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First Phase of Firstie Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Jill Friedman

During firstie summer, cadets are expected to act as junior officers; it is considered our ‘job interview’ and last chance to figure out where we want to go when we graduate in one short academic year. I was able to spend the first half of my summer training on the USCGC Ida Lewis, a 175’ buoy tender. This was a different experience than most of my classmates because there is no wardroom on a 175’ with the only officer being a warrant officer as the CO. While this is not what I was expecting to get for my firstie summer, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I worked for the Operations Petty Officer and the Executive Petty Officer. At the Academy, we are surrounded by officers so being able to work with senior enlisted gave me a different perspective and a lot of past Coast Guard wisdom to learn from.

On Ida Lewis, I was able to break in Deck Watch Officer (DWO) and take on collaterals. As a DWO, your job on the bridge is to conn. Conning is giving commands to the helmsman to steer the ship. The DWO also provides directions to navigate the ship during complex evolutions. As break-in DWO, I was able to anchor the cutter, drive onto buoys during aids to navigation (ATON) details, conn through Newport in low visibility, and moor (dock) the cutter. Each of these evolutions uses a different method of steering and has different rules that need to be obeyed. It was a lot to adapt to but I was fortunate to be able to learn from seasoned crew members. Beyond the bridge, I was able to make route plans which determine the cutter’s time underway and what buoys are worked on during the patrol. This is a job typically done by the Operations Department Head so it was good exposure to a position I may have in the future. I also spent a few days working on the buoy deck, experiencing what life is like on the deck-plate level.

I learned a lot during first phase of firstie summer, and spending half my summer in Newport, Rhode Island wasn’t bad. For the second half of my summer I have an academic internship and I’m excited to see what that experience has in store for me. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Jill.M.Friedman@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT JILL

Firstie Summer 2018

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

Well, I am officially halfway through my firstie summer ‒ and that is quite surreal to say.

Unfortunately, due to my recent ACL reconstruction surgery and medical complications, I was told early on that I would be unable to be fit for sea this summer. Having been Eagle cadre, I have thankfully been able to complete all of my underway time already, but I was hoping to travel far away for my last summer at the Academy, as I joined the Coast Guard to get away from my small Pennsylvania hometown…but I was sent to Sector New York. On Staten Island. Two hours away from home.

Needless to say, I became less excited about my summer as it got closer.

I arrived to Sector New York with absolutely zero expectations. I knew that two of my classmates would be joining me for the first half, and I knew that we would be on land, but that was it. We met our POC, who graduated two years ago, got settled in, and it became quickly apparent that there was not much to do on Staten Island. And that the barracks had no Wi-Fi.

As time went by, and we were all moved into different departments every week (for example, containers, facilities, pollution, command center, vessel traffic and inspections), I became thankful for the new system of not needing to get qualified over the summer. Instead, I have been able to focus on being a sponge and keeping a detailed journal of the things I was learning about and all of the different roles and responsibilities that a sector has to offer the fleet. I formed real connections with my coworkers, instead of pestering them for signatures. And, most of all, I have been able to rule out being a prevention officer from my intended career path.

Not to mention, there are silver linings ‒ other than getting weekends off and occasional half days. I have been able to see my family a lot more than I have been able to in the last three years combined. I was even able to take my siblings to see “Wicked!” on Broadway. The people at Sector New York are also some of the nicest people I have ever met. From the first day I arrived, multiple people offered to have us over for dinner, or offered us directions for how to go on adventures and get off the island. And, I have been able to continue my physical therapy.

I think what I have learned most this summer is that your attitude is the only thing that you can control, and that attitudes are contagious. For that reason, it is much more productive for everyone if you have a positive attitude. After all, things that may seem disappointing at first can turn into amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

AIM is a Taste of Swab Summer

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

When I was a junior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I mean, I was taught from a young age that I should aspire to go to college, but I had no idea what size or where in the country or what majors should be offered or anything about what I wanted that college to be like. I had a few family members in the military, though, and, although they were all in different branches, they always raved about the Coast Guard – a service that I had never even heard of at the time. Naturally, I started looking into it and realized there was an Academy program that summer, so I applied just to give it a shot and see if all the good things everyone was telling me about were true.

