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cadet blogs

Wait, We’re Leaders Now?

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Lukasik Photo It’s a bigger jump than you realize, going from 3/c year to 2/c year, much greater than the step up from 4/c year. The end of our freshman ordeal at CGA was liberating – the magnitude of the new privileges and freedoms we gained was much greater than that of the new responsibilities we took on. Or, at least, those responsibilities felt somewhat familiar; almost all of us had once been a role modeler for someone, after all – a younger sibling, another student, a junior member of our sports team. We knew, at least in concept, how to guide someone from the vantage point of a slightly senior peer. It wasn’t such a stretch of the imagination. But the jump from role-modeler to mentor, to leader? That’s a big one.


We’ve been preconditioned to think of 2/c summer simply as “cadre summer,” our first big leadership experience, yet to limit the description of the experience such would do it discredit. 2/c summer presents leadership opportunities in contexts you wouldn’t have previously imagine.


As cadre, you lead a full company of scared, stumbling, untrained swabs through training ordeals of every shape and kind. You yell, you IT them, you run remedials, you threaten and persuade and entice them to achieve the desired competencies and attitudes and behaviors, all while trying keep at the rules, safety measures, schedules, and your own outside obligations straight in your head. You see your classmates, your peers that you’ve lived with in company for over a year, transform into people you wouldn’t expect – some for better, some for worse. You see yourself display traits you didn’t know you possessed.


Outside the cadre experience, on T-boats, you practice “Conning” – taking full responsibility for a motorized vessel as you guide a crew of your peers, acting in roles typically filled by Coast Guard enlisted deck force members, through various training evolutions. You consider the environment, the characteristics of your vessels, the placement of your people on deck, as you practice giving commands to achieve the results you desire: a successful man overboard recovery, an anchoring, a mooring. You learn how just how challenging it can be to control a vessel in an entirely “hands-off” manner. You develop confidence in your decisions and precision in your judgments.


On the Coastal Sail Training Program, you learn to lead not a group of subordinates, but a small team of your peers as you navigate a (dauntingly expensive) 44-foot sailboat around ports throughout the Northeast. You find yourself having to direct tasks that you may or may not know how to do yourself; thus, you must learn to adapt, pick up skills on the fly, use your peers’ knowledge and experience as resource, and pick up, process, and synthesize information from your environment to ensure the safe transit of your vessel and your crew. You sometimes cover more than 50 nautical miles in a single day. You’re sometimes in command of your boat for 10 or more hours at a time, with only minimal input and guidance from your safety officer. And through that, you truly develop the “liking for the sea and its lore” that Coastguardsmen are supposed to hold.


No, 2/c summer is not simply “cadre summer” – it’s a multifaceted crash-course in leadership, a leadership “immersion program”. For as fun as it is, it highlights the often daunting challenges that leadership positions present. When you’re in charge, when you make decisions that affect anywhere from a half dozen to several dozen individuals, the stakes are much higher than when your primary responsibility is for yourself. And if you aren’t ready for that authority…well, you have to grow up and step up to the plate very, very quickly.


Now, with the school year well underway, I can say beyond any doubt: this summer, the Class of 2014 did its “growing up” very well. We’re ready to move up in the corps and start our journey as upper-class and as leaders.


More about Jessie.


A Big Decision

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Zwenger Photo Well, lunch is about in 15 minutes so I’ll try and explain to you everything that has been going on in my mind. Two posts ago I talked about how great of a time I had at my station and three posts ago I talked about Eagle. What I didn’t mention was that since the beginning of the summer I was really starting to question what I was doing in the Coast Guard and if the Academy was the place for me. I think some of these problems began when I would talk to my friends at “regular college” and they would always say how much fun they were having. As you can see from my previous posts that was not always the case for me. Regardless, over break I sat down and talked to my parents and basically told them that I was leaving the Academy, however, I would go back just to finish out the semester. In my mind this was not a rash decision because I had been thinking about it all summer, but if I put myself in their shoes I can see how they would be a bit confused. Also when I was home I had people that I was comfortable talking to and knew they would give me an unbiased opinion, as opposed to my friends here who would tell me to stay.

So fast forward to when I get back to the Academy and for two weeks I kept all my thoughts and emotions to myself so they were building up inside me. Until I was about to snap about three days ago and had to Skype my friend Zach King (who I’ve known since preschool) and talked AT him for about 40 minutes. After a lot of venting and hearing what he had to say and some more thinking I decided to stay. This place gets 15 times better after your freshman year because you have your group of friends that you hang out with and you don’t have to put up with all stuff freshman have to do. I’ll talk more about what it’s like to be a sophomore later. Time to go! That’s all. Email me with questions.


More about Spencer.


Station Ponce De Leon Inlet Part 2

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Meyers PhotoWeek 4: More training, and more fun on liberty this week. I learn to love this place more and more each day. While the work we do each day can be challenging, it’s rewarding at the end of each work day to know what you’ve accomplished on your own and what you’ve learned. Something I like about this station is how they organize their sports/PT. On Monday mornings, the whole crew goes for a run. On Wednesdays, the crew plays a sport like volleyball or ultimate Frisbee, and on Friday, the crew is allowed to do whatever they want. What struck me was that most of the crew, while they could have gone off and done their own thing stuck back at the station and all played Ultimate Frisbee. To me that shows how much of a team they really are.


Week 5: Not only have I gotten to know the crew here, but I’ve learned a lot about my shipmates at the Academy. 3/c Zwenger, 3/c Westland, and 3/c Palenzuela are all great people that I look forward to spending time with at the Academy. 3/c Zwenger and I are probably the two closest to each other as we’ve been through the most together. We both biked 20 miles to Daytona to watch a NASCAR race one weekend and then 20 miles back and spend most of our weekend liberty together. The amount of time all of us spend together studying for the ROTR test and doing assorted tasks have allowed us get to know one another almost like family. We all came in here with some comprehensive goals and we’re all well on our way to accomplishing them.


Week 6: I really don’t want to leave Station Ponce. I’ve come to really like all the people here and I love the work I do every day. If it were up to me, I’d go on my 3 weeks of leave and just go back to Ponce as a junior enlisted member and move up the ranks, but that’s not going to happen. Coming in, I had quite a few goals and for all of them I at least made progress. I got my pepper spray letter, Sharpshooter in rifle (3 points from Expert), Marksman in pistol, Comms qualified, and a good deal of boat crew signed off. I filmed all the footage I’ll need to edit a Station video when I get back the Academy, and I got to take the ROTR test. Unfortunately neither me nor my shipmates passed, but we all came close and I’d like to take it again during the school year. As for the online courses, I touched the basics in both courses and learned quite a bit about both programming and systems in signals. This should better prepare me for the difficult academic year ahead for me. I’ve learned a lot, both about the enlisted members life and what their jobs are. I’ve also come to appreciate the hard work that the members at this station put in every single day. I hope that when I get into the fleet the people who work for me will be just as good and just as hard working. One major thing I’d like to take away from this experience is a leadership lesson: You may be granted authority, but you must earn respect. When I become an officer, I will do my best to be the hardest worker on the boat, to set a good example, and do everything in my power to help my enlisted members. They will be there for me as long as I’m there for them.


More about James.