrants one night. It was a weekend, so Katie and I were off. When we arrived at the station, there was only one crew member there, standing the communications watch. She asked us to come help her and explained the case to us. I relieved her at 2000 and stood watch until 0300 the next morning when Katie relieved me. I found it so fascinating to listen to the case progress over the radio and log all the information I heard. It was awesome to be a part of a real Coast Guard mission.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Returning Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Corbett Photo It was a long 142 days to be away from home. Then again I am only from Philly so I don’t have much room to talk as there are cadets from Alaska and other faraway lands. As I ventured out this summer, I kept track of what I needed to do to finally arrive home. I started my journey in Milwaukee. A small station, but a great station. I drove 45-foot and 25-foot boats that could zoom through the water and slice through waves at speeds upwards of 50 mph. (45 knots for those who are nautical.) I saved a life. I lifeguarded for four years in high school and had pulled struggling swimmers to the side, but this was different. A man’s life depended on the training I had. The “wealth” of knowledge one could accumulate in a whole year being in the Coast Guard. I sat in the radio room and answered the call and I sent out our boats with our crew. Everyone knew their position and there I was the rookie, calm, collected and managing the pickup of a 52 year old man who fell into the Milwaukee river system. I did my job and a man’s life was saved.

 

I was pepper sprayed…yes military-grade pepper sprayed, voluntarily. Probably one of the worst experiences of my life, but it was something that needed to be done. There is oh so little room to expand on all stories so I will leave this one to another day.

 

I left the station in high spirits and boarded the CGC Eagle. I knew Eagle was the last part of my trip. I sailed from Miami through awful weather, long midnight watches, and trainings on trainings, until we reached Nova Scotia. Two port calls down and few more to go. Then came Newfoundland, where I scaled coastal cliffs and jumped into iceberg-filled water, and then NYC where I would see my family for the first time in several months. One port call left. I scaled 15 stories in whipping winds and rain aboard the tall ship Eagle. It was the job that needed to be done and another step closer to that goal. Eyes on the prize and I just kept my thoughts toward that last sight of land.

 

The shores of Bourne, Massachusetts came in sight and I knew my summer was coming to an end. As I disembarked, I looked back on the summer with friends and I came to a conclusion that can best be expressed in the quote, “No one ever said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” I stepped out of my father’s car and onto the beaches of Jersey where I spent my summers growing up, and where this leave would be spent. The sand lit up beneath my feet as my weight squeezed the water out. I ignored the scientific reason and preferred to think that sand was welcoming me home. As if I was royalty returning back to my land after a long journey.

 

More about Shane.

 

It Would All Be Worth It

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Racz Photo I will admit it is very strange being back. Now that I am 3/c (sophomore), I am not required to do any of the tasks that the newly appointed 4/c (freshmen) have. It’s almost as if all the stress that came with freshmen year has disappeared. The upper-class were right when they said it would all be worth it. I now look forward to spending this year getting to know my fellow classmates and having a little fun in the process.

 

This summer was long, but quite an experience. Following finals, I departed to Savannah, Georgia for the first five weeks of the summer. There, I met the CGC Valiant. Unfortunately, the Valiant was in dry dock, so I was unable to get much sea time (essentially dry dock means the cutter is getting repaired on land). Though I didn’t get the underway experience that everyone talks about, I did learn a lot about the less glamorous side of the Coast Guard. I spent the summer painting, sanding, and making general repairs to the cutter. It was hard work and the days were long, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of awesome enlisted members that I hope to work with one day once I’m an officer. The second half of my summer was spent on the Barque Eagle, America’s tall ship. For six weeks, my classmates and I sailed up along the East Coast to places like Sydney, Nova Scotia and St. Johns, Newfoundland. The port calls on Eagle were amazing and I made a lot of memories that I will never forget. On Eagle I also got to know my classmates better, some of which I am now great friends with. After my 11 weeks out in the fleet, I went home to Maryland for three weeks of much deserved leave. At home, I spent time with family and friends relaxing and non-Coast Guard related activities. The time home was incredible, but I was surprisingly ready to go back after the three weeks was up. I look forward to this upcoming year and I can’t wait to see what it has in store.

 

More about Benjamin.

