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cadet blogs

Phase II, Headquarters’ Perspective

(The Cadet Experience, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Wu Photo After my first phase on a 210’ cutter out of St. Petersburg, I got the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for an internship at Coast Guard headquarters. I did not know what to expect from the experience, but my six weeks in D.C. was eye-opening. A fellow classmate and I were the two cadets accepted for an internship with the finance office at headquarters. I really enjoyed the experience because it was very different from my time on a cutter. Not only was the lifestyle different since I went from having watches on the CGC Venturous to having a set work schedule, going into the office at 8 a.m. and getting off work at around 4 p.m., but we were given projects to analyze as interns and our recommendations were actually taken seriously and implemented. It was awesome seeing how we were able to contribute to the Coast Guard. More importantly, interning at headquarters was an amazing opportunity to meet other types of officers.

 

The Academy puts a huge emphasis on going on a cutter and they advertise a cutterman life more than any other career. It was interesting to learn about other career paths besides being on a boat. There were officers that came from grad school, officers that were social aids, and officers that were liaisons to other countries. It was also a privilege to help with multiple retirement ceremonies at headquarters since we got to hear about a whole career of a Coast Guard officer. All and all, the internship definitely gave me a different perspective on the Coast Guard. It was like a backstage pass to see the people providing all the support for the operational units.

 

My first phase gave me a good insight on how my ensign life will be since I will be putting in for cutters for my first tour. However, the second phase of my summer gave me a better idea of the possibilities for my future in the Coast Guard and how it does not necessarily have to be a cutterman’s life.

 

More about Ellie.

 

The Next Adventure

(Overcoming Challenges, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Lukasik Photo Post-graduation, I’ve found myself in a strange period of limbo. While most of my classmates have reported in to their new ensign billets and started work out in the fleets, my orders are still pending. I know where I’m going and what I’ll be doing; I’m just anxiously waiting official clearance to go. In the meantime, here I am, back at the Academy for a somewhat-awkward two-something-week period, waiting for my next adventure to start.

 

At the end of April, I received an email from the U.S. Fulbright Commission saying that I had been selected to receive a 2014 U.S. Student Award to study in Mauritius. Since that time, life has been an absolute whirlwind of paperwork and preparation and anticipation. Reply to the Fulbright Commission; fill out their paperwork; notify my Coast Guard chain of command; fill out their paperwork; get screened for an OCONUS billet; attend the Fulbright Orientation; meet at Coast Guard Headquarters; and, in the meantime, arrange for an apartment, university enrollment, a car, a bank account, a cell phone, and all other things necessary for life in a tiny island country in the middle of the Indian Ocean. My post-grad leave period has not been restful, but it’s been as exciting as it has been baffling. At the Academy, our instructors and mentors always implied that being an ensign is in large part an exercise in figuring out how to do tasks that you’ve never learned how to do with very little help or instruction. If that’s true, then I’ve dived right into ensign life headfirst!

 

This isn’t to say, however, that I’ve been entirely without help. There are two real ways to get through a task you have no idea what you’re doing: stumble through with trial-and-error, or, make a connection with someone who does know what they’re doing. In the past couple of months, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with people who were not only able to help me but were generously willing to take time out of their day to help me with this mind-boggling moving-abroad process. I owe a special thanks to LT Stephen Elliott and his family. LT Elliott, coincidentally, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Mauritius back in 2005 (I wish I’d known that when I was applying!) and his wife’s family lives on the island. They’ve been enormously helpful in guiding me through the ins and outs of moving to an remote island far off the sub-Saharan African mainland and giving me some idea of what to expect when I arrive. I can’t say that the prospect of moving to a dot of an island on the other side of the world isn’t daunting still, but with the help of LT Elliott and family, it’s become a little less scary.

 

I’m supposed to receive my official orders this week, as my original orders to Sector New York were finally cancelled this past week so that the new ones could be processed. As soon as I have those in hand, I’ll be booking the soonest possible flight to take me away from the U.S. for the next two years and off to my new home in Mauritius.

