During the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle’s summer training cruises, Coast Guard Academy cadets get a chance to get out of the classroom and out on the water. Each summer they are provided increasing levels of training, experience and leadership aboard Eagle. While the first class cadets hold senior leadership roles and work on qualifications in preparation for their impending Coast Guard career, the second class cadets manage the swabs and assume a variety of shipboard duties. But, it is in their sophomore year, as third class, that the cadets are given a full indoctrination to running a Coast Guard cutter.
Written by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi, public affairs specialist aboard Eagle.
When it returns to its homeport in New London, Conn., Aug 12, more than 550 cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy would have sailed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle this summer.
The experience they have aboard the 295-foot barque sailing ship is meant to provide the cadets with an introduction to a career at sea. As the future officers and leaders of the Service, it’s imperative each cadet be trained in every facet of life underway – the Eagle provides cadets with that experience.
Once they report aboard the Eagle, each third class cadet is placed in a seven-day rotating training schedule, which trains them in five functional areas of underway life – operations, engineering, support, deck and damage control.
Operations training is designed to teach cadets the fundamentals of ship navigation. During this phase of their training, cadets learn celestial navigation and the basic fundamentals and principles of sextant use – determining the ship’s position using the position of the sun, and recording and maintaining navigation logs and records.
Engineering week is designed to teach cadets the fundamentals of the ship’s mechanical systems. The goal is to provide the cadets with a basic understanding of how the ship’s systems operate and work together.
During this phase, cadets conduct engineering rounds, perform tank soundings, stand watch in the engine room and learn how to record and maintain engineering logs, records and reports. Additionally, Basic Engineering Casualty Control Exercises, or BECCES (pronounced “Beckys”), are performed to simulate scenarios such as combating an engine room fire or flooding in order to better prepare cadets for at-sea emergencies.
“Engineering is different from all the other training weeks because you’re the one who keeps the ship running,” said Third Class Cadet Wyatt Harvey. “While doing rounds with the oiler, we would walk all around the ship and learn about how everything worked and where everything went to keep the ship running.”
While Coast Guard cutter operations usually center on the ship’s mission, it’s essential the cadets understand the importance of a safe, clean and healthy workplace. During support training, cadets perform several duties, including mess cooking, food preparation and service, and cleaning.
“Helmsman and lookout watch are very structured,” said Third Class Cadet Christopher Saylor. “With support week, it’s a little more relaxed. As long as you have a good attitude, you can have a lot of fun. We would listen to music while we worked, and we would make games of what we were doing – like see how fast we can clean a tray of silverware. Some of the work was tedious, but we had fun doing it.”
The most obvious training the cadets receive while aboard the tall ship is training on the safe operation of the entire sailing rig, a responsibility of the boatswain’s mate of the watch (or BMOW). Cadets work for the BMOW and learn skills related to setting the sail, marlinspike seamanship, rigging and small boat handling. Aside from working with the BMOW, cadets also assist with ship maintenance – painting, varnishing, cleaning – and ceremonial preparations.
Damage Control Training
Essential to shipboard life is preparing for emergencies. During damage control week, cadets learn the fundamentals of shipboard firefighting, flood control and basic first aid.
Donning protective fire gear, connecting and operating firefighting equipment in the confined quarters of the ship, and controlling and suppressing flooding are taught and regularly practiced. In addition, each cadet learns basic first aid principles, including how to dress and treat a wound, care for a patient in shock, perform rescue breathing and learn the components and use of the “gun bag” (more commonly called a first aid kit).
“At any cutter in the Coast Guard, you have to get qualified in damage control,” said Third Class Cadet Nicholas Perry. “The more experience you’re exposed to in damage control the better you’ll be. My most memorable experience was the pipe patching exercise. It was interesting to see how everything worked in case we had to patch up a leak in a real emergency.”
Next phase: Swabs
While the third class cadets sail aboard the Eagle for several weeks getting the full spectrum of training, swabs receive an abbreviated indoctrination while aboard. For many swabs, their time aboard the Eagle marks the first time any of them have been underway on a Coast Guard cutter, let alone a square rigged ship. The abbreviated training prepares them for their return as third class cadets.
Whether they are third class cadets or swabs, the training they receive aboard the Eagle provides them with a unique learning environment, while introducing them to the rigors of living and working aboard a Coast Guard cutter. The lessons they learn aboard the Eagle provide the foundation necessary for their future careers as Coast Guard officers.