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Bye-bye Boss! The End of an Era

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Joshua Orbe

The last few weeks of the school year were full of emotion. It was a time of anxiety, relief, celebration and triumph for those graduating. It was time to say goodbye, pass the torch, and accept and commit to new responsibilities.

It is hard to believe that I am nearing the halfway point of my time as a cadet! I vividly remember all the nerves and excitement I felt on the days leading up to swab summer. Two years went by so fast, and now, I am a second class cadet. I heard that this summer, things are about to get interesting. But before that, the corps got to go away on a well-deserved break. One of my first and closest friends from the Academy brought me home to Maryland. I also paid my sponsor brother, who has been with me on this journey since day one, a visit to New Jersey. Lastly, my beloved mentor, a graduating Filipino international cadet, invited me to join him in Denver for one last adventure together here in the States.

I had meant to visit my roommate’s home for more than a year, but a global pandemic complicated those plans out of nowhere. When I arrived after a long but fun road trip, I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome. My roommate’s family took me in as one of their own and made me feel at home. I had a great time, and I could see how they had raised such a great son. From the trips, family traditions, great food, and even their adorable doggo, their family will forever hold a special place in my heart. I only hope to return the favor one day and be their tour guide around the Philippines.

I was sad when I had to leave, but I still have two more years here, and my roommate and I agreed to room together again! After Maryland, I took the train to my sponsor brother’s house in New Jersey. They are like my second family. We did not stay long and hit the road not soon after. We were going to attend an after-graduation party for our Filipino upperclassmen. After hundreds of songs and taking the wrong exits more than a few times, we made it to our sponsor mom’s house just in time to see our “boss” go up on stage with President Biden.

A few hours later, the party was in full swing. Our sponsor family made us a banquet of all my favorite meals from home. Many people came, Boss’s roommate from Puerto Rico and his family, my sponsor father’s family, and officers from the Philippine Coast Guard, some of them my future bosses.

I went back to New Jersey, and I went on the next part of my journey: Denver! It was my first time being West. What immediately struck me was the picturesque landscapes, soaring peaks, and vast grasslands. I stayed with my mentor/sponsor brother, whom we call Boss and his mom. The first thing we did was watch a John Williams tribute in Red Rocks Amphitheater. Those were some of the most breathtaking views I had seen. Our party then went hiking/picture taking at the hotel where they shot “The Shining.” The next evening was for the boys. Game 2 of the Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers playoff series was on in town. Boss and I had fun. I could finally check watching an NBA game off my bucket list. The next stop on our list was Mount Rushmore. Getting there involved a long drive. My job was to keep Boss entertained and awake. We played music the entire time when we had service. The drive up to South Dakota was beautiful but staring at endless seas of grass proved to be a challenge. At least we saw the occasional tumbleweed.

From there, we paid a visit to one of our sister schools, the U.S. Air Force Academy. What immediately struck me was the size of the campus. The campus sits in a valley with mountain peaks surrounding it. It is a massive campus with around 18,000 acres of space. The buildings were modern and futuristic looking even.

We finished our trip at an amusement park. It was a fun day from start to finish. I almost got held up at the gate. Thankfully, I was able to buy a ticket by the time it was my turn in line. It was hot that day, but Boss and I thought it would be good to wear our matching Space Force hoodies. It was worth it in the end; we were able to take some great pictures. We also saw a fistfight happen a few feet from us. Thankfully, people broke it up before any got seriously hurt.

Looking back on the three weeks of summer, I could say that I spent my time wisely. I spent it with my best friends, my second family here. I look forward to more fun times and a happy reunion with my seniors who graduated before me.

MORE ABOUT JOSH

MSTP at Sector New York

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Teegan Cordova

The Coast Guard is a lot like fifteen agencies in a trench coat. Conducting operations from drug interdiction to environmental protection, the service demonstrates versatility on the daily. Afloat operations comprise most cadet experiences in the fleet; during 3/c (sophomore) summer, cadets go underway on the tall ship Eagle for five to six weeks and to a small boat station or cutter for another five to six weeks, and 1/c (seniors) often spend a full twelve weeks on a cutter. While invaluable, those afloat experiences represent only a portion of available opportunities in the Coast Guard. If any of the myriad other officer subspecialties interest you, a handful of programs at the Academy introduce cadets to alternative career paths.

One such opportunity, the Marine Safety Training Program (MSTP), acquaints rising 2/c (cadets going into their junior year) with prevention ashore over the course of a week. Prevention ashore involves vessel and container inspections, investigations, port security, and marine safety engineering. In June, I attended MSTP at Sector New York on Staten Island with three other cadets. We focused on marine inspections, shadowing junior officers and enlisted personnel looking at cargo ships, oil tankers, small passenger vessels, tugboats, and more. A 2020 Academy graduate graciously taught us through the week. Her professionality interacting with the captains and crew of vessels and her familiarity with the Code of Federal Regulations astounded me. The junior officers at sector also shared considerable camaraderie and cooperated to get qualified. The workplace climate seemed amazing. My impression is that prevention ashore is an unparalleled opportunity for anyone looking for a fulfilling and challenging career in the Coast Guard with the opportunity for a good work-life balance. Unlike many afloat billets, officers at sector go home every evening (and the career also benefits those prone to seasickness). Beyond professional development, the experience also impressed me with the diverse work of the service and the importance of prevention in saving lives; the Coast Guard is famous for search and rescue, but all its work serves and protects mariners and the American people. If you attend the Academy, I recommend you avail yourself of as many opportunities to explore distinct career paths as possible.

