Written by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi, public affairs specialist aboard Coast Guard Cutter Eagle.
With more than 200 people aboard Coast Guard Cutter Eagle for the ship’s 75th anniversary voyage, it takes a team of leaders to manage the daily routine. While the cutter has its own formal command structure, a similar structure is in place among the nearly 150 cadets training aboard the ship. Having a cadet chain of command parallel with the ship’s chain of command structures the ship’s management and provides professional leadership development training for the cadets.
During this portion of the summer training cruise, both first and third class cadets are aboard. As the more senior class and having sailed aboard the Eagle during their sophomore year, the first class cadets apply their rank and previous experience to take on supervisory and leadership roles managing the third class cadets. The cadet’s chain funnels upward through the ranks to the top of the cadet hierarchy, the cadet in charge.
“We created a hierarchy for the first class cadets to give them an appreciation for what the command structure does on a ship,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Michael Turdo, Eagle’s executive officer. “They’re getting a little taste of that here – of having to figure out how to use some of their other tools in their leadership bag in order to be effective.”
Second in command to the cadet in charge is the cadet executive officer. Like the ship’s executive officer, this position is responsible for managing daily operations.
“My first priority each day is to account for the cadets. I also make sure all the trainings for the day are in line and that the cadets are getting the most from their training,” said First Class Cadet Samuel Galli, of Cupertino, Calif., who was the cadet XO for part of this summer’s cruise. “From there I’ll attend the executive officer’s Request and Complaint Mast, where anyone on the ship can come in and voice any ideas or complaints with the ship’s executive officer. I’m there to represent the cadets, but at the same time I’m shadowing the XO and learning about the issues he deals with each day.”
Of all the responsibilities Galli had in his role as cadet XO, finding the balance between being an authoritative leader and a shipmate amongst his peers is one of the unique challenges he had to overcome. For him it meant being constantly aware of how he presented himself to his fellow shipmates.
“I’ve learned how to balance professionalism with the personal relationships I’ve formed,” Galli said. “You don’t always have to put on the face of a disciplinarian, but you do have to be aware of the image you portray to the crew.”
“What’s unique and interesting about the cadet XO position is that he’s put in a position where he has to exercise some peer leadership,” said Turdo. “He’s the cadet executive officer, but he also has to work with his fellow classmates. I think that presents him with some unique challenges that helps his leadership development.”
Despite the difficulties and challenges of leading one’s peers, the leadership experience Galli has gained aboard the Eagle has prepared him for his future career as a Coast Guard officer – a position in the service which embodies authority and respect.
“The biggest thing I’m going to take away from my time as the cadet XO is that being an executive officer is a 24/7 job. You have to be willing at any moment to step away from what you’re doing, re-prioritize and help anyone who needs your assistance,” he said. “I’m really thankful to have the responsibility I have, and I look forward to waking up each day for a new challenge aboard the Eagle.”