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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.


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Third Class Summer Station Search and Rescue Case

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Isabel Jimenez

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 ISABEL

Summers at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy

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

Here is an explanation of how summers work at the United States Coast Guard Academy! I have some extremely talented classmates who have made videos from our summers.


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How to Prepare for Swab Summer

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

Hey everyone! The class of 2025 is roughly one month away from the start of Swab Summer so I thought I would share some things that I wish I knew before Day 1! As always, if you have any questions let me know in the comments.

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The Final Blog

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Stephanie Burckhard

Well, the time has arrived. The great Class of 2021 (go odd years!) is heading out to the fleet in just a few days. It still hasn’t hit me yet that classes are done and it’s time to leave Connecticut. The classes of 2022, 2023, and 2024 have been slowly leaving Chase Hall to head out to the fleet or to home for a short summer vacation. It was weird saying goodbye to people I knew I wouldn’t see again for probably a few months or years.

I’m excited to announce that I received my top billet choice! I will be heading to USCGC Bertholf stationed in Alameda, CA as a Student Engineer.

These past few years at CGA have been something I wouldn’t trade the world for. Since Day One, I have made so many amazing friendships that I know will last me well into the fleet and beyond. There have been ups and downs and each time, I have grown as a stronger leader and person. I firmly believe I am a completely different person than when I entered those front gates on June 26, 2017.

The Academy is a challenging, demanding, and rigorous 4-year program. The biggest piece of advice I would leave with is to always cherish the good times. Those will be memories you will turn back on and smile about the most.

To those interested in applying to CGA, go take a visit or apply for AIM. It’s difficult to describe the family atmosphere in one blog and it was this atmosphere that drew me to pick CGA. If you can’t do either, feel free to reach out to any of the bloggers on this page!

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Creative Outlets

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Cole Fulton

It’s important for everyone to have a creative outlet – a way in which to express oneself through another medium. For some, this is athletics: the artistic maneuvers of flipping through the air or shooting a basketball. For others, this can be music: the playing of instruments or the writing of original songs.

I myself have spent considerable time seeking out this creative outlet – trying everything from cooking to kendama (a Japanese skill toy) – until arbitrarily stumbling upon photography. Now, four years later, I’ve found that my journey with photography has taught me technical proficiencies, different perspectives, and other valuable lessons applicable to all aspects of my life. While this may sound corny or repetitive, I feel that it’s important for others to understand photography at its essence so that they may see the benefits of creative outlets in their own lives. Because, unlike the commonly held belief, photography goes far beyond just taking a photograph.

The camera I first started with was none other than the camera on my iPhone 5. Now compared to other smartphone cameras at this time, my 14-year-old self was fascinated by the phone’s capabilities. I was able to shoot telephoto shots, as well as make minor corrections through apple’s digital editing software. I would spend hours setting up mini photoshoots with my friends – and when they got tired of it – with my dog. However, as I continued to exclusively use my phone for photography, I began to notice some limitations. My pictures were half the quality of other professional shots I’d see on Instagram; moreover, certain photographs that require longer exposures were not possible due to the iPhone’s fixed shutter speed. Knowing I needed a better camera to improve my photographs, I began researching my options. And, after nearly 2 months of contemplating, I finally decided on my next camera.

The Nikon D3300. This DSLR camera was the first “real” camera I had ever received. Unlike an iPhone, DSLR’s have a much broader range of capabilities… and certainly are not the shape of a smartphone. The kit that came with my camera included a 24-50 mm lens, filters, an external flash, and many other photography trinkets. My first time using the camera was a nightmare. All my photos came out either overexposed, are grainer than a sandy beach. But, overtime, I eventually learned the ins and outs of this magnificent tools and was able to produce “post-worthy” content. This camera became my most prized possession for the next 3 years until I realized it had its limitations. The D3300 could not perform as well under lowlight conditions and the autofocus was very outdated. In need of a new camera body, I scoured the internet for my next soulmate until eventually finding a match on amazon’s Black Friday sale.

The Nikon Z6: sleek in its design and boundless in its abilities (not really true but it was certainly an upgrade). While my bank account didn’t agree, this was by far the best purchase I’d ever made. I was now able to take quality astrophotography shots and shoot detailed photographs in lowlight conditions. In addition to the camera body, I’d also purchased a 70-200 mm lens and a 50mm lens for wildlife and portraits shots respectively. After using this camera for about 4 months now, I feel like I am close to mastering it; though, only time will tell. I plan on using this camera for the duration of my time at the academy until eventually moving on to a different Mirrorless camera.

Beyond the technical aspects I’ve developed through photography, I have established other skills to be grateful for. Photography has taught me to be confident in myself and my abilities. When working with a client – or while out in public – it is essential that you show you know what you’re doing. Any sense of doubt or insecurity will make others feel uneasy. So, in order to conduct successful photoshoots, it’s imperative that you remain calm and collected the entire time. This directly relates to the bearing that one must uphold as a military officer. In times of danger and distress, Coast Guard officers are expected to maintain a professional presence to guide others to safety. The maturity I’ve learned from photograph has certainly helped me in that aspect of my life.

Another important lesson photography has taught me is to not be afraid of putting yourself out there: you can only hide behind a camera for so long. When I first started getting into photography, I was very self-conscious of what others thought of my abilities. This scared me away from posting on social media or reaching out to other photographers. Overtime, I realized that I would get nowhere in this hobby by staying under my shell. So, I began forcing myself to be under the spotlight by submitting my works to competitions and generating a platform for myself. This allowed me to grow my credibility tremendously and provides another reason to continue this career. I’ve always been reluctant to unwarranted attention, I’m an introvert as some would say. However, photography has allowed me to break through these self-conscious barriers and appreciate my work for what it is, not how its perceived.

Photography is a very important aspect of my life for a multitude of reasons, though at essence, it can be described as my creative outlet. It is a way for me to develop, express, and reflect upon my qualities as a person. This passion has led me to do great things in my life and I can’t wait to see where it will take me in the future.

I hope this gave you a perspective into the essentiality of creative outlets and the motivation to discover your own.

Follow my new photography page: @FultonsFotos on IG.

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My Morning Routine

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Elizabeth Carter

Get a sneak peek of life inside the barracks. Follow Erin Edwards along through her morning routine.


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Excited for Summer, Extra-Curricular Activities

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Elizabeth Carter

Happy spring everyone!! It is finally beginning to feel like spring around here. Outdoor Track and Field season is in full swing, and the days seem to get warmer as time goes on. There is an exciting energy in the air as well, as 1/c cadets count down the days to the long awaited graduation.

This summer is proving to be a gauntlet of its own right, as I prepare for a position on Battalion Staff. I applied back in December of 2020, and upon receiving a role, have been steadily producing work in preparation for the 2021 summer training period. I am beyond excited for what this summer holds for each trainee and cadet alike.

The second half of my summer will be spent on a tiny buoy tender out of Rockland, Maine. I cannot wait to find myself secluded in a small New England town for my 21st birthday. I plan on finding the best lighthouses, best lobster and clam shacks, and exploring national parks. I have heard nothing but good things about Maine in the summer, and I look forward to the time away from New London. It will surely be a different experience from being a 3/c on a gigantic National Security Cutter. I think I will fit right into the ATON life, and bond with the smaller crew once I report in. I’ll admit, I am counting down the days ‘til Rockland!

Ring dance is right around the corner, and the USAA Career Starter loan is just within reach. Things are starting to look up around here, and I am extremely excited to begin the final year of my Academy journey.

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