Academy Public Affairs
April 18, 2012
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Contact: USCGA Public Affairs
Office: (860) 444-8270
Mobile: (860) 857-5544
MULTIMEDIA RELEASE: Coast Guard officer candidates, sailing toward a commission
Click on the above photos and video for more specific caption information and to download the high resolution version from the Coast Guard's Visual Information site. Click here to view another video from the two-week cruise.
Officer candidate class 02-12 is a diverse group, regardless of how you look at them. Of the 63 trainees, 39 of them are prior enlisted coming from various backgrounds from within the Coast Guard, 18 are civilians that have earned their bachelor’s degree and stepping into the military for the first time, one is a prior officer from another military branch and five are international students coming from the Bahamas, Belize and Liberia. With ages ranging from 23-37, they’ve all come together with a common goal: to make a personal sacrifice to join the ranks of men and women that proudly serve their country and step into the officer career field to lead our service through the next generation.
“When I first started out, the officers over me had a positive impact on me,” said Jon Ardan, an officer candidate in class 02-12. “I had a lot of people help me in my professional growth and I’d like to do the same.”
For Ardan, with 11 years of enlisted Coast Guard experience as a helicopter rescue swimmer, he’s ready to take his career to the next level as an officer heading to flight school to be able to lead and effect change, while remaining within the aviation community that he’s grown to love.
“What better way to become a servant leader than to serve my country,” said Sean Stewart, an officer candidate in class 02-12. “In my prior career, I was a sergeant with the Galveston Police Department on the special weapons and tactics team. That was a great career, but I knew there was something out there bigger for me.”
For Stewart, with eight years of law enforcement experience, he’s looking forward to becoming a Coast Guard officer so he can expand the reach of his leadership skills as he heads back to Galveston to serve aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter.
Though this class varies in their background, experience and education, they all seem to be here with the common goal of doing more with their lives, whether it’s donning the uniform of their country for the first time or stepping up from the enlisted workforce. It is this common goal that the instructors build upon to turn trainees into the officers of tomorrow.
The officer candidate school consists of 17 weeks of rigorous training encompassing approximately 400 hours of classroom instruction where the trainees learn the foundation of what it is to become a leader in this service. For OCS Class 02-12, sailing aboard the Eagle after completing 14 of their 17 weeks of instruction couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We’ve sat down in the classroom, gone over power points and studied for our tests, but sailing aboard the Eagle here is hands on,” said Stewart.
Many officer candidates look forward to sailing aboard the Eagle as it serves as their practical experience that allows them to test the knowledge and skills that they’ve developed earlier in the course. It’s during these two weeks that prospective officers are really put to the test to see if they have what it takes.
“Experiencing the sea is fundamental to developing junior officers,” said Lt. Michael Bell, an officer candidate school instructor. “Weaving this experience, sea-going traditions and seamanship into officer candidate’s training provides an additional base of knowledge of the sea. No matter which career field an officer candidate goes to, upon graduation, they garner valuable knowledge that they can apply to each specific job they go to in the field.”
Though Ardan will be heading to flight school upon graduation and Stewart off to continue accruing sea time, they both have similar takeaways from their sailing experience aboard the Eagle.
“Everything we do here focuses on the team,” said Ardan. “If we need to haul down the sails for example, everybody needs to work together. Here, it’s a great place to learn practical team building skills.”
Teamwork is the foundation that this sailing experience revolves around. The driving force behind the Eagle’s 23 sails and 139 lines is manual labor. Setting the sails can take dozens of people and the duration can extend beyond three hours during training evolutions.
A benefit amidst all the manual labor required to sail the Eagle is the professionalism and enthusiam of the crew, consisting of seven officers and more than 50 enlisted members, for the officer candidates to learn from.
“This experience on the Eagle is perfect for me,” said Stewart. “I’ve learned so much, especially on the bridge, watching the conning officer, the operations officer and the supply officer. Just hanging by their side observing and listening to how they voice the helm commands and how the commands are given.”
Another highlight in the officer candidates’ curriculum is developing leadership, which becomes even more important as these men and women will be leading the service’s enlisted workforce.
“I started observing how the officers carry themselves, their professional appearance, the leadership traits and characteristics that they portray and what it means to become an officer,” said Stewart. “We were taught that leaders are not born, a leader is developed, molded into a professional that carries himself and displays the traits of a leader, which is unselfishness, teamwork, integrity, honor and respect.”
For Ardan, the transition from the enlisted workforce to the officer side has changed his perspective on task accomplishment.
“When I was enlisted, it was, get a job, grab it, make it yours and get it done,” said Ardan. “Now it’s, get a job, make it yours, but use everybody to get it done. That’s the challenge of being an officer or leader is to use teamwork, getting everyone involved, on the same page and in the same direction.”
“What helped me was my shipmates,” said Ardan. “Watching them climb up the cutter's rig and watching them come down was a big deal. I wasn’t the first one to go up, I’ll admit that. Eventually I went up to get the job done. We all got each other through it. Just like we’ve all gotten each other through this program. Everybody pulls a person up when they need it, that’s teamwork.”
“This is going to be my life for the next two years,” said Stewart. “It’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to sail aboard the Eagle.”
Once the ship and crew complete the two-week journey from New London, Conn., to New Orleans, the officer candidates will only be 12 days away from completing what they initially set out to do. On May 2nd the officer candidates will walk across the stage as they graduate from training and earn their commissions an ensigns in the Coast Guard. For this class, their foundations have been laid and it is now up to the soon-to-be junior officers to build a successful career upon using the tools and traits that they’ve learned throughout the past four months.
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