When I arrived in Connecticut to participate in AIM, I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, I was given next to zero time to think about this, as the cadre immediately took charge and told us exactly what to do, what to wear, when to eat, etc. See, AIM is a taste of Swab Summer, the seven-week program you embark on to begin your USCGA experience upon admission… sort of like boot camp. In the week-long AIM program, the first few days were very physically intense: we ran everywhere, did push-ups, learned indoc (random facts about the Coast Guard), and tried to absorb as much information as possible. It truly was a culture shock. The last couple of days are more relaxed, as the focus is switched to more engineering-focused events, such as building a floating boat out of nominal materials.

Overall, the AIM experience was eye-opening. Looking back on it as a current 2/c cadet (junior), I can honestly say that I learned a lot, and getting that first taste of the Academy was very rewarding to me. It helped me decide that the Coast Guard is what I want to do with my life – not because of all of the push-ups and running around, and not even because of the friends I made from my AIM company that I still remain in contact with today, but because of the ability to experience the infectious culture of people helping people that our service is committed to.

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

Summer Ocean Racing and Washington Adventures

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Amy Chamberlin

Offshore sailors have the option to apply for a seven-week intense summer ocean racing (SOR) program during Phase I of the summer. I chose to apply after learning about all the leadership opportunities that are associated with the program. My onboard collateral duty was commissary! The big events that we participated in were SUNY Maritime Safety at Sea Seminar; a trip to Annapolis; the Maryland to Newport race, and Block Island Race Week. In the beginning of the program, everyone wasn’t very close, but when the program ended, no one wanted to leave. This is similar to the fleet because the Coast Guard is a family and is looking out for you.

After SOR, I went to United States Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment for four weeks to work alongside the enlisted in Ilwaco, Washington. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before going this summer. Not only was the station well set up and responsive to many cases, but the environment surrounding Cape D was incredible. Another cadet was at the station with me, and we went hiking (in the Ape Caves of Mount St. Helens!), shopping, and exploring around the neighboring towns. Sector Columbia River hosted multiple cadets in the area and offered us a tour of the sector, USCGC Fur and USCGC Alert. We also got to fly in a helicopter one of the last days we were at the station. One of my most memorable experiences, but not my favorite, was getting pepper sprayed. I never want to go through that pain again…

After my time at Station Cape Disappointment, I went on three weeks of leave, which included spending time with my family and high school friends, flying back out to the west coast to visit my uncles, and going to Boston!

All in all, this summer was the best summer I have ever had. The academic year at the Coast Guard Academy is very intense and stressful, but the summer training programs make everything worth it!

If you have any questions about the summer, or Academy life, please feel free to email me at Amy.M.Chamberlin@uscga.edu. Have a great day!

MORE ABOUT AMY

The Journey of Boards

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

Biggest news to date: I passed boards during the week of February 17th! Now, if you understand what this statement means, then feel free to stop reading here. For those that do not understand, let us venture on a little journey together.

It all started on R-Day; the day my life changed forever. My shipmates of the Class of 2019 reported to the Academy on June 29, 2015 and immediately got screamed at. We ran around sweating for a few hours, saw our parents for five minutes, and then returned to the grind for the rest of the summer. (Side note: I never fully understood why they let us see our parents after a few hours of running around on that first date. It’s like dangling a piece of bacon in front of a newly “discovered” vegetarian. The only plausible reason it would serve is to weed out the people who want to go home right then and there… but still.) Anyway, one of the best parts of R-Day, and even Swab Summer as a whole, is a little something the cadre call “indoc.” Sounds fun, right? WRONG. For the life of me, I cannot do indoc. What the heck is this demon, you ask? Well, my friends, it is short for “indoctrination,” which is a big, fancy word for random facts about the Coast Guard that some higher-up person thought we should all know. Some of these things are downright insane – like the 250-word response that is proper to answer the question “what time is it?” or the one that talks about a “cow.” Needless to say, I found no point in learning indoc. I would literally rather push deck (do push-ups) for hours on end instead of knowing the length, beam, draft, and displacement of Healy.

