Happy Coast Guard Day! I am almost done with my 1/c summer and must say that I am surprised by how much I’ve learned about life in the fleet. My summer began on CGC Waesche, a 418’ cutter out of Alameda, California where I spent 10 days afloat for a proficiency cruise. This is just a trip for the cutter to ensure that its crew knows what they are doing and how to properly drive the ship before it goes out on a long patrol. From there, I attended a one-week leadership program called Rocky Mountain High, a Christian program consisting of hiking, camping, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting in Colorado! Finally, I made my way onto the 270’ CGC Tahoma where I am as I write this. The Tahoma is currently underway but I am not allowed to say where. I’ll just say that it has taken me to a place I have never been before and have greatly enjoyed.
It’s definitely been a busy summer bouncing from place to place. The main lessons I am taking away, however, are not simply what to expect on a Coast Guard cutter. Rather, I’ve learned many valuable lessons on how to enter the real world after hanging out with ensigns as they arrived at their new units. I was able to help many of them move into their apartments, get settled, and figure out how to check into their units. Many issues arose that I would have never thought to prepare for. I have seen everything from not being able to prove that you receive a paycheck from the Coast Guard, to checking into your apartment when your roommate hasn’t submitted their paperwork and has essentially locked you out, to regular insurance issues.
The Academy may prepare us to lead others but we also have to be ready to lead ourselves and to face stressful situations with courage and ease. My former shipmates all handled themselves very well when, if it were me, I would have been quite panicky. One ensign was told, on her way to her new apartment with her belongings in tow, that she wouldn’t be able to move in for another two months. She was forced to live in a hotel for 10 days, find a storage unit for her things, and then stay the rest of the time in her room on the cutter right up until it went underway. She had only about two days to move into her apartment when it was finally ready before having to leave for three months. Yet, she is doing fine now and has learned a lot from it. Things come up that are completely out of our control. As future officers and leaders, we just have to accept what happens, try our best to remedy the situation, and stay positive for everyone around us.
I never expected to take so much away from this summer. I can’t say I feel completely prepared for life after the Academy but am more aware of what to anticipate and now know to prepare for the uncontrollable. Finally, the last lesson I took away is pretty obvious but still ignored by many. That is to use your friends from the Academy. Everyone is going to have issues and those issues may seem like the world to them until they realize they have a support system of friends dealing with the same things. Many, if not all, of the new ensigns I was able to hang out with made it through their troubles with the help of their classmates and family. I love knowing that I will have a support net under me when I leave the Academy. Until then, we can all make the best of it this year!
More about Melissa.