 

Aruba, Jamaica, Ooh I Wanna Take Ya’

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo After San Juan, Puerto Rico; we sailed to Aruba; then Cozumel, Mexico; and ended in Miami, Florida. (Jamaica wasn’t one of our port calls, but we were singing the Beach Boys’ song “Kokomo” all the way from Puerto Rico to Aruba.)

 

My parents met me in Puerto Rico. They flew down from Pennsylvania and spent a week there to see me and to take a vacation for themselves (but mostly to see me). I hadn’t called home much lately since I was preoccupied with studying during finals week, and there’s no cell phone reception at sea, so it was nice to catch up with them. The next day, my friends and I explored the fort in San Juan and then went shopping in the area. We had three days in each port, two of which we had liberty, and one of which we gave tours on Eagle.

 

The first day in Aruba, I volunteered for a community service project repainting an elementary school. The hours I got that day count towards my community service requirement for this semester, and it was a fun opportunity to leave a mark on a foreign country. The second day of liberty, I spent with Eva’s parents at a resort. For dinner, Mr. Sandri caught a red snapper, and we went to a local restaurant called the Old Cunucu house where they prepared the fish as an appetizer for us. The food there was delicious.

 

In Mexico, my friends and I went snorkeling. The water in the Caribbean is so clear in some places that you can see the whole way to the bottom. Being a great vacation spot, Cozumel offered so much to do, but we were limited in our time there.

 

One really nice thing about being underway is that you don’t have to worry about money. There’s not much that you can buy when you’re at sea, so all the money you earn is saved for the port calls. This is definitely another benefit of going to a service academy. We not only get our education paid for, but we also get to travel to amazing ports and have some money to spend while there. I wouldn’t say it’s free because we work hard, but it is definitely more than worth it. I felt so privileged when in Aruba, I turned to my friend and said, “It’s okay that we didn’t snorkel today. We can just do it in Cozumel next week.” Just thinking about how much I got to do and see this summer makes me so excited to see what my future in the Coast Guard holds.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Kicking Off Fall Semester

(Academics, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo With CAP week over, fall semester is about to kick off. The fall semester, so I have experienced last semester, is a term where each cadet, whether returning from leave, completing Swab Summer, or pumped up from coordinating cadre summer, is still learning their new roles as a cadet. The 1/c are either in command positions on Regimental or Company Staff, or are acting as division officers in one of the eight companies. The second class are finding themselves as budding leaders, having completed the execution of the Swab Summer training program, and are either re-buying into the system or growing weary of it, longing for graduation. The new cadets, having completed Swab Summer, wait for classes to start in anxiety, yet are jubilant having completed quite possibly the hardest summer of their lives. As third class cadets, we are still underclassmen, yet not leaders, but not quite followers. We are labeled as “role modelers” or those underclassmen who have been around the block, and need to guide the fourth class cadets to success in their first year. Third class, so I’ve been told by the brass at our meetings, is typically “the missing class” or the class at the Academy that fades into the background. There is an excellent opportunity to do the bear minimum as a third class, but there is also an excellent opportunity to find what you really enjoy, and more importantly, what you do not enjoy. CAPT Pulver, the Commanding Officer on Eagle, encouraged our class to use this precious time to find out who we are as cadets, and to not squander it.

 

I am excited to start the school year, and my schedule is packed tightly. This is potentially my hardest semester at the Academy, with some very challenging courses. Fortunately, I have a few classes that I am looking forward to as I progress into my major. Admittedly, I am nervous for a few of them, but my attitude from Swab Summer remains constant: if thousands before me have done it, so I can too and do it well at that. I am enjoying the privileges of 3/c year, and as one of my mentors put it today after church, I am “entering the final third of my cadet career.” That is to say, that the Academy experience is divided into three parts: swab summer, fourth class year, and the rest. In truth, Swab Summer did feel as long as fourth class year, and the first week of 3/c year was like it never happened it was so fast. This year, I hope to explore my personal interests, while also achieving the same level of academic and military success. I also hope to get into better shape…

 

That is the beauty of the Academy, the reason I wake up and put on uncomfortable leather shoes every day: we are all here for the same reason, and we will help each other out until the day we commission. Some of us struggle physically, others academically, but everyone here has something to offer, and has their own way of helping someone else out.

 

More about William.