Coast Guard cadets hop aboard barge tows

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by tankercaptain, Apr 7, 2013.

  1. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    Easy Riders
    Coast Guard cadets hop aboard barge tows.
    By Pamela Glass


    Summer training at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy normally involves sea time on big ships with large crews, navigating big swaths of ocean. But for a handful of cadets, last summer found them on smaller boats, with smaller crews, along scenic brownwater rivers.

    Some of their classmates were surprised that the cadets opted for the seemingly boring, slow pace of the rivers over the crashing waves of the ocean. But the seven cadets that chose brownwater barge operations had an eye-opening and career-inspiring opportunity to learn about commercial navigation and the Coast Guard’s role on inland rivers.

    Cadets worked with crews on towboats and barges from Ingram Barge Co. based in Nashville, Tenn., Canal Barge Co. in New Orleans and Kirby Corp. in Houston. The cadets cruised the Mississippi and Ohio rivers while also learning the business side of barging at shoreside operations of these companies, such as Ingram’s Paducah, Ky., location.

    They hauled lines, coupled barge tows, stood watch, handled the sticks in the wheelhouse, observed vessel inspections and shared some delicious grub in the galley. They learned that towboating is hard work with long, tiring shifts. They also learned that mariners are experts on boat operations and river routes and are sticklers for rules and safety.

    The experience also made cadets more familiar with the inland river system.

    “I knew a little bit about the Great Lakes, but I had no idea how much tugs and barges transport, or how environmentally friendly barging is compared to trucks and trains,” said First Class Cadet Colleen McCue. McCue spent about 10 days at Ingram and crewed on its 168' towboat, the 6,120-hp Aaron F. Barrett, from Paducah to St. Louis.

    “I had no idea how much the Coast Guard interacts with the tug and barge industry,” she said in a recent interview between classes at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. “Cadets learn little about brownwater navigation and vessels in their course work. I’m very interested in working with the brownwater industry and the commercial side. It was so new and refreshing.”

    McCue was one of seven cadets that participated in the academy’s inaugural Cadet Towing Vessel Rider Program that pairs senior cadets with barge companies that are members of the American Waterways Operators. She and fellow senior Alma Pinelo were assigned to towboats at Ingram.

    The program was established last spring under an agreement between AWO and Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, academy superintendent, the result of an idea hatched during a conversation between Stosz and WorkBoat magazine.

    Both the academy and the industry say they are committed to continue the program and expand participation in the summer of 2013. Ann McCulloch said the AWO “will definitely be advocating for greater use of this program going forward.”




    BROWNWATER VS. BLUE

    Although blue water navigation and technology dominate the academy’s curriculum, inland navigation is making some headway into the syllabus and into the conversations among cadets.

    “The program has definitely raised the visibility of the inland towing vessel industry,” said Cmdr. Matt Edwards, an academy professor and program coordinator. “The exposure that the cadets got to the towing industry opened their eyes to all facets of the marine transportation system, and they saw an area that they would regulate, from aids to navigation to traffic management on the rivers.”

    Edwards said the program already has had an influence on course content. “We have discussed the condition of the locks and the economic importance of the movement of coal on the rivers, and this year we’ve been talking about how the low water levels effect commerce,” he said.

    The initiative may also open up other opportunities for cooperation between industry and the academy.

    “Last year, Foss Maritime discussed the new hybrid tugs that they are using, from the technology and business management standpoint,” Edwards said. “We would like to have executives from towing companies come and talk to cadets about how Subchapter M (the new towing vessel inspection regulations) will impact them. While cadets may not have the deep understanding of these regulations, they would understand the importance on the commercial industry.”

    For tug and barge companies, the program is an opportunity to show off their operations. But more importantly, company officials say, it creates a positive link between the industry and the key government agency that regulates them. This is especially important since the Coast Guard will soon be inspecting towing vessels for the first time, and academy cadets may one day enforce the new regulations.

    “We see this as a natural extension of the industry’s support of the Towing Vessel Bridging Program and the move into Subchapter M,” said Dave Brown, vice president, human resources and safety, at Ingram. “You don’t see such opportunities for cooperation that often, and it’s a great opportunity to educate them about brownwater.”

    Canal Barge placed seniors Collin Gruin and Joshua Villafane on the 140'×42', 6,000-hp Joseph Merritt Jones on a trip from Vicksburg Miss., to Cairo, Ill. “They were hands-on and part of the crew,” said Tom Smith, vice president human resources, at Canal Barge. “They did the deck routine, watches, inspecting the towboat, spent time in the pilothouse where they learned about river navigating and the skills demanded of the onboard pilot and got an understanding of how to move tows.

    “We feel they left with a positive impression of the industry and of us as a company,” Smith continued. “They’ve become great ambassadors of our industry.”

    Lessons learned in the first year will help improve the program going forward. All agreed that spending more than seven-to-10 days with a barge company would be helpful. Cadets from the maritime schools, for example, spend up to three months on the water. And preparing cadets more extensively in advance would be a plus.

