NEW ORLEANS - Always being ready is the lifeblood running through the veins of the United States Coast Guard. Priding themselves on being the best trained in many maritime evolutions, Coast Guard members are ready to respond with utmost flexibility and proficiency in the face of challenge.
With time, elders pass the experience, knowledge and service traditions to new generations. In the Coast Guard, the pilot house is the school house.
Recently Coast Guard Station New Orleans received a new wave of fresh recruits from Cape May, N.J. In preparation to train them, Station New Orleans planned and organized a "boat crew college."
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacob Mullins, a boatswain’s mate and primary instructor for the boat crew college at Station New Orleans, said, “Five new members have reported to Station New Orleans in the last month, all of whom are required to become boat crew qualified within four months. In order to speed up the process we created the ‘Boatcrew College.'”
Station New Orleans invited staff officers, supervisors and watch-standers from other local units in the area: Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City and the 8th Coast Guard District. They came to attend the course and get a feel for the field-level impact of their operational decision making.
“The primary objective of the boat crew college is to enable personnel within the 8th District area of responsibility to get the Coast Guard boat crew qualification,” said Lt. Joseph Prado, Enforcement Division member at the 8th Coast Guard District. “Boat crew member certification is a part of the Boat Forces Personnel Qualification Standard and a requirement for the Boat Forces Pin.”
After completing the physical fitness evaluation on the first day of the course, the students began with intensive classroom training interspersed with hands-on practical training, covering many topics.
The topics included crew efficiency factors, team coordination, naval engineering fundamentals, marlinspike seamanship, navigation, plotting, the nautical “rules of the road,” rescue and survival systems and first aid.
The coverage of rescue and survival systems curriculum included a pyrotechnics shoot while conducting a cold water survival swim with the proper protective equipment in Lake Pontchartrain.
By the end of the first week the course shifted to focusing more on spending time underway in order to become better acquainted with the boat’s navigation and engineering systems, practice boat handling and towing evolutions and practicing underway emergency scenarios.
“I would like every member to be confident in driving the boat if they ever had to,” said Mullins. “For ‘coxswain down drills’ or just as a crew member, they’re required to moor up to a pier.”
The final days of the course consisted of review for the written test and oral board, and more time underway to practice emergency scenarios for the qualification check ride.
“By design, the content of the class was standardized as it needs to strictly adhere to the topics in the boat crew performance qualification standard,” said Prado. “That being said, the personnel at Station New Orleans did a phenomenal job at presenting the material, making the course engaging and highlighting the importance of some of the topics by placing them into the context of recent search and rescue or law enforcement cases they have had.”