ISS3 2017

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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Focused study: STA Portland's Coxwain College Imagine working 45 to 50 hours a week, ending your work week, and then going back to work at home to corral identical three-year-old twin daughters. Now, imagine reporting to a job for weekend duty that requires you to be ready at a moment's notice and be responsible for the lives of your crew and the safety of everyone on the water. If everyone around you demands something from you every day of your life, time would feel restricted, if not fleeting, to meet all the challenges. The only way to become proficient at a skill is to practice that skill over and over again. An active-duty boatswain's mate (BM) is expected to earn the coxswain qualification within two years of graduating BM "A" school. Getting qualified for a job that entails life and death decisions can be a challenge for someone who only gets to practice one weekend a month and two weeks a year. This is the challenge faced by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kris Cochran, a reservist at Station Portland, Ore. While his challenges are specific, all reserve boatswain's mates are required to balance obtaining (and maintaining) their Coast Guard proficiencies and their life off-duty. "My twins demand and deserve 100 percent of my attention in the evenings and weekends, as does my wife, two dogs and home," said Cochran. "Finding time to dedicate to the Coast Guard is very challenging. On top of that, as drilling reservists, we are faced with multiple challenges including the weather, asset availability and sharing time behind the wheel with active-duty personnel." To give reservists more time behind the wheel and more time to become proficient with their boat handling skills, the Coxswain College was created. Coast Guard Station Portland hosted this year's college for six break-in coxswains in the Pacific Northwest. Station crewmembers provided a sheltered learning environment that allowed the students to learn and practice techniques with a fleet of 29-foot boats (RB-S II) on the Willamette River. "We were able to get more than 40 underway hours," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Giannetti, a reservist from Station Cape Disappointment in Illwaco, Wa. "We were able to work on towing, search patterns, personnel transfers, man-overboard evolutions and Coast Guard policy for coxswains." During the two weeks of Coxswain College, the break-ins were able to get the majority of their personal qualification standard (PQS) sign-offs completed. Most expect to stand for a coxswain board in August after completing the remaining sign-offs. "Hosting the college here is a good thing for us," said Station Portland's Officer-in-Charge, Chief Ian Thompson. "It keeps the travel costs low because we're bringing the instructor out here, rather than sending six to ten members to the east coast. This year we were fortunate to have a reserve coxswain from Cape D and a coxswain instructor from Yorktown teaching, which minimized the impact to station operations and maximized training time for the reservists." "The coxswain "C" school has played an imperative role in providing me with the knowledge and task repetition needed to certify as an RBS coxswain," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Gruetter, another reservist from Cape D. "Without the instruction provided by the school, I envision that the certification would take an extra year or two to obtain." Even with the fleet of RBSs at their disposal, the college relied on the dedicated service from a boat crew made up of Coast Guard Auxiliary members who acted as the boat in distress for long hours and through various scenarios. The course is commonly known among reservists as the "Coxswain College," but the official title is called the Exportable RB-S Coxswain "C" school. The course content is taken directly from the coxswain course at Training Center Yorktown, Va., and instruction is led by a certified Yorktown trainer. While strenuous and fast-paced at times, the college gives the students the best opportunity to learn a lot of information in a short period of time. "I got hands on experience with underway tasks that I had in the past only read through the steps of completing," said Cochran, "for example, certain search patterns, navigating using only radar and towing methods. If other future coxswains are ever presented with an opportunity like this, I highly encourage them to take advantage of it. I have much more confidence in myself having completed this college, and now I just have some fine-tuning to do." The Reserve is a chance to take the skills developed in the civilian setting and apply them to a fast-paced environment. Many join the Coast Guard Reserve despite the time constraint it puts on their lives because they want to help others, but end up helping themselves more through leadership opportunities provided in the Coast Guard environment. Trying to be a professional in either a civilian role or a Coast Guard role is demanding enough, but trying to do them both at the same time – the challenges can rise to monumental levels. Programs like the Coxswain College help give civilians the training and qualifications they need while the rest of their world is demanding attention. — Story and photos by PA1 Levi Read A boatcrew aboard a 29-foot Response Boat-Small ii brings a towed vessel into a side tow during drills on the Willamette River in Portland, Ore., as part of the two-week long Coxswain College hosted by Coast Guard Station Portland, May 10. Issue 3 • 2017 � RESERVIST 11

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