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cadet blogs

Japanese Coast Guard: A Great Friend

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Chang Photo(15 May 2017) Today is our fourth day underway on the Japan Coast Guard training ship Kojima and, I have to say, it’s been a wild ride. Seriously though, there’s a tropical storm to the west of us so the waves have been monstrous. A good number of us, including myself, have been subject to a bit of seasickness but that doesn’t stop anyone from doing their job. It will be a few more days (hopefully) until the waves die down and we can finally get our sea-legs.


As for daily life, well, it’s pretty awesome. Us USCGA cadets don’t have any collateral duties, so we merely just observe and shadow their watches. Kojima has three watch sections; navigation, engineering and communications. So far, navigation watch had been my favorite. Even with the extreme pitch and roll of the ship, being up on deck was an incredible experience. There are more similarities than I thought; with everything from equipment to charting techniques. A cool thing they do with the watches is that they give them nicknames corresponding to a goal for the watch. For example, our watch today was called “help each other.” It turned out to be really fitting; we helped them with their English and they helped us with Japanese. A pretty good exchange; I can almost hold a conversation.


The language barrier definitely makes things interesting. I practiced some Japanese before coming on-board and I have a bit of an easier time with reading, (Chinese and Japanese share a lot of the same written words) but I’m trying to learn some more while I’m here. There’s also a lot of improvised sign language, which is pretty entertaining. We’re going to be really good at charades after this.


(23 May 2017) Well, we arrive in Costa Rica tomorrow! The closer we get to the port of Puntarenas, the muggier and hotter the air is outside. But the two weeks we’ve spent underway have definitely been worth it. For one thing, the food is extremely good. There’s a lot of miso soup and rice, and the mess deck has a very friendly atmosphere. I think one of the things that makes it unique is that everyone does their own dishes. It’s great because it takes a huge workload off the cooks and non-rates, and, I mean, we’re all adults and it takes just a minute to wash a plate and a bowl, so why not?


(03 June 2017) Our time here is almost up; just a few more days until we reach Baltimore. It’s bittersweet to think about it, so I’m going to focus on all the cool stuff we’ve been able to do so far. First off, Costa Rica was amazing. We toured a Costa Rican Coast Guard base, attended a Japanese-Costa Rican reception on-board Kojima, and picked up a couple of Costa Rican officers for the ride to the Baltimore. Learning about the Costa Rican Coast Guard and the work we have done with them was an eye-opening experience. They are a small country with a Coast Guard that’s only 17 years old, and they deal with an immense amount of drug traffic within Latin America. And, despite being a growing service, they’re good at what they do. The Costa Rican officers that are on-board with us are a couple of the nicest people I have ever met and, although they’re junior officers, I reckon they have as much experience as a salty chief.


(08 June 2017) Well, we said ‘sayonara’ and are at the airport, waiting for our flight back to the Academy. The goodbye was bittersweet, but now we have our next meeting to look forward to. Next stop is a 270’ out of Portsmouth!


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