Ten cadets of Paducah Tilghman High School’s Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (PTHS NJROTC) unit recently got underway on the U.S. Coast Guard River Buoy Tender CHIPPEWA (WLR-75404) for a training cruise on the Ohio River. The CHIPPEWA, based out of Paris Landing, Tennessee, patrols the Ohio and Mississippi maintaining navigational aids along approximately 200 miles of critical waterways in the Midwest.
The cadets embarked on the CHIPPEWA at the Paducah riverfront on Tuesday, November 9 for a six-hour transit down the Ohio River to Cairo, Illinois, where the vessel docked for a short while before continuing its mission up the Mississippi River.
During the trip downriver, the cadets received hands-on training in shipboard damage control, fire fighting, dewatering, emergency equipment, navigation, emergency procedures, and knot tying. Dustin Shirley, a Paducah Tilghman sophomore in his second year with the NJROTC unit said, “I really liked spraying water with the fire hose and putting on all the emergency firefighting equipment.” “I just enjoyed riding the boat and observing the Coast Guard operations. The whole experience was great,” added sophomore Matthew Riley. Each cadet practiced throwing a bolo, simulating participation in a personnel rescue mission. A bolo consists of a hard rubber ball with a rescue line attached that can be thrown to someone in distress in the water.
The Paducah Tilghman students observed the operation of a lock and dam close up, as the CHIPPEWA and her crew transited through the U. S. Lock and Dam 52 at Brookport, Illinois. They also saw the U.S. Lock and Dam 53 at Grand Chain and the under-construction Olmsted, Illinois lock and dam.
As the NJROTC cadets watched, the crew of the CHIPPEWA placed one buoy in position to mark the edge of the navigational channel, and retrieved two other buoys that were out of position.
The CHIPPEWA, when mated to its aids-to-navigation barge, is 205 feet long and 30 feet wide. The vessel was put into service in 1965.
“Having the cadets onboard was a great way for them the learn the mission of the Coast Guard and to see an active duty branch of the military in action, doing what they’re trained to do,” said Boatswain’s Mate Chief Petty Officer Toby Vanwormer, the CHIPPEWEA’s executive officer.
According to the cutter’s commander, Boatswain’s Mate Master Chief Petty Officer Scott Ehrich, the training opportunity for the Paducah Tilghman NJROTC students was first suggested by the Reverend Kempton Baldridge, chaplain for The Seaman’s Church Institute in downtown Paducah. “We hope to have the NJROTC students onboard again in the future for more training periods,” said Ehrich.
Paducah Tilghman students who got underway on the USCGC CHIPPEWA were Rebecca Boone, Branden Diggs, Patrick Lane, Matthew Gager, Benjamin Kohler, Cody Thomas, Chay Sims, Brandon Hummel, Dustin Shirley, and Matthew Riley. They were accompanied by the Paducah Tilghman NJROTC Senior Naval Science Instructor, Lieutenant Commander Don Taylor, a retired naval officer. For getting underway on a military vessel, the cadets were awarded the NJROTC Sea Cruise ribbon to wear on their uniform.
According the Lieutenant Commander Taylor, “This was an incredible experience for our students here in the Heartland. They were able to see the pride and professionalism shown by the Guardsmen as they went about their regular mission.”
The award winning Paducah Tilghman High School NJROTC unit is in its tenth year.