 

The Fulbright Scholarship will cover the first nine months of my studies, but the Coast Guard has authorized me to stay in Mauritius for two years so that I can complete a Master’s degree, for the duration of which I’ll be relying on my ensign salary to cover tuition and living (thankfully both are relatively low overseas!). I’ll spend two years pursuing a part-time M.A. in Economics from the University of Mauritius and also working part-time as an intern at the Maurice Ile Durable Commission, a government-sponsored sustainability initiative for the island. In the meantime, partially in conjunction with my Master’s thesis but somewhat in extension of it, I will be researching the marine and coastal space use conflicts of the artisanal fishing industry and the growing tourist industry in Mauritius in hopes of helping these competing sectors achieve a more sustainable system of resource usage in the future. This will, interestingly enough, bring me into contact with our service’s parallel on the other side of the world – the Mauritian Coast Guard. Our services have had very little interaction in the past, but I’m excited to see how they operate and if there’s any potential for greater exchange in the future.

 

Of course, the Fulbright experience isn’t all about work; it’s designed to promote both academic and cultural exchange, and Fulbright students and scholars are expected to get involved in the local community as much as possible. This is the part that makes the experience exciting, and I’ve already looked into a number of great outlets to get to know the island and its people better. Mauritius is considered a tropical paradise, and outdoor recreation is huge. From an active mountain biking and cycling community, to scuba diving groups, to hiking tours, there seems to be no lack of collections of people getting together to explore all of the natural wonders Mauritius has to offer. I hope to keep up my triathlon training as well, and if there’s not a team present on the island, I’ll start one!

 

I’ll do my best to maintain this blog while abroad. I know as a cadet applying for scholarships that I would have liked to have had the chance to hear about the experiences of Coasties going off on experiences such as Fulbright, so I’ll be here as a resource for any others following the same path. Anyone in the Honors Program or others who have questions about Fulbright or study abroad opportunities, never hesitate to email me at Jessica.D.Lukasik@uscga.edu.

 

 


More about Jessie.

 

Week 3: Rapid Relief

(The Cadet Experience, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Week three went even faster than week two (and I said that was fast)—not to mention that due to the holiday (Memorial Day), we only had a four day week. The week was spent mostly preparing to take over my collateral duties from the lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) who was departing at the end of the week for a new unit. There were a few other side projects here and there, but I mostly worked on preparing the memos (letters of designation) that would formalize the record of my duties. Most of the memos were easy and straight forward, but the one I worked on for the communications officer relief was a bit more involved. I had to become familiar with the work being done and what needed to be done by the communications division onboard the ship as well as know the status of required drills and inspections.

 

Like many projects, the majority of the work ended up taking place on Friday, the last day that the officer was here. It was a whirlwind but everything got completed on time. I still have much to learn about my responsibilities but thankfully the members of the crew in the division are willing to help. I know enough to stand as their division officer, which is a pretty exciting experience. It just so happens that there is a gap between the departure of one officer and the arrival of her replacement, so in the interim, I get to fill in! It doesn’t always happen like that for other 1/c cadets on other cutters. What a great preview of the year to come and my first few years as an officer!

 

A highlight for this week was on Wednesday when Andy and I joined members of the cutter’s law enforcement team at their boarding officer training. They were reviewing the handcuffing and escort techniques we learned in Personal Defense II at school. It was great to see that we were learning the same techniques they teach in the fleet. There were some escorts that we hadn’t learned yet, and the instructors had a few tips for making the ones we had learned more effective. We basically had several personal instructors, which was a much better learning environment than a large class at school.

 

And as usual, I’ll conclude with a leadership lesson for this week. Again, it’s difficult to pin one thing down. I think the lesson that I learned that stood out to me the most was not quite one about leadership, but more about being a good manager. This week showed me some best practices for passing off assignments and duties to successors. Most importantly, I realized that during this relief process I should start preparing for the next relief process when I pass off the responsibilities. In this case, of course, that will be in a few weeks, but something to remember for next year is that with my collateral duties, I should keep good notes about what I did and when and how so that I can remember the details and intricacies of the duty right off the bat and not here and there. A well-organized collateral binder is super helpful, as I found out this week.

 

That’s all for now, but I’ll be writing again before I know it!

 

(I didn’t like that we got to go out to lunch in civvies when the rest of the crew was working hard, it was hot, and they didn’t get libo…sigh, military)

 

 


More about Justin.

 

Week 1: Watch and Learn

(The Cadet Experience, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Greetings from Honolulu! With my classmate Andy, I arrived to the CGC Sequoia safely last Saturday afternoon. She is currently in Honolulu for drills and training, and this first week has been a blur, but a blast! We jumped right into the system, integrating ourselves with the wardroom and the other members of the bridge team. Andy and I have spent the week being medical accident victims for the drills and learning the various duties and responsibilities of the bridge team—this means we’re navigating, we’re steering the ship, we’re talking on the radio, and we’re being a lookout.

