As told by Landon Carnes, TAMUG AUP Press Officer
National Operations weekend (NATOPs) is a time when Auxiliary University Program (AUP) students from around the nation convene to share ideas along with receiving unique training opportunities. This year’s conference was held at Texas A&M at Galveston (TAMUG), a distinct honor, but also a challenge for the officers and students to plan a challenging event.
The Auxiliary University Program (AUP) was founded in 2007 to prepare students for service within the Auxiliary as well as later in life. TAMUG’s AUP was founded in 2016 to fill a need of students who wanted to pursue either the Coast Guard or the Auxiliary and has since grown to an active organization with 16 members.
TAMUG’s AUP applied to host NATOPs 2018 because we felt we could keep costs low and yet provide unique learning opportunities. Upon receiving confirmation that we would host NATOPs the AUP unit knew that it had a major project to execute and assembled a conference team consisting of Cadets Jacob Patrenella, Jacob Ponchot, Nick Thornton, Liana Salas and Auxiliarist Landon Carnes. Initial ideas were collected, a preliminary schedule developed, and a budget created. Students from Texas A&M at College Station, Arkansas State and Embry Riddle were able to attend.
The first day of NATOPs was to make sure students arrived safely and got a crash course on how things are done at Aggieland-by-the-Sea. Months later (who will ever forget going through yell practice?)
Day two began with breakfast made by Cadet Jacob Patrenella, who prepared most of the meals, and was followed by opening speeches by Commandant Refugio and Dr. Arcuri. Ms. Rivera, both a comedian and rocket scientist, transformed the room into one filled with smiles and laughter setting the stage for our icebreaker exercise emphasizing the importance of communication. After lunch it was off to the TAMUG deck simulator, a facility that simulates the deck of a ship where students can get as close as possible to real world experience. Later it was on to the engine simulator, a computer program where various scenarios can be programmed to present challenges including engine fires.
Following breakfast, the third day took us to Sector Field Office -- Galveston where after being greeted by MCPO Schuler we were split into groups that engaged in a variety of rotations:
• Going aboard two USCG cutters currently stationed at the base and included tours of the bridge and engine room.
• A demonstration by the Maritime Safety and Security Team including an exhibition of their gear, a demonstration of the capabilities of their dogs, and an overview of improvised explosive devices (IEDs),
• A tour of a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter followed by a search and rescue demonstration where a rescue swimmer was deployed to “save” a dummy that had been dropped into the water.
• The Texas City Marine Safety Unit (MSU) gave a presentation on vessel inspections along with a hands-on exercise, and CDR Leonard gave an overview of the relief effort for Hurricane Harvey and the Auxiliary’s role.
Dinner was followed by a demonstration of the wet simulators used for showing how to handle damage control. The simulator was a container unit made to look like an engine room, which would fill with water with the goal being to stop the leak before it reached the “Deadman’s Line”.
Although it is always hard saying goodbye, all of us left NATOPs 2018 with new experiences and new friends. All agreed it was a resounding success but it had been no easy task. Nevertheless, the team agreed that they would be willing to do it again next year if asked.