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cadet blogs

Academy Questions Part 1

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Many people have emailed with their questions (which I love). One survey included the following questions and I figured they would be enlightening for everyone.

1. What is the Academy known for?

The Academy is known for a few things, but here are the top few, in my opinion at least. It is a top STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) school among New England universities. It has a great teacher:student ratio with a lot of one-on-one attention. It has the tall ship Eagle, which cadets are trained on during different summers. The Academy also produces 50% of the officers in the U.S. Coast Guard.

2. What is the atmosphere?

The atmosphere of the Academy is moody and fairly cynical, but also hilarious in a way only cadets can understand. It’s like living in an inside joke. It is definitely one of the more sleep-deprived universities you will ever come across. It is also one of the more studious and hard-working.

3. Do you like/not like the Coast Guard Academy? Why?

I do like it and I would choose the Academy again if I could go back in time. It’s mostly the people that make the place. Most of the teachers are also great and know you by first name, which is neat. It’s not easy and it’s not always fun, but I would not trade any other college experience for the friends I have made here.

4. What are some of the rituals/traditions at the Academy?

There are a lot, but some are more secretive. The most well known are Swab Summer where incoming freshmen go through seven weeks of training. There is also a buoy that you can ring for good luck before tests. There are chains that freshmen hide each year at Homecoming to get a week of privileges if no one finds them by halftime. All the juniors receive a ring that has their class crest and the Academy crest on each side. Seniors receive swords…The list continues.

As always, email me any questions/comments. Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

More about Jessica.

What's Up? My Age.

(Just for Fun, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Justin Sherman February is a pretty intense month, celebration-wise—for me, at least. February 6th is my birthday, and then, of course, there’s Valentine’s Day. Additionally, here at the Academy, we have 100th day that usually falls in the first week of February, too.

What is 100th day? It’s the day that marks one hundred days remaining until graduation, and the fourth class cadets act like second class cadets (carry-on and have upper class privileges such as Facebook) for the day while the second class cadets act like fourth class—in other words, they attempt to brace up and square corners.

But 100th day comes with a price called 101st night. I don’t want to give too much away. Let’s just say Incentive Training for a few hours…(Thanks to 2/c Parocha and all the rest of the Echo 2nd class who brought back the memories of Swab Summer—the good ones.)

It just so happened that 100th day fell on February 6th this year, so I had full carry-on for my birthday. That was pretty nice. This was my first birthday away from home, too, so that in itself was really special. (Because I had carry-on, I was able to use Skype, so I video called my parents! That was an awesome gift!).

This was probably one of the most exciting birthdays I’ve had. I got TONS of birthday cards from friends from high school, from my church, relatives, and family friends. It was really awesome. For about a week, every time I went to my mailbox, it was stuffed full of cards. And I got three packages!

Two were from my parents. One was of some items that I had requested—snacks, toiletries, knick-knacks. One special snack I wanted was a bag of popcorn kernels. Back at home, making plain popcorn (no butter or salt) has always been a popular snack. I can’t believe it took me until second semester to bring that tradition here. It is the little things like this—bringing home to the Academy—that reminds me that home is never too far, even in Chase Hall.

The second box from my parents contained cookies and brownies for me to share with my friends as a kind of birthday party. Those were delicious!

The third package was from my friend Hannah. She made Coast Guard cut-out cookies and decorated them. They were really well made! 

I can’t forget to mention that over my birthday weekend I went out to dinner with my Aunt Jen (from the Hartford area) and a friend from my company, whose name is also Justin. We went to Michael Jordon’s Sports Café. The food was delicious, and we had a wonderful time catching up.

That about sums up my birthday celebrations. And now we move on to Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been one to really get into the whole V-Day love scene, so we’ll see how that goes... I wonder how many secret valentines I’ll get.

As promised in January to close I will give another CGA acronym (see blog for January 2012 for more explanation). This one’s by my friend Josh. Craftily Grab Apples Because the 4/c cadets have to keep their eyes in the boat when in the wardroom, we have to either stand completely in front of the fruit stand by the entrance of the wardroom or make sneaky, quick side glances out of the corner of our eye as we pass and hope that we picked a good piece of fruit.

Another note about the fruit: This past week, I was an escort for some Admissions staff, and one of the men with whom I sat mentioned that he noticed most of the cadets grabbing a piece of fruit or two when they walked in the door. I never really noticed that, probably because it’s part of Academy culture.

I have found that I am eating a lot more fruit (and vegetables, for that matter) than I did back home. I think part of it is availability—the fruit is always there in the wardroom, immediately as I walk in. Also, I usually grab an apple or banana before heading back up to my room; fruit makes a great snack. I usually eat several apples a day and at least one to two bananas on top of that! I like to think that my doctor would be proud. I managed to continue to eat healthy (if not more so) at college. Then again, I’m at the Coast Guard Academy. Being healthy is quite important.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll write again in March when it’ll be practically spring. Although, I really can’t complain. This past week has been exceptionally balmy!

Look at me, I just keep writing. I can’t stop! OK, this is the end. Promise!

More about Justin.

Chugging Along

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
  Alexis Chavarria-Aguilar For cadets, winter leave is the epitome of awesome. Aside from our three-week break in the summer, this is the only time you can go home without a single thing to worry about. During winter leave, there are no upcoming finals to worry about, nor any impending homework assigned by unsympathetic instructors. It is the best time to just relax and practically do anything you want. After spending an entire semester upholding our fourth class duties, I embraced my break whole-heartedly. My favorite part of going home was seeing my parents’ faces light up at the airport. Our dogs were a riot too, and even my cat took the time to acknowledge my existence upon my arrival. However, the grandeur of winter leave had to come to an end sometime. Although it was rough leaving home again, coming back to my Coast Guard family was exhilarating.

Our first few weeks of school have not been easy. Just like last semester, I’ve struggled to get my priorities in line. Once again, though, it’s just all about balancing your responsibilities. For me, this includes finding stability between academics, spring crew, and 4/c boards. In case you didn’t know, 4/c boards are an indoctrination exam that we have to pass in order to earn carry-on at the end of the semester. We are asked an array of questions; basically anything that pertains to the Coast Guard (information found in our running light). I will admit that it has been fairly stressful, but I’m keeping my chin up and chugging along. After all, the “dark ages” are just around the corner; better to be semper paratus than SOL.

More about Alexis.

Taking on a Different Role

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
  Brianna Townsend Second semester if flying by, which I could not be any happier about because it means that I will be that much closer to taking my first leadership position at the Academy as cadre. Taking a new position in the corps is always frightening at first, but with the right training and teachers you can take on any role. I think that what has prepared me the most right now is my own cadre that I had when I was a swab. They taught me the right way to work as a team and be a leader, even under extreme stress. I am very thankful for those people in my life because they made me a better person and I definitely would not have been able to make it this far without them.

In the nearer future lacrosse season is starting, and I could not be any more excited about it. This year is looking very good for the team with the majority of the team returning from last year and a lot of new 4/c with an immense amount of talent. However, due to the amount of 1/c that graduated last year it is looking like I may have to take a new position on the field, but with the help of my coach and other players, I should be able to adapt and succeed in this new spot. Hopefully the weather will remain as it has been so we can enjoy the springtime inside rather than playing outdoors, but either way I am just glad to play.

More about Brianna.

It Blows My Mind

(Athletics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
  Sara Cantrell Well I can’t believe I’m already writing my February post! Only a couple more months of my 4/c year and then I will be off to my summer assignment. It blows my mind how fast this year has gone by. Last Sunday was 101st night and the tradition is that the 4/c endure two hours of Swab Summer again. We all formed up on the bulkhead at 1400 and “the games began.” It went by pretty fast which was good, but it definitely showed me how far I have come since June 27th when I reported in.

We have all had our first round of tests and they weren’t too bad. This semester has definitely been easier for me, not because of the classes (they are harder than last semester) but because I am settled into the lifestyle and have effectively mastered time management skills. As the year winds down, more and more extra stuff is pilling up. To get ready for 3/c year we have to complete a packet to show that we are qualified to take on the duty of JCDO. We also have to complete a packet for our boards and begin to study every night. It sounds overwhelming, but I’m taking it day by day and doing little pieces at a time.

This weekend is the first weekend that I haven’t had a swimming and diving meet, which is very nice. Since I have the time to take a break from homework and get out of the Academy I am going to go to my sponsor families’ house to hang out. Over the summer you will sign up for sponsor families (if you want one)…let me just say, I 100% recommend getting one. Sponsor families are great in so many ways, you have a house to go to if you want to relax on the weekend, most bake you treats and leave them in the watch office for you, and its nice to have that outlet outside of the Academy. Next weekend is NEWMAC championships at MIT and I am so excited to go! The swimming and diving team here is great and we will have a lot of fun. I am hoping to make it to finals on both boards, but we will see what happens.

Spring Break is a few weeks away and I cannot express how excited I am. I am bringing three friends home and we will be living at the beach (though not literally). My brother also has the same Spring Break and is bringing two friends home, so my parents will have a full house. It’s fun to be able to show your friends where you come from and what you use to do. Even though you are so close to everyone here it is hard to think about how they use to be before Swab Summer because you only see them in a uniform and there are not many options for things to do on the weekend. It will be fun, but I need to stay focused for these next three weeks and get through test and homework. Hope everyone is getting through second semester! As always if you have questions as the summer is quickly approaching feel free to email me! Sara.E.Cantrell@uscga.edu.

More about Sara.

Spring Semester, Sledding, and Boards

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
  Lindsay Duplessis So it’s February, and it’s snowed once. ONCE. Growing up in New England, you either really like the snow or you hate it, and personally I love it. The Academy is built on a massive hill, so when it snows there’s some prime sledding locations. However, you have to be careful because a few of my shipmates (as well as in previous years) actually received some intense sledding injuries. They are all completely fine now other than some nasty bruises, but the accident itself was not pretty.

In other news, all of the 4/c cadets are starting to study for Boards and a few of our indoc tests. On Monday we’ll all be taking a test on nautical flags, definitions, and rates/ranks of the various branches of the military. Although this is just another added stress to life here at the Academy, it’s satisfying to know that we will actually be using this kind of information in the future. More importantly, passing these tests will permit 4/c to get certain privileges leading to full carry-on! Everyone has to pass Boards before this can happen, so most people have been studying hard (myself included). You do not want to be the one holding everyone back from getting carry-on.

More about Lindsay.

Keeping My Priorities Straight

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
  Megan Rudy My return to the Academy met with sad news. A few of my close friends from my 4/c company in Hotel were getting disenrolled for illegal substances and although they had made very poor choices, I was very sad to see them leave, because they are good people and I have been through a lot with them. This entire month was centered around the drama of the “Spice boys.” The whole situation I think has taught me and my classmates a lot about what it means to be here and that one mistake, even little ones can get you kicked out of this place, although you may have worked very hard toward getting here. It has taught me to keep my priorities straight and focus on my long-term goals.

I also realized that I cannot play water polo as I had planned with a broken arm, so instead I have decided to train for a half marathon in New York with my ex roommate. I hope to some day do a full marathon and then maybe a 100 mile ultra-marathon in the future. I have been running every day this month and even got those toe shoes, a lot of people here have them and they are super comfortable. It feels like I’m running barefoot.

Also my class schedule has lightened up tremendously and I have mostly my major classes, which I really enjoy. I still have physics and calculus to make it through before I will be completely done with math! I celebrated my 20th birthday at the end of the month and my parents surprised me by ordering me the fanciest cake, which was two layers tall and looked like it should have been for a wedding! It was chocolate raspberry mouse flavored and I had so much extra to share that it still wasn’t gone by the end of the week! My closest friends also surprised me by decorating my room with balloons and sticky notes covered my door wishing me happy birthday from at least 100 different people. Then a group of ten of us went to Longhorn Steakhouse to celebrate my birthday dinner. Now I am looking forward to Spring Break, when I will be heading to Vegas with some of my friends and we are super excited to see a Cirque du Soleil show.

More about Megan.

Living In a Whirlwind

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
  Mark Zanowicz My finger looms over the “Submit” button. The next two years of my life hang in limbo. Am I making the right decision? Should I have reconsidered the order of my billets? Is some weird glitch in this program going to screw up my submission and send me to some dismal corner of the frozen north? Too late for those worries now, I’ve clicked the mouse. The rest is out of my hands.

Such was my experience submitting my E-Resume – my “dream sheet” of desired billets – just over a week ago. Somehow I thought it would feel a little more significant. But really, it was just another click of the mouse. I’ve been here almost four years now; I’ve clicked this Logitech mouse hundreds of thousands of times. It’s weird to think that one tiny movement of my finger has decided my fate for the next two years.

And then, it’s back to the books.

I know I often talk about how crazy things can be here. This semester has been no different in that regard. There’s still plenty of studying to be done, military obligations to be met, and a lot of little things to take care of before graduation in May.

The real difference this semester comes from the fact that it is the last one. All the 1/c know that this is it, and there’s a certain mood in the air of impending change. And with that feeling comes a sense of reflection over the past few years.

I don’t think anyone can look back on their experience at the Academy and claim it was an entirely great time, but there is something to be said for the things that we’ll never be able to experience again. I think I’m going to miss having so many friends living right down the hall from me. I’m going to miss blasting thrash metal while scribbling through the homework I should have finished the night before. And oddly enough, I’m sure I’ll miss having mostly schoolwork to worry about instead of an endless barrage of paperwork and qualifications to complete. Hey, I might even miss New London.

Actually, I have my doubts about that last one.

Looking back now though, if there’s one thing about the Academy that is much clearer in hindsight, it’s that there are a huge amount of opportunities available here. Even beyond all the clubs, sports, and events you can participate in, there are plenty of people here who have had incredible experiences and can offer great insight not just about being an officer, but also about life in general. There are plenty of connections to be made, and if you do decide to enroll at the Academy, my best advice would be to make the most of it. It’s not going to be fun, but that’s no reason to hang your head and be miserable. I’m sure most people won’t come in here with that kind of attitude, but it’s very easy to get beaten down while you’re here. Don’t let it happen.

I guess the real lesson to be learned is that you shouldn’t just wait around for things to get better here. When I was in high school, all I could do my senior year was think about how much better things were going to be in college. And then Swab Summer came along, and I thought of how much better 4/c year would be when we didn’t have to scream all the time and go to calisthenics every morning. When 4/c year came along, I thought of how much better it would be to not have to square meals and brace up like a robot. And so on and so forth. Now I’m a 1/c with a car, shorts every weekend, and almost all the privileges I can possibly have as a cadet, and yet I’m still here waiting out the days until Graduation because I know that’s when things will really start getting better.

The truth is, you should do what you can in the present instead of waiting for the better times you know are coming. Sure, things do really improve as you go on. But at the same time, there’s always something you’ll be waiting for – be it the ability to walk out of the front gate in civilian clothes for the first time or finally packing out of Chase Hall and moving into your new apartment as a freshly commissioned Ensign.

Take full advantage of the opportunities available to you when you’re here. Don’t think of the four years at the Academy as a firestorm you must survive to receive your commission – instead, think of all the potential paths to follow and countless opportunities to pursue while you’re a cadet. Four years really does fly by. Even the smallest conversation might elicit an interest in something you had never thought of pursuing before.

I guess this entry really didn’t offer too much beyond some aimless rambling. For that, my apologies. As always, if you have any questions about Academy life, the Coast Guard, or what the best death metal bands are, feel free to shoot me an email at Mark.E.Zanowicz@uscga.edu. And if you’re one of the ones out there who’s waiting to hear back from Admissions, I wish you the very best of luck.

More about Mark.

Finals and Winter Leave

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Christina Bilodeau Finals week is very different at the Academy compared to a normal week here. The corps of cadets is allowed to completely focus on academics with out as many military obligations or formations. I had four finals to take during the exam period, and since I did not have a final on Monday I went to my sponsor mom’s house with my friend, 4/c Lutton. She and I relaxed, studied, and slept. My sponsor mom made us feel very welcome and comfortable, which was exactly what we needed during a stressful academic time. On Sunday 4/c Lutton and I went to a light parade in Niantic. I had never experienced a light parade before but it was very fun and it helped us get out and forget our studies for a few hours.

Finals themselves went fairly well, and I finished with a decent GPA. I felt academically challenged this past semester and I am definitely ready for a fresh start and hopefully an improvement for the spring semester. My schedule this semester consists of Writing about Lit, Multivariable Calculus, Personal Defense, Principles of Fitness and Wellness, Chemistry II, Navigation, and Macroeconomics. This appeals to me more than last semesters schedule so I hope I am able to improve my academic standing.

Winter leave felt short but it was incredible to spend time with my family and friends from home. I spent a week in Naples, Florida visiting family, soaking up the sun, and collecting shells from the beach. Although I felt a pit in my stomach upon returning, I know that eventually during this semester we will transition away from being 4/c. This idea and the people I spend time with here are two major aspects that keep me going strong and happy to be back at the Academy.

More about Christina.

Returning from Thanksgiving Break

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Christina Bilodeau Thanksgiving break was a great opportunity to catch up on sleep and spend time with my family. Although it was a very short period of time, I was thankful that I could go home to Maine where there was surprisingly warmer weather than usual. I spent my time at home showing a fellow shipmate from the Academy my hometown, eating lobster and my mother’s home cooked meals, and spending time with my parents and sister.

I had more butterflies in my stomach returning to the Academy from Thanksgiving than I did on Reporting-In Day. I was nervous to pick up where I left off; although, once I got into the swing of things, it was like second nature. On the first Friday back, the 4/c were given full carry-on as a privilege from a fellow 4/c that assumed the role of “Assistant Commandant of Cadets” from trick-or-treating on Halloween. The same weekend after we returned I experienced my first military formal. As a 4/c we had to wear the dinner dress uniform, which is not exactly flattering, but I felt comfortable wearing it because the rest of my shipmates had to wear it, too. My friend from Delta did my hair so I could feel like more of a girl for the formal. It was a good experience and the people I was with made it fun and enjoyable.

More about Christina.

The End of the First Semester

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Christina Bilodeau The first semester of 4/c year is truly flying by. I have received good and average grades and kept myself thinking positively because 4/c year can be a challenge academically and militarily. Right now I am working on a packet given to 4/c. We have to search and learn 100 questions pertaining to life at the Academy and common indoc. Once we learn the material, our upperclassmen have to sign off the 100 items before finals week.

I have started going to bed earlier because I figured out how to effectively manage my time; although Sundays still seem to be my heaviest workload days. Our volleyball team just ended the season by winning the ECAC championship this past Veteran’s Day Weekend. It was a great journey and I feel very close knit with the team. My parents came for the tournament and we had a “long” so I spent the night with them in a hotel. I am looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving. It will be my second time home since Reporting-In Day and the first time seeing my sister in five months.

It will be a good change to have time to myself during sports period to go for long runs and work out on my own. There is no doubt that I will take occasional naps, too. Finals will be quickly approaching after Thanksgiving, then we will be done with what I have heard is the hardest semester at the Academy.

More about Christina.

The Journey Has Been Incredible

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Christina Bilodeau Swab Summer felt like it would never end, and now I find myself already headed towards midterms of the fall semester. Delta, the company I was placed in starting on Reporting-In Day, had 37 Swabs. We finished the summer with only 30. The group of us became very close over the summer, having to adjust our lifestyles from civilian to military in just a short seven weeks. These “short” seven weeks felt like the longest weeks I have ever experienced. We were constantly pushed outside of our “comfort” zones every minute of the day. I have met best friends here that I can fully trust and completed tasks that I never thought my body or mind could handle.

The journey has been incredible so far; the physical and mental challenges we have faced here are indescribable and rewarding. Transitioning from the summer to the academic school year was definitely a challenge but I am glad that I now can manage my own schedule. I begin each day before six a.m. and progress until the early hours of the morning going to classes, volleyball practice and games, military trainings, drill practice, or doing my schoolwork.

After our volleyball games this Saturday, I am finally going home for the long Columbus Day weekend. My roommate and friend are also coming along. It will be weird to have my two worlds (home and the Academy), come together. I have yet to go home since Reporting-In Day in June so I am ready to see Maine again!

More about Christina.

My Choice

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Sara Cantrell One year ago, I remember myself back home trying to figure out which school to go to. This is a huge decision for anyone applying or already with appointments and the best advice I can give is to choose the place YOU want to be. I stress the “you” so much because I know last year at this time I was trying to decide between the Coast Guard Academy and the Naval Academy. I knew I wanted to go into the military, but I wasn’t quite sure of what service to pick. My Grandpa was team Naval Academy and my parents were for the Coast Guard Academy, but either way I went, I knew that my family would be proud of me and would support me the whole way through. I made a list of pros and cons for both schools and by myself choose what service I was going to be a part of.

I visited both schools and talked to multiple people trying to get perspectives on each service. By February I had no doubt in my mind that my place was in the Coast Guard. After being a part of this incredible service for six months I can say that I made the best decision of my life. I love everything single aspect of this Academy and this service and I cannot see myself at any other place. I am also proud of the fact that my decision was solely based on me and what I wanted, because you will not make it far in anything you do if it’s not you who wants to do it. As you continue to apply and receive acceptance letters you will receive many opinions from others on the school they believe you should attend, but remember in the end it’s your life and your hard work that will be committed to the organization. Good luck with the application process and congratulations if you have been accepted!

More about Sara.

The Challenge of a New Semester

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Sara Cantrell Being back at the Academy has, no lie, been tough but now that the first week of classes is over, I am beginning to get the feel for everything and getting back into the swing of things. After successfully finishing my first semester at the Coast Guard Academy, I went home to Florida for two and a half weeks. It was one of the greatest feelings to take off my uniform and put on civilian clothes! I will admit, at first I felt a little awkward in blue jeans, but after a few hours that wore off and I was happy to be home. I got to spend a lot of time with my best friend, Alexa, who attends the University of Georgia. We went to the beach almost every day and we got to talk about everything that had happened these last six months. It was also great to spend Christmas with my family! My mom was so happy that my brother and I were both home because this has been the first year that she has dealt with both of us being gone, so I know she was really happy to have the whole family together again. While I was home I realized how much I missed my friends back at CGA; you don’t really know how close you get to everyone until you are thousands of miles away and your only communication is a phone. Although I missed my friends, there’s no doubt that winter break was simply amazing.

I received my schedule for spring semester classes and I am very happy with my classes and professors. This semester will be tougher than last, but I know I can get through it. I have been swamped with homework this week and it doesn’t look like it will let up anytime soon, but I am ready for the challenge. This weekend the corps has a long (we can stay out overnight) because it is Martin Luther King Day on Monday, but I have a swimming and diving meet on Sunday so I will be hanging out at the Academy.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holidays and good luck in this New Year. For all of the seniors, I want to say enjoy the rest of your senior year because it can be a lot of fun. Go to as many school functions as you can and cherish the moments with your friends because in just a few short months your lives will all change and the memories is what will keep you together. Good luck to everyone applying and if anyone has questions about the application process or anything at all send me an email! Sara.E.Cantrell@uscga.edu.

More about Sara.

Do Not Give Up

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Sara Cantrell Well today was our last day of classes! It almost feels unreal to think that I have successfully completed my first semester of college at the Academy. It is one of the best feelings I have ever felt. To think back, it was only six short months ago that I was getting on an airplane leaving every single piece of comfort and delving into a high speed and structured life. I am so grateful for friends, family, and professors who got me through this semester. It is the final push until winter leave! There are only four exams standing in the way of a two and a half week work-free break. I am so excited to go home and spend time with family, friends and most of all appreciate the little things that I took for granted before coming here. Examples? Eating normally, wearing my hair down, walking normally, looking around, driving a car, wearing civilian clothes, getting tan. Trust me the list goes on. Going home for Thanksgiving got me recharged for the last two weeks of school and finals.

