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Summer, Take 2

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo As you might recall, in the last entry of the epic chronicle that is my cadet blog, I was sitting in a Seattle Starbucks discussing my time on the USCGC Midgett. Right now, I’m sitting in another food venue (seems to be a trend here...); but, this time, it’s the mess deck of the Barque Eagle, the Coast Guard tall ship and Academy’s training vessel. And, I might add, the only active duty tall ship in the U.S. military. Maybe the World Cup final will start playing on the mess deck TV, but to be quite honest, my faith in the ability to find satellite signal out in the Atlantic Ocean is weak.


Third class summer is broken into two parts. I, along with my classmates onboard Eagle right now, all started off at a cutter, small boat station, or playing late-season sports. Thus, we’re currently fulfilling the second half of our training on Eagle. These weeks are all about learning the “traditional” skills of sailing and navigation. We have bridge and engineering qualifications similar to those at our first units; but, in addition, we now have celestial navigation, damage control, and deck seamanship activities in which to participate as well. We have used sextants and stars to plot position, climbed the rigging and hauled lines to set sails, qualified helm and lookout, studied for the damage control exam, and learned the engineering watch stander round. So, in essence, we get to act out Pirates of the Caribbean for a month and a half. Arrgh!


Eagle is the distinctive feature of third class summer; most cadets will never sail on this ship again. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back, due to my desires to be Swab Summer cadre and to see icebreaking and other units as a firstie; but, I’m grateful to have had the chance to be on Eagle. The mission of the Coast Guard Academy is to create officers “with a liking for the sea and its lore,” and I believe Eagle and the traditions that surround it get us as close to that lore as we’ll ever be. Knowing how mariners have sailed throughout the years helps us to see how things have changed: what has improved and what is missing, what our roles as sailors demand now versus in the past, what new challenges we face. Having this background in square rigger sailing, a seemingly old-fashioned art, actually helps us understand the modern Coast Guard. It’s a unique experience of the Academy training program!


(And if you were wondering… the TV never did work.)


More about Abby.


Who Doesn't Love Sailing Around the Caribbean?

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Cannon Photo This summer has been unforgettable. Not only was I able to sail around the Caribbean for five weeks, but I was able to sail with some of my best friends. Eagle was an adventure of its own, with the tiring 0400-0800 watches, countless sail stations (where we would set the sails), and being surrounded by the same group of people in tight quarters for over a month straight. Despite this, I can honestly say that I had an overall positive experience. I made so many new friends just by working together during this time, and I grew more as a person than I had ever anticipated.


The highlights of my time on the boat was definitely the port calls, specifically Puerto Rico and Aruba. In Puerto Rico, my friends and I were able to jump off waterfalls in the country's national rainforests. I do not know many people who can say that they have done that at some point in their life. In addition, Aruba was incredibly clean, the beaches were white as snow, and the food was out of this world! Some folks struggled to find the positives when times got tough, but I am happy I was able to experience Eagle so early in my career. My knowledge was amplified, I befriended even more of my classmates, and I learned to have a lot more respect for the enlisted personnel in the Coast Guard. They are some of the hardest workers I have ever met, and I cannot wait to have the privilege of working with the enlisted personnel again in less than three short years.


This summer continually gets better and better, and I cannot wait to get back to the Academy in the fall to continue where I left off!


Go Braves, Go Books, Go Bears!


More about Colton.


How Much I've Learned, How Much I've Changed

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo More than halfway done with 3/c summer, I can say that it has been the best summer of my life so far. I sailed from the Academy to Puerto Rico, through Drake’s Passage in the Virgin Islands, to Aruba and on to Cozumel, Mexico. I was part of the navigation team while transiting through Drake’s Passage, qualified as a Helmsman/Lookout, received my Damage Control Qualification letter, and actually steered Eagle all by myself during a rough night. I saw the Milky Way in the middle of nowhere in the South Atlantic, traded shoulder-boards with a Mexican Navy lieutenant, climbed around 500-year-old Spanish forts, and did all of this with the best of friends.


Now I am at home awaiting my next cutter, USCGC Dependable, down the street from my house, to get underway in a few days. I plan on completing my Quartermaster of the Watch Qualification and Advanced Damage Control Qualification in the next five weeks. Ok, there are definitely parts of the summer that stink, like waking up at 0330 to stand watch, cleaning unmentionable parts of bathrooms, and barely fitting into my rack on Eagle. After having a bad day in the rain, standing watch, and not getting a whole lot to eat, and finally getting to bed on Eagle after being up for over 30 hours with no sleep, there’s nothing to do but laugh hysterically with the guys in your berthing area at the dumbest stuff and pass out, and then do it all again. But that’s all part of the junior enlisted experience.


