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cadet blogs

Thank You CGA!

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Tousignant Photo Throughout middle school and high school I hated who I was. I tried so hard in academics and athletics to try to compensate for what I saw as both a grave sin and a major character flaw. I excelled in my classes and played three sports every year of high school. Going to Catholic school for most of my life, I developed a limited world view on issues such as gay rights. This view that was formed by my sheltered small town world imposed countless shame for what I was feeling sexually. I hid a big part of my life from my family and friends for years and years while at the same time trying to live as an honorable person. When I came to the Academy, my life started to change little by little. I became more comfortable with who I was as I was accepted into a group that prided themselves on openness and non-judgment. I was able to form a confident self-identity in which I embraced my feelings. I now love who I am. I would like to thank the fine institution in which I have learned to uphold the highest morals and values. Thank you to an institution that has transformed me from a self-loathing individual to a confident leader. I have learned that you cannot be an effective leader until you understand your abilities and limitations. I am a part of the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard is a part of me, and I am ready for any challenges that may come my way for the rest of my time as a cadet and as a new officer!

 

More about Jackie.

 

The Boat

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Chang Photo “C’mon, guys. Let’s get back to the boat.”

 

A chorus of groans and grumbles erupts from our group as we reluctantly make our way back to the USCGC Barque Eagle. Her masthead lights subtlety overlap the New York City streetlights, yardarms extended in an evening greeting. New York City was a heck of an awesome time. Loaded down with souvenirs, full stomachs, and fond memories, we crawl into our racks to get a few hours of sleep before our transit out from the Hudson River to New London, Connecticut.

 

Eagle usually gets a bad reputation because the work is hard and living conditions aren’t luxurious. However, being Eagle cadre turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I definitely learned more in those three weeks as cadre than in my ten weeks underway as a 3/c. While it may have been fun to yell at the swabs while they did push-ups, it was a much more applicable form of leadership to talk them through climbing the masts. Stress is put upon you in a different way, because your assignments, besides guiding the swabs, include collateral duties such as navigation briefs and log-keeping. Plus, the port calls weren’t a bad deal at all. I saw two free Broadway shows in New York City. And I saw my mom. That was pretty awesome.

 

I’m definitely going to try to get back onto Eagle next summer. But, before that, I need to get through this semester. I will let you know how that goes. Expect another entry soon if I’m not consumed by papers and reading assignments!

 

More about Olivia.

 

Not Your Typical Summer Vacation

(Just for Fun, Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Fenster Photo Here at the Coast Guard Academy, it’s advertised that your summers are going to be much more than the average three-month poolside summer. After my first summer and “real Coast Guard” experience, I’m happy to report that that is not false advertising.

 

A bit of background: for third class cadets, half of our 11-week summer experience will be spent aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, the only tall ship still actively serving in the United States military. The other half is spent at an active duty Coast Guard unit, either a small boat station or a cutter carrying out the missions of the USCG. So as school came to a close, my classmates and I received our summer assignments to units across the globe and subsequently reported in following the conclusion of exams, with half going to the Eagle and the other half (myself included) headed to our summer posts. And without further explanation, here is a rundown of my exciting 3/c summer.

 

First Half: Five Weeks, USCG Station Chatham 

 

While half of my classmates sailed on the USCGC Eagle from New London to Dublin and on to London, I spent the first part of my summer at Coast Guard Station Chatham in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. If you’ve seen or heard of the new Disney movie The Finest Hours (if you haven’t, I highly recommend it), then you’ve heard of Station Chatham.

 

My first impressions of Chatham were overwhelmingly positive and not only reflective of the station’s focus and dedication to the Coast Guard’s missions but also to the preparedness and readiness of the Coast Guard as a whole. The long history of Station Chatham, dating back to the original lighthouse keepers of the early nineteenth century, is not lost on those currently stationed there, and they do their best daily to continue the storied legacy.

