Skip Navigation Links
APPLY | BEARS DEN LOGIN | REQUEST INFORMATION | ESPAÑOL | VIDEO TOUR | SEARCH
FacebookFlickrTwitterYou Tube
CADET BLOGS

cadet blogs

My Second Firstie Summer

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Daghir Photo I AM BACK! Although for certain reasons (don’t worry I didn’t get into trouble), I am going to be staying one extra semester at the Coast Guard Academy, this means that I am going to be that much more prepared for when I go into the fleet. I will be what they call a SUPER FIRSTIE. As always, this is a more positive spin on things than most people may initially perceive because I am definitely one of those “glass half-full” individuals, which is why I am so excited to be sharing with you an adventure that happens to be called my second firstie summer.

 

Part 1: The United States Coast Guard Cutter Juniper 

 

I started my summer a bit early. Because I knew I would be extending into next year, I got a head start on my summer and headed out to Newport, Rhode Island. There, on the naval base, in the farthest corner of an extremely large campus, two Coast Guard 225’s, and a 175’ (all buoy tenders) are moored up. I was sent to the Juniper while it was undergoing some hydraulics maintenance, and for that reason, we never actually got underway. I got to help the crew instead with preparations to participate in Fleet Week, and also to prepare for their scheduled testing of damage control drills and readiness assessments.

I briefly lived the buoy tender lifestyle and learned a lot, despite the fact that we never actually got underway. The crews are smaller, tight-knit, and very family-oriented. I really enjoyed my time on board and was happy to learn that a buoy tender schedule is often like a normal work week, out during the weekdays and in on the weekends (for the most part). I thought this was a pretty big plus to the platform, and made a mental note to remember that… JUST as I was transferring to a ship that was actually going to be getting underway that very weekend.

 

Part 2: The United States Coast Guard Cutter Forward 

 

Now near and dear to my heart, in hindsight and even while I was underway, I have to say I had an incredible experience on the 270’ out of Virginia. I flew down to Portsmouth from Rhode Island and got underway with the Forward that Monday morning. It was a fast transition, meeting the crew, learning names and jobs and remembering where everything was. I was lucky because I had been on a 270’ my first first class summer, so it was actually a comfort to be back in familiar territory. I was quick to break in as Quarter Master of the Watch, and after qualifying, I stood watch in the CIC or Combat Information Center, and got my qualification for watch standing in there. My real passion is in ship driving when underway, and so toward the end of the patrol when I was allowed to begin breaking in on the bridge. I had a lot of fun learning the rules of the road in the context of an Officer of the Deck (OOD) board, where the specifics matter. The crew was amazing and I had the best time on port calls, a particularly memorable moment being when I was pepper sprayed the day after my birthday on the pier in Boston. Most cadets get this done before going to Boarding Officer School where they leave qualified to be boarding officers as the name may suggest. I got to see many whales, both humpback and right whales, and I got to see our boarding team complete a ton of fishery boardings and then have to put together the reports when someone had violated the law. I departed the ship after a month of being underway and at that point, it was hard to leave. Being underway for a long time is hard, but it really brings you close to your shipmates. This being said, I left the Forward in Portland, Maine, ready for my next adventure.

 

Part 3: Sector Life 

 

Okay, so I got to switch gears a little bit. Well a lot a bit, for the second part of my summer. As a Marine and Environmental Sciences major, I took a class my junior year that taught me about geographic information systems (GIS). Basically, this is a powerful tool that can be used by anyone for anything. It is a map that you can put information into and analyze said information, combining it with other information that may, when used together, result in geographically savvy and efficient decision making. I use the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) software to create geographic response plans that would allow me to plan for an oil spill in a particular harbor or marine location. If an oil spill were to occur, responders could access my plan and see where the environmentally sensitive areas are, where the facilities that could endanger these areas are, and where they could deploy a boom from (a protection mechanism we use to keep oil away from the places it should stay away from). I took an assignment from District 1 to create these plans for both sector Long Island Sound and also Sector New York. I spent a week working on Long Island Sound, then two weeks on Sector New York (in which I challenged myself to go into the city EVERY night, which I did, and also happened to see Flava Flav in concert). My last day in New York, I was able to fly in the Nassau Police Department helicopter over my area of work, Jamaica Bay, and it was a very cool experience.

 

PAUSE

 

Part 4: San Diego 

 

I was extremely lucky because I was able to use my GIS experience at the sectors to fly out to the west coast. Don’t worry though, it was still for GIS! I attended the ESRI user’s conference with my academic advisor, and we were exposed to the wonders and uses of the application that I had been working with for my oil spill planning. People use GIS all over the world to solve spatial dilemmas such as refugee migration, hurricane planning and response, earthquake rescues, police networks…you name it! ESRI put on a show for the crowd of almost 20,000 people! They demonstrated improvements they had made and advancements in the GIS world. It was pretty cool and I saw so many ways to take my oil spill responses to the next level. Not only did I get to attend the conference, but my advisor taught me how to SURF in the mornings! We went five times, and I got to be able to stand up pretty easily by the end. I am now a BIG FAN. Lastly in San Diego, I was able to visit the Scripps Oceanographic Institute. My advisor is a Ph.D. student there and he gave me the full tour of many of the labs and buildings. He introduced me to famous professors and also his own Ph.D. peers. I have always been interested in going to graduate school and now I have a good idea of what I am looking for. California was an amazing experience. And then it was time to get back to work.

