Coast Guard barque Eagle returns to New London after summer training

·4 min read

Aug. 12—NEW LONDON — The wind was light and the sky partly sunny Friday as a mix of people sailed aboard the Coast Guard training ship Eagle into City Pier: swabs and Sea Scouts, Coast Guard Academy cadets and Junior ROTC cadets, enlisted personnel and elected politicians, news media and the new commanding officer of the ship, the first woman to hold the position.

Most had been sailing from New York since last weekend, though the politicians and journalists were among visitors ― also including Coast Guard Academy staff and alumni ― joining briefly for the tail end.

Earlier in the summer, third-class cadets, those entering their second year at the academy, were underway on Eagle for their requisite sea training. But Friday marked the last of three shorter trips for "swabs," the new students who arrived this summer. They stood watch, steered and worked in the kitchen.

They will get their shoulder boards next week and become fourth-class cadets. Their training is coming from second-class cadets, who didn't get a "swab short" on Eagle because they started in 2020, with extra pandemic precautions in place.

Second-class cadet Nick Torres said one of the big differences about training on Eagle is that cadre are trying to teach a sense of independence, whereas the training on campus is "very monitored," with swabs told what to do and what to eat and where to sleep.

"It's been phenomenal," said Maeve Duffin, another member of the cadre, about the time on Eagle. "They're very excited to be here, ready to learn as much as possible, excited to be back to land. A few of them got very seasick."

Others aboard also made a point of saying that Monday was a rough day, with people getting sick. North Carolina native Sarah Somer said Swab Summer started off slow but flew by, and that it was cool seeing what enlisted personnel did on Eagle.

"Yesterday I felt like a real Coast Guardsman," said Jean Ryu of Georgia. "I was swabbing the deck and I was like, 'Man, I'm really part of it.'"

Dana Walker, also from Georgia, said everything has a purpose in the training but you don't always know it in the moment, and you "have to trust the process and trust in your cadre."

Walker is following in her siblings' footsteps: One brother is a lieutenant junior grade stationed in Portsmouth, another brother is in Officer Candidate School at the academy, and her sister is as a first-class cadet at the academy.

Eagle gets first female commanding officer

Capt. Jessica Rozzi-Ochs became commanding officer of Eagle on June 24. Previously in the role was Capt. Michael Turdo, now assistant superintendent at the academy.

"I'm excited to be back in the area, back on board," said Rozzi-Ochs, who said she is "humbled to follow in a long line of distinguished commanding officers." She is the first woman to serve in this role, which she called "long overdue."

Rozzi-Ochs previously served as deputy of Coast Guard Congressional Affairs. The 2000 Coast Guard Academy alumna also served on the Coast Guard cutters Tahoma and Valiant, and she was executive officer of Eagle from 2013 to 2015.

She said of her time on Eagle as a cadet at the academy, "You always remember the good parts. It's climbing the mast and watching the sunset."

Getting the younger set involved

Eagle had several Junior ROTC cadets aboard from New York to New London, including a few from New London High School.

"I've been learning a lot from the cadre and the swabs," said Joseph Shostak, 14, such as how to work some of the sails and harnesses. The New London High School rising sophomore had never done anything more than a whale watch but said he's "always had an attraction to the sea and maritime."

Also sailing from New York were some Sea Scouts, a program of the Boy Scouts of America.

"We have more sailing experience than some of the cadets who have never been on a boat," said Lillian Munro, a recent high school graduate from Virginia. But she's always been on 30- or 40-foot sailboats, not a 295-foot ship, and the experience taught her about the military side.

"You're surrounded by some of the best and brightest kids in the world. It's not easy going into the Coast Guard Academy," said Daphne Kunukcu, a rising high school senior from New Jersey.

Eagle has stayed domestic this spring and summer, with stops in Miami, Pensacola, Galveston, Key West, and Boston. Academy spokesperson Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora said a lot of factors go into the schedule, a big one this year being the need to do recruiting.