The swimming and diving season has been going very well! It is so great to be on a sports team, going to practice every day is my escape from the pressure and stress of the Academy. This past weekend I broke the school record for three meter diving, which was an exciting experience for me and hopefully I can continue to get better and break more records!

As the semester closes I just want to say that no matter what, do not give up. There have been so many tough weeks and late nights, but I know that this is where I want to be and therefore I fight through it. I will never give up because I know why I came and what I want to be in the future. I remember around this time last year was when I received my acceptance letter and I made my OWN decision to come here over other schools. As you receive your letters make sure you are choosing something that YOU want to do and you can see yourself committing to no matter how hard it will get. Believe me while at the Academy you will go through your toughest days physically, mentally, or emotionally, and you have to be willing to stay committed. Happy holidays! Enjoy your break :)

More about Sara.

Getting Ready to Go Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Sara Cantrell The official countdown is up and running! Only 8 more days until Thanksgiving leave and I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am. As much fun as I am having here at the Academy, Thanksgiving is a much-needed week off from the everyday rigorous lifestyle here. My parents were unable to make it up for Parents’ Weekend in October so Thanksgiving will be the first time since June 27th that I will get to see my family. This week will be tough to get through with the anticipation of going home, but with two tests I need to stay focused and push through. This month has flown by with test, projects, and diving (I have a feeling most months here will fly by). I had my first diving meet this past weekend against NYU and Wheaton College and placed third on both one meter and three meter. The corps also got a “long” this weekend for Veterans Day so it was nice to sleep away from the Academy.

This first semester has been pretty challenging for me. It is hard to get into a routine because there is so much going on all the time and some things pop up sporadically. I try as best I can to manage my time and get things done early, but sometimes the plan doesn’t work. It is weird to think that my first semester of college is almost over (we have one week before Thanksgiving, one week after Thanksgiving, and one week of finals left). With the holidays coming up the morale throughout the corps will be brought up, which will make things even better around here. It has just started to get dark around 4:30, which is a change for me. I love the fall weather; it’s not too cold and the leaves are changing colors and falling.

Two weekends ago the corps had a formal room and wing, which is where the 4/c stay up pretty late and clean all common areas (heads, dayrooms, P-ways, ladder wells, gear heads, laundry rooms, etc.) along with the whole corps cleaning their individual rooms extensively. This all happens on a Friday night after sports practice, then Saturday morning the corps gets inspected by the regimental staff and graded on how well each company cleaned their common spaces and rooms. We found out last week that Hotel Company won and we were all so happy that our hard work paid off and we were the best company. November has been a great month for me and next month will be even better with Christmas break, but for now its stay focused and get work done.

More about Sara.

Your Purpose For Being Here

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Sara Cantrell Wow! What a crazy month it has been. Classes started on August 22 and I have honestly never been so stressed out in my life. For some reason I wasn’t expecting school to be so overwhelming, but when you have school and thousands of other things to do it gets stressful, I mean REALLY stressful. Last weekend was Columbus Day weekend and we got a long. A “long” means that cadets can leave the Academy on Friday after their last class (for me its 1540) and we don’t have to be back until 1800(if you’re a 4/c) Monday night. It is a great de-stressor! I went to Boston with a few friends and we had a lot of fun. Mainly we just walked around and shopped a little, but most of all it was nice to be out of Chase Hall and wearing civilian clothes. Yes, that was the first time I had put on civilian clothes since June 27th.

Even though the Academy life is overwhelming, we always find a way to laugh. Whether it’s laughing about memories from Swab Summer or something funny that happen during the day, it’s always good to laugh. Some advice that my Company Commander gave my company at the beginning of the year that I think I should share it with you, is that every day you must never forget the reasons you came and the purpose for being here. These four years will seem like a small portion of your life when you look back as an officer and you have to try everyday to enjoy the moments here. The things you do here and the people you meet will have an effect on the rest of your life. If those reasons and purpose escape you, it will be hard to stay at the Academy.

It is now midterms and I cannot believe my first semester of college is half way over. I remember thinking about just making it to the next meal during Swab Summer and now I am thinking about going home for Thanksgiving. It is crazy how fast time flies. The thing that keeps me happy and moving forward here are my friends. You would never think that a couple hundred people from different backgrounds and experiences can get thrown together and call each other family within a few weeks. It’s a great support system and keeps you motivated.

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New Year, New Semester

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samantha Cardoza I have to say, coming back from winter break was definitely difficult. I missed my friends and my Alfa family a lot, but coming back to having to square, take out trash, do clocks, greet, etc. did not seem appealing at all. Another thing that I did not want to come back to was the weather. I left San Diego when it was 80 degrees outside and came back to having to march in 08 degree weather! Talk about your morning wakeup call!

Even though I was less than ecstatic to come back, it made me think about how fortunate I am to be at the Academy. I missed the family of people that go here, I missed not having to worry about my valuables, I even missed the teachers and the classes, and when my ride pulled into the firstie parking lot, I realized how much I really love this place. And only having to endure being a 4/c at the bottom of the totem pole for another semester seems doable now that I have already completed the first semester. Before I know it, I’ll be on Eagle, going to summer school, going back to San Diego, and then I will come back and be a 3/c, ready to mentor my own 4/c and be a role model for them. So, I will keep going, and keep striving to do better for this whole semester and, who knows, maybe even finish out 4/c year with a bang.

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Christmas is Finally Here!!!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samantha Cardoza I can’t believe it’s finally here! Yesterday officially marked the last day of school, and now everyone is getting ready for finals to finish out the first semester strong. This semester, I have a final everyday for four days, and that is a decent schedule. I am so surprised by how fast this semester flew by! The upperclassmen are right, if you take it one week, day, hour, at a time then it goes by so much faster. I remember every week thinking to myself, “Okay, it’s Wednesday, tomorrow is Thursday. A test, two labs and then its Friday.” Thinking that all the time definitely got me through this semester, and the weeks just went by so fast.

I cannot wait to go home! Christmas is literally right around the corner, and the entire corps is preparing for it. When we walk around Chase Hall, it feels like Santa’s Workshop. So many rooms are decorated with lights, trees, wallpaper, blow up Santas, I can go on but it might take a whole page to fit everything in! It is definitely a morale booster, though, seeing all the cadets in such a great mood. And even though I’m excited to go back home, it’s also going to be hard leaving the family that I have formed here for three weeks. I doubt that I will miss the squaring and greeting, but I will miss all of my friends. Coming back is going to be difficult, but after resting up for a whole three weeks, I’ll be ready to come back to the Academy.

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Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samantha Cardoza As the last few days of November come up, the entire corps has become more than enthusiastic about the semester drawing to an end. Getting ready for our first leave as 4/c is very frustrating. A few weekends ago, we had our monthly Formal Room and Wing where we, the freshmen, stay up all night, and sometimes even into the next morning cleaning all of Chase Hall to be ready for inspection. And when I say everything in Chase, I mean everything: the bathrooms, the passageways, the weight room, the hallways, and our rooms as well. This last one was by far the best one that we have had all year, and as a result, we didn’t need to do another one before Thanksgiving, which was a lifesaver for us 4/c.

Even though I am not able to go home for Thanksgiving, I am still really excited for it. I get to stay with my sponsor family and get to stay out of Chase Hall for a little bit. I have tests and finals to look forward to when I get back, but that just means that winter leave is right around the corner! Being away from the Academy is great, but it also makes me realize how much I really love it there and how much I miss my friends. Maybe its because I’m not at home or something, but I have only been gone one day and I am already checking up on my friends to make sure that they made it home safely and are doing well. It’s still difficult for me to believe that we have gone through a whole five months of squaring, taking out the trash, and doing clocks. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that we started the school year. As much as I am ready for this year to end, I know that I will miss it when it’s gone.

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Midterms...What?

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samantha Cardoza Today I finally came to the realization that we 4/c have made it through half a semester already! When I first heard someone say, “Who’s ready for midterms?” I have to admit…I freaked out a little bit. My thought process brought me to believe that there was going to be a whole week of grueling tests and never ending studying. However, I came to find that I had already taken the tests that would be on my midterms and was now just anxiously waiting for my grades to come out. Whoever thought that waiting for your teachers to submit your grades would ever be so stressful? Yet here I was, constantly checking the system every five seconds to see if they were up yet. I was very happy to find that after hours upon hours of clicking and re-clicking the “refresh“ button, I was passing all of my classes.

When I made the decision to come here way back in 2006 when I was in 8th grade, I knew that this place would be challenging, not just physically demanding, but mentally and academically tough as well. I had been told that it would be over and over again. So, I worked in high school forcing myself to have good study habits and to manage my time well. Who knew that both would come in handy here? Not only am I taking seven classes with 20+ credits, but I also have to manage everything that goes with being a 4/c cadet. Not only do I have to have all of my military stuff in order, being inspection-ready every minute of every day, but I also have to memorize meals, have duty, do orderlies, etc. The scary part is that I know that this is probably one of the easier years I’ll have here. I’m definitely working at my full potential to keep everything up, but I’m also having fun doing it. Around here, you’ll see many 4/c and upper class complain about the Academy and everything that goes along with it, but I am having a blast! Yes, I do have to square my corners and meals and can’t look left or right, but I love this place too much to make it anything but a fantastic experience. It’s hard, but that’s the point, isn’t it?

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Good Info About Finals...Just a Little Late

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Alexis Chavarria-Aguilar The semester’s finish line is finally within sight! I would like to talk about finals briefly, you know, debunk a few myths about this last week before winter leave.

The first, and perhaps most common, myth about finals week is that cadets never sleep. This may be true for a small number of people, but the majority of us get more than enough shut-eye. With no classes or military obligations this week, I’ve had plenty of time to study and rest.

Myth number two revolves around the time everyone gets to go home. No, you’re not held here against your will until a certain date. Once you have completed all of your exams, as well as your last military obligation (LMO), you are free to go home. I know some upper class who have had the luxury of going home almost a full week before everyone else! I’m pretty sure it primarily depends on your exam schedule, and maybe a little luck.

Lastly, I would like to address the difficulty of our exams. Of course, finals are no walk in the park, but they are not the end of the world either. As long as you can balance your time, get enough to eat and sleep, you’ll be fine. The less energy you waste stressing, the better. Again, success is all in your state of mind. All you have to do is work hard and stay positive.

More about Alexis.

The Grindstone

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Alexis Chavarria-Aguilar As the fall semester begins to wind down, cadets teem with anticipation for Thanksgiving leave. This kind of suspense can affect people in a variety of different ways. Most people, caught up in the excitement of making plans, just keep chugging along. However, a handful of cadets tend to get impatient, becoming tense and cranky. I don’t blame them, but getting caught up in that kind of cynicism is not productive. Cadets cannot allow a pessimistic attitude get in their way; doing so has the potential to create poor habits and decreases overall performance. Keeping a positive mindset and setting short-term, achievable goals is the key to success around this time of year.

For me, this first semester has been quite the experience, and I am glad to finally see it coming to a close. With the halfway point rapidly approaching, I do my best to keep my priorities balanced. Thanksgiving leave will be a well-deserved break, but we’re not done yet. After we come back there is another week of school and then finals. During winter leave, we will be able to relax at home without any schoolwork lingering over our heads. Until then, our noses stay to the grindstone.

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Prioritizing

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Alexis Chavarria-Aguilar I think it’s safe to say that these past four months have been unlike any other experience. Life at the Academy is a real challenge, but totally worth it. Just like Swab Summer, the days are long, but the weeks go by in a blur. Every day I find myself presented with some sort of challenge; nonetheless, I’m absolutely stoked to be here and hope that my journal entry offers a quality glimpse at what life is like as a fourth class.

One of my primary concerns thus far has been prioritizing the numerous obligations demanded by cadet life. Time is a commodity, and there never seems to be enough of it. While our normal college counterparts sip from the fountains of higher education, we cadets guzzle down challenges jetting from the fire hydrants of officership. It takes a lot of discipline to manage our duties and transcend the expectations established upon us. For me, getting the right amount of sleep is the difference between just that. As a result, I rely on my agenda book to help me balance my priorities, from academics, to military training, to athletics, and so on.

Although it seems that there is not enough down time, cadets manage to make the most of every experience. I enjoy tasks that don’t require a lot of critical thinking, such as cleaning the room or shining shoes. Crew practice is also my saving grace. There’s nothing like pulling a real hard piece on the erg to relieve the frustration of a bad day.

Again, words cannot describe how thrilled I am for this opportunity. Despite the difficulty of cadet life, this has been unparalleled experience.

More about Alexis.

100th Day, et al.

(Academics, Athletics, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll Since I last wrote, my life here at the Academy has been a hectic blur. I’ll tell you a little bit about each thing that I’ve done since I last wrote.

January 26-29: I went with the Model UN team to the McMUN conference, hosted by McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It was a lot of fun, especially since it was my first time ever leaving the United States!! Our eight competitors represented different countries and entities on various UN committees and crisis simulations; I represented Brazil on the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). (Model UN is designed to simulate what the real UN is like, so that high school and/or college kids can learn about foreign affairs, diplomacy, and the like.) The funny thing about that committee is that, at the real UNHRC in Geneva, countries like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Uganda, or China are represented on the committee dealing with human rights. Some would say it is rather ironic… Anyway, we discussed Internet access (especially the debate over physical access and censorship) and homosexuality (during which, most of the Muslim and African nations denied the existence of homosexuality or the need to protect homosexuals). I won an award for my efforts, which was nice. Canada was amazing, even if it was so cold! The only hard part was making up the large amounts of schoolwork I missed.

February 4: We had a Mock Trial scrimmage at Holy Cross, as we prepare for Regionals next week. I’ve been working with a new witness, so it’s been a long haul. The three-hour practices on Tuesday and Thursday nights make balancing academics, crew, and extracurricular activities hard, but I think it’ll be worth it when we do well next weekend at Yale. Go Bears, Go Mock Trial!

February 5: Tonight (more like this afternoon) was 101st Night!! It was amazingly fun, although a lot of work. At 1400, we hit the company bulkhead for two hours of running all over Chase Hall, getting ITed—just like Swab Summer again. I really enjoyed it, even though the 2/c did use it as an opportunity to remind us that we need better brace and military courtesy. Like Swab Summer, some did really well in certain areas, and others in other areas. I was really good at indoc, but not so good at pushups… Now, having completed it, we have earned the privilege to switch roles with the 2/c for 100th Day. Tomorrow, from 0600 to 2000, we will be upper-class, and our cadre will be squaring and doing clocks, and everything else we do as lowly fourth-class. I am excited to see what’s coming up…

Crew has less than a month until we go to Florida for spring break training. It’s going to be awesome. I love being around those guys and seeing how much effort everyone is putting in, so that we can have a good season. We even got some more “novices.” I promise you, when we hit the water after break, we’ll be destroying other boats!

Now that we have less than 100 days until 2012 graduates and becomes ensigns, the focus has changed from being good 4/c to developing into what will be good 3/c. We have to qualify to stand duty as JCDOs (Junior Cadet Duty Officer) and learn about driving cadet vans—fun privileges reserved for upper-class. Most importantly, we need to prepare for our summer experiences in the operational fleet and on Eagle. Eagle is sailing along the Eastern Seaboard this summer, and I think that I’ll be on the phase sailing from Maryland to Canada. Hopefully for my other summer assignment, while many of my classmates ride the “USCGC Calculus 2,” I’ll be on a white-hull cutter in Alaska. Stand by for more word on that. Keep your questions coming. I’ve gotten some great emails (Peter.M.Driscoll@uscga.edu), and I love the distractions from my busy day that who are people interested in the Academy provide.

More about Peter.

Winter Wonderland?!

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll I can’t believe it is snowing already. Everyone’s been telling me how CGA had four or five snow days last year, but it has been so warm this year that I didn’t believe any of those rumors. Now I do—of course, I’m impressed by the three inches we had and keep calling it a blizzard, at which my friends and my roommate laugh! Ignorant Northerners… (I woke up the other day and looked out the window and exclaimed, “It snowed two inches!” However, when my roommate looked, he kindly informed me that it was a quarter-inch at most…)

Classes are moving along. I have a nice schedule—this should be my easy semester academically, since I passed Calculus 2 validators and am now finished with my math requirements as a Government major! :) I enjoy Probability and Statistics, which is what I am taking now. All of my other classes are the standard 4/c classes. Of those, my favorite is definitely Fundamentals of Navigation; I love doing chart work and learning real salty, nautical things! For those of you who are starting to get acceptance letters, and you chose to spend a night here to learn what it’s like, go to a Nav lab—in my opinion, that’ll show you what this place is really about.

On a side note, this semester I am taking Honors Chemistry 2 with LT Jody Maisano. It’s an amazing class and we’re learning a lot. On top of the regular Chemistry stuff, LT Maisano is having us do a semester-long project on a topic of our choice to broaden our scientific horizons. For mine, I plan on researching U.S. arctic policy and why we need a new icebreaker. Hopefully, my “product” will be to get a USCG arctic expert—maybe from headquarters?—to come speak to the Corps about this issue. I’ll keep everyone updated.

And while classes got easier, military life around Chase Hall got harder. Our new guidons and the Regimental 1LT (First Lieutenant) are cracking down hard to make sure that the 4/c are still doing their jobs. These first two weeks, our new guidon has put us on company clocks twice—almost more than the entirety of last semester. Now we are on random clocks to make sure we all know our indoc. :( It’ll get better soon…after all, it’s only around 115 days until 2012 graduates, and we will definitely get “carry-on” before they leave! The next best thing on the horizon (at least from my perspective) is 101st Night/100th Day. Then, after going through a Swab Summer flashback the night before, the 2/c and the 4/c switch roles for the day. I cannot wait; it’ll be fun! Then, in March, the firsties will have Billet Night, when they find out what units they have been assigned to. Everyone is so excited. I want all of the firsties I know to get their best pick, but it is determined by class rank, so who knows what will happen.

Well, it’s been a great distraction writing this post, but I do have another forty pages to read for my literature class. As always, email me (Peter.M.Driscoll@uscga.edu) if you have any questions or comments! Over and out.

More about Peter.

What Sets Us Apart

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll Hello to all my readers and a late Happy Holidays!

It might sound crazy, but it is nice to be back “home” in Chase Hall for the spring semester. I can’t wait to get started on another challenging academic semester, or work toward getting full carry-on, or beating other boats in crew!

Christmas break was a lot of fun. I enjoyed spending time with old friends in North Carolina and my family in Florida. After my last final, 1/c Katie Priesing and I raced to North Carolina in an exciting road trip adventure. I spent the first week with my friend Sasha Seymore, who goes to UNC-Chapel Hill. In fact, I spent a night in his dorm at UNC before going to a basketball game, and I am proud/ashamed to say that I ended up cleaning his dorm room for him! There are different standards between Chase Hall and civilian college. Catching up with old friends was fun, but more importantly, it helped me realize why I came here. I came here to be a part of something more than myself—to help others—and, in my opinion, that sense of purpose sets the 1,034 cadets here apart from our civilian peers.

Additionally, it was great to spend Christmas with my family. My little sister had brought lice home while I was in North Carolina, which was fortunate for me, but unfortunate for everyone else! When I got there, it was all my little siblings would talk about… Florida was amazingly warm: I don’t think it even got close to the temperatures here in New London! My family enjoyed showing me all the sights in Pensacola: the Naval Aviation Museum (the CG aircraft are buried in the annex, of course!), NAS Pensacola, downtown, and the beaches. My favorite part of the break was the hours of sleep I got; I’ve stockpiled it away for this semester. Our new house was interesting, to say the least. It was sad to leave Pensacola, just when I had finally settled in and become used to living as a “normal” person.

Flying in uniform was an adventure, but the best/worst part was getting off the plane in Boston to temperatures of “10 above” (zero degrees Fahrenheit). I definitely felt that pit in my stomach when I saw the Academy again, but it’s worth it to be back with friends. Here’s to the start of a new semester! If you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to email me: Peter.M.Driscoll@uscga.edu.

More about Peter.

Preparing for Finals and Next Semester

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll It’s down to the wire as the last few days of the fall semester arrive. Today is the last day of classes, and I thought I’d share it with you all so that we can start fresh next semester.

Classes are done. For the past few days, we have been filling out course evaluations and doing all the last-minute testing that needs to be done. When you get here, and classes are rough, don’t think that you don’t have a say in it. Teachers look forward to getting your feedback so they can make classes better for other students. As for the last-minute testing and paper writing and such, you just adapt and endure. My teachers in high school always thought that it’d be perfectly fine to schedule tests and due dates right up to the final exam. (In fact, my AP Chemistry teacher gave us a test on organic chemistry the day before we took the AP exam!) Now multiply that by 100, and you have what results here—trying to balance military obligations, athletics, and academics can be tough, but not impossible.

Last night was the holiday dinner. We all got carry-on to celebrate the holidays by discovering who our command staff will be for the Spring 2012 semester. I think we did really well. The Hotel CC is an amazing person with high expectations, and she rows crew. Our new XO seems like a good guy, and I look forward to next semester with our guidon, who is returning from an exchange semester at West Point. She’ll be hard but fair, which I think is what we need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are still fourth class.

Having rambled for half a page now, I’ll sign off. Happy Holidays to everyone, and good luck to the early action applicants who should be getting decisions around late December or early January. (I got mine in time for Christmas, then wrapped it up and put it under the tree :) ) See you all next semester; if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Peter.M.Driscoll@uscga.edu.

More about Peter.

Getting Run Over by a Truck

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll As gruesome as the title is, I guess it’s rather appropriate for the last few weeks of the semester. I was joking with a classmate today in Calculus 2 about how I always leave that class feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck, and he told me that he always feels like the truck runs him over, then backs up to take another stab at him! Sitting down to write this quick entry, all my classes feel like this…

We have so much to do, and so little time. My biggest projects are the bridge project in SED (an introductory engineering class) and my research paper. Building a bridge out of popsicle sticks is a lot harder than it looks, especially when you have to analyze the forces acting upon it, too. But I can’t wait to test all our bridges on Monday. In English, I have another six pages to write about how Muslim-Americans were unjustly discriminated against after 9/11/2001. After these two projects and my history essay are done, it’ll be Thanksgiving—the light at the end of the tunnel!

I cannot wait to leave the Academy and see my family for the first time since R-Day. I’ve changed so much; I wonder how much they all have changed. My sister, Katee, is applying to colleges, and everyone is adjusting to life in Florida. Hopefully Thanksgiving will be a nice balance of love and squabbling…but whatever happens, it’ll be great!

(As a nice finish, 2016: hurry and get your applications in! The first decisions will be hitting mailboxes sometime around Christmas! Good luck!)

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Almost Thanksgiving!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving leave is just around the corner. I have two shortened weeks and one full week standing between me and seeing my family for the first time since Mystic. (For those of you who don’t know, Mystic is a day in the middle of the summer when the swabs get their class flag on a field trip over at Mystic Seaport. After the ceremony, we get a couple hours of liberty—a blissful release from the stress of Swab Summer!) I cannot wait.

My academic schedule is quickly building up. I only have about five exams, two projects, and several packets until finals the second week of December. In fact, my partner and I are going to start building our truss for SED tonight, and I have an outline for my research paper due tomorrow! I still cannot believe that time has flown so quickly and that the semester is almost over. It seemed impossible in August, but you really do learn that you can do anything here.