 

And during my five weeks at the station, I learned a lot about how small boat stations operate. I watched and worked alongside the permanent crew as we handled search and rescue cases; controlled the radios in the communications room while talking with boats in distress; and communicated with the overseeing Sector Southeast New England about effective strategies to ensure boater safety. I also had the incredibly unique opportunity to ride on the three special self-righting surf motor life boats that the station uses in its operations. I participated in search pattern patrols, watched as crew teams boarded recreational vessels, drove the boat at high speeds, and even participated in drops and hoists with helicopters from Joint Air Base Cape Cod.

 

One of the most valuable tasks I did at the station was the everyday dirty work with the crew. Working alongside the crew daily to clean boats, scrape glue, paint, sand, cut grass, weed, and do other seemingly menial tasks not only allowed me to bond with them and foster a culture of respect and appreciation but also gave me valuable insight into how hard the Coast Guard truly does work on a daily basis.

 

Second Half: Six Weeks, USCGC Eagle  

 

I learned a lot during my first five weeks at Station Chatham. But even with that experience under my belt, I was still very nervous flying to London to meet Eagle. After group of my classmates on first phase took her from New London to London, the other half of the great Class of 2019 boarded in London to bring her back stateside.

 

Being a part of a transatlantic crossing on a three-masted sailing ship was an experience I will never forget. From London, we set sail for Funchal, Madeira, a Portuguese territory off the coast of Africa. It took us nine days to reach the island from London, and that first leg of the journey was a blur. Memorizing all of the 200+ pinrails and lines on Eagle and beginning the process of helm and lookout qualification made every day a busy one. By the time we pulled into Madeira, it seemed like no time had passed at all.

 

The island was beautiful. It’s hard to describe the sight of a mountainous island spiraling up out of the sea as it appears over the horizon, and as we got closer on our approach to port, we could see just how beautiful it truly was. The entire island was culture overload, with everything from food to soccer to fireworks. The three and a half days we had in port seemed to go by way too fast, and as quickly as we had arrived, we set sail for Hamilton, Bermuda.

 

The longest leg of our journey was the middle one, from Madeira to Bermuda. Spending 18 days at sea without any sight of land is a life-changing experience. If I tried to write down all the memories from the voyage, I would run out of room on my computer. We saw all kinds of aquatic wildlife; got to swing off the ship into the crystal clear water on a rope swing; go on auxiliary space and engine room rounds; stand helm and lookout watches as qualified watchstanders; and participate in sail and line handling evolutions that changed the direction of the sails (and the ship) if the wind direction and speed necessitated it.

 

Eighteen days at sea seemed like both the longest and shortest 18 days of my life. But when we pulled into port and the water changed to the clear turquoise color that Bermuda is famous for, I realized I had never been more relieved to be on land than at that moment that we disembarked. We had four days to rest and relax on the Bermudan beaches, and after a cliff-jumping, pastry-eating, fun-filled vacation, we boarded Eagle to bring her back stateside.

 

It was a quick five day journey and we pulled into Coast Guard Base Portsmouth for the night before docking her in Norfolk, Virginia the following day. I had long dreamed of the day I stepped off of Eagle, but when the time came, I felt a little sad that I was bidding her goodbye. It’s strange, but I (and I believe a lot of my classmates) had forged a bond with the 70-year old sailing ship that brought us safely across the mighty Atlantic.

 

And after a few weeks of restful vacation at home, I’m back here at the Academy for 3/c year. I’m excited to see what the upcoming semester and year have in store. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at Colin.D.Fenster@uscga.edu.

 

Semper P and Go Bears,
Colin

 

More about Colin.

 

Getting Qualified Aboard the USCGC Elm

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Tousignant Photo As a second semester 2/c cadet, I was nervous going into my 1/c summer because I was not sure whether I had the confidence to be a 1/c cadet and take the position as a division officer. I knew that once I became a 1/c, then graduation would be right around the corner. I had a great 2/c year and did not want to leave the Academy and go into the real world. My 1/c summer experience has abolished my recent fears and has given me the confidence to not only own my place among the corps but also look forward to becoming an ensign. I had heard that sometimes people that do well at the Academy will go out into the fleet and fail because the fleet is not based on academics or athletics. However, I learned that my work ethic is what I really need to become a good officer.