    “Creating something like a workbook on the towing industry that supports the curriculum at the academy would be a good idea,” said Smith of Canal Barge. “This would allow the industry and the academy to come together to put more structure into the program and give a general orientation about the industry.”

    Coast Guard cadets assigned to Ingram said they would have also liked to have spent more time at the marine safety office in Paducah learning about that function of the Coast Guard and possibly observe officers during an actual boarding inspection.

    But overall, it was an eye-opening experience.

    “All we hear about is bluewater,” said Pinelo, who trained on Ingram’s 6,120-hp, 160' Virginia Ingram. “I was surprised to see how much the Coast Guard does on the inland waters.”
     
  2. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I have NO idea why.... great for USMMA kids.... no reason for USCGA cadets. None.

    Yes the Coast Guard doesn't plenty on inland waterways... but how much will they, as an ensign? There are hundreds of summer training assignments that make more sense.
     
  3. tankercaptain

    tankercaptain Member

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    Id disagree but opinions are like elbows.

    Two words "marine inspection"

    It actually helps to have a CG officer actually know what they are looking at when doing an inspection.
     
  4. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    tug needs to read this thread just to add his infamous tagline.
     
  5. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    So you think 7-10 days a year before they graduate and 90% of them go to cutters is the most cost effective way to do that? Or, are those 7-10 days going to set them up nicely 3 years later when they make it to a sector.

    It's a waste. Give them something that makes more sense for the Coast Guard as a whole. This is like sending someone to learn about mine-detecting dolphins in the Navy. It's a waste. Heck put them at a sector and let them shadow inspectors.

    Of course, in the summer they'll typically do 5 or 10 week assignments, so I don't understand where this 7-10 day span fits into that schedule. I'm not against someone riding on a barge especially if it's on their own time. I am against it, if they could be doing something better for their future careers.

    "I wanted to learn about the brown water commercial world."

    Well enjoy it because the odds are you will be seeing blue water.
     
  6. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Why study government in classes at USCGA when you are going to be on a cutter as an Ensign?

    Why teach engineering at USMA when most are going to go to the combat arms?
     
  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Well, summer training is under a different "command" than the academic training. So while those aren't horrible questions.... they do need their degrees before they can get those fun little commissions.

    I assume they aren't paying their way to the units. I see very little upside.

    Station them with Coast Guard inspection teams, sure, for a 5 week period.

    This, which is military and not academic, is a waste of time and money. Put them with a Coast Guard unit, where they can develop, or let them take 10 days out of their three weeks off to do this (which may been what their doing, I can't tell).
     
  8. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    LITS,

    You would really get steamed if you knew how many different Summer Training Programs AROTC and WP cadets attend that end up having nothing to do with what they Branch at Commissioning.

    My son is pretty sure that the chances of him becomming a Special Forces Combat Diver after he commissions is pretty darn slim yet, this summer he will be going to the SF Combat Diver Qualification Course for 7 weeks along with 20 other cadets, at least 10 of them from the USMA. My son wants to fly, I guess if he ever needs to do a water landing he'll be able to fight off any enemies that swim by.

    My older son went to Airborne, he will soon be a Kiowa OH-58 Pilot, I don't think he'll be jumping out of those anytime soon.

    I think the Brownwater training for that short time could at least be useful to these cadets in the future.

    Cross training in different fields is never a waste in my opinion, though I could understand cutting back a bit with the budget issues we have today.

    You would cringe at some of the training I was sent to back in my days in the CG, I never regretted any of it and in small ways it made me better at whatever job I was doing.
     
  9. Packer

    Packer Member

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    That degree is a waste of time and money. Why teach them anything that is not directly related to their job? I am sure that degree requirememt for a commission could be changed.
     
  10. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    Funny you should mention that, when I was in the USCG a college degree was not required to get your commission. I went from E-5 to commission, college came much later.

    I agree with you, training, any training has it's benefit in the long run.
     
  11. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    And if they were cross-training... I would be less disgusted with it. But, at least from what I've read, they aren't. I'm assuming these are 1/c training opportunities.

    So a 1/c cadet has a total of 10 weeks to train their final summer, before they hit the fleet. Most cadets do 10 weeks, some split it into 5 weeks in an internship and 5 weeks at a unit. I'm OK with that. I'd rack the 5 week internship as an academic experience It's a college, first and foremost, that's why cadets can get degree but, on rare occasions, not a commission, while none will receive a commission without a degree.

    But from what I'm reading here.... is there an operational benefit here? There isn't an academic one. Who is evaluating them? If they're considering inspections, why not go to a sector or MSO, follow around some actual Coast Guardsmen, get PQS signed off etc? If this was worthwhile, why is it only 10 days, and what are those 10 days replacing from the 10 week or 5/5 week schedule? Do any current cadets know?
     
  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I felt the same way at EKMS school in Jacksonville, FL for two weeks. Nothing like going to classes at 9 a.m. and getting out by 1 p.m. for two weeks, just to spend the rest of the day at the beach or mall. Good use of taxpayer dollars.


    The "any training is good" idea is fine in an area with infinite resources, but that's not the reality these days. It wasn't as I was leaving either. So if there are limits don't waste it on this kind of stuff.
     

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