I don’t know if I mentioned this in my last post, but crew has entered the winter season. We came off the water in the middle of October, and are now focusing on conditioning and strength training for the spring (sprint) season. Our spring break training trip, and getting back onto the Thames River, cannot come soon enough—I miss coxing. I’m really glad that I did crew this year; I learned so much about my rowers and myself. Honestly, being thrown in the boat the second week of practice and told that it was my responsibility was daunting. As if that wasn’t enough, I had eight rowers who expected me to know what to do all the time. Great preparation for the fleet as a junior officer! We did well in our one race, and plan on tearing it up in the spring.

I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in one semester here at CGA. I’ve become more confident and self-assured than I was when I timidly reported on R-Day. The military aspect of life here in Chase Hall has definitely helped in that regard. We had our last formal room and wing inspection of the semester on Saturday, and I was lead 4/c for that evolution. (The 4/c have to rigorously clean the company area and various areas of Chase Hall for these inspections.) I spent the night before cleaning my common space, running around answering questions, supervising the cleaning, and inspecting areas to ensure that they met standards. I did not get to bed until 0145 that night, and woke up at 0545 to finish. But the loss of sleep and increased stress was worth it—we beat Echo by .01 point to win the inspection!

Academics, athletics, and military obligations have all helped to develop a leader of character, like the Academy is supposed to do. I have learned great leadership lessons, like the importance of being confident for the eight rowers depending on you to know what to do, or the necessity of putting 110% effort into organizing and cleaning for inspection. Hopefully, I will do even better next semester. But first, turkey!

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R-Day 2011

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll Obviously, I cannot tell you everything that we did over Swab Summer, because it’s best to discover it for yourself. I spent hours poring over everything I could find before I came to the Academy for R-Day, but it was wasted time. There is no way words on a page can accurately describe the summer experience you choose to undergo. I went to AIM, I came to the Academy for an academic visit, I was stubborn—what could go wrong? I thought I knew everything I needed to know…

Sadly, I did not. R-Day was one of the roughest days of the summer. The moment you step off the bus, everything you do is wrong. You’re welcomed by your cadre and then rushed upstairs to change out of your unauthorized civilian clothes. I vividly remember the cadre pacing the hallway, with all of us lined up along the wall, yelling and screaming at us for simple things like not zipping a bag shut or not labeling everything. After that, you’re rushed all over the campus to get issued supplies…

There is never a moment to relax or relieve the stress during R-Day. The hardest time of that day, for me at least, was the three hours between a miserable lunch and the Oath of Office ceremony on the parade field. That was the only time I wanted to quit all summer, because I was miserable. The barbers shaved my head; I signed away my life to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” By the time I met my family after the Oath of Office, I was crying. I was scared, nervous, weak. It was the hardest decision of my life to leave everything I knew and loved—my comfort zone—to form back up in Hotel Company.

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The Worst Sound: Reveille

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll Anyone who says that Swab Summer is easy is certifiable. It is designed to weed out those unsuited for life at the Academy, and later on, in the fleet.

Who wouldn’t want to wake up at 0530 in the morning? Every morning, we’d be woken up by the worst sound: reveille. After rushing out to the bulkhead, we’d work out for an hour, run back, shower, eat breakfast, and begin the day. When I write “work out,” I mean stressfully test how long you can hold the pushup position before getting punished for giving up. When I write “shower,” I mean sprinting to the bathroom, rinsing off with soap in less than three minutes, drying off, and getting out in less than six minutes—36 people, that is. Everything you do, you do as a team; you get a lot of time to practice, because every waking minute is occupied somehow. You get the whole experience—military trainings, math classes, athletics and team-building courses, etc. Everything makes you a better person.

I still follow the habits I developed over the summer. I don’t take long showers anymore, I prioritize better, and I eat quickly and don’t spill food on my uniforms. I keep my room much cleaner than I would have done if I went to UNC. But whatever people tell you about Swab Summer, it prepares for you the school year in the only way possible. There are times when I wish I was still a Swab, because Swab Summer is easy compared to the academic year. (My cadre told us this constantly, but I never believed them until now…my mistake!)

More about Peter.

Homecoming Weekend 2011

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Peter Driscoll Hey everyone! I’ve settled into the pattern of the school year finally. I wake up at 0430 now for crew and get to bed around 2130, and every second of my day in between is occupied.

Last weekend was Homecoming weekend. It was great to see so many alumni, especially the Class of 1961. The weekend was packed with tons of events. I ate lunch Friday at the O-Club with an alumnus from 1947 who had horror stories about 4/c year. Thank goodness I didn’t go to CGA then! Saturday was the big football game. Our 0-2 team pulled out a win: 61-30. It was amazing. Everyone—the alumni, the cadets, the staff, Admirals Stosz, Papp, and Allen—were going nuts over the football game. Even better, my class hid all six links of the chain successfully for a week and got it to the 50-yard line in time to get modified carry-on for a week. I love not having to square meals!

The best part of the weekend was the fact that one of my friends who was planning on quitting decided to stay. Her paperwork was already processed, and she came within an inch of being voluntarily dismissed. But she’s still here! Even better, Admiral Papp gave her his challenge coin during a private conversation. Getting the Commandant’s challenge coin is an amazing experience; I’m jealous.

Well, now it’s back to the grind of the academic year—I’ve got lots of homework! Until next time…

More about Peter.

Back To School After Break

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Lindsay Duplessis After three weeks of winter leave, it was a bit difficult to drive back to the Academy. Although I missed my friends here, I really enjoyed spending time with my family and friends from home, going to the movies, watching TV whenever, and being lazy. Basically I spent my time on break doing the opposite than that of Academy life. Back to school, memorizing meals, and working out…which at home mainly consisted of getting up to change the laundry or let my dog outside. One might notice that I was not completely prepared for the physical fitness examination the day after we got back, but thankfully I passed!

We’ve all started classes again this week, as well as preparing for Boards which is basically a test all 4/c cadets must pass for the class to get carry-on. The information on the exam can range anywhere from identifying flags to summarizing the history of the Coast Guard itself. We have a month to study, and a lot of memorizing to do.

We also recently began to learn about our 3/c summer assignments. This summer, I’ll go on Eagle and spend about five weeks at a station or on a cutter. I’m not quite sure where I want to go, but it’s exciting to know that we’re finally getting the chance to go out and experience what the Coast Guard actually does outside of the Academy.

More about Lindsay.

Home for the Holidays

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Lindsay Duplessis After a relaxing but short Thanksgiving break at home, we’ve all jumped into the final stretch. Christmas leave is two weeks after Thanksgiving, and the days are flying by. I had my last day of classes on Wednesday, which was awesome, but it also still feels like I just got here a few weeks ago. Christmas leave also unfortunately means finals are coming up this week and next week. Since it’s my freshman year, I have four finals to take (Chemistry, Calculus, Statics and Engineering Design, and Macroeconomics) as well as my last few papers for English, projects for Fitness and Wellness I, and BEARS (mandatory college prep course). It’s a lot to cover, but the teachers give optional study sessions and help anyone who wants to prepare for the final.

It was a little weird going home for Thanksgiving. You definitely develop different habits, worries and language at the Academy than what you would at home. For instance, you get in trouble if your room (meaning your or your roommate’s side) is messy. Since I probably have the messiest room outside of the Academy, I’m a little worried about my transition back to cadet life after break. We also have the PFE (physical fitness exam) after break, so my love of Christmas cookies could potentially be a problem. Hopefully playing Just Dance 3 with my little sister will keep me in shape…

More about Lindsay.

The Swing of Things

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Lindsay Duplessis The fall athletics season is officially over, and winter is starting to kick in here at the Academy. For me, this means the bittersweet end of soccer and the beginning of a more academically focused period. Soccer took up the majority of my time in the last two months, however it was more than worth it. I made great friends and really enjoyed getting to know the upperclassmen on the team who provide nice tips and advice on how to survive as a 4/c cadet. It’s also nice to know that there are people looking out for you. Playing soccer also kept me in shape after swab summer and eased me into staying fit for the rest of the school year.

I finally feel like things are starting to feel routine and normal here. I always have homework and projects to finish, which makes the weeks fly by. I honestly did not believe all of the officers who told us that we’d go from Swab Summer, to the fall semester, to finals in the blink of an eye. It goes by fast, and you really just have to try to take advantage of everything the Academy offers while you can!

More about Lindsay.

A New World

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Lindsay Duplessis To say civilian life and life here at the Academy are two different worlds is an understatement. Sometimes it’s weird to think about what I would be doing if I weren’t here. I used to start my day around 10:00 a.m., but here it’s a nice 6:00 a.m. wake-up call. Although it’s tough to get up (especially since we get up in the dark now that it’s close to winter), it’s nice to go at my own pace. Swab Summer was one giant rush to get things done, and it was definitely a relief to be able to go my own speed.

Transitioning from Swab Summer, where someone tells you what to do, how to do it, and how much time you have to do it, to having your own choices to make was not that difficult for me. A lot of my classmates say they missed Swab Summer because swabs don’t think for themselves. However, I like planning my day and knowing what’s ahead. Although the academics seemed overwhelming at first, everyone gradually got into a rhythm. Playing a sport or joining clubs here makes time go by a lot faster as well. My soccer teammates are awesome and offer help in whatever I might need whether it’s classes or advice on how to square meals (soup season just began…). Sports take up a lot of time, but the positives of being on a team definitely outweigh the negatives.

Time management is the hardest thing to deal with here, but planning ahead and sticking to that plan makes the difference.

More about Lindsay.

Back to the Academy

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Nicole Garrett I can't believe it’s already been seven months since I reported in. These months have been the longest fast months of my entire life. This makes no sense, but once you come here you will understand. I have to say, though, that I was not ready for break to be over. I got home, it felt like I was there forever, but on the last day it was like I had just gotten there. The only differences when I got back were that I was used to a different time zone and well rested.

Winter leave was my first time going home since R-Day. It was weird being in the civilian world for so long. One funny thing I noticed was that once you leave Chase, you realize what a sterile environment you are in. Everything outside of Chase seems super dirty, and then when you return you feel like Chase is so sterile. It’s really weird. Anyway, over break I did a lot of sleeping, hiking, snowboarding and enjoying friends/family time. Things definitely felt different though.

Don’t get me wrong, going home was exciting, but hanging out with some of my old friends wasn’t the same. It goes to show how much this place puts your past relationships into perspective. Anyone that is a threat to you staying here you suddenly have no desire to be around. I guess this is just part of growing up and moving on. Either way I only have 3-4 more months till I’m a 3/c!

More about Nicole.

Christmas Leave Here I Come

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Nicole Garrett There is only a week between finals and me. While I know it has been about 6 months since I was last home, it honestly doesn’t feel that long. I am really excited to go home and see my family. However, I’m not to leave yet!

Since it is the end of the semester I’m sure some of you are curious about what the academics are like at the Academy. Well, in all honesty, I did Running Start my senior year of high school and then a year of college after I graduated high school before coming here. I honestly feel that going to college beforehand and taking college level chemistry, math, and physics classes has helped me a lot. However, I also believe that the key behind all the time management you hear about is getting into a routine. If you figure out your routine and stick to it you will be set. Also…. asking for help immediately when you don’t understand something is crucial.

Another thing I feel has helped me out is that I have experienced living on my own and the responsibilities and freedoms of it. For example, I was up doing homework late and all I could think about was sleeping, but wouldn’t lie down till my homework was done. Someone said to me “You’re in college you can do whatever you want. Go to sleep.” My only response was “I’ve been doing whatever I want for years…what I really want is to do well here.” I believe I mentioned this earlier, but I want to be a pilot. So on the late nights when you want to say “Forget it!” and go to bed… having something that your fighting for is the best motivation in the world to stay up.

This may be a little early but… MERRY CHRISTMAS!

More about Nicole.

Swabbies

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Nicole Garrett For all of you out there that are prospective cadets, I’m sure you have tons of questions. I know I did when I was applying. The application process is fairly straightforward, but Swab Summer was a huge unknown for me coming to the Academy. I had no prior military experience, so I literally came in only expecting what I had heard about.

This summer was a lot of the expected yelling and fitness stuff, however, Swab summer was slightly different then I had expected. While the timed objectives and incentive training (IT) was not favored amongst the swabs at first, almost everything we were made to do had some kind of humor behind it. At first the humor was more masked behind the yelling, but then as time went along we adjusted and found reasons to laugh at the end of the night. For example, the first week, cadre #1 was after me. Every 30 seconds you would hear them scream, “SWAB GARRETT!” After a few days they relaxed a little. So of course I thought to myself, “ Yes! I’m doing better!” Then they noticed a hair tie around my wrist and told me to sound off that I was a pretty pretty princess each time I squared…. At the time it wasn’t funny. Looking back I just laugh at how unfortunate the situation was.

One of my favorite parts of the summer was the survival at sea class. In this class, we learned to use our ODUs to float and got to try out different survival equipment. I loved it. Especially toward the end when we got to play with the life raft. The best part was when we were blindfolded before jumping into the pool off the diving board in the pitch dark. Once we hit the water we had to swim and try to find the raft with our cadre moving it and spraying us with hoses. Once at the raft, we had to establish that everyone was accounted for (still unable to see) before the evolution was over. Everyone thought it was a blast. Other than that, my second favorite thing was sea trials, however, what happens then is something you will have to discover for yourself : ).

More about Nicole.

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Victoria Gurtler The past four months at the Academy have undeniably been the most challenging, stressful, demanding, and exhilarating months of my life. I have pushed myself beyond limits and exceeded expectations that I literally never thought imaginable. These four months have been about proving myself to my shipmates, cadre, upperclassmen, and professors. But the most important individual I have proved myself to was Victoria. This time last year, I was in the Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area pageant and singing in the Wisconsin High School State Honors Choir. My life has done a complete 360, and I have to say I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Swab Summer was a once in a lifetime experience. Very few ever really get the opportunity to be indoctrinated into the military and in that way. To me, Swab Summer is still a blur. I can vaguely remember the challenging IT (intensive training) sessions, much less the terror of Reporting-In Day. What resonates most strongly in my memory are the fun times – yes believe it or not, you will have fun during Swab Summer, but you have to earn it. The main objective of Swab Summer is to “break” you as a civilian and rebuild you as military personnel. Trust me, you will fail at times, but that is why you have shipmates to catch you when you fall. I would have not made it through this summer or to midterms without the support of my peers. That is one of the great aspects of the Academy. Everyone wants everyone to succeed.

I have been keeping very busy since the start of the school year. Academics take up most of my time. But my classmates, professors, and upperclassmen are always willing to help with studying. Basketball started up a couple weeks ago. We had a scrimmage last weekend and won by about twenty points – a strong start to the season. My coach, Captain Gaines, is very supportive and is always pushing us to exceed expectations. Likewise, my teammates are a lot of fun to be around and work with.

Musically, I have been singing more here then I ever did in high school. I am in the Glee Club, Catholic Choir, and in the all-female choral group called “Fairwinds.” I have already sang at the U.S. Coast Guard Foundation Dinner in NYC, Arlington National Cemetery, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Dinner and Ball in honor of Admiral Robert Papp Jr. in NYC (where I sang solo the National Anthem), and at a Connecticut Sun WNBA game. This weekend a 2/c and I are singing the National Anthem for the November 6th Patriots vs. the NY Giants NFL game. Even though I am a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan, I am so excited about this opportunity! There should only be about 68,000+ fans there – no pressure, right?!

I really cannot believe everything I have experienced and accomplished thus far at the Academy. I worked very hard during high school and am working four times as hard here. I know that all of my efforts will be worth it. After all, if it was easy then everyone would do it.

Till next time,
4/c Victoria Gurtler

More about Victoria.

A Taste of Failure

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Adam Hoburg Well I’ve made it past midterms of my first semester here at the Academy and that in itself feels like a significant accomplishment. The first half of my semester was full of many challenges and many opportunities to grow and improve myself. But I don’t take a single one of those lessons for granted because I strongly believe that learning those kinds of things are one of the most valuable experiences of the Academy. One of the most significant of these lessons came to me this semester when I received my first “F” on a Calc 2 exam. Receiving that grade was the most disappointing and disheartening experiences I’ve had here. But I’ve quickly learned that it’s what you do after you receive a grade like that that really matters. It’s the process of getting back up after a failure and learning from your mistakes and what you can do to improve, that really defines you as a student.

I know for myself it has been about taking the results from that test and realizing how I need to adjust my study habits to do better next time, instead of dwelling on the unsatisfactory grade. It has also made me recognize how important it is to establish a relationship with your professors. When you go to your professors for help and they begin to get to know you and understand your strengths and specific areas that you need help, they more than able and willing to mentor and help you improve. All of the instructors here really care about the students and I have found that they are always making a constant effort to make themselves available to the students for extra help. But the most important thing is that you show that you care and that you make an effort to meet with your teachers and do whatever you can to improve yourself. If you demonstrate that you are willing to put forth the effort, then your professors are going to be willing to put forth the extra effort to help you.

This place challenges me every day and I absolutely love it. This is my first blog entry and throughout the years I hope I get a chance to share some insightful and authentic experiences as a cadet. I could not see myself at any other school, but I’ll be honest when I say it is not an easy place. But it’s a place where I can get up every morning knowing that I’m working to prepare to be a leader in an organization with a mission much bigger than myself, and that’s something you can’t find anywhere else.

More about Adam.

Relax and Laugh a Little

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Zachary Kearney The image reflected from the glass was foreign, unfamiliar, almost extraterrestrial. You know the classic alien picture of the small green figure with a big bald head? Yeah, that’s what the image behind the glass looked like, minus the green part. If you looked closer at the image, you might notice that the palms of the man in the mirror were sweating profusely, and the knees may or may not have been shaking a tad. But surprisingly, even in his nervous state, the man in the mirror was laughing.

Have you ever been in a situation where you are just waiting for something to happen? Perhaps you are about to get interviewed for that college you just have to get into, or you are about to give the dreaded research presentation to Mrs. Grouch, who happens to always wake up on the wrong side of the bed every single morning. You are just waiting and waiting and waiting; all you want to do is get whatever you have to do over with, but because you are waiting so long, you are just getting more nervous. Well gals and guys, that was how I felt as R-Day approached.

I knew what was coming as I arrived at the Navy Lodge the night before. I knew what was coming once I walked through those gates; I knew who was waiting for me. I’m sure most of you have watched the R-Day videos on YouTube, I know I did a hundred times before I arrived. If you look at one of them closely, you will actually see Zachary Kearney before he lost his wavy black locks. I’m sure many of you are imagining yourselves on that bus on that fateful day this upcoming June, wondering what your thoughts may be before that gigantic cadre bursts through the doors and yells at you to get off “his bus”. How will you react the first time you are singled out by Mrs. So-and-So because you accidently called her a Sir, or how will you feel when you have to refer to yourself as Swab *insert your name here? Don’t worry if you can’t keep your eyes in the boat very well (looking straight ahead), because I couldn’t very well (they might give you a gigantic box with an eye slit to look through to “correct” this problem, so don’t be alarmed if this happens to you).

So even though you know what is waiting for you a few short months away (and trust me, those months will fly so make sure you have as much clean fun as you can while you are still in high school), don’t get too worked up about it. Sure it’s natural to get nervous and to wonder what the summer will entail for you. I admit, it’s a ton of yelling that first day; you will get singled out, your back will kill from standing at attention for so long, and you will probably feel a little homesick. But keep this in mind, that first day is the hardest day. I remember how by lunch, when I was able to say goodbye to my parents and brother, those first few hours had felt like a week. But once that day is over, you can tell yourself, “I just finished the hardest day of the entire summer.” You will get into the routine, and eventually, your summer will be over. Not to mention, you will become very close to your fellow shipmates and discover what the word ‘camaraderie’ really means.

So guys, when you are staring at yourself in the mirror after you have lost your nice flow to the razors, laugh a little. We cadets have all gone through it and you will too if you want too. Girls, I know you won’t have to go through the notorious haircut, but when your hair is completely covered in gel to keep it up, remember to laugh a little as well. You all may look ridiculous, and you all will smell worse, but think of what lies at the end of the passageway. Just try to keep your eyes in the boat when you trek through it.

More about Zachary.

Sleep or Study?

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Zachary Kearney I look at my watch as I crawl into bed after a nice cram session before my first Chemistry test. 0130. Oh boy, tomorrow is going to be rough. Yes, that day was indeed rough.

I look at my watch as I plop onto my bed after a nice cram session before my second Calculus test. 0100. Oh boy, tomorrow is going to be rough. Yes, that day was also indeed rough.

I look at my watch before the big Macro Test. 0030. I look at my watch before that one quiz. 0000. I look at my watch before the important speech. 2345. I look at my watch before that one day. 2330. And that other day. 2315 That other test. 2300.

Each day, I felt a little more rested. Each day, was a little better. Each day was another day of getting used to the routine. Sure, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I had the occasional late night after the first few weeks, but after those few weeks, I did get more sleep. Not as much as I want of course, but enough to function at least a little during the day. Those days became weeks. Those weeks became months. Some of those tests were better than others. Only a handful of them are refrigerator worthy, but at least I learned that more sleep equals less red slashes through my answers. For some reason less red slashes keeps the teachers happy, which keeps me happy, too.

I look at my watch as I wake from my deep slumber. 10:45 a.m. Oh how I love winter break. I can’t believe I have made it through my first semester at the Academy. Winter break has been very kind to me; sleep has been the number one priority followed closely by eating. Ok, I know I’ve been lazy this holiday, but give me a break, taking 20 credits in one semester is strenuous on the body. I’m just rejuvenating for next semester. And I’ve been running and working out most every day this break too, so there.

It’s nice being home, visiting friends and family, and enjoying myself. I got to visit my grandparents and all my relatives this break, which is great since I haven’t seen many of them since before R-Day. Honestly, the support I receive from all of them, as well as my parents and friends are what really keeps me going, and I am thankful for that. Looking back on these past 6 months, from R-Day to my first test, and from my first test to my last final, I realize how much I’ve gone through. I’ve grown a lot these past few months and I’m still reaching for new heights. Bring it on second semester. But for now, I’m going to enjoy my last few days of break.

I look at my watch now. 11:26 p.m. I think I’ll stay up for a few hours. Tomorrow is going to be a great day. I don’t plan to get up until past 10 a.m. Yes 10 a.m., not 1000. I’m still on break.

More about Zachary.

How Time Flies

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Zachary Kearney At the moment I’m sitting on a train, counting down the hours until I arrive back to the Academy. This trip was the first time I had ever been on a train and probably not my last. From inside the train, it appears I am going pretty slow; I can see the landmarks all around me and can count all of the houses I pass. We are constantly stopping at different train stations too, prolonging my journey back to the Academy. But if I stepped off the train, and looked at it as it passed, it would appear to be going mighty fast. It is kind of like the concept of time here at the Academy. These past five months have seemed extremely slow at times. Sometimes I’m sitting in 1st period class Monday morning and I can feel my eyelids becoming heavier and heavier and all I can think of is how in the world am I going to make it through this week. But Friday always seems to just sneak up on me, and I feel like the week flew by again. As everyone says around here, “the days are long, but the weeks are short”.

I know that it’s going to be hard going back to the Academy tonight, especially since Thanksgiving break was amazing and was the first time in five months that I had been back home. But at the same time, I know this week will fly by, and the week after, and soon enough, it will be winter break. And I also know that once I get back and get into the daily routine again, it isn’t so bad. Sure, there are late nights and very early mornings when all I want to do is crawl in bed and sleep, and sometimes I wish I was able to go out any night like my friends back home. But I know that even though it may be stressful at the present, the rewards are going to be far and wide. I can’t wait to go to a duty station this summer and experience the Coast Guard firsthand while also exploring different ports of the country. These next few years I’m going to be given opportunities that you would think were only possible in a story from a book. It may seem that these awesome experiences are so far away, but as I finish writing this, my train ride is closer to being over than when I started this journal entry and I’m almost back to the Academy. Time still flies, even when you think it has stood still.