This mentality worked over Swab Summer because we pushed deck all the time anyway. But, then the school year rolled around, midterms came, the second semester started, and there I was. Little 4/c Sharp in complete denial of all things indoc. Still. It hit me the day before my first board that this was, like, an actual thing. You see, in order to advance a rank (to go from 4/c to 3/c) everyone must pass boards. When our whole class passes boards, we can get social media back, so the stakes are fairly high. I really did not want to be the last one in my class to pass because I hate holding back my shipmates. But, there was only so much indoc I could cram into my head within a 24-hour period. So I studied. Hard. And, with the help of a few people, I somehow managed to get a 6/10. You need at least an 8, however. After that first board, I accepted the fact that I would probably pass last in my class. But I was not about to give up.

Over the course of the next week, I again did not study that much. I focused on my schoolwork until two days before my next exam – just to be clear, you can take one board per week until you end up passing, and the stakes get higher each week you do not pass. By the third time you do not pass, you get placed on restriction and have to take the board with your company’s guidon (2/c who is in charge of the 4/c of an individual company). I was getting nervous and really wanted to pass this time to avoid the stress of being possibly placed on restriction. Again, I learned the course of USCG history in about two hours thanks to a shipmate who quizzed me the night of my board.

Then, that fateful night came about. I was signed up to go in the last timeslot, so I was sitting around and waiting in my SDB uniform for an hour before I got to take my board. Over that hour, I remember psyching myself out. Completely. For some reason, in my head, I told myself “Okay, Kirsten. This isn’t so big of a deal. What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t pass this board tonight, okay. You don’t pass board the next week, alright. Your class is waiting for you to pass boards so that they can get social media. You never end up passing boards, so your class has to square meals even as 3/c. All through 3/c year you take boards and never pass. You make it up to graduation, still squaring away everything, and everyone underneath you has to square too because nobody is there to give them direction because you didn’t pass boards. You are standing up there on graduation day accepting your diploma while still squaring. You will be squaring as an ensign, and they will have no choice but to kick you out of the Guard because who can run a ship while squaring. Nobody will be able to take you seriously. This is the beginning of the end. Right here, right now.”

Then they come for me. The person down in the watch office pipes: “The 4/c board indoctrination exam is secured” but that doesn’t stop anything. The ruthless freight train that is indoc is coming for me. Fast. And no matter how much I try to deny the sound of that whistle, the rumbling of the very ground under my feet, the train keeps on rollin’. I put my cover (uniform hat) on top of my head and try to cover my eyes because I don’t even know what to look at anymore. I go in there, say the mission while being inspected, and then the firstie starts asking me questions. I know the first few, somehow, someway. Then he asks me about a cutter. I went into the exam knowing that I did not know anything about ships or aircrafts, which is pretty much half of the Coast Guard. I ask to skip the question and come back later. Well, it becomes later, we circle back to the question, and he asks me the class of a High Endurance Cutter. I say “W…” (which is the beginning of the identification of the call sign), the firstie feels bad for me and informs me of this. My mind is blank. I am sweating like I just finished a marathon. I have nothing left in my brain. I stand there like an idiot. He is generous and gives me another hint: “His name is on a building on campus.” Again, dumb as can be, I respond “Yeaton.” Bear in mind that this makes absolutely no sense. It’s like being in France and someone asks you what you want to buy (in French of course), and you use the limited amount of knowledge you have of French language and respond whatever the French translation is of “unicorns poop special rainbows on the BBQ.” I had no idea what I was talking about. He takes mercy on me once more; “HE IS ON THE $10 BILL!” I yell back “LEAMY, ALRIGHT? LET’S MOVE ON!” I realize what I have done and finish “please, sir.”

