The United States Coast Guard Cutter Eagle, America's Tall Ship, returned to its homeport of New London Friday with a history-making commanding officer. Capt. Jessica Rozzi-Ochs is the first female commanding officer of the Eagle.
“It is long overdue, but I think it’s important to show young folks that really anything you can put your mind to, you can do it and I hope to just inspire future generations," Rozzi-Ochs said. "I appreciate the opportunity the Coast Guard has given me."
The USCGC Eagle is the only active-duty sailing vessel in America's military. It was built in 1936 in Germany and was taken as a war reparation following World War II. Since the 1940s, the Coast Guard has been using the Eagle as a classroom at sea for future officers.
“We teach them about what it is like to go to sea, life at sea, we teach them basic navigation, seamanship, engineering, and damage control," Rozzi-Ochs said. "And really wanting to get them excited about being in the Coast Guard."
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As the Eagle made its way back to New London Friday, NBC Connecticut was invited on board. A group of about 100 cadets were wrapping up a week of training in New York. They are the academy's newest students and it was their first time underway on the Eagle.
“We are getting introduced into the military life from being a civilian, so there is a lot that goes into it," said Dana Walker, who has three older siblings serving with the USCG. “My sea legs are definitely growing.”
The USCGC Eagle is 295 feet long, with more than five miles of rigging, and 23 sails. The training is difficult, but the cadets work together.
"It really takes all hands on deck to be able to operate this ship safely and to be able to sail," Rozzi-Ochs said. "One of the foundations is learning how to work as a team and to get everyone working together to be able to make this ship go.”
Twin sisters from West Virginia, Lisa and Gina Sobinovsky, said they were thankful to complete the training together.
“The first few days it was a little overwhelming- seeing all of the lines and climbing up and down the platform," Lisa Sobinovsky said. "After a few days, you get used to it and it becomes very fun. You learn the different ways things operate. It is quite the experience.”
The cadets said they will never forget their first week underway on the Eagle and are grateful to learn under a history-making commanding officer.
“It has been so inspiring to see so many females in a commanding role and it just makes me proud to be a female in the service," Gina Sobinovsky said.