More about Zachary.

My Journey

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Zachary Kearney Three and half months ago, I began my journey here at the Academy. It’s crazy to think that only a few months ago I still had my ’97 black Honda Civic, I lived in a room that consisted of clothes, school work, boxes, and more clothes scattered everywhere, and I still had my long locks of brown hair. Now, these three and a half months later, I am carless, my room is always inspection-ready with a sparkling buffed deck, and I get a haircut three times a month.

The United States Coast Guard Academy has truly been the definition of “change” for me. I’m not going to lie, it has definitely been a challenging few months. Swab Summer was pretty difficult, and the school year has also proved to be just as hard. I have to stay on top of my academics, as well as memorize indoc, make sure my room and uniform are perfect, and participate in a varsity sport. The days are constantly busy, but as I’ve heard a million times here “The days are long, but the weeks go by fast.” That statement is definitely true; even though every day is tough, once Friday comes along I always wonder how it came so fast. The friends I’ve made here have been extremely supportive and are very helpful.

Have a great month of October and never hesitate to email me at Zachary.D.Kearney@uscga.edu.

More about Zachary.

A Year in Review

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Kody Kekoa As we enter 2012 with excitement and enthusiasm, I felt that it is important to reflect on the past year.

2011 marked the first full year that I was blessed with the many opportunities that stem from the U.S. Coast Guard. While there were low points, they were greatly outnumbered by the positive moments.

Some of the memories I have are…
  • Traveling to France without the financial help of others.
  • Completing a year of prep school at the New Mexico Military Institute.
  • Joining the USCGA Boxing Team and traveling to some states for the first time.
  • Sailing on the USCGC Eagle into New York Harbor with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, on board.
As cliché as it sounds, each day has guided me toward becoming a better person. My confidence is being constantly raised as I complete every day, although some seem nearly impossible.

It is that time of year for many of you high school seniors to narrow down your college choices and ultimately decide where you will attend. My best advice for you is to enjoy high school and go out with a bang. College will come soon enough, so this last semester and summer is for you to have fun.

Aloha.

More about Kody.

Weekends at the Academy

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Kody Kekoa As the famous poet, Rebecca Black once said “It’s Friday, Friday, gonna get down on Friday!” and indeed I am writing this entry on a Friday. If I were at home in Hawaii or at another college, it would be the start to a weekend where not a single care in the world would be given toward school. However, at the Academy, there is a different view of the weekend and it is actually a gift from the academic gods.

Fourth class (freshmen) do not have liberty on Fridays, and the liberty on Saturday and Sunday is limited, unless instructed otherwise. Other than eating, chilling with friends, working out, and sleeping, there is not much to do. So to pass by the time, we partake in the great pastime of homework. While it may seem like a downer, it is actually a blessing in disguise.

Cadets have sports, extracurricular activities, moments for themselves, and school all vying to take our precious time. So getting ahead of the game, by doing homework and studying for the future, really helps relieve the stress for the upcoming weeks. The weekend is also the best way to recover and catch up on sleep, which I believe is the number one reason why life can get pretty hard here. Another reason why I value the weekend is because it gives me time to talk with my family and friends. For as many opportunities that my shipmates and I are being opened up to, it is important to never forget where we came from.

At the Academy, the typical weekend may be uneventful. However, cadets really develop a sense of respect and value for this time.

Aloha.

More about Kody.

Set Small Goals

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Kody Kekoa It is the beginning of November, which is arguably the hardest part of the year thus far. While sports and extracurricular activities continue to take up time, the academics are becoming noticeably more difficult. At the Academy, tests for all subjects come in waves, and this next one feels like a tsunami. Projects and papers continue to the added stresses.

Because there are a million things happening at once, I have learned a very important lesson: set small goals. Especially as a 4/c it is very easy to get flustered knowing that all these things need to get done on time. Instead of panicking about each objective, I set smaller and easily achievable goals that ultimately lead to the completion of a big project or paper.

Another lesson that I cannot express enough is getting an adequate amount of sleep. It is very easy to catch yourself staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning, and while some cadets can survive like this, most end up spiraling deeper into a hole. Although that Math assignment may be 10 points, it is probably more worth it for you get to sleep if it is late in the night. The way I like to think about it is, if you stay up later, then you will not be as attentive in class the next day, and you will have to end up teaching yourself that material later on. Therefore you will need to stay up even later. Which is a scary formula.

It is now a little further along in the year, so my classmates and myself are learning the different strategies that do and do not work. I hope these points can help you if you come to the Academy or not!

Aloha.

More about Kody.

Everything’s Better in Texas!

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samuel Krakower During the first couple days in February, I had the privilege of going with the Glee Club to Fort Worth, Texas! It was a great time, one that will certainly highlight my 4/c year. We flew down after classes on the February 1st and got in late. Our sponsor family was easily some of the nicest people I have ever met. That checked Southern hospitality off the list of things to see and have. We did “recruiting” by performing for multiple high schools, as well as a couple of elementary schools for fun. The students seemed to be pretty into it, and every time us Idlers went out and sang The Rattlin’ Bog, the place went absolutely crazy. Hopefully we recruited some good applicants!

The highlight was probably when we sang the National Anthem for the Fort Worth Stockyards Stock Show and Rodeo. The announcer gave us an amazing introduction; we sang great, and the crowd of maybe 7,000 sounded like a fully packed NFL stadium. Southern patriotism (or Texas patriotism at least) is definitely big. The rodeo itself was awesome, and it was really a good time. We finished with a full concert at a church, which went remarkably well. The concert is actually on Youtube!

Overall, the experience was great. We got out of Connecticut, did some good singing, had a great time, and just soaked in the Texas awesomeness. Now that we’re back, it’s time to hit the books, play lax, and get ready for Spring Break!

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I Like It Here

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samuel Krakower There’s something about coming back to the Academy after winter break that makes you feel depressed. Maybe it’s because of the Swab Summer feeling after the Flag Ceremony, maybe it’s because you had a great time over break and you miss your family and friends, or maybe it’s because you don’t want to do school again, or do 4/c things. Just like every other 4/c, and maybe some upper-class, I felt this coming back to the Academy. But yesterday, something really hit me. I like it here. A lot. The people I’ve met have already made a huge impact on my life from OSC Moore, our Company Chief, to former 4/c Luke Miller, a cadet in our company who got medically disenrolled just this week.

And it doesn’t stop there. I saw this article, which you all can check out.

It blows my mind that despite our current relations with Iran, the Coast Guard (and yes, the Navy) is still willing to go all out to save and rescue distressed sailors and fisherman. There’s a pride in my service that I can’t even explain in words. There were times I’ve doubted being here, whether it was the right fit, whether I could succeed academically or not. The answer to all these small problems lies in the three core values of the U.S. Coast Guard - Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. It comes down to honoring my shipmates who have been with me on this trail and to not let them down, respecting others and myself on having accomplished so much in a measly six months, and devoting myself to every duty I have, going 100% on everything.

The new semester begins. And with that a horde of new challenges. There is no doubt in my mind that my shipmates and I can conquer them all.

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This Semester and What Comes Next

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samuel Krakower There’s nothing like hearing Christmas music in Chase Hall, it means we’re just about done with the semester! Of course, with the end of the semester come finals. As classes wrapped up, it’s amazing what we all have learned academically this semester. My Chemistry teacher, CDR St. George, showed us a binder about six inches thick full of Chemistry work, tests, PowerPoints, and the like. She bluntly said, “This was Chem 1.” We all got a laugh out of it, but it really is extraordinary how much we all have struggled and advanced this semester. I know I wasn’t looking too good in the beginning academically, but I have picked up drastically since then, looking at As and Bs in most of my classes. Study and Conference Day is today, where we basically went around to all of the classes we needed to go to and received all last minute help and suggestions for the finals. I’m really excited to get these finals knocked out.

We’ve all been told that it will only get harder after break, and that will most definitely be the case for me. I’ll be taking Stats and Engineering, the second parts of Chemistry and Calculus, and Macroeconomics, to name a few courses. Our jobs as 4/c are only going to get harder as well, at least that’s what our guidon says. On the other hand, starting next semester, lacrosse will kick in, as will the Cadet Musical. Glee Club has a trip planned to Texas in February, and Model UN will be planning for the McGill Conference in Montreal! There’s a lot to look forward to, but the main focus now is to bang out these finals, and onto winter leave!

More about Samuel.

It's Almost Thanksgiving Break

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samuel Krakower Hey Everyone!

As my clocks would go:
Me: THERE ARE NOW 12 DAYS TO GO UNTIL THANKSGIVING LEAVE! THERE ARE NOW-
Random 1/c: Secure it!
Me: AYE AYE SIR!

Thanksgiving Break! Yes! So close to the first real break since my coming here in June, which, when I think about it, was almost five months ago. It’s incredible that I’ve been in the long blue line for that long.

Since I last wrote, a lot has gone down. The play, “Murder Runs in the Family” was a huge success! I received so many congrats and good jobs from upper class, and even Captain O’Connor, our Commandant of Cadets! It was a great experience working with everyone in the cast, and performing the show.

Halloween on the Hill was pretty cool. I got to dress as a Jersey “guido” (repping the home state!), which was a lot of fun. The weekend before, lacrosse went down to Maryland to play a game against Morgan State. Worst weather conditions I’ve ever played in, but we managed to win 16-2, so no complaints!

Aside from that, everything has been pretty routine here. The days usually follow the same pattern: training, classes, sports, sleep, repeat. We finally have all of our uniforms, concluding with out DDB jackets. We even have our running suits, but right now those are just mocking me in my upper left hand drawer, as we can’t wear them yet. At least we got dry cleaning privileges! Ironing is so much harder than it looks. We closed out the drill and formal room and wing season, so everyone is pretty happy about that.

All that’s really left is finals, finishing up CERs, and before you know it, winter leave will be here! I know I’m going back to my high school alma mater to show them the new 4/c Krakower. It should be a great time. But Thanksgiving Break comes before that, so I’m pretty pleased at the remainder of this year.

If you haven’t finished applying to the CGA yet 2016…you better finish up!

More about Samuel.

The Camaraderie

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Samuel Krakower Whoa! Midterms here already? I can’t even believe it! These first eight weeks have gone by way faster than Swab Summer did, that’s for sure! Don’t kid yourselves, applicants, if you think you did well in high school and you’ll be able to coast right through here (no pun intended), think again. These classes are tough. Add the athletics and military obligations and you’ve got one heck of a schedule! Another huge thing I’ve noticed here is everyone is really helpful and really friendly. If you need help with something, someone is going to help you. Study sessions and CAAP sessions are definitely helping me out. My favorite classes are definitely History with Dr. Zuczek and Nautical Science with BMC Shafer. History is my favorite subject (oh, hello there Government major!) and Dr. Zuczek brings an interesting perspective to it. We had some pretty intense debates about Jackson and Clay, and it’s awesome because EVERYONE gets involved and gets intense. Navigation is just a great class because it’s what I’ll be doing in just four years! Really enjoying that class, as well as all of the classes in general.

I joined a whole bunch of clubs since coming here, including Mock Trial, Model UN, Glee Club, and I even made the fall play! That’s going to be lots of fun! Lacrosse is awesome, we just played our first game against UCONN last Sunday, and we almost won! I got an assist and played two quarters, so I’m happy about that. Extracurriculars definitely take your mind off the madness of fourth class year, and can even get you wearing civvies and leaving the Academy! Glee Club is going to NYC next week, I’m pretty excited!

The military stuff is pretty chill, believe it or not. Duty gives you time to do homework with no distractions. Clocks are clocks, and the greeting is so much better than the mass greeting of Swab Summer. Which brings me to Swab Summer. Eight weeks later, looking back at it, it is easily the best experience of my life. I made thirty great friends who are now my company-mates, we went through many difficult days and came out strong. That’s what I like best about this place – the camaraderie.

One half-semester down, 15 to go until I’m an Ensign! Hopefully, it won’t go TOO fast!

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The Dark Ages

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Matthew Martin Getting back into the rhythm of things, getting ready for our first round of exams, and studying for boards; life is good. I knew coming back from this place would not be on my “yay” list, but once you’re back into the swing of things, it really isn’t too bad. Yes, I miss normalcy, like eating without bracing up, not having to square all around Chase Hall, and screaming for ten minutes staring at a clock before breakfast and lunch. I also miss the garbage man that most people take for granted. All we have to do to get our carry on and to stop having to do all those annoying little tasks is to pass the Boards indoctrination test. It is a ten question, oral exam that is very formal. You have to get an 8 or better to pass and the whole class must pass before we get our privileges. In the past, boards was in February, at the latest March, but now our week of Boards in the second week of April! It is nice because you don’t have to worry about it for a while, but it is not so nice because that is right before finals and we have to be getting ready for those as well as preparing for boards. It also means we cannot get any privileges until the last week of school. We will see how well the new plan works out.

All the upper class call these winter months the “dark ages” and warned us about its effects. I didn’t believe the side effects of the sun setting abnormally early and not rising until mid day. But yes, the sky gets darker and moral gets lower around here. It is much harder to stay positive and to forget all the negativity and stay to your course of finishing 4/c year strong. I would say, no matter the time of year, that staying positive is the hardest thing, but it is also the biggest key to success. If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel or if you can be the light yourself, it not only makes your life better, but it helps out your shipmates to do the same. 40 days to go until spring break! That’s one thing to be positive about.

More about Matt.

That Pit in Your Stomach

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Matthew Martin In the past month I have experienced the best feeling and the worst feeling. One was leaving the Academy for break and the other was coming back to the Academy from break. I will let you decide which was which. But really though, Winter Leave was a lot of fun and was well deserved after finals and an exhausting first semester, but I was ready to come back. Finals are fairly tough, as they should be, and you can either let them ruin you or let them make you. Finals week is really relaxed and that is a nice change. After finals, I rushed out of here to catch a 0600 plane the day after my last exam and coming home for the first home was great! It was wonderful to walk around without my uniform on, whenever my mom let me out of the house without it on which wasn’t often. But it was good to see friends and family and to just relax, and sleep in!

Once I was home for a while, it was like I never left. Friends came home from colleges, and other friends never left and are working at the Wal-Mart or Wendy's. My friends and family made me realize why I go to the Academy. That look of pride from your family or your grandpa tearing up every time he sees you in uniform is what brought me back here. My friends’ stories about their “difficult days,” which sounds like a vacation from Academy life, is what brought me back because I know how much better prepared for life I will be by being here. Knowing that life doesn’t change at home means that I wouldn’t change being there either. Growing up means changing and becoming a better person and that is what the Academy does and is what I could get nowhere else. Coming back to the Academy, you see the tip of Hamilton Hall and the flashing light of the Chapel and you get that pit in your stomach and I probably will always get that feeling whenever I see this place. But even with that feeling, I feel refreshed and ready to take on the Academy’s challenges no matter how much I would rather be watching the new 3D T.V. at home that we got for Christmas.

More about Matt.

Basketball

(Athletics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Matthew Martin Basketball season is in full swing now and I thought I didn’t have any time before the season started. It’s a whole new dilemma with games and practices to work around now. Time management has a new meaning at the Academy. I wish I had learned time management in high school, but instead I now rely on that lovely caffeinated beverage, coffee. Sports here do take up a lot of your valuable time, but if you love playing and being a part of that team, it’s all worth it. Sports give you an opportunity to be out of the barracks and time to not think about what is due tomorrow or what military duty you have after practice. It is a fun outlet to give your brain a break, your body a workout, and a place to meet good people.

Varsity sports are a lot more time demanding than the club sports, but we all take our sports seriously. Even though they take up some time, you magically find ways to get your work done and still find a few hours to sleep. The team just got back from Philadelphia from a tournament, which is another good reason to play sports – you have the chance to get away from the Academy and hang out in cool places getting to see bits and pieces of what normal life is like on the “outside”. Not many people get to play on a varsity college team but cadets do have that opportunity here. It is also a fun outlet.

More about Matt.

Parent's Weekend!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Matthew Martin The most fun weekend, at least for me, of the semester has passed, Parent’s Weekend. My parents and grandparents came up for the weekend to go to a few classes, watch drill on the parade field, see my room, and give me a break from the Academy for a short weekend. Being from Arizona makes life a little harder being 2,000 miles from home because I can’t just hop in a car or train and make it home for a long weekend or Thanksgiving. This weekend was the first time I saw my parents since Reporting-In Day and it had been too long! I got to see my parents in the same spot I said my goodbyes on R-Day four months earlier, except this time I was wearing a uniform, I held my head a little higher, and had a firmer handshake. It was a lot of fun to hang out with my parents and grandparents like I was at home and I got to remember for a short second what normalcy was like.

It was the best weekend so far, better than our first weekend having liberty in Mystic, better than our weekend in New York City while on Eagle, and better than our first liberty as fourth class cadets. Yes, it was so much fun, but it made me miss home even more after they left. Most of us fourth class spend a majority of our free time looking for ways to get back on cheap flights or just counting down the days until we get to go home. Since 4/c year is the most difficult, we can’t wait till we get to go home. Most cadets get to go home for Thanksgiving, but being so far away, it’s not worth the money or the two days of traveling for a couple days at home. Christmas can’t come any sooner since that will be the first time I get to go home and see all of my family and friends. It is tough being so far away, only seeing your family maybe twice a year after you are used to seeing them way too much than you want to see them, but it is just a small price to be paid for what cadets receive here.

More about Matt.

What Is A Fourth Class Cadet?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Matthew Martin Swab Summer finally ended and I'm now writing as a fourth class cadet! Swab Summer was of course a shock and the hardest seven weeks of my life, but also the funnest seven weeks. You are pushed physically, emotionally, and spiritually harder than you could imagine, yet it is just the beginning. As you progress through the Academy it only gets harder. You are given more jobs and more responsibility, and less room for error and it seems like less time to get it all done. Everyone can't wait until Swab Summer is over, yet once it is over, everyone would take it back in a heartbeat for a guaranteed eight hours of sleep a night, no responsibility, and plenty of time to stay in shape! You learn a lot about yourself and why you really chose to be here and those reasons change for the better as you continue through Swab Summer. It is most definitely a needed part of the Academy experience and am glad I got to be a part of the yelling, running, studying, and most memorably laughing that bonded our class together and to the "long blue line" of all the past coasties that have finished Swab Summer as well.

Now that it's over and that we have moved into the school year, everything is different. Okay, maybe not everything, but for the most part. We still have to square around the passageways of Chase Hall and greet everyone by name. We still have our indoctrination (or indoc) to memorize and we still have some yelling to do when we have to do our clocks, which is when we announce the morning and afternoon formations to the corps so everyone is on the same page (and awake). We have to take all the trash out of all the rooms in Chase Hall and we have to keep our uniforms neat and up to standard. There're also military duties that we have to stand to make sure the corps keeps running. Yes, we have a lot to do, not to mention 22 credits in school as well as athletics. But the big difference between the school year and Swab Summer is the fact that there's no one breathing down your neck making sure you do everything you are told; it's all on you to get things done. As fourth class, our role is to be followers, to continue the teamwork we built in Swab Summer to accomplish tasks that help the corps function. Next year, we will be able to sit back and let the next fourth class take our trash because we paid the price for the privilege the previous year. Yes, fourth class year is tough, but it’s just the next stepping stone to be an Ensign in the USCG.

More about Matt.

Winter Leave Was A Great Thing

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 James Meyers Winter leave is the first time you really get to leave the Academy for an extended period of time. I got to go home and enjoy a full three weeks of doing absolutely nothing. To go from all the military, academic, and athletic requirements to sleeping till 2 p.m., wearing normal clothes, and driving places, is a really good feeling. In the period I was home “doing nothing,” I managed to find time to hang out with old friends, go to NYC, and obviously spend time with family. I’m not sure whom I spent more time with, my family or my friends, but either way, it was good to see them.

I really appreciate small things that I didn’t necessarily think about or appreciate before coming to the Academy, like being able to make my own breakfast, and having a room to myself (not saying I don’t love my roommates). I was also able to go play hockey at our ice rink a few times, which was fun. It was at Navy and there was also a gym so that allowed me to stay in shape somewhat.

The part that nobody likes about winter leave is coming back, but it was not as bad as I expected it to be. I came back excited to see my friends at the Academy and three weeks was enough time to let me relax before classes. All in all, winter leave was a great thing, and something I needed, but now I’m ready to start the work again.

More about James.

Studying for Finals

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 James Meyers I have finals this week, and as soon as those are done, I get to leave and go home for three whole weeks. The fact that I get to leave is what’s going to get me through them. Three weeks. The longest I’ve been away from the Academy was five days for Thanksgiving and I didn’t even get to go home, I spent it at my grandparent’s house in Rhode Island. Anyway, finals are here and I’m pretty sure I’m ready for them. I’ve gotten almost all A’s in my classes as if that’s not enough of an indicator of how I’m going to do, I study all my old notes and the old material comes back very quickly.

While some people are using the cramming method, I find that it works a lot better to have been studying all semester and then just review. That way, as soon as I’ve reviewed my material, I actually have free time to relax. It is important to find at least a little time to rest so that you don’t explode with all the things you have to do during the day, especially during finals.

Fortunately, the Academy becomes almost like a normal college for a week, as many duties are dropped in favor of academic time and studying. There is much more time for closed door studying in rooms, and we no longer have to cover clocks (clocks can be an entry of its own). Finals, at least for me, is a good time as long I have been studying hard for the whole semester. The work pays off in the end.

More about James.

My Swab Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 James Meyers It's only appropriate that my first blog entry is about Swab Summer, as that was my first experience at the Academy. They are seven weeks of hard mental and physical conditioning to get you ready for the school year and prepare you to be in the military. The most difficult part of Swab Summer for me was not the physical activity, but the drastic change from civilian life to military life. I'm pretty average when it comes to physical fitness, and there were very few things I couldn't do. Not saying it was easy, but it's like any good workout; you feel much better once you're done. As for the new military life style, my senior year of high school I was basically a lazy bum. I had two classes, got home by 10 a.m., and either slept all day or ate McDonald's, and that's not really an exaggeration; you could ask any of my high school friends. So to come here and go from being able to sleep all day, to running around from the break of dawn until 10 p.m. was a huge change. Once the first week passed I got into the basic routine so it wasn't as bad. It's really just a marathon and a test of endurance. Anyone can make it through with a little will power and determination.

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Getting Back in the Swing of Things

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Alex Min Trying to adjust to any new situation always proves to be a major feat; however, coming back to the Academy was more difficult than I imagined. Thankfully, the first week upon arrival was MAP week, when we spent our days attending trainings and lectures. It takes time to really get acclimated back to the military lifestyle and waking up before six every morning. Another challenge for me was particularly the weather. The first few days I was cold no matter where I went; in lectures, Chase Hall, my room, and even my bed. After enjoying three weeks of 85 degree weather, Connecticut was freezing. The first week was really overwhelming, but my best friends were here with me and they helped to pick me up. No matter how difficult the challenge, especially coming back, having friends helps you through your toughest days. Leave also generates a lot of funny stories, which always keeps everyone entertained and smiling.

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Self Reflection

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Alex Min As the semester comes to a close I thought it would be a great time to reflect and think back to why I chose the Coast Guard and what gives me the motivation to keep giving all I have everyday. First off, I am here because I wanted to do something for my country, as President John F. Kennedy captured in his inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” The Coast Guard opened doors for me to give back to my country and also helps me achieve goals I have set in my life.

