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(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link   All Posts
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! The wait is over. Here it is, the highly anticipated blog recapping my experience on a real live operational Coast Guard cutter. I have been looking forward to releasing this blog all summer, and I truly believe you will find it educational.

I flew down to Cartagena, Columbia in mid-May with three other cadets to meet up with the cutter I was assigned to (a 270 foot cutter stationed out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire), which had pulled into the tropical port for the weekend. We had two free days in the city before we got underway for two straight weeks, and like most of the crew, we couldn’t wait to get out on the water. But we took advantage of the time off by getting a lot of rest and planning out what qualifications we would work toward over the next month.

At 0600 the following Monday, it seemed like the entire ship had come alive as the crew prepared to get underway. After sitting in on the Navigational Brief (basically a discussion of the plan to take the ship out of port and into the open ocean), I made my way up to the bridge (where the ship is steered from) to observe the action. It took approximately two hours to get the cutter from the pier to the open ocean, and I enjoyed every second of it. Watching all the Guardians up on the bridge work together as a team to get our cutter safely into the ocean made me realize why I’m at the Academy. It was especially fascinating to watch our Captain take command of the evolution and nurture the young junior officers (all of which I remember from the Academy), who were still learning the ropes. I could picture myself standing in their black boots within a year and having everything I learned in four years at the Academy finally pay off. Though the two hour evolution was extremely taxing on the ensign in charge, I could tell he felt great pride and a sense of accomplishment.

What exactly did we do out there, you ask? Well, during the daytime (or nighttime if we’re talking reverse ops), we would steam over to a spot that we believed might be on a “go fast” route. We would then sit there and wait for nightfall. At about 0200 we would launch our helicopter to fly around for over an hour. It would then come back and we would refuel it, and launch it again. We typically launched the helicopter two or three times a night (until it broke down at the end of the second week). Without the helicopter, it became a lot more difficult to catch drug runners (we didn’t catch any with the helicopter, but the odds were even worse without it). From the bridge we had about a ten mile radius of visibility on a perfect day, and our cutter had a max speed of about 18 knots. Finding and chasing down these drug runners (which can easily make about 40 to 50 knots) was an incredible challenge, but we never gave up. After two weeks of fourteen hour work days, driving many hundreds of miles across the open ocean, and not finding any illegal narcotics we pulled into Panama for a chance to recharge out batteries for a few days.

To be continued...

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