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Land of Opportunity

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Chang Photo “I’m sailing away, to a land of opportunity…” are the lyrics I sometime hear when aboard the USCGC Eagle for our five weeks of summer training. Other times, I can barely distinguish the howling winds of the sea from the blood rushing in my ears after standing a midnight watch. I don’t even know how to begin describing Eagle. Most of us lovingly call it the “Dirty Bird.” This is because it can get pretty gross when you have nine hardworking people living in a small room with a broken A/C unit. However, this is all irrelevant compared to the things you get to do on this boat.


Climbing up to the very tops of the masts and being able to see the Milky Way, waking up for morning duty and watching the sunrise, finding you are totally focused on what you have to do and learning about yourself in little increments to the point where you almost lose perception of time makes it all worthwhile. Eagle has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes while on board but I think I’m a better person because of it. We have one more week to go until phase change in Staten Island, New York, and nine more days until I ship off to the USCGC Mellon!


More about Olivia.


Awesome Summer Adventures

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Coburn Photo I cannot believe that it has been almost one year since I arrived at the Academy for R-Day last June. The time has really flown by and I am learning so much about the Coast Guard each and every day. Right now, I am on South Padre Island, Texas at a small boat station with another cadet. So far, this experience has been awesome. At first I was a little nervous but the crew has been very welcoming. They are always helping us and teaching us new seamanship skills. South Padre is one of the busiest stations in the country; not only have we been able to see how the Coast Guard works during real search and rescue missions, but we have actually been able to participate and it is incredible.


The weather down here is amazing. It has not dropped below 80 since we arrived and the beaches are great. We are allowed to go out and explore the island and, since it is so small, almost everything is within walking distance. We are at the station for two more weeks and then we will be flying back to New London to board Eagle. On Eagle, we will be travelling down to Philadelphia for the Tall Boat Show, which will be really cool, and then we will be cruising down to Bermuda (I am really excited for that part). It is going to be a lot of work but most of my friends are going to be on the same phase so I will be able to see them all again! Toward the end of July, we will end the voyage in Boston and then I will go home for three weeks of leave. On August 16th, I will report back to the Academy for my 3rd class year. I cannot wait to be part of Charlie Company and meet the new 4th class. To all of you soon-to-be-swabs out there: good luck this summer, have fun and try not to worry too much. Y’all will do great!


More about Mimi.


Life in Texas

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Auzenbergs Photo Life in Texas We are already three weeks into summer training and I cannot believe how much we have learned! I’m at Station Port Aransas in Texas with three other now-3/c cadets and we’re working on earning our Communications Watchstander qualification. Earning that would allow us to answer the radios and phones for distress calls or general calls from anyone that may need assistance and stand watch for the station. Though it may seem straightforward, there is a lot that goes into this job such as knowing the proper way to respond to a search and rescue mission, bomb threat, overdue vessel, or just how and when to check on any of the vessels that may be underway. To me, the biggest part that went into preparing for this qualification was learning the AOR or area of responsibility. The station has a large map that spans their entire AOR and each member who is comms qualified must be familiar with all the bays, channels, fueling stations, islands, peninsulas and more. It’s pretty difficult when you are brand new to the area like us, but I realized how important it is when I got a call from a woman trying to explain where she was stuck based off her surroundings because, without that knowledge, I would not have been able to help her!


Beside what we do at the station, we are able to get off work and go into town, which is a blast. We go to the beach, out to dinner, ride our bikes around town, shop, and explore the nature trails. This afternoon we are getting ready to go parasailing! It has been a great experience so far and I’m going to be sad when these last two weeks are over… but then it’s on to Eagle for six more.


More about Gabrielle.


Hello From the Thetis

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hey, how are you?! I am emailing you from the bridge of the USCGC Thetis! I have been really busy out here with my classmate and best friend, Hanna! We have been underway for a little more than a week and I just wanted to check in with a little blog entry. We both just qualified Quarter Master of the Watch, so we can finally take part in the watch rotation.


So first things first: I can't believe that I am a first class cadet. It seems like such a short time since I signed up to blog in 2012, a fourth class, with bright and wide eyes, lost in the first year of my cadet career. I was excited and nervous and worried that I wouldn't make it to be cadre and forget about being a firstie! They were the cadets exuding confidence, ready to take on the fleet and the world. They could drive cars and go to Panera for dinner on almost any day of the week. It was like watching a dream, or a unicorn, some mythical creature that I wasn't sure was really real. But here I am, my shields are blue, and I find myself completely surrounded by the big blue, underway, firstie summer.


I think that even though we weren't underway for the first week, that was probably the most challenging and overwhelming. This is because first impressions, although they can be forgotten over time, are paramount to the initial reaction people have toward you, especially for cadets going into the fleet. I think that the Coast Guard as a whole, although excepting of cadets from the Academy for summer programs, is also very cautious when they arrive. As a cadet, you are handed the responsibility of building relationships with enlisted so that, over the summer, a mutual respect is forged that will build from seaman-cadet into more valuable ones, like chief-officer. If there is one thing that being on a 270' has taught me, it is that these boats are not that big and everyone on board has a purpose, one that is vital to the success of mission execution and safety. We need to build trust, prove ourselves worthy of that respect and also show that, as future officers, we respect the Coast Guard family and are familiar with the jobs of all on board the cutter.