That’s how my board ended. That was it. I thought there was no way on Earth that I passed. I mentally prepared myself to take the board again next week. And the next week. And until I become an ensign. Later that night, my guidon finds me and tells me that I passed with an 8, right on the nose. I literally fell onto the floor and screamed, at which point an upperclassman walked by me, shook her head, and said under her breath “typical Sharp on a Tuesday night.” I didn’t blame her, and just kept thinking “second time’s the charm.” No matter what rumors you hear about boards, everyone WILL pass them eventually. And it will not take you until you become an ensign to pass.

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

Amazing Things on the Horizon

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

Hey, audience. First of all, thanks for reading. My name is Kirsten Sharp, and I am from a tiny town in southern Pennsylvania. Like most cadets at the USCGA, I made good grades and just did well in high school altogether. I was Homecoming Queen, captain of the varsity girls’ soccer team, and president of lots of clubs, all while taking six AP classes my senior year. Needless to say, I have a weird ability to balance a million things at once. Also, I have done a lot of things in my old age of eighteen, but I have never blogged before, and I am thrilled at the opportunity to try something new.

More importantly, I love the USCGA. I decided to come here because of all of the amazing opportunities that have already begun to present themselves to me and my shipmates. From sailing Eagle this summer to meeting people from all walks of life, I am already learning so much about how to handle people and how to handle myself. I see the world opening up every day I wake up to that lovely reveille and prepare for my day. I see amazing things on the horizon for everyone here (and that is not just because my eyes are in the boat all the time). But, it is not enough for just me to see and feel this way anymore. I want to share these feelings with current cadets, parents of cadets, and prospective cadets. I want to remind cadets why they chose the Academy, reassure concerned parents of cadets who never hear from their kids, and encourage prospective cadets because we are truly living the dream. I think that I can accomplish all of this by blogging and expressing my innermost thoughts.

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

T-Boats on the Thames

(Choosing the Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Deborah King

This spring, we had our T-boat lab as a part of Navigation class. For those of you who don’t know, T-boats are older boats that we occasionally take on the Thames River to learn the basics of ship handling. During 2/c summer, we had a week devoted to them, and it was time to use them again during the school year.

To be honest, I expected it to be a rough week. Academically, spring semester was one of the toughest I’ve had, even including 4/c year. Midterms were right around the corner and it felt like I wasn’t keeping up.

Going out on the water changed that. The day was perfect. The warm weather and sun cheered me up. However, the best part was actually driving the boats and giving commands. We did some basic maneuvers including man overboard drills. While we were still learning and we made a lot of mistakes, it made me realize just how much I love being on the water, and why this experience was worth the time and effort.

Very Respectfully,
2/c Deborah King

MORE ABOUT DEBORAH

Reflection

(Choosing the Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Jill Friedman

I’m almost ¾ of the way done with my second class year and I’m trying to coordinate my first class summer to figure out exactly what I want to do when I graduate. With all the planning for the future, I decided to do a little reflecting on where I am now.

I thought about my decision to come to the Academy and I’ll admit it’s frustrating missing out on the ‘normal’ college experience. I talk with my friends, who are at civilian schools, about their life and it sounds nice. They tell me about being able to sleep in, leave campus whenever they want, wear what they want to class, not have the added military obligations, etc.

Then I went to New Orleans for a diversity and leadership conference. I reflected on how much the community went through after Hurricane Katrina hit and the role the Coast Guard played in helping the people of Louisiana. I talked to Coasties who spent months in New Orleans responding to Deep Water Horizon and the impact they had on the maritime community in the Gulf of Mexico. I thought of everything the Coast Guard has done and continues to do in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

No, the Academy is not a ‘normal’ college, honestly it can be difficult at times, but for me, knowing that I’ll be able to make a positive impact on the world makes it worth it.

If you have any questions feel free to email me at Jill.M.Friedman@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT JILL