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cadet blogs

Week 3: Rapid Relief

(The Cadet Experience, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Sherman Photo Week three went even faster than week two (and I said that was fast)—not to mention that due to the holiday (Memorial Day), we only had a four day week. The week was spent mostly preparing to take over my collateral duties from the lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) who was departing at the end of the week for a new unit. There were a few other side projects here and there, but I mostly worked on preparing the memos (letters of designation) that would formalize the record of my duties. Most of the memos were easy and straight forward, but the one I worked on for the communications officer relief was a bit more involved. I had to become familiar with the work being done and what needed to be done by the communications division onboard the ship as well as know the status of required drills and inspections.


Like many projects, the majority of the work ended up taking place on Friday, the last day that the officer was here. It was a whirlwind but everything got completed on time. I still have much to learn about my responsibilities but thankfully the members of the crew in the division are willing to help. I know enough to stand as their division officer, which is a pretty exciting experience. It just so happens that there is a gap between the departure of one officer and the arrival of her replacement, so in the interim, I get to fill in! It doesn’t always happen like that for other 1/c cadets on other cutters. What a great preview of the year to come and my first few years as an officer!


A highlight for this week was on Wednesday when Andy and I joined members of the cutter’s law enforcement team at their boarding officer training. They were reviewing the handcuffing and escort techniques we learned in Personal Defense II at school. It was great to see that we were learning the same techniques they teach in the fleet. There were some escorts that we hadn’t learned yet, and the instructors had a few tips for making the ones we had learned more effective. We basically had several personal instructors, which was a much better learning environment than a large class at school.


And as usual, I’ll conclude with a leadership lesson for this week. Again, it’s difficult to pin one thing down. I think the lesson that I learned that stood out to me the most was not quite one about leadership, but more about being a good manager. This week showed me some best practices for passing off assignments and duties to successors. Most importantly, I realized that during this relief process I should start preparing for the next relief process when I pass off the responsibilities. In this case, of course, that will be in a few weeks, but something to remember for next year is that with my collateral duties, I should keep good notes about what I did and when and how so that I can remember the details and intricacies of the duty right off the bat and not here and there. A well-organized collateral binder is super helpful, as I found out this week.


That’s all for now, but I’ll be writing again before I know it!


(I didn’t like that we got to go out to lunch in civvies when the rest of the crew was working hard, it was hot, and they didn’t get libo…sigh, military)



More about Justin.


Summer Training: Rules of the Road

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Summer training continues here at the Coast Guard Academy. My section, cadre 1a, was at the Academy last week for Rules of the Road (ROTR) training. To be honest, ROTR is one of the more difficult things to explain to people outside of the Coast Guard. I usually say that ROTR is kind of like drivers ed, but for ship driving instead of cars. The ROTR book (which is what we were trained on all week) is like a legal document, which describes the proper action to be taken to avoid collisions at sea; however, there are many other parts of the book in addition to collision avoidance.


The purpose of the ROTR training is to pass a deck watch officer exam at the end of the week. As officers, we will all qualify as underway officer of the deck (OOD) at some point, and it is the OOD’s responsibility to ensure safe navigation of the ship. The ROTR exam was a 50-question, closed book test, and we needed a 90% to pass! The test covers over 200 pages of material, including: lights and day shapes (on vessels); conduct of vessels in sight of each other; conduct of vessels in restricted visibility; and much more. To add to the challenge, the rules differ internationally and inland. As you can probably tell at this point, the ROTR test is difficult.


I spent about three hours each night studying for ROTR in addition to the five hours in class each day. After class, I would clean swab rooms, work out, eat dinner, study, repeat. It was certainly a challenging week, but it paid off. Thanks to great instructors and a lot of studying, I passed my ROTR test Friday afternoon with a 100%. I was very happy with that because I aspire to be a deck watch officer in the fleet, and I tested well on the material that I will need for the rest of my career. The rest of my class did exceptionally well too. Out of a class of over 30, only three cadets did not pass. That is an extraordinarily high percentage, considering we only had four days of class due to Memorial Day. The typical passing rate for that week is 60%, and overall, the passing rate for any given week is about 70%.


I think the main reason so many people passed is that we didn’t want to take the test again. At the Academy, you have to pass the closed book ROTR exam. If you fail, you must continue to retake it over and over again until you get a 90%. After you have passed, you may take the exam open book. We have to retake the ROTR exam every four years (I think) for the duration of our careers, so even captains in the Coast Guard are taking this exam.


ROTR is a very difficult exam to pass in a week, but I am glad it is that way. Previously, ROTR was part of our junior year nautical science class, but with the demands of other academics and sports, the passing rate for ROTR was very low. Now, we spend one week on it so that we can focus.


If you have any questions about summer training at the Academy, please feel free to email me at



More about Hunter.