When you report to a cutter, be it for your firstie summer or your first billet after graduation, you have to be humble, ready to learn, and appreciative of all that the crew does to welcome and teach you. I have learned so much just from listening and watching and standing watch with non-rates, all of whom work extremely hard and are expected to do so much for the unit.


As a cadet this summer, I see the enlisted side, and the officer side, and also the keel, the balancer, which is the chief's mess. The chiefs pulled me aside and taught me that all junior officers and even senior officers must depend on the experience and knowledge of the chiefs to help them run the cutter. The chiefs are a connection between the officers and the rest of the crew. And this chief's mess has been incredibly accepting of Hanna and me and they have already taught us so much but they are fair and also let us know when we have made a mistake.


I couldn't tell you if I was ready to put a 270' down on my wish list next year because I'm not sure that drug busting and migrant interdiction is for me but I am open to it. My goal for this summer is to learn, have fun, mature and start to edge into the next stage of my Coast Guard career. If time passes as fast as it has for the past three years, I am sure that next summer will be here in a blink!


I will try to update you some more and I hope everyone is having a great summer!


More about Lucy.


Transition to 2/c Year

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo So here we are one day before becoming second class (2/c) cadets. That means in one day we become upperclassmen, we are allowed to wear civilian attire, and are granted a much more liberal liberty. I am typing this while wearing a red cadre shirt. It’s unreal for us but also for the Class of 2015 as they watch us take the reins of leadership and pack their trunks to prepare for their graduation. Only two years ago we were their swabs; that time has gone quickly. Some officers and chiefs around the Academy have moved up a paygrade since I’ve been here, so that is validation that I’ve been here for a while! The days have been slow but the weeks and months have gone by extremely fast.


This past week marked 100th Week, which is the halfway point for our class. The Cape May Company Commanders, or the petty officers and chief petty officers who run the enlisted boot camp in New Jersey, instructed us on the basics of leading the new cadets who will arrive on June 29. The first day of 100th Week, we relived our swab lives—taking orders, sounding off, and being pushed physically. As the training progressed, we transitioned into a more instructional environment when the Company Commanders took a back seat as we led each other. Preparing for Reporting-In Day, some of us acted as cadre while others acted as swabs. It was strange yelling at our own classmates but it was part of the process of learning how to address swabs on R-Day. I tried to think back to my cadre, and the maxim that “you will never feel that you are as good as your own cadre” held true for me—it was extremely difficult keeping up the intensity and giving instruction, but we will get better as it as we get closer to R-Day. I did however find it hilarious that I caught myself practicing the same mannerisms and verbiage that my cadre used on me when I was a swab. For the remaining two days, our class completed a team run, conducted land navigation, and worked through the leader reaction obstacle course on a Connecticut army base. It got me pumped up and was a great reminder that I am still a member of the military after a lax 3/c year.


3/c year is very laid back and is probably the “least military” out of the four years at the Academy. This is for a good reason—it is the most academically challenging. Sadly, we are saying goodbye to many shipmates before recommitment on Friday. After 3/c year, cadets need to decide if they will commit to serving after completing two more years at the Academy. This past semester was especially difficult and it was the first semester at the Academy that I did not make the Dean’s List. In my last blog post, I mentioned that I switched my major from Government to Management. I was better at writing papers, as this makes up the bulk of work for Government majors but the Management major has many more tests and math-based courses. I wanted to challenge myself and I sure did with the math courses. I did not come close to the academic standard that I upheld during my previous three semesters at the Academy, but I learned the most. To gain acceptance to the Management major, the main hurdles are Financial Accounting and Probability/Statistics. I failed a few tests in both of these classes but I still made it out alright in the end. The way I see it is that while these classes were rough, I learned a lot and it will now allow me to take electives in what I really want to dig into as a Management major. I can’t wait to take electives linked to the required Organizational Behavior (OB) course I took this semester. I discovered that Organization Behavior is something I am good at, and something that I enjoy studying. I look forward to taking classes in OB and Human Resources in the fall.


3/c year was indeed an academic struggle. It was information overload with more than 20 credits in the fall. I began to stress over the fact that I probably would be out of the running for a Truman, Marshall, or Rhodes scholarship, which I was actually working toward with professors. But then I realized that I just need to do my best and that what’s really important is learning for the sake of learning. I didn’t come here to win a fancy scholarship—I came here to commission as an officer in the Coast Guard. My biggest mentor at the Academy and my former company chief, AMTCS Cain, reminded me of this when I was stressing out at midterms. He told me to hold on to what makes this place important: receiving a commission in another two years. No matter how it gets done, it will get done and nobody in the fleet will care if I had a 2.0 GPA or a 4.0 GPA. Still, I want to get as high of a GPA as possible because that’s just who I am. Regardless, my future subordinates and superiors will only care if I can lead and be led and have the organizational skillset to be a team player in today’s Coast Guard. Indeed, it is this attitude that I will strive to embody as I take on the role of cadre for the incoming Class of 2019 in late June. Failure is inevitable at this institution and the incoming class needs to understand that failure is the best producer of success—we can only succeed by learning from our past failures.


More about Will.