 

Part 5: Back to Work 

 

I flew back from Cali on the Fourth of July. It was cool to see the fireworks from a different perspective as I flew in over Providence, Rhode Island – they look a lot smaller. Now I am back at Sector Long Island Sound. I am working on my geographic response plans combining my New York and Long Island Sound methods to get the job done. While I was in California, I was asked to present my oil spill work in the fall at an oceans-specific conference, so I am now even more excited to put together this plan. I am helping out with a change of command ceremony this week and then next week I will be able to go out into the field and conduct analysis of the harbors I am planning for: New Haven Harbor and Bridgeport Harbor.

 

Working at sectors has been cool because I have never seen this angle of the Coast Guard before. They work hard in response and prevention; coordinate boat inspections, oil spill response, search and rescue, and port security; and a lot more, too. It is interesting because we actually work with a lot of different non- Coast Guard organizations to complete these missions, and depend on auxiliary Coast Guard members, the New York Navy Militia, local police departments, and park police to achieve everything that needs to be done, which is a lot more than I ever knew before I reported aboard. I have two weeks left of my summer before I can go on leave. It has been a very busy summer and I am honestly very excited to be back at school and not move for a while. I will be graduating in December and am incredibly excited to be in the Coast Guard!!! All of my now-officer classmates have had their 30 days of leave and have now settled into the rigors of junior officer life, all over the country.

 

Sorry for the lengthy blog!
-Lucy
Lucy.M.Daghir@uscga.edu 

 

More about Lucy.

 

Five Flights Later…

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo Time flies when you’re having fun, and in my case, there actually was flying involved! My classmates and I just finished first phase of our last year of summer training, during which I was at Air Station Clearwater, Florida. First class summer is special because out of the four, you get the most influence in crafting a summer schedule that is pertinent to your career goals and interests. For me, that means I had the air station assignment, as I am putting in for flight school in the fall, and am now in New Hampshire for an academic internship with the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. You’ll hear more about the latter as I get further into the assignment; but for now, let me tell you all about playing on helicopters for five weeks! (I mean, calmly observing from a safe distance. They knew better than to let me get too close to expensive equipment.) I got to ride along on two C-130 flights and three H-60 flights, and got qualified to stand the Operations Duty Officer (ODO) watch. The helicopters were a blast; nothing beats flying with the door open and seeing the world beneath you. But then again, getting time actually flying the C-130 was incredible… there are definitely positives to both fixed-wing and rotary! The ODO watch involved me receiving calls for search and rescue cases from the sector and district, and helping manage the general operational picture for the daily activity of the air station. It’s a great way to actually help out the air station and give the pilots a small break from their busy schedules.

 

So both the flying and the watches were good experiences; but, the highlight for me was definitely meeting all the wonderful people at the air station. The aviation community is full of people who truly care about each other, and who love being pilots for the Coast Guard. I learned so much from hearing about each of their experiences and unique backgrounds, and found some individuals whose values and career paths aligned precisely with my own. Some showed me what it means to be a skilled and highly proficient pilot; some demonstrated to me what it means to take care of others and watch out for their well-being; some displayed the positive attitude and sense of humor necessary to make it through challenging assignments; still others helped me understand what goes into an aviation career from start to finish, including families and graduate school. It was such an invaluable experience; definitely one of the best I have had since reporting in. I’m all the more grateful to have spent time with the Clearwater crew, because amazingly, this fall will mark the start of my journey into the aviation community when I start preparing my flight school application! And let me tell you, spending five weeks at air station Clearwater has given me so much motivation to try my hardest and get into Coast Guard aviation. Praise God for first phase; stay tuned to hear about second phase in a few weeks!

 

More about Abby.

 

Swab Summer: Ultimately About Teamwork

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Mills Photo To the Class of 2020,

 

I am already so proud of your accomplishments and perseverance to receive an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy, especially my cadet candidates from last summer. This summer, you are going to embark on the most challenging and rewarding journey of your life to date. Let me assure you, it will be worth it. Swab Summer is meant to test your emotional, physical and mental strength. You won’t be great at everything, and there are some things you may find easy. Make sure to share your strengths with your shipmates and allow your shipmates to share their strengths with you. Swab Summer is ultimately about teamwork; you don’t have to do it alone and you shouldn’t. If you haven’t been practicing push-ups, sit-ups and running, please start now. It will only make the transition to Swab Summer easier. Also, if you are not from a hot and humid climate, be prepared for the Connecticut summers because they can be blistering on some days. Take each day a meal at a time and realize that it is only seven weeks of the four years of training. Just try your best and help your shipmates when you can. Most importantly, there will be at least one person that struggles a lot during these seven weeks. Help that person who is struggling because you are only as strong as the weakest link in your company. Have fun! You are going to meet your best friends in life and make some good memories. Good luck 2020!!!

