The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, America’s Tall Ship, is back in the States and scheduled to make a port call in New Bedford, Mass., this weekend. After 83 days at sea on a journey across the Atlantic, the cutter, crew and trainees are nearing the end of the ship’s 75th anniversary summer training cruise with only about 15 more days until they are due to return to their homeport in New London, Conn.,on August 12. As part of thier summer training program, the Coast Guard Academy swabs recently reported aboard to get a sample of life on Eagle…
Written by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi, public affairs specialist aboard Eagle.
The Marine Corps and Army calls them plebes. The Air Force calls them doolies. When they enter the gates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy they’re called swabs, and 104 of them boarded the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle in Boston on July 23 to embark on a five-day training cruise designed to introduce them to life aboard a Coast Guard cutter.
Before they formally enter their first academic year as fourth class cadets at the academy, all Coast Guard swabs receive a seven-week basic military indoctrination. This period is known as swab summer and is akin to training at a traditional military boot camp.
During this phase of their training, swabs learn the basics of military customs, courtesies, history and tradition (among other lessons). For one week, however, the training moves off campus and onto the service’s flagship training vessel – the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, a 295-foot barque square rigger.
“I’m having fun learning about everything, like what the crew does on a ship, the history of the ship and talking with everyone about the different jobs they do,” said Swab Tevin Porter-Perry.
For many of the swabs aboard the Eagle this is the first time they’ve been underway on a ship, let alone a Coast Guard cutter. For them, learning the finer points of shipboard life means getting accustomed to a different style of living.
“I’ve never been underway, even on a cruise ship, so I had no idea what to expect,” said Swab Kyle Sutschek. “I tried to get an idea of what it would be like from watching movies. I kind of pictured something more like the atmosphere in the movie The Perfect Storm, and it was completely untrue.”
“Before I got here, I thought we would have more living space in our berthing [or sleeping] area, but now I’m getting used to it. Some things were not at all what I expected,” said Porter-Perry.
The time swabs spend on the Eagle provides them with a memorable, at-sea training experience. The working environment aboard the Eagle is often a welcome change of pace from the regimented swab summer training.
“We’re not necessarily treated as swabs here, and we’re not being treated like the crew, because we’re not crewmembers – we’re just treated like human beings,” said Porter-Perry. “It’s nice to have a little responsibility, to be trusted to report to duty on time and to talk with members of the crew and hear stories about their experiences in the Coast Guard.”
During their next four years at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the swabs will sail again on the Eagle during each summer training cruise. The short time they spend aboard this summer is meant to give them a taste of what cutter life is like. For some, however, they have taken their time aboard the ship to heart and are already looking toward their future career as Coast Guard officers.
“Sailing aboard the Eagle has been great,” said Sutschek. “I came to the academy to learn what it would be like in the fleet, and this is the first experience I’ve had that’s close to that. Even though this is a tall ship and unlike anything I’ll ever be stationed on, it’s been quite an experience being underway and working with the enlisted crew.”