Secondly, I am here for the challenge. It was hard to leave Hawaii, but life on the islands never changes so I was ready to see the world and gain new experiences. The Coast Guard has already given me many experiences I never dreamed possible; anchoring right outside the Statue of Liberty during my Swab Summer Eagle experience, visiting Washington D.C., and meeting some of the finest people I have ever met.

Finally, I am here because I owe it to so many who have also done what I am doing. I owe it to my family, friends, teachers, and those who have come before me. As I am often reminded, I am carrying on the “long blue line,” and it brings me a lot of pride that I am here doing what so many before me have already done. During the most trying periods of time during my first semester as a 4/c cadet, I find it rewarding to take a few minutes to reflect back and remember why I am here and what I am working toward.

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Formal Room and Wing

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Alex Min There’s nothing quite like spending hours cleaning with your shipmates, trying to make every inch of your company spotless and smelling good. Once a month, the fourth class cadets assemble and embark on an all night experience, which normally continues into the early morning hours. From cleaning the heads (bathrooms) to scrubbing off the scuffs on the deck (floor) we do it all. During a formal room and wing, the ranking cadets at the Academy inspect company areas, rooms, and the bathrooms.

Formal room and wings are not fun, but it serves a good purpose. It is a humbling experience to spend hours cleaning and makes me appreciate the hard work that so many others have to do every day. Each formal room and wing also provides an opportunity to catch up with my shipmates while we scrub and brush the decks. However, the best is when it’s all over and you feel so accomplished and proud to see the decks shining in the light.

More about Alex.

Rugby

(Athletics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Alex Min Stepping on to the pitch for the first time each match generates one of the greatest adrenaline rushes of my life. I walk up to the line with fourteen other players, every arm linked around the neck of the player to the left and right. We anxiously await the kickoff and the opportunity to make the first tackle. Rugby is different from any other sport I have ever played. For those who have never watched a game, it consists of a mix of soccer and football, minus the pads. A full match lasts for eighty minutes, two forty minute halves, and is very physically draining.

Myself along with about eight other 4/c came out to join the team in late August, and since then have developed a much clearer understanding of the game. We practice every day in Stonington, at the Coast Guard Foundation field, about twenty minutes from the Academy. We also have morning practices on Tuesday and Thursday.

This past Saturday, October 9, 2011, we traveled to Maine on a six-hour bus ride to play at the University of Maine at Orno. It was a great game, the weather was moderate, and our A team won the match. Unfortunately, during our B game, our very own 4/c Tramontano dislocated his shoulder making an amazing tackle. After a quick trip to the local ER and great help by the medical staff, he will make a complete recovery and should be back playing rugby in no time.

The rugby team has great camaraderie that is hard to find anywhere else. It is made up of a group of genuine men, who come together to play some amazing rugby. I attribute the cohesiveness of the team to the captains, 1/c Dewechter and 1/c Gonzales as well as the great coaching staff.

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First Time Home

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Sean Murphy Today is the day I was dreading all week: the day I have come back from leave. Coming back is actually not as bad as I thought it would be, knowing that I only have two and a half weeks left before I go back to sunny Sarasota, Florida. Thanksgiving leave was awesome. Returning home for the first time to my parents was a great feeling; I really felt how proud my family is of me. I saw tons of friends and family, threw down some old inside jokes, did work on some Thanksgiving turkey, played plenty of ultimate Frisbee, practiced with my old crew team, hung out at the beach, and went to church. The one thing everyone said to me when they first saw me was, “You are so pale!” I guess that’s what happens when you go from being outside in tank tops every single day to living in New London, Connecticut, where you wear long sleeves and stay inside because the sun goes down at 1630 during the winter.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that when I go back home, I will lose the connection that I had with my friends because they won’t understand what I go through everyday at the Academy. I personally found the opposite with my friends. I found a mutual respect between my friends and me for what we both have experienced. All the same old inside jokes were alive and well. I also learned that my view of a “real” college experience was not accurate. Before reuniting with my friends this past week, I viewed their lives as waking up at noon everyday, go to one class a day, and then party the rest of the time. In reality, I heard stories of my friends bogged down in homework, studies, and athletics, and only having time to enjoy the “real” experiences on the weekends. I didn’t feel alone and took solace in knowing I’m not the only one working my behind off every day.

I attended church with my family on Saturday, the day before I left for the Academy. I reluctantly agreed to wear my uniform to mass (I’m glad I did – my family was very happy). The homily was about waiting for the future. The priest explained how we are always waiting for something: for someone to come home, for a holiday, or for a return home. He explained how we feel helpless because we are obsessed with waiting for the future. His homily was very relevant for any military family. During my whole time at the Academy, my family and I have been playing the waiting game for me to go home. I was even playing the waiting game before I came to the Academy. I waited eagerly to leave home for R-Day. It is so easy to get caught up in waiting for the future that you don’t enjoy the moment that you are in. Then when you get to the moment you have been waiting for, you are dreading the ending of the moment! I’m learning to enjoy the moment that I am in and not get caught up in the anxiety of waiting for the future. It’s the experiences of the present that shape us for the future. I don’t know if it’s too early to make a New Year’s resolution, but I propose for myself to try to enjoy more of the present. I urge you to do the same. Before you know it, you’ll have an appointment, graduate from high school, report into USCGA, finish Swab Summer, and return home in uniform for Thanksgiving. The future will come a lot quicker than you think.

I have a week and a half until finals! I have a speech and rough draft due on Tuesday, calculus test on Tuesday, chemistry lab on Tuesday, macroeconomics test on Thursday, uniform inspection on Wednesday, chemistry test next Tuesday, paper due next week, community service on Saturday, Statics project due next week, and chemistry , calculus, statics, and macroeconomics exams right before I leave for winter break. Just wait one moment while I have a stress-induced hernia.

I know! It sounds like a lot, but if you stay in top of the work, it is definitely realistic. It is important to learn good study habits before coming here. In reality, if you pay attention in class, do all the homework, and ask plenty of questions in class, the tests are not extremely difficult. The key is making sure you understand the material everyday, and don’t leave any learning until the day before the test. Good luck to all of those waiting to hear back from Admissions. I will never forget how stressful that was. As my grandfather would say “Keep punchin’!”

Cheers.
Oh P.S. – Shout out to my sister Katherine – she’s engaged...talk about a waiting game now! Congrats KK!

More about Sean.

Acclimating and Finding Motivation

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Sean Murphy Finishing Swab Summer was a huge weight off my shoulders. My next challenge was the academic year. The start of the semester was very difficult for me; I was constantly stressed out and overwhelmed. There are so many upper class, and I have to greet them all. There is so much indoc, and I have to know it all. There are so many uniforms, and I have to prepare them all. My family kept telling me that it would take a while, but I would eventually get into the swing of things, and they were right. With help from my shipmates and 3/c (basically the 4/c mentors), I soon became comfortable and found my rhythm. By the end of the first half of the semester, I figured out my routine, and have seen success so far in my experiences here at the Academy. If you come here, one of the biggest things you will hear is “Ask for help when you need it, and don’t wait until it is too late”. Everyone here is more than willing to help you with anything you need, all you need to do is ask. Relying on my family for support is huge for me; having people to reassure you that it will all work out is invaluable.

Times when I am overwhelmed with work, or just would rather be doing something else than cleaning for an inspection, I find myself pulling motivation from the inside. I think of the opportunity that I have, to receive an excellent education, to protect my fellow Americans, to travel the country and even the world, and most importantly, to become an officer in the Coast Guard; I realize that it isn’t as bad from the outside looking in. Given these opportunities, it is my duty to do the best that I can, even if situations are not enjoyable at all. Put down in a squat position in Swab Summer, I would think of the incredible sacrifices that my grandparents made to come to this country; the sacrifices they made for me to have this opportunity to follow my dream of becoming a Coast Guard officer. This motivation will push you to new limits. Saying to yourself, “If he/she could do or endure that, I can do this”, is incredibly inspiring.

More about Sean.

What Else Could CGA Stand For?

(Just for Fun, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Justin Sherman It’s been about two and a half weeks since returning to the Academy from Winter Leave. So much has happened in these past 18 days, and I’d say that we’re all back into the swing of things—or rather that we’ve established a new rhythm with our new classes, new divisions, and new uniforms (Winter Dress Blues!)

When I began thinking about what I was going to write for this month, I considered doing one focused on the acronym CGA. Here at the Academy and in the Coast Guard acronyms are extremely common. Some of our Academy-specific uniform items (e.g. running suits, rec gear) display ‘CGA.’ So I was wondering, besides Coast Guard Academy, what else could CGA represent?

Where did I get this idea? The story behind my nonsense: I participate in the activities of the Academy’s Officers’ Christian Fellowship group. Cadets who send emails with OCF information usually end their emails with:
“PTL Pass The Lettuce
Praise The Lord.”

A friend of mine, 4/c Josh Payne, and I decided it would be fun to find other three-word phrases for ‘PTL.’ (It’s a great challenge!)

This game/challenge we had led me to the idea of finding phrases for CGA. Sadly, we couldn’t think of as many CGA’s (I received help from Josh) as we could PTL’s. Nevertheless, I’ll share the CGA’s that we did create and explain the meaning behind each one (there are few that are somewhat of a stretch).

Clocks: Good Alarm
Every morning before the breakfast meal formation and every afternoon before the lunch meal formation, 4/c cadets (“fourth class”—used as a noun) have to do what is called a Clock Orderly, or Clocks for short. At ten minutes to go until the formation, there is a fourth class at each clock in Chase Hall (the barracks), and that individual must shout, “Sir/Ma’am,* there are now ten minutes to go until this morning/afternoon’s meal formation. This morning’s/afternoon’s meal formation will be held at fair/fowl weather parade. The uniform for this morning’s/afternoon’s meal formation is _____.” *Based on gender of Company Commander (first class cadet). Taken from the Running Light (the little blue book that the swabs hold in what seems to be every picture of them).

Back to Clocks. At seven minutes to go (and every thirty seconds following that until four minutes—“three minutes and sixty seconds”—to go), the fourth class again announce how many minutes remain, location of the formation, and the uniform for the formation. In the approximately twenty to fifteen seconds that remain until the next thirty-second mark, fourth class have to recite the daily indoc: the menu for the next three meals, the movies playing at the local movie theater, sports news (what teams the Academy is challenging for that upcoming week), and the number of days to go until important dates, such as long/holiday weekends, leave periods, and graduation.

Cafeteria Grub: Aramark
The company that makes the food in the cafeteria—called the Wardroom—is named Aramark.
A special shout out and thank you to my friend back home, Shelby Shafer, for helping me find the word “grub” as a replacement for “food.”

Colors; Give Attention
At 0800 (8 a.m.) and at sunset every evening the Academy observes Colors, the raising and lowering, respectively of the flags (National Ensign and the Coast Guard Ensign). Whoever is outside and on base (on Academy grounds) must stand at attention (and salute, if a member of the military) while Colors “goes-off” (the verb we use).

Can’t Give Attitude and Can’t Give “At-Ease”
Attitude – This is for the 4/c cadets. As the lowest-ranking cadets, we must be respectful to all upper-class cadets. Also, there are many little restrictions on the actions of fourth class. For example, when walking in the halls of Chase, we must remain in the center of the hall and “square” (sharply pivot) each corner. As fourth class, we have to accept these “duties” and not complain or question why we must do such things. “At-Ease” – This is for our mentors, the 3/c cadets. When they come into our room (well, actually when any upper class comes into a fourth class’s room), we call “Attention on Deck” and have to stand at attention. Second and first class cadets can tell us to relax (or carry-on)—in other words, be at ease. Third class, however, cannot give us this command.

I guess this is a good place to give another shout-out. This one is for one of the third class in my company that is somewhat of a mentor for me this semester. This 3/c cadet is Ms. Marie Navetta who is the Quarter Watch Stander (QWS) for the period that I am on Company Orderlies (cleaning the wing area). 3/c Navetta basically supervises my cleaning and goes around the wing area checking for cleanliness and orderliness.

Corners Gratefully Arced
As I mentioned above we have to square corners (along with many other things that I won’t get into here). Occasionally we are granted modified carry-on, which means that we do not have to square our corners (again, along with a few other privileges).

Clubs, Groups, and Athletics
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Besides school, we have many extracurricular activities here at the Academy. Ask me about them!

Companies Get Awards
At the end of each semester, each company (subsection of the Corps of Cadets) is recognized for certain achievements including most hours of community service, highest average GPA, best score in military assessments such as Formal Room and Wing or Drill. The most prestigious of these recognitions is Honor Company, the company that has the best overall performance throughout all areas of academics, athletics, and military. If a company earns Honor Company, each member of that company is authorized to take a long weekend (leave Friday afternoon/evening and return Sunday afternoon/evening). Other awards include Late Racks (permission to sleep in for a day).

Courtesy Graces All
We have courtesy and etiquette trainings so that we can learn to be respectable, presentable, and professional officers.

I could keep going, but this entry has become rather long. I’ve decided that I will end the next few blog entries with one or two CGAs (just like cadets close the OCF emails) and provide an explanation, if necessary.

Until next month! Happy winter. Go snow! Go snow days! (We can only hope.)

More about Justin.

Finals and Finally Going Home

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Justin Sherman “There is just one more day until the last day of finals (and my last military obligation).”

I never thought knowing the days to go (daily required indoc) would be worthwhile, but the countdown to winter leave (two weeks long) has never been more exciting. It will be my first time to be really home since I left the week before Swab Summer. When I flew home for Thanksgiving, we travelled to see family, so it was a whirlwind of a trip, hardly what I would call “being home.” So, winter leave will be the first time to relax at home and to catch up with friends.

But, first come finals. I have three. Not too bad, but my first two were this weekend, Friday and Saturday; my last is on the last day of finals, Wednesday. Guess I’ll be one of the few toughing it out to the end. Finals week isn’t bad though, because we get liberty every day. That is a sweet deal, but it doesn’t beat being home. Nevertheless, I’ve had my fill of holiday morale, too: decorating the chapel, a jazz band Christmas gig at a retirement home, four giant, overflowing trays of Christmas cookies (and I’m not exaggerating) in our dayroom (company lounge area), decorating my room with Christmas lights and stockings (room decorating is huge here—way more than I expected), the corps-wide holiday dinner, company morale party, a candlelight service, caroling at the Teutons’ (leaders of the Officers’ Christian Fellowship group), and making holiday gifts with my sponsor family. There is quite a bit of cheer to remind cadets that finals season is also the holiday season.

Earlier this year, a firstie told me that finals week is ironically the week that he gets the most sleep. I didn’t believe him at first. I mean, come on, it’s finals week. Boy was I wrong. I really have had more time than I know what to do with. So I’ve filled my time building paper cubes and other 3D shapes (which I Googled and found were called sonobe origami). They’re simple to make and somewhat soothing—a great stress reliever for finals week and something to keep my mind off the slowly ticking clock until I get to go home. Well, I better go and finish preparing for my history final (tomorrow). Oh, and start packing out (when we get back from break we get new roommates!).

I hope everyone has a great holiday break and happy new year. See you in 2012!

More about Justin.

Autumn Wind and Windjammers

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Justin Sherman Windjammer – a large sailing ship; also: one of its crew; CGA marching band member.

For the past three and a half months, I have been a member of the Academy’s Drum and Bugle Corps (marching band/pep band), Windjammers; and for the past three and a half months, I thought that a “windjammer” was a word created to describe the drum and bugle corps. “Wind” for the bugles and “jammer” for the drums. That is until I was watching television at my sponsor family’s house over Columbus Day weekend; there was a show on about the giant ships of today, and a windjammer was one of them. I should have figured that the name Windjammers was related to something nautical.

I hadn’t been in a marching band in high school, so I was a bit hesitant about joining Windjammers (though I had been telling people that’s what I planned to do when I got to the Academy). I was worried that since I didn’t have any previous marching background, I would be way behind all the other members of the band. Also, Windjammers was going to be a huge time commitment. We were going to practice for two hours (during sports period) every day; we would have to learn and memorize the music, the marching, and the horn movements. As a new 4/c, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle this commitment on top of my schoolwork and other 4/c requirements (i.e. knowing indoc, standing watch). Now that our season is coming to a close, I look back and am so glad that I didn’t quit.

One of the best aspects of being a Windjammer is that the band gets you out of the Academy to some pretty neat places. Band trips are the best: free transportation and lodging, long weekends when there isn’t a holiday, and civies (civilian/regular/non-issued clothes). I can tell you that I’ve mastered the art of sleeping on a bus and of changing in tight spaces.

The band’s travels have included trips to a Chicago concert, the Big E, the Naval Academy, McGill University in Canada, and the New York City Veteran’s Day Parade. With the band I’ve probably had some experiences that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The first week after Swab Summer, I went to a Chicago concert in Massachusetts (and got to wear civies!). A few weeks later, I visited for the first time the Big E, a state fair for several of the New England states. When we were marching in the parade at the fair, I heard one mother say to her children as we passed, “Look, that’s the Coast Guard Academy. You should be so proud.” I felt a whole new sense of pride for the Academy and the Coast Guard.

Our next trip began with an overnight bus ride to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. We stayed with cadets at the Naval Academy that weekend, so I got to experience a bit of what life was like there. After that staying at there, I was so glad that I picked the Coast Guard Academy. The atmosphere of the small school here suits my liking much more than the large one at Annapolis. While at Navy, the band competed against the drum and bugle corps from the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy. Even though their D-and-B’s were much larger than ours, the Windjammers still had one of our best performances, receiving the highest score a Windjammers group has earned for the past twenty years. It was kind of a big deal.

At the end of October we went international when we drove to Montreal to play the halftime show for McGill University’s football game. This show was the culminating event of the season; it was the last time we would put this show on the field. After the game, we had liberty in Montreal. We explored the city while we looked for a good place to eat and while the ladies looked for clothing stores with good deals. We learned a little French, and I introduced everyone to Tim Horton’s (apparently Tim Horton’s isn’t as widespread in the U.S. as it is where I’m from).

Our last presentation was probably the most special. We marched in the Veteran’s Day parade in New York City and then walked around the city in uniform for my first Veteran’s Day as a member of the armed forces. The travelling part was fun, too. Our bus broke down, so we had to switch buses on the side of the highway, and we stayed in pretty nice housing at Sector New York.

Yes, this fall has been a whirlwind of activity, and I’ll be sad to see the Windjammers season end. The nice thing about our band being small is that it’s a really tight-knit group of people. I’ll admit, I look forward to having Saturday afternoons off, but I’ll also miss spending time with the other Windjammers as often as I did. Sure, I’ll still see the upper class from Windjammers in the hall and be able to greet them by name even though they aren’t my company, but I already can’t wait for next year!

More about Justin.

Reconcile

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Justin Sherman The transition into college life was abrupt and shocking—R-Day and Swab Summer—but I also had a pretty long orientation (seven weeks long!). Therefore at times I find it difficult to truly feel like I’m in college.

One night this summer, a 2011 graduate of the Academy spoke to my company before Taps; he told us that no matter what we did, we could never make the Academy a civilian college because the rules and culture among the cadets prohibited the type of atmosphere you’d find in civilian colleges and universities. Nevertheless, I’ve spent the last month and a half trying to reconcile my understanding of what “regular” college is supposed to look and feel like and what it’s like here. These are my ideas so far—but let me warn you, some of these are a bit of a stretch.

What’s does everyone talk about when they talk about college? Parties. Yup, we still have parties here, just not the type you’d expect. How about shoe and boot shining parties. There are also study parties and morale parties, too.

Like regular college students, we still live off crackers and peanut butter and Chinese food delivery because it’s too inconvenient to go to the dining hall (especially for us fourth class since we have to “square meals”), even though our wardroom (dining hall) is in the same building as our rooms.

We can still sleep in—if we’re awarded a late rack—but sleeping in means sleeping until 0745 (7:45 AM). We still have class schedules that give us an afternoon or morning (or both) off.

We still have to do our own laundry and manage our money. OK, so finding a job to earn a paycheck isn’t our biggest concern (it’s a bit easier for us than at other universities…).

We still have a residence assistant, or at least the closest thing to it. For the fourth class (4/c), our RA is a special second class (2/c) called the guidon. Our guidon checks the condition of our room: swept and buffed or vacuumed, trash out, clothes and other gear stowed and put away in their proper places; the guidon also ensures that we 4/c are completing our duties, including doing well in our classes and is in charge of any necessary discipline. But the guidon isn’t the only one who monitors these things. We have three more RA’s which we call masters at arms (MAAs) who also check the condition of all the rooms in our wing area of Chase Hall.

We still have the challenge of learning to live with a roommate, of keeping both halves of the room clean (thankfully, we have to keep our rooms clean and neat), of feeling bad for staying up late working on homework while your roommate is trying to sleep. I am fortunate, my roommate, Ryan, is a great guy who is fine with my keeping the desk lamp on while he falls asleep. Because we have to get up by 0600 for formation—unless one of us is taking a late rack—we never have to worry about getting up earlier than the other and waking him.

I’m pretty proud of my list of comparisons, but despite the similarities with what I pictured to be a regular college, I still don’t feel as if I’m actually in college. Maybe it’s because my classes and course schedule don’t feel much different from what it was like in high school. Or maybe it’s the fact that every day I am reminded that we’re not typical college students and that the Coast Guard Academy is a more than an ordinary college. No, it’s a military academy and far from any mainstream image of a college. Each day, with our military trainings and obligations added to our already busy schedule, I can’t forget that I’m in the Coast Guard. I think it’s time to find a new idea about what my college experience—or should I say my officer training experience, is going to be like.

More about Justin.

Four Months Left

(Athletics, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Kevin Subramanian What a start to the semester! So much has happened since the beginning of the semester. The Corps was honored to have Admiral Robert Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, speak to us during the first week back from break. Shout out to 4/c Peter Driscoll, who asked a question and was complimented by the most powerful man in the Coast Guard! After a relaxing break back home in New Jersey, I found it very difficult to adjust back to the Academy lifestyle. Many upper-class explained how that is a normal thing and it would only be a matter of time before we were back in the groove again.

All the fourth class are anxiously awaiting “101st Night”, this Sunday, where fourth class cadets have the chance to “earn” being second class cadets for a day. I am excited, because it will be physically and mentally demanding, but rewarding in the end. There are less than four months left of being a fourth class. All the 4/c keep reminding each other and everyone is working hard together to get through schoolwork and prepare for the Challenge of the Guardsman in April.

The men’s basketball team went on a six game losing streak to begin the month of January. I was lucky enough to watch them snap that streak, beating Wheaton 75-69, a night filled with spirit and fun. Paul Duddy, an Academy grad, received the Spirit of the Bear Award for all the support he has given to the Corps’ sports teams.

There are now eighteen days until the next long weekend! Everyone has the countdown ready and they are finalizing their President’s Day Weekend plans. I will be going home to New Jersey again. Feel free to contact me with any questions about the Academy at Kevin.S.Subramanian@uscga.edu. Semper Paratus!

More about Kevin.

Basketball, Finals and Leave

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Kevin Subramanian There’s no better feeling than beating MMA (Merchant Marine Academy), the Coast Guard Academy’s rival in all sports. Yesterday, most of the Corps came out to watch the men’s basketball team win 85-77 in a thrilling game. The team has now won four straight games and has high expectations for the rest of the year. After jumping out to an early lead, MMA came back with a 20-1 run in the second half, making things interesting. The enthusiasm of the crowd and the amazing play of 2/c Greg Marshall, 3/c Kevin Sowers, and 4/c David Anderson helped Coast Guard end the game on a 15-6 run.

