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cadet blogs

From USCGC Legare Until Now

(The Cadet Experience, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Chang PhotoA snippet from the beginning:

 

Well, it’s been a week since I’ve arrived on the USCGC Legare and I’ve learned some things about what life will be like as a brand-new ensign. First, you’re pretty much as lost as the new non-rate on board and the learning curve is a straight shot upward. You need to get your bearings quickly, but apparently being underway is a lot better than being in port. (I think I can attest to that, since there’s not much to do after the workday is done.) There are also a bunch of Academy grads in the area, including a few of my former cadre. It just goes to show that you never fully escape it. But all that aside, I’m excited to see what I can do here and what will come.

 

A snippet from the end:

 

I had my doubts about coming aboard the Legare. I was a bit skeptical about going on any platform smaller than a 378’ and was depressed by the thought of being in Portsmouth, Virginia. Upon arriving, my skepticism died down a little, but not by much (we were still in Virginia and suffered some technical difficulties). However, by the end of six weeks, I can say that I wouldn’t have traded my experience on Legare for anything else in the fleet.

 

I’ve learned so much from the Legare crew. It always amazes me how a short time underway can really make you bond with the people around you, and it was bittersweet leaving the boat. I think the reason why I took away so much from this assignment is because the lessons weren’t always about being a good officer. It comes from the little things, such as checking on the lookouts outside or telling someone they’re appreciated. Everywhere you go, there are so many different personalities, and when all those characters are put on a confined platform for an entire patrol, it gets interesting. Basically, you don’t need to remember every little detail of being a good officer; just be a good person and the rest will follow.

 

More about Olivia.

 

Ensign Life, So Far

(Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo Well, it’s been awhile since I wrote one of these, and I thought it would be good to write again. I’m two months into my ensign tour and I am learning a lot. Being underway is both monotonous and exciting. In a way, it reminds me of Swab Summer in 2013, without the yelling. Instead of memorizing the mission and swab indoc, I am memorizing navigation and sailing rules, the CO's standing orders, and I am constantly quizzing myself while my boss quizzes me, too. Here though, it isn't just about memorizing text, it's also about applying it to your job. In a way, it is a lot like Swab Summer - your focus and attitude determine your reality. You can be bewildered or overwhelmed, or you can choose to focus and do your best. There is little room for error, but learning how to not make the same mistake twice is just as important, and recognizing that making mistakes is a part of learning, which is important, too. The standards are high, but I am sure I will live up to them in the coming months. I have a good pair of chief petty officers who are looking out for me, and the crew is great. We towed a few disabled vessels that almost got swept up in the Gulf Stream, and I earned my first qualifications as Inport Watch Stander, recertified on Damage Control, and soon I should have my Inport Officer of the Deck qualification as well. Hopefully in the next few months I will be ready to take my board for Underway OOD, wish me luck!

 

More about William.

 

National Memorial Day Concert

(Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo This past weekend, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the National Memorial Day Concert featuring Laurence Fishburne, Joe Mantegna, Colin Powell, and Scotty McCreery, among other superstars. The concert was featured on PBS on Sunday evening. The concert went by fast, but the real work was done on the day before, which was called “Media Day.” Before I knew it, I was posting live videos on the Coast Guard Official Facebook page, interviewing stars, and recording videos. I even met the Commandant, Admiral Zukunft.

 

Initially, the CGA Blog Club needed someone to go down to Washington D.C. to represent the Coast Guard, but then Coast Guard Headquarters heard a recent graduate was going, so they decided to give me authority to manage the Facebook page, which was trial by fire. I met all of the stars, including the voice behind the recent Disney movie Moana. I also witnessed the show’s run throughs, stage checks, and met with all of the folks who work behind the scenes. The viewers on Sunday night only saw the tip of the iceberg – there was so much work put into the concert by stagehands, lighting crews, makeup artists, cameramen, and so many others. I learned about what goes into the show and the stories behind each of the people who made it happen. Each one of these people had their own connection to the holiday, and in some way felt like this was their way of giving back to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Everyone has some connection to a family member, loved one, or friend in the military. The concert itself was emotional, featuring disabled veterans who have come a long way from their injuries, which hopefully helped Americans everywhere realize that Memorial Day is not about BBQs, sales, and having a day off.

 

One veteran from the recent War on Terror was severely injured in Iraq, and he joined in singing America, the Beautiful. It was an emotional moment, but it helped me, and hopefully everyone else in the audience, remember the true meaning of the holiday.

 

More about William.

