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Instilling Grit In Future Leaders: Tall Ship Eagle

by Stefanie Senkow
March 8, 2019

Cadets on the EagleNEW LONDON, Conn. -- “Eagle is a place where the cadets are the mission,” said Captain Michael Turdo, who is about to become the new commanding officer of Eagle, the Coast Guard’s flagship training vessel for cadets.

And what is the mission at hand? Cadet transformation. Whether coming aboard as swabs and learning how to sail, third class cadets earning nautical qualifications, second class cadre leading the underclassmen, or first class cadets gaining a junior-officer-like experience, cadets are put to the test.

Eagle provides a practical opportunity to take classroom lessons and apply them in a very dynamic environment,” said Eagle’s current commanding officer, Captain Matthew Meilstrup. “It instills grit in our future leaders.”

All cadets are required to spend at least six weeks aboard Eagle during their Academy career, but some are so inspired by the experience, they elect to be cadre aboard the ship, a leadership role upper-class cadets take on to train their subordinates. This is the case for third class cadet (3/c) Jasmine Rodriguez.

“When I was selecting my role as cadre, I wanted to select the things that influenced me most as a prospective cadet. Eagle stuck with me, it was a reprieve to my summer and reminded me of why I chose the Coast Guard Academy,” said 3/c Rodriguez.

But it’s not all work and no play. Cadets get some much deserved time-off aboard Eagle and are able to venture into exotic port calls, swim, snorkel and immerse themselves in the local culture.

“Bermuda was amazing and I experienced some of the best snorkeling. I even remember dodging jellyfish with my friends during our swim call,” said second class cadet (2/c) Patrick Wheeler.

“During a port call to St. Thomas, we volunteered at the local aquarium and got to feed animals and tour the surrounding nature preserve,” said 3/c Rodriguez.

Whether on board Eagle for six weeks or more, the lessons learned are invaluable.

Eagle has given me an appreciation for traditional sailing, teamwork and comradery,” said 2/c Wheeler. “Eagle needs a full crew of 80 people; you can’t just turn the mast on your own.”

Eagle is the real deal,” said 3/c Rodriguez. “When you’re on that ship, you are literally in charge if something is ‘off,’ it may send the ship back to port for repairs. It’s a very maturing experience.”