Things are tense with finals approaching in about two weeks. First, this Saturday is Winter Formal! It is the first formal for fourth class cadets, who received their “Dinner Dress Blues,” yet another uniform to add to the collection. Additionally, the Academy gives cadets a lot of time to prepare for finals by easing up on military obligations and ending classes two days before the first day of exams. I have three exams to prepare for: Calculus, Statics and Engineering Design, and Chemistry. Some fourth class cadets have up to five finals to prepare for! Everyone seems stressed; however, it’s only a reminder that 4/c year is halfway done!

The Corps seemed to enjoy the time away from the Academy during Thanksgiving Leave. I travelled to Philadelphia with my father and had a chance to attend a Flyers hockey game! During a break in the game, a veteran walked onto the ice and was honored by the team. I was in shock as I saw players put down their sticks, referees pocket their whistles, and fans drop their food, and give a standing ovation for the American hero. I got goosebumps as a “U-S-A!” chant rang throughout the arena. It’s moments like these I am grateful to be in such a great country and realize the honor it is to serve.

More about Kevin.

The Dark Ages, Sports, Academics and Getting Away

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Kevin Subramanian The famous “Dark Ages” have begun here at the Academy. The “Dark Ages” are a time where we go to class at 0800 (8:00 a.m.) in the dark, and by the time classes end at 1600 (4:00 p.m.), its dark again. It gets colder and the overall morale of the Academy seems to take a hit. Luckily, the 4/c have lots of Spirit Missions planned!

November is a great month to get distracted here at the Academy! Fall sports are coming to an end. Shout out to the girls’ volleyball team for winning the ECAC Championship and maintaining an undefeated 13-0 record at home! Also, a shout out to the football team, winning their final game of the season by crushing Maine Maritime Academy 52-15! 1/c Jarrod Owens, of the best company (Hotel) threw for over 330 yards in his final game as a Bear. Bravo Zulu, Mr. Owens! Winter sports seasons have also started, including basketball, indoor track, and swimming.

The best part about November is the three-day weekend for Veterans’ Day and upcoming Thanksgiving leave! Many 4/c cadets are getting a chance to see their family for the first time since R-Day. I get to see my parents both times, taking the train down to New Jersey. People use these holidays as motivation to encourage one another and themselves.

Academics are getting really intense as people scramble to prepare for finals coming up in the first and second week of December. A lot of upperclassmen are warning the 4/c about the dangers of not preparing well. I can’t even begin to describe how helpful the professors and instructors are when it comes to providing extra help. Everyone wants to see you succeed!

My family and I have already planned what we are doing for my Winter break. My last exam is on December 13, so I plan to visit my brother, ENS Larry Subramanian, who is on USCGC Midgett in Seattle, Washington. We’re going to visit the Coast Guard station in Seattle and I’m going to take the opportunity to learn about the 378-foot cutters out there, the Midgett and the Mellon. Should be exciting!

More about Kevin.

Giving Back and Working Hard

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Kevin Subramanian I can’t believe midterms are already here! My grades look amazing, and I only have the upperclassmen and instructors to thank for that! Hotel Company cadre prepared us really well in handling the pressure and stress that the Class of 2015 has faced to start the academic year. All the instructors have been unbelievably helpful, with informative lectures and flexible office hours. The upper-classmen have guided us to making fewer mistakes as a 4/c, and always seem to have their doors open to give extra tutoring for homework or upcoming tests.

Here at the Academy, opportunities to help the corps and the community are abundant. I loving keeping stats or being a ball-boy at sporting events, like soccer and volleyball. I have helped out at Protestant Church services, making announcements and doing readings. I also had the wonderful opportunity in preparing breakfast for homeless people in the New London area, waking up at 4 a.m. on a Friday morning.

I attend all home games for the volleyball team. The future for the team looks bright, since they have only one 1/c, and four 4/c! I’m excited to keep volunteering at the games, since I have become better at helping the officials out and keeping track of statistics. I hope to do the same for the basketball teams this winter.

I have been boxing every weekday for the last seven weeks. Meade Gym, located in the Alumni Center, has a single boxing ring and eight punching bags. I first entered boxing thinking it was just a chance to hit a bag over and over again, let out my anger. But I soon learned otherwise. On the first day of practice, we went down to the track and did a workout, totaling of over three miles of running. We do so much cardio and endurance work, that sometimes I forget about the boxing aspect of it all!

Boxing is my escape. After the long day of greeting every upper-classmen, working nonstop on schoolwork, I am happy when the final class rolls around and it’s time to change into some comfortable gym gear and head to practice. The coaches and captains are amazing. 2/c Berto Perez and 2/c Justin Maio are great captains, much different from what they were like as cadre during Swab Summer. I have made many new friends, from all classes. I plan on continuing boxing year-round. My goal is to use boxing as a way to get my PFE score above a 270, and earn a Blue Star, which cadets can pin onto their uniforms.

More about Kevin.

Christmas Break is Coming!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Ruby Surgent So Thanksgiving Break has just come to a close. It was a short but nice respite from the Academy. It was a great chance to go home and see those friends. It is amazing how little things have changed in my hometown relative to how much my life has changed since R-Day. No matter how early I have to get up when I am at school, I still love sleeping in till noon; that will never change.

Now that I am back at the Academy, there are 16 days till I come home again for Christmas. But there is a lot of work to do before then. Classes are finishing up for the semester and then there is finals week. Even though finals week sounds daunting, I have heard from the upper class that it is the best week. I was told we get more liberty as well as other privileges like getting to listen to music aloud in our rooms.

It is hard to believe that the first semester is coming to an end. I am sure for all prospective cadets that you are amazed you are almost done with high school. Senioritis will kick in soon if it hasn’t already. Just remember to keep doing well if you are serious about the Academy. If you have already been accepted, congratulations. If not, keep pushing, many are accepted under regular admissions too. Good luck and have a great holiday.

More about Ruby.

Advice to High Schoolers

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Ruby Surgent So as you may have heard, academics are tough here. But even so, it is definitely possible to do well. For all the juniors and seniors out there reading this blog, I would like to recommend some tips that will prepare you for 4/c classes.

The typical classes most 4/c take 1st semester: Calculus 1, Statics and Engineering Design or Fundamentals of Navigation, Macroeconomics or History, English, fitness and wellness and swimming, Chemistry and Chemistry lab, and BEARS (a college introduction class).

That is a total of eight classes, which is a lot especially when you will have military obligations and sports. Here is what you can do now that I hope will help prepare you for classes at the Academy.
  • As hard as it is senior year of high school, take the important classes like math, science and English seriously and learn a lot
  • Take AP chemistry (I wish I had, I’m not kidding)
  • Take AP calculus 1 and 2 if you can
  • Don’t take the easy road senior year, what I mean is take a full day of classes and take classes that will challenge you
  • Work on your time management now; get in the habit of not procrastinating
  • Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy spending time with your friends
If you have any questions you can email me at: Elizabeth.R.Surgent@uscga.edu

More about Ruby.

Choices

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Cameo Ulbricht Happy New Year!! Looking back on this past year, I have realized some of the choices I made were not the best; they hurt my family, but in a sense made us stronger in the end. I have matured a lot this year through experiences that I should have not chosen, but I also know that they have taught me important lessons. One choice that I know was the right one is being here. Having been here at the Academy for only a semester, I am thankful for the possibilities that I am given. Every day is a challenge, but I know after three more years, the hard work will have paid off.

Being able to see my family back home after more than six months of having to be gone was great. Christmas break was very relaxing, and could not have come at a more perfect time. Most days I just wanted to stay home and watch movies all day and do pretty much nothing because daily life as a cadet keeps us busy. It was also great to see my friends from high school. Seeing them this time coming home was a little bit different from coming home from prep school. One factor could be I had lost contact with most of my friends due to not having Facebook privileges, or that most of us are doing our own thing now. We were told this would happen, and I had thought because I did not experience this last year, that it wouldn’t happen to me. It’s a horrible feeling to be with many of your close friends and not be able to connect with them anymore, or have no desire to talk to them about their college life. It may not happen to some people, but just know that when you get back to the Academy, that your shipmates will be more than happy to see you.

Now what we have to look forward to is eventually getting carry-on, getting through boards successfully, and maintaining the standards we have set for ourselves. Best of luck to you as you continue the last bit of your senior year!

More about Cameo.

A Look Back

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Cameo Ulbricht Looking back now on the entire semester, it went pretty well. Some of the frustrating moments were working hard on getting good grades, and not receiving a grade that reflected the effort that was put forth. With the help from my shipmates in similar classes, I made it through what people say is the toughest semester at the Academy. Cross country in the fall is a wonderful stress reliever, and such a great transition into the school year. The meets on the weekends were perfect for a busy schedule during the week.

Come time for midterms, most of the 4/c were ready to be somewhere else. A lot often talked about going to different colleges, because they are missing out on so much. But the truth is, those at regular colleges are missing out on so much. Even though we don’t throw huge parties every weekend and sleep in late, only to get up minutes before your first class to throw on a pair of sweatpants and in hopes of not falling asleep during another boring lecture. Right now all we get to do is attend school, the occasional training, stay up late working on homework, and a dinner at the mall. But after these next grueling four years we will be able to see and do so much more than our friends in “regular college”.

Finals week was but a blur of staying up late to get the last bit of information you could before you were forced to sit in a room for three hours proving that despite maybe sleeping in class, you did learn something about intermolecular forces, or how to calculate advance and transfer. We formed a little study group with people that had the same finals, and had a plan of how to review for the test. Everyone had different skill levels in each subject, which enabled us to use each other’s strengths. I feel that we prepared pretty well for finals, and didn’t stay up too late.

More about Cameo.

Staying Focused

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Cameo Ulbricht It’s hard to believe that we are almost half way through the semester. At first school wasn’t too bad, the occasional test, homework assignment, English paper. Now it seems that we have a least one test if not two a week, research papers, and countless homework assignments due on the same day. I have learned quickly to function on 4 or less hours of sleep, from having to stay up late studying for important tests, or from lack of good time management. There have been a few times where I have been part of spirit missions (meant to raise moral), which require us to wake up early. Midterm grades weren’t…bad…let’s just say that I left room for improvement. I have already seen a change in two subjects. One particular class where I have been working exceptionally hard in is Calculus, and still not where I want to be. This past test the average grade across the board was a 58%. Most of us attended numerous CAAP sessions, study groups and meetings with our teachers and still did not do well.

Our regional cross country meet was this past weekend, and we even got to wear civvies! My first time since coming to Swab Summer. It was a very relaxing weekend of great food and company. Our team managed to run away with a 13th overall finish out of 51 teams. The weather was a bit brisk but we competed pretty well despite the weather.

It’s been difficult to stay focused as the end of the semester draws near. Thanksgiving break is only a week away, and soon after that Christmas Leave. Hopefully our internal motivation can help us through the last little bit.

Have a great holiday season!

More about Cameo.

I Would Not Choose To Be Anywhere Else

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Cameo Ulbricht This is my first submission as a 4/c. The summer itself flew by, and now Swab Summer is only a blur of indoc quizzes, countless push-ups, and six-minute showers (yes, that is possible). School is going pretty well, a few rough days, but that is to be expected with the duties we have as 4/c. Company orderlies, clocks for formation, school, homework, sports practice, division responsibilities, and duty rotations, and preparing our uniform. The transition from prep school in New Mexico has been smooth, as we have already experienced managing a rigorous academic and athletic schedule. One thing I keep in mind is that about 250 other people like me are going through the same thing, and then it doesn’t seem as bad. Midterms are around the corner which has a lot of us stressed out due to the flurry of tests and research papers, and the plethora of homework assignments we “ accidently” put off until the night before. What are a few late nights and study groups now and then? Luckily, I have only had a couple of really late nights.

Our cross country team continues to perform really well. We are currently ranked 10th in Division III for New England, and hopefully after our meet this weekend, we can climb up in the ranking. Our team has a strong bond, which helps with our successful performance. It’s comforting to know that I have 20 other girls to go to for help in classes, or for help personally. The long runs and hard workouts during practice help relieve stress, and unwind from the busy day of classes. Everyday I look forward to cross country, even though not many people would admit they enjoy running for fun.

Academy life by no means is easy, but I would not choose to be anywhere else. At the end of the day I have more appreciation for life, and the opportunities it has to offer.

More about Cameo.

Reflections

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Ellie Wu The other day, I received an unexpected email from my older sister with her reflections on 2011 and it inspired me to respond to her as I took some time away from moving into in my new room at the Academy, to reflect on myself over the previous year.

So here is an excerpt of my email that is directed to my sister:

I really liked getting your 2011 Reflections email. I actually needed that email in a sense because I realized I have not written much in a while and it is a good way to get my thoughts out and reflect on my year since 2011 was a year full of changes for both you and I. I also figured that I could spend some time reflecting before the academic semester starts; before I get jammed with homework. As the little sister, I’m going to follow your lead and try to go through 2011 in a somewhat chronological sense.

January was a huge turning point for me when I realized that yes, I can enjoy my senior year, but for once in my life there was a definite sense of direction in my life; a future with the Coast Guard whether I was really sure of that career path or not. I remember getting the phone call on January 14th and I remember feeling bittersweet about my acceptance. What if I didn’t like the Academy? What if I didn’t make it through Swab Summer or the academic year? There were a lot of what ifs, and I didn’t want to throw away the current, relaxing, predictable life I was living now. But, I realized senior year didn’t last forever and that there was no other college choice that gave me a sense of purpose than USCGA. So, I sucked it up and accepted that I had to grow up and just enjoy the rest of senior year. I think the sense of pride and support from my family was what kept me from chickening out of Swab Summer and the USCGA all together.

February was my chance to finally visit you at your USCG Training Center at Petaluma, California and it was also my very first time flying solo on a plane. It was also my first time in California so that was nice. I loved seeing you more grown up and more independent, which gave me more confidence in my decision to attend the Coast Guard Academy because it positively influenced your character. Seeing you in California was another turning point for me since I really gained a lot of respect toward you as a sister, through basic training and “A” school, being enlisted in the Coast Guard has made the whole family very proud. Also, you never cease to be an amazing tour guide whether we’re in New York City or San Francisco!

March was fun. I had a really great time choreographing Chinese Ribbon Dance for Festival of Nations (cultural show at my high school) for the 3rd and final time and I also got the opportunity to learn and be in the Filipino cultural dance called, tinikling. I tried not to focus too much on my Swab Summer awaiting for me on June 27th and enjoyed my last months as a senior at Townsend Harris High School.

April was an absolute blast because I got to go to Disney World for my spring break with my mom and my boyfriend. It was nice to show my boyfriend, Brian, my childhood and for him to kind of remember his (since he went to Disney once when he was very young). Although, many of my friends thought it was strange that I was going to Disney with my boyfriend and my mom, I really liked how it worked out. It was a lot of fun to have both someone I have loved since I was born and someone I love that has more recently made an impact on my life. It was turning point number three for me because I learned to combine my past and my present/future. I got to reminisce with my mom while continuing our long line of memories at Disney with her. On the other hand, I got to make new memories with Brian. I just so happened to return from Florida on my birthday so according to New York City Law, I was finally able to drive BY MYSELF on my 18th birthday. It was another little step toward growing up.

May and June were the months indicating the end of high school and the start of college for me. I had great parties and closing memories with friends, including prom, my going away party, a 10-year Time Capsule I made with friends and buried in my back yard, and just wrapping up my four years at THHS. Go figure, turning point four was Swab Summer! I learned a lot about selflessness, a lot about teamwork, and a lot about myself. I really learned through what the cadre had to say. I learned through the punishments and through the pride Echo Company cadre had for us Echo Swabs. Through the cadre’s example, I also saw what type of person I wanted to become. I did a lot of reflecting during the summer since you can’t really talk to anyone else besides yelling your “Aye Aye/Yes, Sir or Ma’am.” I saw how selfish I have been over the years, which came as a shock. I saw how the family’s lifestyles revolved around my figure skating career, how you were always seen as rebellious and misunderstood during your teenage years, which had mom and dad treat you with less patience and me with more patience because I never objected to their arguments and always thought they were right and I was wrong. I never challenged them like you did. Through Swab Summer, I saw how the whole family would always find a way to work things out; to let me get what I want and the first 18 years of my life came easy for me. Swab Summer was something I thought I really had to work for without the backing of my family to ease the process. I mean you guys supported me through letters, but you guys couldn’t actually change Swab Summer. It was the time to really learn about responsibility and how to care for others before caring for myself. I really admire that trait about you and how you have always cared for me and the family over yourself.

August/September I had a huge sense of pride and accomplishment! Then the academic semester started along with my first cross country season on the CGA’s team. Turning point five was learning to enjoy running again and realizing that improvement comes with enjoying the sport and pushing yourself because you like it not because you have to improve. There was no pressure in being great on the team so I finally saw why I liked to run and enjoyed everything about cross country except for rolling my left ankle multiple times.

October was a great time to see you on your birthday and I was getting into the whole military/USCGA routine. I think my turning point number six would be a combination of October, November, and December. I realized how much I love my family and how much I miss them and how I would jump at any opportunity to be with you guys. I really see the difference between our family and how other college students rarely go home to visit their families. I guess, it might also be because I go to the Coast Guard Academy, specifically.

November/December is the last of my turning points (seven) where the semester is coming to an end and all my classes actually turned out fairly well with the exception of Calculus. For the final turning point, I had a little setback with responsibility over the winter break with losing my cell phone and not planning out the Christmas dinner. I think I fell too quickly back into the relaxed mood without maintaining some traits I learned and developed at the Academy. However, I mainly learned the importance of communication over winter leave and how I tend to block everything out especially as I reflect back on my semester. Yes, it was good to concentrate on my academics, but I realized that I need to keep a consistent relationship and consistently communicate with my family. That was something I was particularly thinking about and it’s carried into the New Year. So, my turning point number seven is more like a New Year’s resolution.

Slowly, yet surely your little sister is growing up! Cheers to the New Year!

More about Ellie.

Roadtrip to a Normal College

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Ellie Wu Tuesday was my last final and I was so relieved to be done with my first semester at the Coast Guard Academy. Besides all the studying that I had to do, the finals week itself was pretty relaxing because within Chase Hall, everything got a little less hectic since they want to provide as much of a stress-free environment as possible to enable all the cadets to study and perform their best on their finals. I had four finals in total, starting with my hardest, Calculus I. I took that final Friday morning, and then there was Fundamentals of Navigation on Saturday afternoon, Macroeconomics on Monday morning, and Chemistry Tuesday afternoon. During finals week, the library became my home and it really allowed me to study and focus on all the material that was covered in a certain subject over the course of the semester. In Chase Hall, there is the chance of people coming by, asking questions and just stopping in and that can cause quite a distraction, but at the library I was able to pace myself and study. The finals weren't as bad as I thought they would be, although I was losing some of my steam/motivation to study toward the end. The day before my Chemistry final and during the exam, I could feel the tension and itch everyone had because their trip home was just a multiple choice question away.

Once my Chemistry final was over, I packed up my necessities and it was back to my "concrete jungle" (Empire state of mind). I got to show two of my friends from the Academy the city with all its Christmas decorations up and the holiday market at Union Square to shop at. It felt amazing to be back at home without a worry in the world. It was as if the cold winter breeze swept all the weight of the Academy off my shoulders.

On Friday, I was able to visit a State University of New York where most of my friends from high school currently attend. At Stony Brook, I noticed how different my college experience is compared to theirs. My friends laughed at me when I told them I slept at 11 p.m. on a regular basis and woke up at 5:45. My friends, on the other hand, slept at 2 a.m. every night, the earliest, and would struggle to wake up and attend their 9 a.m. Calculus class. The lifestyle was just so foreign to me. I found their college experience more relaxing and laidback and I enjoyed it while I was there, but I realized I would not like the nonchalant vibe if I was studying there. Visiting my friends and getting a taste of the “college life” really got me to understand the saying: “Work hard, play hard”. After working hard and locking down both militarily and academically, I was able to truly appreciate my winter leave and enjoy the time. Although winter leave was too short, it has me pushing forward and working forward to the next and last semester as a 4/c!

More about Ellie.

The Final Straightaway

(Academics, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Ellie Wu As the semester is coming to an end it seems harder and harder to stay focused. Times like these can get really stressful because all the work is piling up. I’m trying to take each day as a cross country race. At this point, it’s the part of the race where you’re tired and you just want to finish and relax. It’s the point when you have to be the most mentally strong, the point where you see the final straightaway, the finish, but you’re not quite there. This part of the race is the hardest because you can’t lose focus of the present with the plans for the future. It’s that final push you have to give yourself to reach the finish successfully. I can feel myself getting complacent, but I realize that like a cross country race if you focus on each step and each breath, the finish will come before you know it. Academically, I have to focus on each class and each exam, and each military obligation and before I know it, it’ll be Thanksgiving Leave and then Winter Leave. It’s definitely crunch time at the Coast Guard Academy. Time to push through the final straightaway so you can cross the finish line, look back, and feel satisfied about what you have just accomplished.

More about Ellie.

Two Worlds

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Ellie Wu Today’s Columbus Day and I just came back from a long weekend at home. I’m one of the fortunate cadets that live relatively close to the Academy so whenever I get the chance, I love going home. Don’t get me wrong, I love being at the Academy too, but it’s different. Being home and being at the Academy is like two completely different worlds. At home, it’s a relaxing, comfortable, and familiar place with my family and the friends I have grown up with. At the Academy, it’s more of a mystery, especially as a 4/c, figuring everything out, adapting, and growing through this whole experience. I love the Academy in the sense that I feel like I’m growing up, handling more responsibilities, and achieving more here than at any other college. These two worlds (my home and the Academy) are complete opposites, which I think is kind of cool.

A lot of times, I feel like Bruce Wayne when I jump back and forth between my life at home and my life at the Academy. When I am at home, I live the normal life: watching TV/movies, hanging out, pigging out, and not having a care in the world. This weekend, I was able to have dinner with my family and talk for hours catching up and then we watched movies till 3 in the morning. When it came time to head back to the Academy however, putting on trops is just like putting on the Batsuit. Once I changed, I was no longer Bruce Wayne; I became Batman and had to resume my responsibilities and duties.

Sometimes, it’s hard to leave the “easy” life behind, but it’s the challenging lifestyle that is ultimately the most rewarding.

More about Ellie.

Coming Back

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Spencer Zwenger We’ve just started the first week of classes back from winter leave and there have been a lot of emotions flowing. Initially I was pretty upset to be going back, solely because after acting like a real person (and not a fourth class) for two weeks it is extremely difficult to get back into that mindset. However, one of the big things that made it a lot easier was seeing my friends. When all of us started arriving it was like seeing all of my best friends from back home after not seeing them for six months. The only difference was that we were only gone two weeks and we acted like we hadn’t seen each other in a long time. That kind of gives you an idea of how close my classmates and I have become in the very short time we have been here. Nevertheless, after initially being quite disappointed to be back, I’m excited to start this semester and then get on with third class summer.

Another something to touch on is long distance relationships. Quite a few of my friends have had these since they’ve been here, and I was always the one that said it would be way to hard and is kind of pointless. However, over the break I got myself into one of these long distance relationships that I looked down upon for so long. So far it has been working out pretty well for me as well as the other people that I know that keep them. If you’re hesitant, all I can say is give it a try and if it works out good, if not, nothing lost, nothing gained. As always if you have any questions send me an email at Spencer.M.Zwenger@uscga.edu.

More about Spencer.