My summer isn’t over yet, but I already have some big takeaways, aside from my qualification letters. I am learning what seaman and fireman go through during their first tour. It is was interesting to meet people right out of basic training, people who are the same age, or even younger, who are doing the same job. They are the “real” Coast Guard people (non-cadets, officers, and enlisted), and it is eye-opening to interact with junior enlisted people as opposed to just officers and cadets (and the occasional) Chief Petty Officer at the Academy. I rubbed elbows with so many different Coast Guard members this summer, from admirals to seaman apprentices and everyone in between, but mostly with my shipmates, who make up the most diverse, hilarious, intelligent, and hardworking Corps of Cadets on the planet. I am learning what it means to work hard, what it means to properly mentor and be mentored, and how to take care of your people. I’m learning all of the right things to do as a junior officer, and more importantly, what NOT to do when I get the privilege to lead. I am home now as my cutter is in stand-down, and we are waiting to get underway in the next week. It is very strange being home, seeing how almost nothing has changed in South Jersey except maybe a new sidewalk or something minor. I have changed a lot, and coming home has changed my perspective on myself and the place where I grew up.


More about William.


Now, For Our Future Presentation…

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo What better place to be eating breakfast right now than a Starbucks in Seattle, Washington? This summer, I’ve been assigned to the USCGC Midgett, a 378-foot cutter based in Seattle and responsible for patrols from the equator and northward. What an awesome experience it’s been! If you’re a prospective student, you’ve heard this too many times… but, summer assignments are definitely one of the highlights of being a cadet. I, along with two other 3/c (huzzah, we got promoted!) and two 1/c, picked up Midgett in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. We then patrolled in northern waters, including a port call in Kodiak, and then sailed back down here to Washington. I’ve never been to any of those places before, which has made for a great time of discovery! There is so much to see in Seattle, and Alaska has one of the loveliest natural environments I’ve encountered!


As someone with a definite travel bug, it’s been so neat to visit these places. But, really, the most important part of this assignment to the Midgett has been meeting the crew and learning everything about the boat. So much goes on a cutter this size – boarding ops, navigation, and a personal favorite of mine, flight ops. And even off the boat, we’ve been able to see various facets of the Coast Guard – we visited Air Station Kodiak, and this coming week will be checking out sector Seattle. We’ve been running around on board, getting qualified in helm and lookout, staring at stars for celestial navigation, and looking at the engineering departments; the energy never stops! I truly had a wonderful time underway with Midgett.


This summer has also had an undeniable impact on my future plans. Everybody asks at some point what I want to do when I commission in four years, and honestly, I had only a couple vague ideas. You might be in the same spot, if you’re thinking about attending here or getting ready for Swab Summer (t-minus 23 days for 2018!); don’t worry. There are so many things to do in the Coast Guard; you will find something that you will love. After being here in Seattle, and being on an Alpat (the nickname for an Alaskan patrol), I am all the more certain that I will put in for one of the cutters engaged in icebreaking ops, namely Healy. For one, I am still interested in the northern environment; for another, I liked Alaska; for another, I still get really excited when I see whales, which is a good thing for the science on Healy of which I’m hoping to be a part; and finally, I wouldn’t mind being stationed here in Seattle! Icebreaking ops are looking all the more intriguing after this summer. But then again, that air station and the aviation communities are pretty neat too, more so than I realized at first… so I guess I’m not fully decided. But hey, I’ve got two more summers ahead to help me decide!


More about Abby.


3/c Summer Assignments

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Racz Photo The summer following your first year at the Academy is spent serving the Coast Guard in various places. Some cadets end up going to small boat stations, where they have the chance to learn about small boat operations within the Coast Guard. Others, like me, get sent to a cutter to experience life underway completing different missions. I, along with one of my classmates, was sent to CGC Valiant out of Mayport, Florida. But due to repairs being done on Valiant, I was first sent to Savannah, Georgia for the first two weeks of my summer. Once there, I lived the not so glamorous side of the Coast Guard. My first few weeks of my summer assignment were spent painting, loading and unloading, and making overall repairs to the cutter. Though this was not my definition of fun, I can definitely say that it was an eye opening experience. Going through it, I now know the hardships that enlisted members in the Coast Guard go through. It is a lot of work, but rewarding in the end.


After two weeks, Valiant finally left Savannah and headed out to sea for a short patrol. Out at sea I got to experience many things that I never thought I would get the chance to. I took part in many different drills and helped out with other underway operations. It was a time that I will never forget. Yes I’m sacrificing time home with friends, but this type of experience was why I joined the Coast Guard. I have cherished every minute that I have had on Valiant. In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading to Eagle where I will have a different kind of experience. I can’t wait to finish the rest of my summer and get the next year at the Academy started, though I’m going to enjoy the rest of my time in the fleet.


More about Benjamin.