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cadet blogs

Back to School For the Second-to-Last Time!!!

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Driscoll Photo It’s hard to believe that this is the second to last time I have to return to the Academy! Only the fall semester, Christmas leave, and the spring semester until the Class of 2015 graduates! It is almost impossible to believe that we graduate in 273 days; it seems like yesterday that we stood on the parade field and swore our oath of office.

 

A lot has happened in the past few days. My classmates and I assumed the duties and responsibilities of the Regimental Command on Monday. It is weird to be in charge – and more importantly, responsible for over 900 cadets. Actually, it is really unnerving. Although I have heard many times about the total transfer of responsibility and authority between commands, I’ve never understood it until now. Since our change of command, we’ve been way too busy: we haven’t even had much time to pack into our rooms! Hopefully the semester will become more controllable…

 

The first major event is the Kings Point vs. Coast Guard game. It’ll be held here in New London on 13 September. GO BEARS, BEAT KINGS POINT!!

 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at Peter.M.Driscoll@uscga.edu.

 

More about Peter.

 

But It Won’t Be Long, ‘Til I Get on Back Home

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Kukich Photo Swab Summer was rough the first time around, but it was definitely even more difficult the second round as a cadre. After many weeks of preparation, I began my cadre experience on 20 July relieving my classmates who had been Cadre 1, or trainers for the first three weeks in this circumstance. After just three days, I had lost my voice from a combination of illness and loudly trying to direct the swabs and by the fourth day had to correct behaviors of some swabs with the voice of others. A week of rest at another training program came and went while the newest members of Delta Company sailed aboard the Eagle. When I made the trip up to Maine to meet the swabs for the return, I felt just as drained as when they had left. And somehow that feeling continued, that exhaustion, that fast pace, that cyclic behavior that some people can only describe as insanity.

 

The cadre experience was not without purpose however; I learned more about my personal leadership style in those three weeks than I have my entire cadet career. As cadre, like with my peers, I discovered that I struggle with public speaking even with positional power. I found out that even though I have different interests than my classmates, most of us came to the Academy for the same reasons and have the same goals in mind. And I learned that while I might not be able to form a perfect mentor/mentee relationship with every one of the 32 swabs in Delta, if they were willing to listen and I was a persistent teacher, I could pass on the skills others had taught me.

 

There were dozens of rewarding experiences sprinkled throughout cadre summer to offset the challenges, such as running to morning calisthenics in the dark with a flood warning in effect. Just a few were opportunities like running the PFE with a swab and being able to coach her alongside another cadre and her classmates – she ran the mile and a half nearly three minutes faster than the previous time. Then reassuring a swab to step off the high dive in the pool while treading in the water below with a lifeguarding tube – he jumped three times that morning. And showing the swabs of Delta how to retire the colors, particularly dress ship flags posted on the football field, as a team they ceremoniously lowered 26 signal flags on the Coast Guard’s birthday with my guidance.

 

Some cadre considered the summer simple. Being given positional power is a great tool and can lead to very effective transformation of behaviors. But to develop the swabs and truly instill the character traits of a Coast Guard officer required personal leadership for me. As the capstone event of the summer came to a close, I had the opportunity to lead some of the last cadences with my company. I chose an Army cadence “Get on Back Home” which I had learned before coming to the Academy and then again as a swab myself. It reminded me that the cadre experience was not simple for me, but well worth the journey to travel full circle and keep pushing until I get on back home.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Week 7: A Ton of AToN

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo “AToN” is short for aids to navigation; in the case of the cutter Sequoia, that means buoys! This week was my first experience with buoy operations, and, wow, was it tiring. Thankfully we had about 30 hours off in the middle of the week to relax and rest, not to mention that it was in a very neat location: Kwajalein Atoll. (Have you ever heard of it?)

 

But back to AToN. There are many moving pieces (literally and figuratively) to buoy operations. I spent the first day on the bridge (pilothouse of the cutter) observing from there. The bridge team not only supervises the on-deck activities but also monitors our position and ensures that the cutter is riding so as to provide the best platform for the workers. Administrative work also takes place on the bridge during buoy operations: recording information about the wear on the buoy and its chain, making notes about the evolution, etc. Being on the bridge requires patience and focus. The days working buoys are long, and for the personnel on the bridge, most of the day is spent standing and staring at a computer screen or out the window.

 

Work on the buoy deck is not at strenuous as I expected but still requires a great deal of focus and attention, as safety is one of the key concerns for everyone. The crew works methodically and smoothly, in a well-choreographed manner, each member knowing his responsibilities for each step of the process. The procedure is a bit involved but time moves quickly. Andy and I spent an afternoon working on deck, and the hardest part about it was surviving the heat!

 

We are only about 500 miles from the equator, so the sun is pretty hot and the days are long (not to mention that the longest day of the year was only about a week ago)! The crew still wears the dark blue operational dress uniforms (ODUs) or a dark blue coverall suit. These absorb the sunlight and trap in body heat. On top of that they wear life vests, adding another heat-trapping layer to the ensemble. Plastic hard hats keep head heat well confined, too. At the end of the day, I was covered in sweat, sunscreen, and grime from the buoys. Needless to say, my shower that night felt great. After a long afternoon and evening of hard work, it felt good to clean off and relax for a while before going up to watch on the bridge.