Quick

(Academics, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Spencer Zwenger In about a half hour I go to take my last final for this semester. As I said in my previous blog, the first semester here goes by extremely quickly. I’ve been here nearly six months and it seems like I’ve only been here about a month. Anyway back to the topic of interest, finals. A time where the whole corps of cadets is pretty relaxed but stressed at the same time. I say relaxed because the only things you have to worry about are the finals that you have yet to take. However, everyone is stressed because the finals are a big part of your grade. When you aren’t sleeping, eating, or taking a test, you try and find a couple hours to sit down and study. After finals, it will be the first time that I get to go home since the day that I reported in. There isn’t a feeling greater than knowing you get to go home and tell everyone what you have been doing for the past six months. Especially when this place isn’t the typical “college experience.” Even better than getting to see your family though, is the much-needed break everyone is given from the Academy. A time where we all can just go sit on the couch and relax, something that is extremely rare for this place. Any questions? Email me at Spencer.M.Zwenger@uscga.edu.

More about Spencer.

Settling In

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Spencer Zwenger The year has really started to settle in, in fact it is already coming to an end. I have made a lot of friends and had a lot of good experiences in the four and a half months that I have been here, but that is not to say this year hasn’t had it’s downsides. Academically I haven’t been struggling but it definitely hasn’t been a breeze either. Some of the 4/c rules and regulations have really started to get annoying; nevertheless I realize that all of the upperclassmen went through the exact same thing and you just have to stick it out. If your interested in this school, you can’t come in with the mindset that you’re going to make it through all by yourself or without any struggles. Between the hours put into schoolwork, many military obligations, and at least two hours of sports everyday, you must ask for help from peers and teachers and are prepared to put up with, what seems like pointless, rules all the time. In the end a lot of the things this year have definitely helped develop my discipline level, something that is essential for the rest of my Coast Guard career. As always email me with any questions. Go Bears!

More about Spencer.

Hours

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2015) Permanent link
 Spencer Zwenger The first half of my first semester is coming to an end, and it has been extremely difficult to say the least. You are told numerous times that you will be putting in hours upon hours in homework and stressing before every test, but you don’t believe it until you’re really experiencing it. I’m taking around twenty credit hours much more than some of my best friends at home. In addition I am not able to start homework until around 1800 (6:00 p.m.) because I have diving practice from 1600-1800 everyday. As daunting as this place may seem, there is help available everywhere. Every teacher is willing to stay after class, or make an appointment later to spend some one-on-one time until you grab the concepts. In addition, the numerous peer tutors and cadet academic assistant program (CAAP) are also there to help. This place will challenge everyone academically, no matter what your background is, so don’t let academics scare you away. The hours that you put into this place are all worth it in the end. As one of my professors says, “Work hard, play hard.”

More about Spencer.

Balancing Academics

(Academics, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Meredith Anderson Coming back this year, I thought, “hey, I’m not a fourth class, I have carry on, this year is going to be a breeze.” Boy, was I wrong. Yes, I moved up in the ranks in the Corps of Cadets, but I also managed to increase the number of hours worth of things I put into each day. This semester, on top of my academic overload, I am being pulled in multiple directions from my various extracurricular activities.

Academically this year, I am taking 22.5 credits. My schedule contains the following classes: Peer Tutoring (1 credit), Mechanics of Materials (3.5 credits), American Government (3 credits), Criminal Justice (3 credits), Multivariable Calculus (3 credits), Professional Rescuer (2 credits), Physics I (4 credits) and Leadership and Organizational Behavior (3 credits) and Offshore Sail Racing, which is simply a placeholder allowing me to have last period off. Midterm grades last week were bittersweet—although my cumulative GPA dropped a little bit, my average is still high enough to earn me a Gold Star (having a GPA of over 3.15).

The peer tutoring in my schedule requires me to spend 25 hours tutoring over the course of the semester, which I am finding to be nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be at the beginning of the semester. Originally, I didn’t think it was going to be doable, but surprisingly enough, many of the underclassmen have started coming to me when they need help with things, and halfway through the semester, I have over 20 hours of tutoring.

Although my schedule says Offshore Sail Racing, I am on the Dinghy Sailing team as a heavy crew. We travel just about every weekend, unless it’s a home regatta, and last year the team ranked 8th in national championships. This year, the fall season has been interesting to say the least, as almost every regatta has had either no wind or too much wind. My parents have come to two different regattas to see me, and have been disappointed by the weather not permitting me to sail.

Also this year, I went on the Catholic Labor Day retreat. Last year, I didn’t go, but this year, because I didn’t go home and my parents didn’t come up for Labor Day weekend, I decided to go on the retreat. It was one of the best choices I could have made. I got to know some of the new fourth class really well, outside of Chase Hall, in a non-military environment. We had a great time strengthening not only our faith but our relationships with other members of the Catholic Club. While we were at the retreat center, we prayed, played games and even got to spend some time with the ex-Choir directors, Ma and Pa Bowen.

Finally, I got the chance to return to the Naval Justice School as a juror for their closing exercises of a mock trial. The trial I sat in on had Coasties arguing both sides, as well as the Chief Judge for the Coast Guard judging the mock exercises. I learned many things from them and gained valuable insight. I love when opportunities such as that arise, because it gives me perspective on possible career paths, even though I am no longer a government major.

At the end of last year, I switched my major from government to civil engineering. Although in my heart, I love government and know that’s what I want to do in the future with my career, I’m accepting civil engineering as my new major at the Academy as a challenge of sorts. I want to prove to myself that I am capable of surviving as an engineer, and also to be able to be empathetic to engineers in the future, after I've become involved in a legal career path. The engineering faculty here has been great in helping me switch my major, pass my engineering classes, and even allow me to take as many government-related classes as is physically possible.

Having said this about the faculty in the engineering department, I should stress that every department here is like that. The math department is helping me to continue passing my math courses, especially multivariable calculus. The government and legal departments, although they keep trying to convince me to come back to the government major, are still supporting me. They allowed me to take a junior year course during my sophomore year, just to keep government in my life. They have also encouraged me to get involved and stay involved in mock trial, just to keep myself sharp and well versed in legal matters.

Overall, this year has been tough, and at times disheartening. But then there are the days that are awesome to balance it out. Days where I get a test back and did great, days where it’s really windy on the water and we race well. Days when I don’t have a lot of work and have a little bit of down time to hang out with my friends. And let me be very clear. Although days like that may be few, and far between, it’s worth waiting for them, because they are what make this place the awesome experience that it is.

More about Meredith.

Ready to be Back

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Meredith Anderson WOW! It’s midterm already! I haven’t written in a while, but it doesn’t seem like that long since I have. It feels like it was just a few weeks ago when I was on Christmas Leave, at home in New York, enjoying the presence of my friends and family, and the lack of the Academy (at least on a short-term basis).

Christmas leave took me home. I had a great time catching up with all of my friends, attended Golden Mass (a large Christmas celebration at my alma mater high school), ringing bells for the Salvation Army with my dad, and just being home. Being able to drive my truck or the bobcat, being able to roll around in the snow in my front yard like an immature child, and of course experiencing the joys and warmth that comes with the Christmas season and the presence of family. (As an aside, I received some wonderful presents, the most useful and probably my favorite of which came from my aunt, was a new kind of chicken noodle soup! It’s made by Campbell’s, comes in a package which makes it look like it’s freeze dried, and all you do is add water. Then, voila! Delicious soup appears!) By the time I got back in January, however, I was more than ready. I found that I kinda missed the Academy environment—the people, the routine, and most of all not ever being bored.

As the new term started, I got a whole round of new classes, teachers, and even a new room. It’s funny actually, that my room moved four doors down the hall (still pretty much in the middle of nowhere, with a beautiful view of the river), and my best friend moved into my old room. He jokes that this is his second semester living in that room, seeing as he would always come to visit me last semester. My new roommate and I were roommates over Swab Summer, and work well together. My classes this semester include Probability and Statistics, Statics and Engineering Design (SED), Chemistry II, Leaders in U.S. History, Honors English, Principles of Fitness II and Personal Defense; and even with all these classes, I managed to get free periods, unlike last semester. I happen to be the only freshman in my Probability and Statistics class, which is a little uncomfortable (especially when your Company Commander sits right behind you) and we have yet to learn about any leaders in Leaders of U.S .History, but besides that I find my classes enjoyable enough. I have the same Chemistry teacher I had last semester by request, and ended up taking afternoon classes just to have him; if I hadn’t been picky my schedule would have been stacked to have no afternoon classes any day of the week except Chemistry Lab on Tuesday afternoons.

Also, as the semester started, I was pulled from the swim team due to my shoulder injury. I played intercompany sports in the interim between swimming and being accepted onto my new team, Dinghy Sailing. As to Bowling Club, West Point stood us up—so we rescheduled yet again.

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day I went home with a Ray Henderson to Boston. His family took outstanding care of me while I there and extended unrivaled hospitality to me. It was a new experience for me, actually staying and being in a BIG city for a weekend, especially given the fact that I’m a small town girl.

As February crept toward us, all of the fourth class began studying immensely for our 4/c indoctrination “Boards”. I did not pass on my first try, much to my dismay. A pass is considered attaining eight questions correct out of ten; my first try I got seven and a half points—and failed by ½ of a point. My second try, however, I aced it—got all ten questions right. Boy, does it feel good to have that weight off my shoulders. I can actually concentrate on my school work now, instead of neglecting it to study for Boards.

Last weekend, President’s Day, I got to go home. A classmate of mine, who ironically enough used to go to school with me, was driving home and lives forty minutes from me. Naturally, I took the opportunity to go. It was so nice to be able to jump in the car to go shopping or get food, instead of having to wait for the libo bus; but the best part: I wore jeans or fuzzy non-issued GRAY sweatpants with some manner of shirt that had no blue in it (even if just about any outfit was accompanied by my issued Sperry Docksiders). The craziest part of the weekend adventure had to be flying back to school though. In Rochester, deicing the plane took over an hour, instead of the usual forty minutes and our plane literally could not get to the runway and got stuck heading out, only to have to be rescued by the tug boat of airports.

Finally, after finishing everything up this week, I departed on recruiting leave and arrived home very late, well actually early this morning. I will be home for two days, and then fly into Boston in order to then fly to Florida with my friends for spring break. It should be awesome!

More about Meredith.

The End of the Semester

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Meredith Anderson It really is quite hard to believe that the end of the semester is approaching so rapidly! When I think about it, at this time next week I will be sitting for my first exam of my collegiate career, and three days after that I will be going home for three weeks. The home stretch between Thanksgiving leave and Christmas has been incredibly quick, but Thanksgiving break was a much needed chance to revitalize and, honestly, catch up on some sleep.

While I was on Thanksgiving break, I got a chance to tour the Point Judith Lighthouse and Station, simply by telling them that I was a cadet here at the Academy. It was a really great opportunity, to say the least, and it helped to give me an idea of the possible summer assignments that I could get.

Just before that, I celebrated my 18th birthday, and my first birthday away from home. The weekend prior, my parents drove to New York City and surprised me for my first collegiate swim meet, with cake in tow, of course. Then, I got to spend my birthday with some of my best friends and, of course, the Chase Hall Duty Officer for that day, who also happens to be my Nautical Science teacher. He thought it necessary to drop by my room and inform me that he could hear me clear across Chase Hall—as well as to re-emphasize that the amount of food within my room was slightly absurd.

Anyway, it’s clearly Christmas-time in Chase Hall, with everyone adorning their room with various holiday decorations. My room has a fiber optic Christmas tree, stockings on our door and everywhere throughout the room, a gingerbread house, and roughly eleven strings of Christmas lights decking out any surface to which they can be blue-tacked. My 1/c’s room has an inflatable Christmas tree with a door that sings any time someone trips the motion sensor, and down the hall from me we have a room that has the lighted reindeer, which most people would be accustomed to seeing on a lawn, instead of in a barracks room. Anyway, its lovely and cheery—and everyone is of course excited to go home!

Just yesterday, a fourth class cadet got to be the Assistant Commandant of Cadets for a day. Moira McNeil got promoted to an O-5 for the day and granted the fourth class carry on for the day, as well as a corps-wide laterack for Monday (which means that everyone gets to sleep in until 0730, as opposed to having to be up for our normal 0620 formation).

And just to make this last stretch a little bit better, we have a Holiday Formal this weekend. Lucky me, I get to wear an ungodly and ill-fitting dinner dress uniform—which is every bit as painful as it may look (although I might wear the pants, and not the skirt to ease the pain), as well as being escorted by a table of guys. It’s a good thing they are all like siblings to me, or it could potentially be an extremely awkward situation. In either case, it certainly will be the people that make the night, and definitely not the attire. In precisely a week and three days, I will be at home and somehow I find myself being fairly certain that I will actually miss this place and the people that make the Academy what it is.

More about Meredith.

Downright Awesome

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Meredith Anderson This semester, overall, has been a blast. I find myself surrounded by intelligent, funny, and awesome people, and not only within my class. The upper-class, who act as mentors, are always willing to put their needs and wants aside in order to help out a fourth class, whether it be with personal, military or academic issues. The people here are unlike those you will meet anywhere else.

Speaking of a group of awesome people, the swim team is another example. Everyone on it is so welcoming and downright awesome. It’s like a family, with 70 or so siblings. Coach is great too. As an injured swimmer, I have yet to swim in a meet…but we’re hoping for this weekend. On top of being understanding and looking very long range, coach really understands if you can’t make practice (for a legitimate reason, such as academics).

Academics are pretty rigorous here. I have a full schedule, complete with one free period a week (which happens to get consumed by swim practice). My classes include Macroeconomics, Chemistry, Principles of Fitness and Wellness, Fundamentals of Navigation, English, and Calculus 2. I have an “introduction to college” class, as well.

Other things I do to keep myself busy, as if I’m not busy enough, include Rosary Group, Catholic Club, Bowling Club, and author the class-wide articles for the Alumni Bulletin. The great thing about the Academy is that you’re busy all the time, but not to the point where it’s extremely overwhelming. I remember growing up thinking what a pain church was, and was so sure once I left home that I’d stop going to church, but now that I’m actually away from home its so nice to have mass on Sunday morning, and Wednesday night vespers (mass), and Rosary group and Catholic Club. It’s kind of like having a getaway when it gets rough—somewhere you can collect your thoughts and just focus yourself. Believe it or not, I think the Academy is helping my faith grow, even after graduating from an all-girls Catholic school.

Bowling club is another example of a getaway. It’s one of the instances where even though you are with upper-class members, you can relax and have a good time. They also have many great stories and Academy wisdom to share. Some day I’ll be an upper-class too, and when I am, I will have plenty of stories, too. Whether they are from Swab Summer, or various spirit missions (practical pranks that raise morale), our class has no shortage of hilarious stories and we aren’t even through the first semester yet.

Finally, Thanksgiving break is approaching. For many of my classmates it will be the first time they have been home since we reported in. Even though this isn’t the case for me, and I’m not going home (by my own choice), I am still really excited to get some time away from campus and to have some down time to just chill with family and friends. It should be a great time.

If you have any questions about daily life, or really anything Academy-related, my email is Meredith.M.Anderson@uscga.edu, and you’re more than welcome to contact me. I’ll do my best to answer questions.

More about Meredith.

Busy, Busy, Busy

(Academics, Athletics, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Nick Capuzzi As you may have noticed, I didn’t write an October journal entry. “Why?,” you may ask. Well, it’s because I stretched myself too thin.

First of all, I have my academic classes, which are the hardest I’ve taken thus far. Mechanics of Materials and Multivariable Calculus are the two that require the most time and effort.

On top of all that class and homework are military obligations, like trainings and lectures. Plus, I am a drill-down trainer. Drill-down is a military skills competition between fourth class cadets in different companies. The winner gets carry-on for a week. As a trainer, I spend time in the mornings and evenings helping the fourth class cadets in my company prepare.

Now time for athletics! The Offshore Sailing Team practices a minimum of eight hours per week. On top of that, we have regattas on weekends that can take the whole weekend. I enjoy every minute of sailing, but each is also one less minute I have to work with.

In addition to all of that, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to audition for the fall show, “Murder Runs in the Family.” So, after landing the role of Claude, I had a month of rehearsals five nights a week, making me even busier.

I don’t want to you to think that I wasn’t enjoying myself during this time, though. Well, homework isn’t very enjoyable, but other than that, I was. I enjoyed seeing my hard work pay off when one of my fourth class placed in drill-down, or when I came in first place overall for a team regatta, or most of all when we performed “Murder Runs in the Family” in front of two large audiences.

Speaking of the play, it was a great experience. The show itself was entirely produced by cadets, with the ever-dramatic 1/C Logan Donahey as director. By coordinating rehearsals around already packed schedules, we were able to put together a show that I believe was quite enjoyable. Plus, I got to work with some awesome fellow actors, people like 3/C Pat Kelly, who had more lines than everyone else put together, and 2/C Sarah Hohenberger, who played two different characters. Everyone did an amazing job! When the curtains opened, we all were anxious to show off the hard work we had put into it. We left it all on the stage for two performances, and hopefully those that attended had as much fun watching it as we did producing it.

The Coast Guard Academy has a variety of extracurricular activities. Drama Club, Investment Club, and Genesis Council are just a few of the many cadet-led clubs we have. Whatever your interest, there is probably an activity for you to enjoy.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email. I will make every effort to answer it in a timely fashion.

Go Bears!
Nicholas.P.Capuzzi@uscga.edu

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3c Freedom

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Nick Capuzzi So, when you last heard from me, I was just about to head to Coast Guard Barque Eagle for a trans-Atlantic journey from London to Boston, with stops in Reykjavík and Halifax. I’m happy to report that I survived the howling gales of the North Atlantic and the drifting ice of the Arctic. Eagle was a very unique experience and it allowed me to visit some cool places.

After Eagle, I headed back to Texas for my three weeks of leave. After twenty days of rest and relaxation, it was back to the Academy to start another year.

This year is off to a much better start than last year, mostly due to the fact that I am no longer a fourth class. I can walk, talk, and eat like a normal person. But with being a third class comes a whole different set of responsibilities. No longer followers, the Class of 2014 is expected to act as role models for the Class of 2015. Also, third class cadets are responsible for organizing and administrating the cadet watch sections as the Junior Cadet Duty Officer. It’s quite a leap from simply bracing up and squaring meals.

The academic year is shaping up to be a tough one, with classes like Multivariable Calculus, Mechanics of Materials, and Physics. The good news is that professors make themselves very available, so there is always someone you can go to for help.

After a hard day of classes, there‘s nothing like letting your frustration out on the sports field, which, in my case is the Thames River. For the start of the Offshore Sailing season, I’ve become a Colgate skipper, teaching fourth class some basic sailing skills, and a pit man on Glory, our J/44 sailboat. This season is shaping up to be a fun one.

Overall, the start of third class year presents a freedom previously unknown inside Chase Hall. It also, however, presents a totally new set of experiences and challenges.

Go Bears!
Nicholas.P.Capuzzi@usgca.edu

More about Nick.

Fun in FMB

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Nick Capuzzi So, my fourth class year at the Coast Guard Academy has come to an end. I am now a third class cadet. What a great feeling! I’m sure several of my classmates will go into more detail about why it’s so great, so I’ll move on and let you read it from them.

For the past four weeks, I have been assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Marlin in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. It has been a really unique and exciting experience.

The Marlin only has a crew of twelve, so I was right alongside them, taking part in everything. I served as Communications Officer during a commercial fishing vessel boarding, using radios and cell phones to liaise between the Boarding Officer, the Captain, Sector Saint Petersburg, and the El Paso Intelligence Center. I piloted the ship on a return cruise from Tampa Bay and served as the plugman during damage control drills.

They weren’t all glorious duties though. I spent hours sanding, priming, and painting and even more scrubbing the sides to keep them white. And, in what many of the crew consider my most important contribution, I spent three hours on the phone with DirecTV to get our satellite fixed so we could watch TV again.

I’ve never been seasick before, but as the crew warned me, the 87’ coastal patrol boat is the worst-riding ship in the Coast Guard. After several hours of pitching up and down with waves breaking over the bridge, I could no longer say I’d never been seasick.

We carried out our law enforcement mission excellently, finding illegal crabbers and shrimpers with narcotics on board. It was quite an experience for my first visit to the operational Coast Guard.

Pretty soon, I’ll be heading to Eagle to sail across the Atlantic. Then, I’ll be returning to the Academy for my third class year. As I thought yesterday while lying on the beach sipping a non-alcoholic piña colada, life is good.

Go Bears!

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Looking Back…

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Nick Capuzzi The weekend of April 15-17, I had the opportunity to attend a sailing regatta at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. As we entered the gates, I realized that the last time I had been at the Naval Academy was Summer Seminar 2009. Once we were on campus, I saw a group of fourth class midshipman, a group that I could have been a part of. It got me thinking about why Navy was my second choice, behind the Coast Guard Academy.

It was around seventh grade when I decided that I wanted to go into the military. Originally, due to my love of the water, the Navy was my choice. I joined the Naval Sea Cadet Corps to learn more about it, and found myself spending two weeks at Coast Guard Station Ocean City, Maryland. It was really my first exposure to the amazing men and women that make up the United States Coast Guard, and I enjoyed my time there so much that I was back again the next year, learning even more. As time went by, my aspirations slowly shifted toward the Coast Guard.

Then, the summer before my senior year, I attended the Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS) and the Coast Guard Academy Introduction Mission (AIM). At NASS, I arrived to warm, cheerful faces welcoming me to the Naval Academy. I received a guided tour, went to some classes, and had one day of mock plebe summer. At AIM, I stepped off the bus to be greeted by a uniformed second class cadet screaming at me to move faster. I had to stand at attention, greet upper-class, and memorize basic Coast Guard knowledge. AIM made NASS look like Camp Navy and further reinforced my decision to make Coast Guard my top school.

Now that fourth class year is almost over, I’m glad I made that decision. The size of the Coast Guard Corps of Cadets is smaller than the freshman class at Navy. It is less of a student body and more of an extended family. True, the fact that we fourth class now have carry-on definitely makes my outlook twice as bright, but even during Swab Summer I felt people looking out for me, people who had my back.

I don’t mean this to say that Navy is not a good choice, simply that it wasn’t my choice.

Go Bears!
-Nick
Feel free to send questions: Nicholas.P.Capuzzi@uscga.edu

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Back Again

(Academics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Nick Capuzzi Welcome back to second semester! Now here we go…

That is pretty much how this semester started. Everything seems to be rushed. The first semester began slowly, and then accelerated after midterms. Now, after three weeks of life on the outside, we came straight back to that increased tempo.

All of my professors are great. They are also very giving people, as in they give you tons of homework. I just finished the first draft of one of three papers I have due in the next week. I also had a calculus test this morning.

Three days ago, I had so much work to do that I worked non-stop from 1600-2300, went to bed, woke up, and worked for another two hours. Then, having finished all my assignments, I went to class and as rewarded with even more.

There is a lot of work to do at the Academy, but there is also a lot of help available. I spent an hour trying to finish one problem for Statics and Engineering Design. Try as I might, I could not get the right answer. So I walked over to MacAllister Hall, paid a visit to my professor, and we spent 15 minutes working it out together. I don’t think you would have that kind of student-faculty interaction anywhere but here.

Despite all the work, there is still time to have fun (except for that one day I told you about). Whether it is snowball fights on the field, dinner at Dry Dock, or Nerf wars in the trunk room, fourth class cadets know how to have a good time.

Any questions? Let me hear them. Nicholas.P.Capuzzi@uscga.edu

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So, Why Here?

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Nick Capuzzi The end of the semester is rapidly approaching. As I near the halfway point of fourth class year and see all the prospective cadets walking around, I am reminded of this time one year ago, when I was one of those prospective cadets. That got me thinking: What were my reasons for choosing the Coast Guard Academy?