 

More about Sydney.

 

USCGC Liberty WPB-1334

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo 1/c summer has already begun. Change of Watch marked the beginning of the cadet summer training period, and my classmates and I were frocked as 1/c cadets before graduation. This was a huge milestone for me and for our class. It’s crazy to think that we’re college seniors and 75% of the Academy experience is now in our rearview mirror. It has flown by but at the same time it feels like it’s been a lifetime.

 

I quickly packed out my room and moved all of my stuff down to Regimental Row, where summer staffers and company commanders will be living. It was a monumental task—so much trash was thrown away by the Corps of Cadets that an extra dumpster was rented for the week of pack out!

 

After an 18-hour flight to Juneau, Alaska, I reported aboard USCGC Liberty, a 110-foot patrol boat. The crew has been very welcoming, and I am doing my best to learn everything I can from the ship’s Executive Officer, a CGA 2013 graduate. This week has flown by! From my observations over the past week, it is evident that the crew is tight-knit, the unit has a healthy operational tempo, and the crew is willing and able to help newly reported-aboard personnel. I have begun breaking in as in-port Officer of the Deck and Quartermaster of the Watch, and the crew has helped me qualify for these watches. I believe that at the current pace and so long as I keep up my work ethic, these qualifications are realistic and attainable. I honestly had no idea what to expect—good crew, bad crew, good leadership, or poor leadership. But, the crew is great, and the command cadre has been willing to help me understand what I need to in order to get ready for ensign life. I hope to learn much from the Executive Officer’s dealings with personnel, technical knowledge on piloting and navigation, and his ability to keep morale high while also balancing mission effectiveness.

 

The motif of this week has really come back to the core tenants of the Commanding Officer’s command philosophy—family, mission, and ethos. If I could sum up the advice given to me by the Commanding Officer, it would probably be mission first, people always. Even though it is our duty to carry out the mission aboard the cutter, taking time for personal development and family is equally important. Keeping this in mind, morale and mission do not necessarily need to compete for time and attention. There is no reason why the mission can’t be fun.

 

As for the plethora of junior officer advice given to me over the past week, some things stand out. There is a divide between having no backbone and arrogance. It is important to keep a good workspace, maintain professionalism, and set the example, but also to show your human side, especially on a smaller platform with a tighter-knit crew. For me, the biggest takeaway so far has been when I know an answer, be confident, and project it. When I have no idea, or I have less than 75% certain, it is ok as a junior officer to just say, “I don’t know, can you show me?” It seems this is the key to success for maintaining the balance between arrogance and spinelessness. The Commanding Officer, or the senior most officer of the ship, is a familiar face. During my 3/c summer, he was the operations officer aboard the medium endurance cutter I was on. One thing that I observed two summers ago and what I am observing now is that the CO on this cutter is, above all, decisive. He is able to make decisions on the fly and sometimes with insufficient information, but he sticks to his decisions and is confident in his directives. This too, I am quickly finding out, is why our country pays Coast Guard officers.

 

During the past week on the cutter, I initially had feelings of regret or that I had made a mistake by not doing 11 weeks attached to this boat. However, despite the valuable experience at this unit, I am not directly responsible for any personnel. I’m glad that I opted to spend the second half of my summer on Regimental Staff because although I may have less underway time, those experiences and problem solving opportunities will also prepare me for junior officer life.

 

In other news, next month, I’m running another half marathon and taking a road trip with my dad over leave. I’m running another race in July with ENS Engelhardt, so that should be fun, too. I can’t wait for Swab Summer to kick off!

 

More about William.

 

Class of 2020: Focus on the Future

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo I changed my phone background recently. It’s now some lovely tropical flowers gracing my screen. Really, the last one I had was fine… but with finals coming up and a heavy influx of division work within Chase Hall, I needed a consistent reminder that in about one week, I am heading to Florida for my first assignment at a Coast Guard air station! Trust me, I’m ready for it. Five weeks of immersion in Coast Guard aviation, hanging out at the beach, great food, and running past palm trees will be rough, but I think the challenges of this school have prepared me well.

 

I truly was pretty overwhelmed this last week, what with giving two presentations for the Science Department and lots of last-minute work for my division, but it truly did help to have something to look forward to. The annoyance and frustration is temporary; the experience is forever! I hope the incoming swabs will remember that as they go through the summer. The initial shock is pretty rough, and the days are very long…but believe it or not, the weeks are short. You just have to remember that there are better days ahead and a million adventures awaiting you. Before I reported in, I did some math. Did you ever realize that seven weeks, out of 200 for our training program, is only about 3.5% of your Academy career? That means 95.5% is made up of meeting new people, travelling, getting into a great major, assuming some leadership positions, flying, sailing, going on internships, joining clubs, attending religious activities… not the rigorous, loud days of the summer. Focus on the future, on the great things in store for you if you endure Swab Summer, and you’ll be fine. Even if you have some doubts at the beginning, 2020… I think you’ll grow to like those odds.

 

More about Abby.