 

Eclipse Week 2017 at the Coast Guard Academy

(Just for Fun, Life as a Junior Officer) Permanent link
Andreasen Photo I recently did something that would have surprised my 4/c self, I jumped at the opportunity to spend an entire week back at the Coast Guard Academy. Why, you ask? Eclipse Week. Every year the Academy hosts an entire week of events aimed at inclusion and diversity and every year cadets are exposed to various topics, discussions, people and, in short, a world they may have never previously seen or known. In reality, cadets are not the only members invited to attend the festivities; Eclipse Week is open to faculty, staff, and officers from all over. I spent the week reconnecting with former cadets and friends as well as instructors and staff who have become friends. Of course, I also spent my time participating in events, while they are all special and important in their own right, three in particular stand out: the opening and closing keynote addresses (I’ll count them as one), the Take Back the Night Event, and…the Academy-wide talent show. As a cadet, I attended these events every year for four years, but as a returning officer, I had a unique perspective as essentially an outsider looking in. The key here is that I was once on the inside just a few years ago and I now had the ability to compare the differences a short time has made. The keynote addresses drew our attention to the significance and also the beauty of keeping an open mind in terms of how we treat others and consider their backgrounds. The value a person receives from taking the time to learn about someone, to help someone, to really work with someone is immeasurable. To be honest, the Take Back the Night Event shocked me. I walked in silence and solidarity with 250 cadets, officers, civilians, and friends to learn about and really reflect on sexual assault in the military. Finally, to end the discussion of my events on a lighter note, I will mention the talent show. The amount of talent possessed by the current corps of cadets and their instructors who performed is simply put: OUTSTANDING. The talent show exceeded expectation.

 

Each event of Eclipse Week is memorable, special, and vital in developing a cohesive workforce. Unfortunately, I fear some readers have dozed off and will begin snoring. I was fortunate to have attended 2017’s Eclipse Week and will carry the lessons I learned with me to my unit.

 

More about Brooklyn.

 

Greetings from the USCG Fleet!

(Just for Fun, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Belanger Photo So, I have not written as blog since right before I graduated so I thought I would send in a quick little message. It has been quite a journey since graduation. Well, I got stationed in Kodiak, Alaska. It defiantly wasn’t my top choice due to the fact that I am a Florida boy, but while we were in port over the summer I got to explore the island and take in all of its beauty. I really enjoyed all of the hikes and fishing that I got to do over the three months I was in Kodiak. We left for dry dock in the middle of August and that is when my journey began. I arrived in Seattle at the end of August and from there I went on a temporary assigned duty (TAD) to the CGC Seneca out of Boston.

 

It was a great experience sailing back in the warmth of the Caribbean with a brief stop in Roatan, Honduras. Honestly, you think Honduras and immediately disregard it but it was one of the best islands that I have ever visited. It was friendly, reasonably priced, and beautiful. It is home to one of the largest reefs in the world and from most spots you can just walk into the water from the beach and swim to them.

 

After that tour wrapped up in the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to go back to the Academy and help out in the Nautical Science department on the training vessels that the cadets train on. I was there for two weeks working with the instructors and 2/c and it was a blast. Honestly, I was hesitant at first but it provided me with the opportunity to not only catch up with friends but also get better at thinking further ahead when driving a ship. I really owe a great deal of thanks to CDR Mike Turdo and his team in the Naut Sci department for accommodating me for those two weeks.

 

From there I travelled down to Charleston, South Carolina to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) to begin boarding officer school. I honestly have to say it was the best time I have had in the Coast Guard so far. This training provides boarding team members with the opportunity to learn more about Coast Guard and U.S. policy when conducting boardings in the high seas and in U.S. waters. We had liberty on the weekends to explore the area. It was great working with other classmates and enlisted members from different parts of the country and getting to know each and every one of them.

 

From there I flew back to Seattle where Munro was still dry dock for a short week and I was off again (TAD) to the CGC Legare. I honestly have to say that I enjoyed every moment on board. We conducted fishery patrols and I got to experience a .50 caliber shoot along with a MK-75 shoot (that’s the big gun on front of a 270’). We also got to conduct helicopter operations and a large number of small boat operations. It was truly rewarding. I got to finish a lot of my progress on board in regard to my underway deckwatch officer qualification. I also got to catch up with my classmates that were also on board.

 

You think this would end my adventure, but it doesn’t! At the beginning of January, I flew from the Legare on a MH-60 inbound for Myrtle Beach. After spending a day in Myrtle Beach I flew up to Norfolk, Virginia. My flight wasn’t scheduled until later in the week so it gave me a few days in Virginia, an area that has a large Coast Guard presence. I was able to catch up with a few friends, along with my academic advisor and professor from the Academy. I departed at 0300 on a Friday inbound for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where I met up with yet another 270’ from Virginia. As of right now I am currently underway on the CGC Forward with yet more classmates! We have had an exciting patrol so far and have had a busy schedule. My classmates on board are all studying for their boards (which is a test) for their deck watch officer letter. I am close to having mine as well so it has been great studying with them!

 

Since graduation I have travelled over 10,000 miles and have had the opportunity to meet up with tons of classmates all over the East Coast. It has been quite a trip so far, but I am ready to head back to my ship. Hopefully, that will happen soon—but in the life of a junior officer, you never know!

 

If you have any questions regarding the academy or life as a Coast Guard junior officer, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at Nathan.D.Belanger@uscg.mil!

 

More about Nathan.