Answering the Call of the Sea at the Canadian Coast Guard College

Two Coast Guard ships

Answering the Call of the Sea at the Canadian Coast Guard College

 
Welding in the machine shop

Campus Life - Daily Life as an Officer Cadet

 

A group of officer cadets doing marching drills

An officer cadet working in the engineering simulator

A group of officer cadets working together in the library

Officer cadets participating in a triathlon in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia

The four-year Canadian Coast Guard Officer Training Program marks the beginning of an Officer Cadet's commitment to the Canadian Coast Guard. They are employees of the Federal Public Service and their training is considered a full-time job. The life of an Officer Cadet is one of continuous learning, self-discipline, and respect for the organization.

A Typical Day on Campus

The day begins with Officer Cadets participating in drill formations called “divisions”, in Canadian Coast Guard uniform. Officer Cadets are expected to be punctual, in proper dress, and perform the drill in sync.

Following divisions, Officer Cadets have in-class theoretical and practical coursework. Classes generally run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. The College offers highly specialized classes to suit the needs of the different streams. Navigation students learn practical navigational skills by using simulators, such as how to pilot vessels using only radar; engineering students work with engines and electronic systems, such as monitoring and maintaining a vessel’s hydraulics systems.

A Typical Day on Sea Training

Officer Cadets have the opportunity to apply their training by spending time on a vessel. Navigation Officer Cadets spend fifteen months at sea and Engineering Cadets spend nine months, working alongside fully trained professionals on real Coast Guard missions. The sea training phase provides the Officer Cadet not only the hands on experience but a thorough understanding of the Coast Guard operations.

After hours

Following a full day of classes, Officer Cadets can do further study in the library, swim a few laps in the pool, or relax in the games, music or media room. Officer Cadets are encouraged to develop their leadership skills by taking part in various committees, community events and other extra-curricular activities such as charity events.

Discover real life experiences from Officer Cadets

Testimonial

"I’ve had the opportunity to walk on glaciers. I’ve had the opportunity to go ashore, and see a small settlement, like historical places, like an old R.C.M.P. detachment. But … that’s one side of it, that’s the exploration side. I’m also learning a lot about ship systems, the way engines work … and, in my opinion, I’ve received excellent instruction here.” – Engineering Officer Cadet Sheldon Ottely, during his first sea phase aboard the CCGS Des Groseilliers in Canada's Arctic.

“I really enjoy the operations, getting to see a buoy taken out or being put in the water for the first time. It's pretty exciting for a "green horn" as they call it, or a "punkey" in Newfoundland. Something like that is amazing to see. The team work that develops and how a hand signal can mean so much to so many people on the deck. Or one word from the Captain and everything just happens. It's incredible to see that.” – Navigation Officer Lisa Earle Class of 2007

"I have sailed to parts of the world I never imagined and I have seen things I never thought I would. There is nothing more rewarding than the thanks and appreciation you get from helping fellow mariners that encounter troubles at sea. The relief and happiness you see when we arrive to assist them makes the job worthwhile.” – Jamie Shave, Navigation Officer, CCGS Henry Larsen

Interviews

Interview of Navigation Officer Lisa Earle upon graduating from the Coast Guard College on June 2, 2007.

[Interview Transcript]

For me the choice to become a Coast Guard Officer was [..] I was looking for something. Like many others here, I was looking for a career that makes you proud, that makes you feel whole. I come from a long line of fishermen. My grandparents both fished. Their grandparents before them were all fishermen. I grew up on the water, on the coast of the sea. You know the strength of the sea. You know what it can give you and you know what it can take away. I really wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be able to be part of an organization that helps people that earn their living on the sea. For me that is why I became a Coast Guard Officer.

Going to sea for a Coast Guard Cadet, it's what you definitely work towards. After the first year you get to go to sea and you start to see what your career is definitely going to be about. You're here at the college studying for a long year and then you finally get to go aboard of a ship. You get to see how things are run, how the officers work, and what your job will actually be. You can read all about it in a book but until you're on a ship and you get to be part of that experience, you don't know what it really is. So at that point for me, that was when I more than knew that this is what I wanted to do. I got to see it and be it and know that this is just so right. Just the right choice. Probably the most important part of that experience is seeing that, to be able to see that this is where to fit in. And you know that this is right.

I really enjoy the operations, getting to see a buoy taken out or being put in the water for the first time. It's pretty exciting for a "green horn" as they call it, or a "punkey" in Newfoundland. Something like that is amazing to see. The team work that develops and how a hand signal can mean so much to so many people on the deck. Or one word from the Captain and everything just happens. It's incredible to see that. I really enjoyed the light station refueling in BC as well. It's probably something that's not going to be going on for much longer. So, to have gotten to be a part of that was really incredible. With all of the light stations being automated in every other region, to get to see that was pretty incredible. So it's mainly the operations for me, just seeing how everything came together. You learn about buoy work from a book while you're here and from your instructor. You think you know all about it but when you get out there you learn that you didn't know anything at all. Here's the real story. The operations is definitely the biggest plus for me.

I have been posted on the Des Grosseillers out of Quebec City and my first trip will start on the 6th of June, very soon. We're headed to the Arctic and I'm very excited to get to go North and to see everything that happens up there.

I'd be really being a Chief Maid on a ship. We did a Bridge Resource Management course recently and I ended up in the position of Captain. And they threw everything at us from sinking and burning ships with survivors on life rafts and we had our Chief Engineer break a leg in the engine room. We had so much going on, including rough weather. I was the Captain and I noted that everything went smoothly. It made me realize that I want to go all the way. I want to be a Captain of a ship. That's my goal and I will work until I get there.

Going through the route that I did, coming through the College, you must always stay open-minded and take advice from others but also use your own common sense together with that advice to decide on what you're going to do. I think that's one of the best pieces of advice that I was given while at sea. They said, ask those around you about what they think. You have bowsmen with 20 or 30 years' experience. Don't be afraid to ask them what they think and for their opinion. They've been there before and they will probably be there again. And they probably have so much experience that they can share with you. You take what they have to say, what other officers have to say, what the engineers have to say, and then you formulate your opinion from what they've said and from what you feel. That was probably my best piece of advice and that's what I would tell a new person considering a career here. Stay open minded and draw on everyone else's experience, as well as your own.

It feels absolutely fantastic to be a Coast Guard Officer. You work for long, tough years to finally attain your goal. It's fantastic that in the next couple of days we'll be recognized for what we did. Terrific!

I really do feel quite strongly about the Coast Guard and I am thrilled to be heading into this career right now.