 

Now, of course, for the reflection on it all: the focus for this week has been personnel well-being and safety. It’s pretty intuitive for physical labor, but on Coast Guard cutters (and elsewhere, of course), it applies to everyone onsite. As I mentioned before, the bridge team must stay focused and alert; their well-being is as important as those on deck. If the bridge team loses focus, there could be serious consequences in the event of a casualty.

 

At the same time, however, the commanding officer and operations officer must also balance the completion of the mission with the crew’s well-being. It is hard for me to put myself in their shoes since I do not have any supervisors pressuring me to ensure that the job is done. As I see it, one form of mitigating this issue is to slow down the work schedule. Instead of three buoys each day, maybe we do two or even one. But that, of course, leads to another issue. The longer we stay out, the longer the crew has to stay away from home. Already this cutter has been away since the middle of April, and it has a long operational schedule. The crew is underway more often than not. I’ve got to give it to them—there are strong, resilient, and incredible people who work diligently and with determination despite the long work days and busy schedules.

 

Speaking of busy, I have other work to do, so I’ll sign off here. Until next week…when I’ll be writing from GUAM!

 

More about Justin.

 

2/c Summer – Best Summer at the Academy Yet

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Wow! A lot has happened since my last blog post in early March. I finished my fourth academic semester at the Academy, found out that I will be going on exchange to the Naval Academy for a semester of study in the fall, and have completed the first half of my 2/c summer training at the Academy. Time does fly! Before beginning the “summer term,” I was told by several upper-classmen that 2/c summer was the best summer by far at the Academy, and am happy to report that they were most defiantly right!

 

Because the rising 2/c cadets (equivalent of a junior at a civilian college) are the only students on campus for the first half of the summer, we had to move rooms while the rest of the corps moves out of the barracks for their summer tour in the fleet. It was strange moving out of my normal home in Hotel Company back to my old stomping grounds in Delta (where I did my 4/c year) for the summer, but it was definitely nice to catch up with friends in that wing area that I don’t see as often during the school year.

 

After the rest of the corps had left the Academy we began our first week of summer training: 100th week. Marking the midpoint of a cadet’s career at the Academy, during the week Cape May Company Commanders (think Marine drill instructor but Coast Guard style) come to the Academy to train the soon to be 2/c in becoming effective cadre that will train the swabs (incoming cadets). The week resembles a brief return to Swab Summer (our version of boot camp), but during the period we also learned a lot about effective leadership and became much closer as a class. At the end of the week, we had our formal promotion from 3/c to 2/c cadets, retook our oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and received the privilege of civilian clothes and weekend shorts (meaning you can leave the Academy on Saturday and not return until Sunday). Although a slightly stressful week, I definitely took away from the week some quality lessons on leadership and self-discipline.

 

Following 100th week was range week, where my classmates and I were able to qualify as pistol marksmen. This marked the first time I had shot a pistol and it was cool to learn tricks and pointers on shooting from the range personnel. Also during this week the Class of 2014 graduated from the Academy. It was a neat experience for me to be part of the graduation ceremonies, and it gave me a moment to observe what I will be experiencing in just two short years.

 

"2/c Summer - Best Summer at the Academy Yet (Continued) PDF 

 

 


More about James.

 

Week 6: When Rubber Meets the Road

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Or maybe this week’s reflection blog should be called “When Rudder Meets the Ocean.” (It’s a poor pun, but oh well; maybe I’ll have better luck next time.)

 

Now, on to this week’s report and reflection. Whew was this a hard one! First week underway, and it was technically a short week because, due to crossing the International Date Line, we lost a day (we skipped forward—aren’t time zones crazy!?).

 

Where to start? This week was definitely a lot more hectic than last week. For the first few days it was non-stop for me and Andy. On top of standing watch—now as break-ins for junior officer of the deck (which I’ll explain in a bit)—we trained in drills, attended damage control (DC) classes, and added more collateral responsibilities to our work lists. For the first few days, as I got adjusted to the schedule, I had very little free time. I’ll walk you through the schedule and explain each thing as I go.

 

A day might start at by waking up at 0300 to get ready for watch on the bridge. On the bridge, I was working on my junior officer of the deck (JOOD) qualification. This means that I was the officer of the deck’s (OOD’s) assistant. The OOD is in charge of directing the ship’s movement (steering, navigation, etc.) and overseeing everything going on aboard the ship. The JOOD’s job is to assist with that oversight and to help take care of the admin associated with it. As JOOD, I recorded the weather, tracked our position, announced events on the cutter’s plan of the day (POD), monitored navigation equipment, and served as an extra set of eyes for lookout. It was a lot to do, but that helped the four-hour watch go by quickly. Of course, I was also working on demonstrating various proficiencies, such as how to take initial action upon report of an emergency, as I progress in the qualification process. And as always, it was enjoyable talking with the crewmembers on watch with me—it’s always exciting to hear about their past experiences, their goals, and their knowledge of the Sequoia. There are even some other members of the crew who were breaking-in JOOD with us. It was nice to have a partner or two to help learn and study the material—thank you Andy and BM3 Hall!

 

When the Rubber Meets the Road (Continued) PDF 


 


More about Justin.