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cadet blogs

Look, Mom, I’m Steering a Cutter!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo I just returned from my six-week summer training aboard Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) Thunder Bay and I had an amazing time! As I reflect on my time there, it’s incredible how quickly my six weeks went, but I also feel as if I had been there for a longer time than that. I had become integrated into the crew, the work schedule, and the cutter lifestyle. Academy life and the people there seem really distant. There is quite a difference between Academy Coast Guard and actual-fleet Coast Guard. It’s hard to explain how exactly, other than it’s difficult to reconcile the two different Coast Guards in my head. Sure, we have the same uniforms and we know the same indoc, but that seems to be the only thing that links us with the rest of the Coast Guard (and I even had a former Academy instructor as the commanding officer of my cutter!) I have to remember, however, that the Academy is an educational and training facility, not an operational/working location, so that can account for the sharp contrast.


Whatever the case, I thoroughly enjoyed my time aboard Thunder Bay (“the T-Bay”). The cutter is stationed in Rockland, Maine, and it is beautiful there. It was exceptionally special to me because the cutter’s area of responsibility (AOR) was the same coast of Maine off of which I had sailed a few years prior on an Outward Bound sailing expedition! As I mentioned, I felt like a regular member of the crew. I learned so much information about this specific cutter and about cutters in general. My catch phrase for my time there was, “It feels great to be operational.” I was assisting with and completing Coast Guard operations, which felt extremely rewarding.


Our cutter completed some very exciting and interesting evolutions and trainings while I was there, and these enriched my experience considerably. What enhanced my time there the most, however, was working toward getting qualifications. I left with an in-port watchstander (security) qualification letter and a helm and lookout qualification letter. These two “quals” mean that I would be allowed to stand duty while the cutter was in port and that I am able to man the helm (the wheel) of the cutter.


Getting these qualifications requires a significant amount of time training—called “breaking-in”—and learning the proper procedures for both normal and emergency situations. Training concludes with a board, a session of questioning to determine if I am knowledgeable to be considered qualified and to be trusted to stand watch or “mind the helm.” It’s quite humbling to think that at just age 19 I am qualified to stand security watch for a huge and expensive piece of property or that I can steer the cutter and am responsible for keeping her from running into any danger. I can’t find the proper word to describe how I feel with these qualifications. Scared and stressed are not right, but those are close to the feeling. I guess I could say I feel the added weight of responsibility. Nevertheless, it is really exciting at the same time that I have proven myself capable to hold these qualifications! I can’t wait to go home and tell everyone how I steered a Coast Guard cutter!


Briefly, a few other highlights from my time aboard the T-Bay. We acted as an escort for a Navy aircraft carrier (those things are HUGE!) while, apparently, both former Bush presidents were on board the carrier. I participated in a mounted firearms training with the crew—we were shooting at foam fenders dropped in the ocean for us. I observed a boarding operation as a small boat crew member and even had the chance to coxswain (steer) the boat while we practiced drills for coming alongside a moving vessel!


Now I am headed to CGC Eagle for five weeks of additional cutter training. Expect a blog on my stories and reflections from that!

More about Justin.


Do You Believe in Miracles?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Wowtschuk Photo Hello, Shipmates! Well, it is official, I can dodge bullets. Tomorrow I am changing my name to Thomas Anderson (you can call me Neo), and putting in for a billet on the Nebuchadnezzar (just look up the reference people; I don’t have time to explain). All joking aside, somehow I graduated and have received what only a few select individuals in history have had the privilege to receive, a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the United States Coast Guard Academy. No matter how hard they try, they can never take that away from me. Oh yeah, I was also handed some sort of letter that says something about officers and the Coast Guard and commissioning or something, I’m not really sure what it is, but I’m not going to worry about it, it’s probably nothing.


This blog was almost never written, it has now been a few weeks since graduation and my motivation to write a blog about the Academy, for the purposes of promoting the Academy (fo’ free) has been waning. Luckily for you all, I was inspired the other day, partly by the crack of my editor’s whip and partly by the kind words of a German artist.


It was halfway through a flight back from let’s say Not Europe, when I decided to start up a conversation with the man sitting to my right. He was a large man, average height but radially challenged and tended to use his own stomach as a substitute for the provided food tray. He wore a grey skull cap on his head, out from which protruded flowing unkempt white hair that came down to just above his shoulders. His face was tired looking, with a deeply set pair of fierce blue eyes, a broad nose, and a white goatee with hairs stretching well below the chin line. He wore an old embroidered vest which revealed skinny white arms covered in an array of colorful flowers, sparrows and doves. His voice was part Mike Tyson, part Truman Capote, and part Hugo Stiglitz. He told me about the art work he was working on, inspired by the Euro Cup; he was covering soccer balls in paint and kicking them at a large blank canvas (Michelangelo would be proud). Although this man and I had nothing in common, I felt a deep connection with him. I thought to myself, “If this man can dedicate his life to terrible art, I can dedicate an hour of my time to an amazing blog.”


It has now been several days since that flight, and in about three hours I will begin my drive out to Seattle, my first ship, and my new life. I am not exactly sure what to expect, but if the Academy has taught me anything it is that I can expect to find competent, hardworking, and selfless people wherever I go.


Fun Facts:

  1. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t see: Frankfurt, Nuremburg, Prague, Vienna, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Naples, Pompeii, and Rome in twelve days.
  2. Frankfurt has the world’s best cabarets
  3. Red plastic cups are not sold in the Czech Republic
  4. McDonalds in Vienna do not provide ketchup
  5. Wedding rings are worn on the RIGHT hand in Serbia
  6. Italians love 1980s fashion
  7. And, evidently, Rome was NOT built in a day


More about Bo.