Reserve boat crew colleges: Honing skills

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard reservists participated in a recent boat crew college at Coast Guard Station Cape May, N.J. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Lt. Scott Farr

Reserve boat crew colleges have been successfully conducted for many years throughout the Coast Guard as a way for reservists to get a concentrated dose of instruction. Station Cape May recently hosted a two-week reserve boat crew college with members from stations Cape May, Atlantic City and Philadelphia and members from Aids to Navigation Team Cape May.

Due to limited funding and other fiscal budgetary constraints, reservists can be limited in additional training opportunities outside of the minimum annual drill requirements. The idea of a boat crew college was pitched to help reserve members get over any qualification hurdles since gaps may go by when they return to their civilian jobs or school before they’re working on qualifications again.

Station Cape May was an ideal location for the training as it is currently the only Sector Delaware Bay unit that operates the Coast Guard’s newest boat platform; the response boat-medium which is a very capable platform with its impressive technologically advanced systems. The station also has the second largest operational station reserve contingent within the sector and constantly looks to improve or provide available training opportunities to its members.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Crewmembers participate in helicopter operations as a part of boat crew training. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Petty Officer 1st Class Gregory Panas, the station’s training petty officer, worked diligently to adapt the training plan to fit the station’s needs using the past curriculum from a Sector Southeastern New England boat crew college held in 2008.

The students were divided up between the RB-M and RB-S: reservists from Cape May would focus on the RB-M while reservists from other stations in attendance would focus on the RB-S since that is their primary asset used at their station.

Although some reservists are currently certified on the RB-S, working on their RB-M qualification, they were able to revisit some of the basic concepts they haven’t seen in awhile or assist their shipmates that needed additional instruction.

“The class was great and very well put together,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class John Flores, a reservist at Cape May. “I think it was good having some of the general and basic subjects in there because it served as refresher for many.”

Typically, active duty members get 45 days to certify on the RB-M as their second boat platform. In order to squeeze as much training into the two weeks, the boat crew college provided 30 hours of in-depth classroom instruction followed by afternoon and evening underway training evolutions totaling more than 108 hours underway.

“I enjoyed the hands on tasks while underway which definitely helped in the learning process,” said Flores. “I would say all of the instructors came across professional and knowledgeable in the subject matter and made the class fun as well.”

Crews comprised of active duty and reserve members made up the boat crews each day. Station Cape May also has four Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas that operate in their area of responsibility so, they were included in the training plan. Local auxiliarists participated in giving classroom instruction to include navigation rules and acted as disabled vessels for underway towing evolutions and mock check-rides.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“The boat crew college really placed an emphasis on teamwork and its success would not have been possible without the support of other units, local active duty members, experienced reservists that participated and our volunteer auxiliary members,” said Panas. “The students really took this opportunity seriously. Each member was very enthusiastic, motivated, professional, courteous, respectful and most of all appreciative.”

The boat crew college ended on the Fourth of July which was fitting. Not only did the crews celebrate and reflect on the nation’s birthday, but the reservists were also able to be proud of their accomplishments as they returned back to their units with the majority, if not all of their performance qualification standards, signed off, ready to take their examination boards and check-rides in the very near future.

Having this two-week training boost undoubtedly took some of the heavy lifting off of their parent units and helped accelerate the qualification process.

“The boat crew college was a great success and provided intensive, high quality training,” said Chief Petty Officer John Murdock. “It was one of the best courses I’ve attended.”

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