MORE INFORMATON ABOUT TEEGAN

THE REAL COAST GUARD - Life on an 87’ Patrol Boat

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Erin Edwards

I’m underway on an 87-foot patrol boat in Washington state. Want to see what it’s like? Join me for an insider look at this Coast Guard asset.


play button WATCH VIDEO


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Third Class Summer Station Search and Rescue Case

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Junna Castel

My experience at Station South Portland this summer was life changing. Not only did I meet some of the amazing, enlisted members who are at the core of the Coast Guard, but I also learned what it means to be part of this organization. I will never forget what it was like going on a Search and Rescue mission summer of 2021 and contributing to the life-saving mission of the Coast Guard.

One evening, us cadets, and the crew were preparing to go underway on a “Sunset cruise” in honor of a Boatswain’s Mate being transferred this summer, but as we were boarding the 47-foot Motor Lifeboat, the radio crackled to life and called for Coast Guard stations to be on the lookout for a Kayaker in the local area. Moments later, the Watch office called and confirmed that the Kayaker was in Station South Portland’s area of responsibility, and the lighthearted mood turned serious as we motored out of the boathouse.

As we surged out of the harbor that evening, the waves were between 4-6 feet, and as we crossed a strip of reef, the waves swelled up and became choppier. Water splashed against the metal of the hull spraying sea water all over the open bridge where the crew was clustered holding tight against the bucking of the boat. At the same time, the wind blew into our faces sending the droplets of water all over our mustangs, orange heavy weather body suits we wore to protect ourselves from the cold and the water. We cut through one wave, then rocked down the next; some waves were gentle swells while others towered next to the boat. One moment we rode up a wave and then the next moment we smacked back down sending shock waves through the metal of the boat and threatening to loosen our grip from the now wet metal railings we clung to dearly. Water sprayed, and soaked us, leaving salt crystals on our faces as we braced for each impending wave. At the same time, the intense rocking made some crew members nauseous and one of them descended the ladder to the bridge to hang over the side of the boat and vomit. After a particularly tooth-jarring wave, one of the crew members went below deck and retrieved the heavy-weather belts that we strapped on and clipped into the rings scattered throughout the boat.

Thoughts raced through my head this entire time. Up until this moment, I had not truly realized what the oath of service meant until I was clinging to wet railings barreling through rough seas on a SAR (Search and Rescue) case. I realized how real the Coast Guard’s mission really is, witnessing Coast Guardsmen run through movements that they trained years for to save lives of people caught in the jaws of the unpredictable seas.

After receiving more information from the watch office back at station, one of the Boatswain’s Mates hollered over the deafening winds and rumbling motor, “We are looking for a white guy, wearing a white shirt and life jacket in a blue kayak. Keep your eyes peeled as we get closer to his last known position.” We signaled that we understood and began scanning the expansive waves before us for anything that might resemble the description given. It was difficult as the sun was beginning to set, and the waves remained wild and choppy. We scanned the water in different directions, eye briskly scanning our surroundings finding nothing so far.

Then, the other Boatswain’s Mate slowed the boat down to quiet the motor because we were being connected to the individual in the kayak’s phone number to help in the rescue effort. The kayaker was miraculously able to hold onto his phone while battling harsh waves and able to get enough cell service to call the dispatcher who then transferred the call to the Coast Guard. The kayaker said that we had shot right past him, and that he was at 3 o’clock from the boat. The driver whipped the boat around and headed in that direction and finally after 45 minutes of battling through waves, he yelled, “I have a visual!”

Some distance from us was the blue kayak with the individual frantically paddling for control of his kayak among the large waves as we shot towards him. At this moment, 2 crew members descended from the bridge, and while being violently flung around, made their way to the recess of the boat, positioning themselves to retrieve the guy from the water. We approached the kayaker and among the undulating waves, the two crew members reached out to the kayaker’s trembling paddle, grasping the tip, and pulled him towards the boat. They then grasped the individual tightly and pulled him into the vessel accidentally bumping the kayaker’s head on the boat to bring him on safely. At that moment, the guy bear-hugged the crew member who had brought him onboard and started sobbing into his arms as he was finally out of the water, safe from the surging waves.

We moved quickly after that, one of the cadets going into the boat to grab blankets and pillows for the guy while the crew members moved him to the survivor’s compartment where they checked his vitals and monitored him for shock. Also, another crew member, the other cadet and I retrieved the paddle and the kayak from the churning water securing everything onboard the vessel. Afterwards, we met up with a smaller vessel with Maine Marine patrol headed to the EMS on shore and transferred the kayaker.

Before the individual left however, he said something like, “You guys genuinely saved my life. If you had not been there, I might not have made it out alive.” We went into rough seas with one purpose in mind, rescuing this individual who got swept out to sea, getting to him before the elements did. From this crazy experience, I learned that despite the many times I have been told that the Coast Guard is a life-saving service, or despite the many times people have expressed pride for the many humbling deeds of the Coast Guard, this SAR case made it real for me. The Coast Guard saves lives, other vessels, protects the environment, and trade. People live for this -- being a Coastie is for life. Whether members of this service serve 4 or 5 years and decide that they have served their time, or they decide to make a life-long career out of it, people I have talked to say they would do it all again in a heartbeat. That is the power of the camaraderie of the Coast Guard, the power of their mission.

Shout out to all the enlisted members at Station South Portland! This summer was a valuable training experience and one of the most memorable summer experiences of my life! To all, Fair Winds and Following Seas (cheesy, sorry 😊)!

MORE INFORMATON ABOUT JUNNA