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Experiences on the 'Other Side of the Fence' Part I

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link   All Posts
Chavarria-Aguilar Photo During the months of May and June, I spent a solid six weeks at a small boat station in Port Canaveral, Florida. I would like to express how much fun I had, as well as iterate the lessons I learned in the operational side of the Coast Guard. I may have mentioned in one of my previous blog entries that life at the Academy tends to be bubbled, you know, sheltered from what real life in the Coast Guard is like. Well, I can definitely say that my summer has allowed me to see what is on the other side of the fence, offering me a glimpse of what to expect in the future. This is true. While at my station assignment, I experienced a variety of different challenges that taught me things I could not learn while at the Academy. To me, it’s amazing to think that my time in Florida was a mere scratch on the surface of what life is like outside of the Academy.

 

Life at a small boat station is unique. Instead of being underway for weeks or months, station crewmembers only go underway for hours at a time. Station Port Canaveral has three different types of boats, including the 24’ Special Purpose Craft Shallow Water (SPC-SW) boat, the 25’ Response Boat-Small (RB-S), and the 45’ Response Boat-Medium (RB-M).

 

While at my station my primary role mimicked that of junior enlisted personnel. I was put on a duty rotation, just as every other member of the station, and worked in the galley as mess cook at least once a week. Acting as a junior enlisted was much like being a swab. You are the lowest in the chain of command, and your jobs usually consist of cleaning or station maintenance. For example, the first time that I was mess cook, the power went out and I had to wash most of the breakfast dishes by hand. I enjoy hands-on work, but cleaning like that tends to get old over time. That experience taught me to truly appreciate the work that junior enlisted do. If anything, I believe this appreciation is one of the most important things cadets should understand during their 3/c summer.

 

I also had multiple opportunities to help with public relations while at Station Port Canaveral. On one occasion, I went with two petty officers and another cadet to the Palm Bay Veteran Appreciation function. Another time, the station helped support a Recycled Boat Regatta at the park. We raced boats out of recycled material and a lot of people came up with some fairly clever designs. I also participated in a few change of command ceremonies, as usher or color guard. My two favorite color guard events involved a Purple Heart ceremony on Memorial Day and a funeral flag-folding ceremony for a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

 

Although most of these experiences have nothing to do with saving someone’s life, or busting drug-runners, I feel that they are equally rewarding in their own way. Again, lessons can be taught in a variety of ways. You’d be surprised, trust me.

 



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