 

This past summer I had the wonderful opportunity to have an internship at Sector Key West and then went to the USCGC Elm, which is a buoy tender out of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. At the sector I felt that I was truly a part of the division that I was in. We ate lunch together every day, and the officers that I was working with were trying to set me up for a successful second tour. The morale events always seemed to have a high turnout because the captain of the station and the master chief always made an effort to show up to them. This fostered a very positive command climate that I would have gladly worked for if I was in the fleet right now. When I initially went to the Elm, I was very nervous because I knew nothing about a buoy tender or boats in general for that matter. During my 3/c summer, I had gone to a small boat station so I had never been on a real cutter before. When I arrived on the Elm, I was unsure what my role would be. I just wanted to get as qualified as I could in six weeks.

 

The first couple weeks I was on Elm I barely left the ship because I wanted to get Inport Watchstander qualified and had to finish my 21 day packet, which included drawing the systems of the ship. I was able to finish the packet in eight days. For Inport Watchstander I did not pass my first board and had to take it again a couple days later. Even though I felt discouraged because I failed the first time, I knew my round of the ship very well and was confident going into the second oral board. I was able to get qualified within two and a half weeks and started standing the watch. I was so happy to finally start helping the crew out. My next mission was to get basic Damage Control (DC) qualified. Again I failed the first time and had to retake the test. Even though I was a little discouraged by my failures, I was able to keep pushing myself. I was standing a watch and breaking in as OOD. I was able to finish my OOD packet in five weeks. I was also able to get advanced DC qualified the last day on the ship, thanks to a very helpful and caring crew. During my time on Elm, I was given junior officer tasks that challenged me and made me feel stronger in competencies will need as an officer. Even though I wanted to get as qualified as I could, I also wanted to help the crew out in any way whether it was assisting with organization manuals or binders or standing watch. As an officer, I always want to ensure I am taking the time to make certain my people are excelling.

 

More about Jackie.

 

CATP Week

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Hosley Photo As I’m sure most of you know, here in the military we really love our acronyms, we practically speak our own language; but, this here acronym is actually one of my favorites and perfectly sums up the last week of my summer: CATP. CATP stands for Cadet Aviation Training Program. I just returned from CATP which was the last portion of my summer training and (maybe the coolest, too). For CATP, seven of my classmates and I traveled to U.S. Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, North Carolina for a week of learning about aviation. E-City, as we call it, is home to the Aviation Technical Training School, where enlisted Coast Guard personnel go to become trained flight mechanics or rescue swimmers.

 

Touring the facilities was awesome, but the best part was flying. First we flew a C-130, a large cargo transport plane used for long range search and rescue (which I got to fly!!!). The next flight was the hoist where I got to swim out with a rescue swimmer under a hovering helicopter. Swimming out under the helo was insane! The rotor wash created waves that washed over me as I swam and the wind from the blades whipped so much ocean spray into my mouth I couldn’t see and could hardly breathe! Then I crawled in the search and rescue basket and they hoisted me up to the helicopter. After fist bumping the flight mechanic, they lowered me back down and I swam back to the boat. Definitely one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life; it was thrilling, terrifying, exciting and just completely awe inspiring. Our next flight was some practice slope landings in an H-60, the Coast Guard’s larger helicopter model. We also practiced heavy load transport where we landed and I was able to jump out and run clear of the rotor blades. Then the helicopter hovered about ten feet over the heavy load we wanted to lift and we would run up underneath and attach the load so the helo could fly up carrying the load and then come back to drop it off. Running under the helo you experience hurricane-force winds up to 180 mph so you have to run leaning over on the way there and leaning back on the way out, just trying not to fall on your face. It was an absolute blast! I can’t even begin to explain how much I learned and how much respect I have for the rescue swimmers or AST rate in the Coast Guard, as well as the whole aviation side of our service.

 

Before this experience I had no idea if I was even interested in flight school but, after being around the helicopters all week, I truly think that being a helicopter pilot would be the coolest thing in the whole world. I mean I guess technically I’m still undecided, but don’t worry I’ll keep you updated  Go CATP and as Admiral always says, forever Go Bears!

 

More about Cece.