 

This summer, our 1/c summer (crazy to think that it’s already here and in a short year we’ll be graduating…), we are placed at units where we can fill the role of a junior officer. We have collateral duties as well as watch-standing responsibilities on the bridge. Over the next 10 weeks, Andy and I will work toward earning qualifications for underway junior officer of the deck (JOOD) and in-port security watch-stander. We will be busy all the time—but not too busy that we won’t get a chance to explore Hawaii, and later in the summer some of the other islands, including the homeport of Guam!

 

The crew and the wardroom (the group of officers in charge) are great—they welcomed us graciously and have been very helpful in getting us acquainted with the ship and our duties. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few weeks. As part of the summer training program, we are required to write a weekly reflection, so I figured I’d tailor them for the cadet blogs audience and send them in! (Not sure why I didn’t think of that during my 3/c summer…guess that goes to show that I’m growing wiser and more experienced, right?)

 

So, now for the reflection part:

 

In the role of a JO: I definitely felt that I was observing more than I was doing this week. Because we were being evaluated on our drills and trainings, this week was definitely a little more hectic than a normal cutter would be upon first arriving to it. One of the junior officers on board said that Andy and I did well at getting acquainted with the cutter this week. We both have much more “acquainting” that we have to do (learning certain requirements about the ship for the general safety and upkeep), but with a week under our belt, we’ll be able to just do them, instead of having to ask someone to show us, or at least point us in the right direction. I definitely felt that I could have been more aggressive in working on my “quals” (qualifications) by asking more people to show me what I need to learn and signing off that I’d mastered that information or knowledge. Nonetheless, I think I did well at putting myself out there, offering to help, and simply asking questions. Next week I’m definitely going to ramp up how “aggressive” I am at getting my qualifications complete. 

 

Leadership: I also observed the officers and senior enlisted with regard to their leadership, especially our commanding officer. Our CO is great—she is friendly, personable, and knows how to balance the needs of the ship and the mission with the needs of her people. In talking with the crew, several members have mentioned (on their own) that her command is much better than others. She and the other officers have integrated themselves with the crew and the ship. They are not too busy to talk to you, see how you’re doing, and even help you stand a watch so that you can get a little extra rest. To the crew, this is invaluable, and they love it. That’s definitely something that I have noticed—putting people first (that is, treating them like people first) is key to keeping morale high and motivation strong. The climate on the bridge and in the wardroom (with the officers) is much different than other cutters I’ve seen. The focus is more on learning and becoming proficient—it’s OK to make mistakes, do not do something properly or completely right. Instead of responding as if “You should have known better,” the officers and crew take the opportunity to impart knowledge and information so that you can do whatever you were doing better the next time. It’s about training, teaching moments, and recognizing that we as humans make mistakes and need practice to become proficient at things. This is clear in the CO’s command philosophy: training, proficiency, and teamwork. I’ve definitely seen all of those this week. I love learning (in this case, via observing) leadership! 

 

See you next week!

 

 


More about Justin.

 

So Wait, What Happens After Graduation????

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2012) Permanent link
White Photo Hello again! So, it has been a while…I am sorry for that. What can I say? After graduating from the Academy, there is little a junior officer writes that is not in standard, memorandum format. So, bear with me as I get back into this whole “free-form” blog writing thing.

 

Over the two years since graduation for the great (est?) Class of 2012, I have completed a lot of fulfilling and wild adventures. I am sure that many of my classmates have humbled me in that regard; but they can write their own blogs bragging of their grandiose exploits. As some of you know, I got an assignment onboard CGC Cypress, a 225-foot buoy tender home-ported in Pensacola, Florida. When I first crossed the brow as a “butter bar,” I was greeted with a CG-standard scratchy blanket, a stateroom slightly larger than my body, and a “hey” from 50 perfect strangers. Now, as I prepare to depart with an additional gold bar, I will leave with the same scratchy CG-standard blanket, a slightly larger stateroom, and 50 of the best friends and people I could have hoped to have sailed with. Along the way, I got to do some cool stuff…

 

……So Wait, What Happens After Graduation???? (Continued) PDF 

 

 


More about Nathan.