Maybe it was for economic reasons. A free education would really ease financial strain on my parents and myself. Plus, upon graduation, I will have a guaranteed job, something that can be quite hard to come by these days. So yes, there are some economic benefits, but that wasn’t my main reason.

Maybe it was a desire for adventure. Enforcing federal laws, busting drug smugglers, interdicting migrants, rescuing mariners in distress, and protecting our coastline, what could be more adventurous than that? Even with all the excitement I will experience over my career, I still hadn’t found what it was that pushed me toward CGA.

It was a memory from the previous weekend that reminded me why I was here. I, along with 29 of my classmates, had taken a trip to Coast Guard Sector New York. Some CGA grads gave us a tour, told us a bunch of their stories, and we had a great time. At one point, we were walking down the street from Sector New York to Station New York. A car drove by and honked wildly at us, and one of the passengers stuck his head out the window and yelled, “Thank you for your service!”

That’s why I am here. To serve. To protect and defend the citizens of the United States. It’s something I’ve wanted since I was young. I love the water, so that narrowed my preference to either Navy or Coast Guard. In seventh grade, I joined the Naval Sea Cadet Corps. Then in high school, I enrolled in JROTC. I applied to both the Naval and Coast Guard Academy, but I chose Coast Guard.

And now I sit here, finishing my Calculus and writing this entry, confident that I made the right choice.

More about Nick.

Time Management

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Nick Capuzzi I cannot believe it, but somehow a quarter of fourth class year has gone by already. It has been approximately 120 days since I showed up on R-Day, and what a busy four months it has been.

Fourth class year is one big exercise in time management. During Swab Summer, we were told where to go, what to do, and when to do it. But during the academic year, it is totally up to you. You set yourself up for success, or failure, depending on the choices you make. Fortunately, you take an introductory course called BEARS that helps you learn about time management.

My day takes me to trainings, classes, meals, sports practices, and club meetings. Somewhere in between them I have to find the time to do my homework and study. As you can see, it is not always easy. But then again, it is the Coast Guard Academy, and it is not supposed to be.

More about Nick.

Return to the Academy, Spice Stories, and Applying!

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith Hello again friends!

I’m sorry that it’s been almost two months since I last put up a blog. Things ended up getting really hectic with classes near the end of the semester and I hardly had time for anything else but school and triathlon. Speaking of classes, my load is a bit lighter this semester. The only class that I’m really worried about is Signals and Systems, an electrical engineering class that focuses on the mathematical description of different types of signals. For instance, what a sound signal might look like. It’s a challenging class, and I’m just hoping to get a good enough grade to stay in my major.

I didn’t want to just talk about classes in this blog though. I’m not sure if you guys saw it on the news or have kept up with what’s going around the Academy, but 14 cadets were recently kicked out for the use of Spice, a synthetic marijuana. Use of any psychoactive drug is a guaranteed way to get kicked out of not only the Academy, but also the military. The military has a no tolerance policy for these drugs, especially the Coast Guard. One of our missions is maritime law enforcement, and that often involves the search and seizure of illegal drugs on the water. The Coast Guard wants officers of integrity; officers who will not take some of the drugs they seize for their own benefit or use.

The thing is, nine of those cadets were from my class. I knew a few of them, and they are good people. But good people sometimes make bad decisions, which is what happened when a group of my classmates and five others decided to smoke Spice. At that moment they decided that using an illegal substance, by military standards, was more important to them than earning a commission. That throwing away a year and a half year was worth abusing their bodies. One of my dad’s favorite sayings has always been “the truth always comes out.” My former classmates might have thought they weren’t going to get caught; eventually though, whatever you do, will be brought to the attention of others. It’s so much easier to just follow the rules.

I don’t want any of you thinking that this is something that usually happens here. The actions of a few are not indicative of the attitude of the whole. This was a rare occurrence, and does not reflect the nature of the Corps of Cadets. Do not let this incident diminish the desire to attend this institution.

Many of you, I’m sure, are anxiously awaiting news on whether you were accepted or not. My advice? If you’ve already submitted an application, be sure to occupy your time with something else. Maybe throw more effort into school or whatever sport you’re in as of right now. It will help take your mind off of the waiting game.

For those of you who are still in the process of filling out the application, be sure to get letters of recommendation. Whether their from your coach, your employer, or your minister, be sure to get some of those into your application; they enable the admissions panel to see your whole person better, and allow insight into your character. Having letters of recommendation can only help your application. It’s hard to believe that in only a few more months the Class of 2016 will arrive and I’ll be cadre!

As always, feel free to email at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu if you have any questions or need help with the application process.

As always,
Jordan

More about Jordan.

Where Does the Time Go?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith Ahoy Sailors!

I’ve got no clue where the time goes, because it seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing my previous blog.

Where has all of this time been going you might ask? For the weekdays it’s always dedicated to school. The first semester of Electrical Engineering is pretty intense. I’m taking three labs and I have homework every night. And I don’t have any free periods during the school day. This semester I am taking: Electrical Engineering I, Introduction to Programming, Differential Equations, Ships and Maritime Systems, Physics I, Navigation Lab, and Golf/Racquetball.

The weekends have been far more exciting though. I’ve done a couple of triathlons (in D.C. and New York) in the past month, as well as a lot of community service activities. Community service has been very rewarding, as well as exposing me to different things “out there”. For instance, last weekend I was helping Amber Alert register children for ID’s; if the children ever go missing the parent can turn the ID card into a local police station and the surrounding communities will be alerted to what’s going on. Some of the other things that I’ve done include helping out at a homeless shelter in Pennsylvania, talking to people at Riverside Park (a piece of land the Academy is interested in acquiring), and taking Eagle up the Thames River for the first time in 30 years. All of it’s been very satisfying, and I’ve been able to visit many more places around the New England/eastern seaboard through all of these activities while helping people out. I’m grateful for this opportunity the Academy has made possible for me, and I’m excited to see what other exciting things lay in store for me on the weekends.

If you want to know more about my weekend adventures or community service in general feel free to shoot me an email at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu.

See you soon,
3/c Jordan Keith

More about Jordan.

An Event Like No Other: My First Biathlon

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith Ahoy Sailors!

Today, on the tenth anniversary of the tragic attacks on our nation, I had the honor and privilege of racing my first biathlon in the nation’s capitol: Washington D.C. Normally, this event is supposed to be a triathlon, but they unfortunately canceled the swim due to unsanitary conditions in the Potomac River. The race ultimately began with the 40k cycling leg.

The CGA Triathlon team, along with three other service academies (Army, Air Force, and Navy), started off in the second wave out of 38. Luckily for us, the Nation’s Triathlon favors cadets and we have our own special category. And off I was, quickly running through the transition area to where my bike was.

I’ve never really cycled before, so I was surprised at how tired I was when I hit the 30k mark. I was also surprised at how my legs felt when I started the run. I’ve been running for four years now and my legs have never felt that tight before. Switching from one discipline to another is quite a shock to the body, I’ve discovered. My calves were tight at the beginning of the run, but I felt really good when I hit the halfway point of my 10k run. I felt even better as I sprinted through the finish.

My favorite part of the race, besides finishing, was the sheer amount of energy at the event. I’ve never seen so much enthusiasm at any of the cross country, swimming, track meets or 5ks that I’ve been too. I’m excited to train harder for my next biathlon/triathlon in October!

Semper P.
3/c S. Jordan Keith

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Summer Travels

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith It’s been an incredible summer so far! 3/c summer training is divided into two phases. We spend half of our summers aboard an operational cutter or small boat station and the other half aboard Eagle. I spent the first five weeks of my summer aboard the CGC Dallas, a 378-foot high endurance cutter home ported out of Charleston, South Carolina, which is an awesome city. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend very much time in Charleston as we got underway the next day. I spent the entire time underway, so it was perfect timing from a training perspective.

All of us were promoted to the rank of 3/c cadets the day following graduation. My five other classmates and myself participated in the tradition of throwing our green shields – the rank of a 4/c – overboard. We then donned our red shields. Even though it does not seem like a big deal, wearing a different colored shield marks a huge shift in our cadet careers. By tossing those green shields, we were getting rid of all of the tasks that we had to do as 4/c: bracing up, squaring meals and corners, marching in section, clocks, cleaning for formal room and wings.

I learned an incredible amount aboard the Dallas on how a cutter works, got to meet and interact with the enlisted crew. As 3/c cadets we act in the role of junior enlisted personnel so we stood the same watches and stayed in the same berthing areas as the seaman and junior petty officers. It’s part of the program. “You have to learn to follow before you can learn to lead”.

We did a Caribbean patrol on the Dallas, had a couple of law enforcement cases, and went to Panama and Cuba for port calls. Even though being underway can be really challenging, I can’t help but feel lucky; a lot of my friends from high school are working at grocery stores or Starbucks, and I’m getting to go all over the world doing a meaningful job.

Currently I’m on CGC Eagle, America’s Tall Ship in London. Everyone on phase II Eagle flew out last Friday. The flight took six hours, and it took a few days for me to adjust to the five-hour time difference. We were supposed to leave a few days ago, but we had some problems with our navigational equipment so we’re still in London. Not that I’m complaining! London is very different than Boston or New York City. There’s a deeper history here than in America, as well as a mix of modern and medieval architecture. Getting to see places like Big Ben or Buckingham Palace has been amazing, and I’m hoping to see more of it before we leave.

We’ll be making port calls in Reykjavik, Iceland as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia before we finish this journey in Boston, Massachusetts, which is ironically the city we flew out of America from. I look forward to answering any of your questions and telling you more about this chapter of my cadet career!

As Always,
3/c Jordan Keith

More about Jordan.

101st Night

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith Right now I’m coming off a high of accomplishment. Tonight the Class of 2014 experienced one of the traditions of this fine institution: 101st Night. 101st Night, to quote from the Running Light, is “The chance for the Fourth Class to earn 100th Day.” In other words, the 4/c revert back to swab status and the 2/c revert to cadre status. Two things happened tonight: we earned the chance to become “kings for a day” tomorrow on the 100th day. Tomorrow, we will become 2/c for a day while the 4/c have to brace up, do orderlies, and spew indoc. While we get to act normal, use Facebook, and talk to each other in the passage ways.

Hotel did a great job, and I think I proved to my Swab Summer company that I’ve come a long way since that day hot and humid R-Day.

I’m looking forward to 100th Day, then Boards, then Challenge of the Guardian, then carry on! I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

If you have any questions about 101st Night, 100th Day, or any of the Academy’s traditions feel free to email me at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu.

More about Jordan.

An Update

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith It’s been awhile since I’ve updated you guys, so here it goes.

From last semester: I finished finals all right, and ended up with an okay GPA. This semester was definitely the most challenging I’ve ever experienced. I went from failing all of my first tests to eventually improving and coming out about average for my class. Militarily, my uniform appearance wasn’t stellar and I had trouble managing time. I gave up doing a sport so I could focus more on academics, and was tired most of the time. Christmas leave was awesome. It was definitely a much needed break for me to reflect on my experiences so far at the Academy, and realize what I was doing wrong. In my opinion, failure is acceptable if you learn from it.

Now let’s fast-forward to this semester. Hotel won Honor Company! Basically this means that we were the best out of the eight companies in the Corps of Cadets. Along with that has come a long weekend (we could leave and not have to come back until Sunday), and impressing our new guidon, who was on exchange at another service academy and therefore didn’t know what to expect from the Hotel 4/c.

Unfortunately, I relaxed too much over Christmas break and didn’t have the “sound body” to pass the first Physical Fitness Examination. Luckily though, I got off the remedial PFE today after having passed it two times consecutively.

Things have improved on all fronts for me. I know how to manage my time now, so I can now balance all of my academic, military, and extracurricular obligations. I’m finished with my least favorite class, Macroeconomics, and am in Statics and Engineering Design, which suits me more. I finally have my room condition and uniform appearance under control. Additionally, I’ve been keeping up with school and doing pretty well.

Speaking of school, we’ve yet to have a full week of classes because of all the snow causing the base to be closed. Coming from the Midwest, I’ve seen some pretty heavy snow falls, but nothing like this. It just keeps piling up. Let’s see if we can make it to Spring Break without a full week of school, right?

I think I’m going to do outdoor track as my sport this semester. I ran track and cross country in high school, and hadn’t realized how much I missed it. The only problem is that I put in for first phase Eagle for my 3/c summer, and track may conflict with that. First Phase is going to Ireland, Germany, and London, while Second Phase picks it up in London and heads over to Iceland, Nova Scotia and Boston. Whatever phase I get, it’s going to be a blast. I also put in for the new National Security Cutter, so we’ll see if I get it or not. I should find out in a month or two, and I’ll let you guys know where I’ll be headed this summer.

The period from the beginning of the second semester is traditional called the “Dark Ages” because of the lack of sunlight in New England and the absence of any leave periods. And for 4/c cadets, we are starting to prepare for Boards. Boards is part of the process to earning “carry on”, meaning that the 4/c are recognized by the corps and gain all of the privileges that have been withheld since R-Day. Boards consist of memorizing information about the Coast Guard from a 54 page packet. An upper class will ask us 10 questions from that packet, and we have to get 8 out of 10 correct to pass. All of 2014 has to pass Boards before carry on can be granted. Honestly though, despite the negative stigma attached to the Dark Ages and Boards, second semester has been fantastic. I’ve got my grades under control, good military conduct, a great division, planning on doing a sport again, and haven’t had a full week of school yet. What else could a 4/c cadet want? Well, besides carry on of course.

Have any questions on what the first semester was like? Or what it’s like being a spring semester 4/c? Feel free to shoot me an email at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu

More about Jordan.

Sector New York Trip

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith Today was another eye opening day into the operational Coast Guard—this time to see what a Coast Guard sector is like. After our formal room and wing inspection, a group of 4/c cadets and I boarded a bus to visit Coast Guard Sector New York. The bus ride was three hours long, which was actually great because I was up until 1:30 in the morning cleaning the heads (bathrooms) for our wing area inspections.

When we arrived, an ensign who had recently graduated from the Academy greeted us and gave us a presentation on sectors, an area of the Coast Guard that I was completely unfamiliar with. According to him, sectors are in charge of preventing and responding to natural disasters or anything similar. Their biggest responsibility is keeping ports and waterways safe, and they regularly board merchant vessels and check their cargo, which is an example of prevention.

Remember when that plane crashed into the Hudson River last year? The Coast Guard was on scene shortly afterward. Soon after the plane had landed in the river, the Coast Guard sent out small boats to help the people off of the wings of US Airways Flight 1549 and out of the Hudson in the cold January weather. It was quite an accomplishment for the pilot and the Coast Guard sector. It seems like no matter where you go in the Coast Guard something exciting is going to happen, and we’ll be there to take care of it.

In addition to the presentation, we were given a tour of the control room and the small boat station, which was great. The control room monitors the whole sector and watches the port. The Coast Guard has this area well covered; let’s just say that it would be pretty hard for someone to go unnoticed in the areas that the sector monitors. The response boats look really fun to ride in. I’m actually hoping that I’ll get to go to a small boat station now during 3/c summer. I have to go now, but if you have any further inquires on my sector experience, feel free to shoot me an email at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu

Best,
4/c Jordan Keith

More about Jordan.

Don’t Count Every Hour in the Day, Make Every Hour in the Day Count

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith There are several paradoxes to cadet life. One of them is the concept of time. The days drag on, but the weeks fly by. Right now, I’m sitting here finding it hard to believe that it is already Sunday again, or the fact that the month of October went by so quickly. It’s been a little over four months since the Academy became my home, which I find incredible. So many things have happened in between R-Day and today that I feel like it’s been a year since I last saw my hometown, although I know it’s only been a quarter of that time.

Currently, I can divide my life into three different phases: pre R-Day, Swab Summer, and present day, 4/c year. Each one of these phases has had a significant, although different, impact on my personal development. The time before R-Day was about growing up and figuring out what I wanted to do. Swab Summer was about teamwork, discipline and learning to trust and rely on people who were once strangers but are now close friends, which is perhaps one of the greatest things about the Academy. 4/c year so far has been one about self-discipline and drinking water from a fire hose. We, the Class of 2014, had plenty of discipline during the summer, but that was someone administering it to us. Now it is up to us to decide what to do with our time, which is a greater challenge than I expected.

The other night I had a discussion with my guidon on how to manage all of the academic, military, and other requirements and responsibilities that we have. For those of you who don’t know what a guidion is, it is a leadership position held by a 2/c cadet in each of the eight companies. In the words of the announcer at drill ceremonies, the guidon “is a 2/c known for their snap and precision, and is responsible for training the 4/c cadets.” He gave me some great advice on how to do well at the Academy. To summarize our discussion: “study and work with classmates when possible, write things down, discipline yourself to do the work, and prioritize responsibilities. Don’t worry about the amount of tasks that you have to do; just do them.” Great advice, because at the end of the semester what will have mattered is how I used my limited time and, more importantly, knowing that I used it well.

Best,
4/c Jordan Keith

More about Jordan.

Limits: the Hardest Lesson I’ve Had to Learn

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Normally I would write my blog near the beginning of the month – and normally, I would rush to share all my excitement following a big race or athletic event. So, what happened this month? I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th, had the time of my life, crushed my goal time by almost 20 minutes, and came back to school absolutely giddy with excitement. Why didn’t I write then? Two weeks later, I ran Tough Mudder – a 12-mile obstacle course in the freezing cold and mud – with five of my best friends and, again, was left beside myself with glee. Why didn’t I write then?

Why am I waiting until now to sit down and crank out a quick little blog post? Time constraints - for the first time since I’ve been at the Academy (really, for the first time ever), I’ve truly learned what it means to not have a minute to spare.

3/c fall semester has been unlike anything I would have expected – I’ve begun to grow nostalgic for the relative ease of last year! Gone are the days of bracing up, squaring meals, and taking out trash, but in the place of the endless, irritating menial tasks designated to 4/c have come a whole new wave of work and responsibilities. Suddenly, the academic load is both fuller and more challenging. Suddenly, I must write not only my own CER, but one for each of my 4/c as well. Suddenly, I have more jobs and managerial tasks within my division. The authority vested in me has increased, even if just slightly, and with that comes a new set of tasks to complete. I knew, theoretically, that this would happen – it’s a natural part of the Academy training. But it was difficult to predict precisely how it would affect my day-to-day life until now.

What’s more, the graduation from 4/c year to 3/c year gives birth to a sense of confidence unlike anything most of us have ever felt before – now that we know this school, we know our place, and we know our own abilities, we are far more certain of our abilities to accomplish all we must do, and still have the time to do the things we want to do. And so, as 3/c, we become more eager to join new activities, take on new tasks, try to do more than we did before.

This year, I suddenly found myself signed up for not only Glee Club, Triathlon Team, and this blog program but a host of other activities. Suddenly, I’m spending hours each week serving as a Peer Tutor, and attending tutor trainings. Suddenly, I’m going to weekly Honors Colloquium meetings and doing work toward starting a Directed Studies course and applying for scholarships for graduate school. Suddenly, I’m attending lectures and seminars with the Women’s Leadership Council, striving to learn what I need to know to ease my transition into a Coast Guard career a couple years from now.

Yet, even as I add on more things, the other activities I’ve grown so fond of persist – Glee Club practices, concerts, and events; races, morning practices, and team meetings for triathlon and running club; the required CS/IS hours we have to do each semester. And these activities build upon themselves as my time investment in them increases. I may now attend the occasional Fairwinds performance in addition to regular Glee Club performances. Now that I’ve completed a marathon, I’ve taken the next big step and signed up for an Ironman – a 140.6 mile race next November. I get so eager so easily – once I know what I can do, I want to try to do more.

It’s all “fine and well and good”, striving for excellence, pushing yourself, getting involved in your school. I’ve thrived on it for the past four months. But at a certain point, the madness has to cease. When you wear yourself down to 4 hours of sleep per night because you’re constantly on the go, something has to stop. I’ve hit that point – I’ve past my limits.

Thankfully, I’ve “caught myself” before I fell into a death spiral, before my grades started to slip. I’ve been testing my limits, but by now my body has told me “enough is enough.” It’s time to cut back. It may be tempting to try to do everything, but even for a USCGA cadet, it’s not quite possible.

So, that’s why I’m so late in writing my blog this month – I’ve drowned myself in activity, and I’ve learned my lesson. Going forward, I’ll try to “cut back” a little bit on the flurry of constant “stuff” to do and just appreciate the value of some down time.

Yet, I have to say, I’m glad I learned this lesson the hard way – I never “pegged the meter” in testing myself. Until I’d pushed myself past my limits, I never actually knew what my limits actually were. I now know what sorts of energy and fortitude the Academy life and training can produce. I know just how much I can do – now, I just need to be a little more sensible about doing it!

More about Jessie.

Upcoming Events

(Athletics, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik I am capable of reflection – I do it monthly on this blog – and I would write about what’s gone on in the past few weeks if it seemed more pertinent at this point in time. But I’m naturally more of a forward-thinker, and at the CGA, October is a time that certainly invites looking ahead (though, perhaps you could say that for every month here!) There’s a lot to look forward to, and less that most of us would like to look back upon. The end of September and the beginning of this month have been a bit of a slog – Formal Room and Wing, a Personnel Inspection, an extra heavy load of tests and papers, even mid-terms…people have been worn pretty thin. But, it’s analogous to weathering a storm: we’ve been surrounded by all the wind and torrential downpour and chaos for what’s seemed like forever, and suddenly, we’ve broken into the clear. Everything good that’s upcoming is laid out before us – and it looks fantastic!

Here’s the run-down of the excitement:

Columbus Day Long this weekend has everyone’s spirits soaring. Plans are across the board – people going home, visiting different cities, trying to squeeze in one last beach trip before the cold weather hits. For my part, I’m off to New York City with some of my best friends, though a little piece of my heart will be back here in Connecticut. Women’s rugby has their fourth game of the season this Saturday in Stonington – even if I’m not playing this season, I have to give a shout out to my teammates!

Next week, Glee Club will attend our biggest event of the year – the Coast Guard Foundation Dinner in New York City. It was pretty mind-blowing last year as a 4/c…the majority of the “important” people in the Coast Guard all packed into one super-fancy hotel ballroom, and us, the CGA choir, going to sing for them. It’s a great time though and this year, I’m lucky enough to be part of the extended-stay group. The Fairwinds need a 2nd alto to stand in for their performance the next evening – so that means an overnight stay in NYC, and missing classes all day Friday. Jackpot!

But for those back at the Academy that Friday, it won’t be just any school day. Next weekend is Parent’s Weekend, which means hundreds of CGA family members at school and classes, extra band and Glee performances, departmental style drill, the Parents’ Weekend football game, and more overnight liberty for the corps.

The period after Parents’ Weekend marks two enlivening occasions: that end of drill season, and the beginning of the “holiday” season. Yes. That means no more 0655 drill practice every Monday and Friday, no more 1600 Reg Reviews on Friday afternoons when everyone just wants to go out on libo or sleep. It’s a glorious thing. And the end of October, as Halloween approaches, is always a fun time. There’s Aviation Day, room decorating, the Corps costume contest, the Halloween dinner and Trick or Treat on the Hill all in those last couple of weeks of the month. Rarely do we get to “play” so much at the Academy – it’s a nice treat.

And to top all that off, on October 30th, I run the Marine Corps Marathon with the Running Club. Training “crunch time” is already in full swing…

That’s the gist of it – the activities just keep coming and coming, it seems! Hopefully there will be plenty of interesting material for me to report on in the next month. Until then, I’m just contentedly looking forward.

More about Jessie.

Running Right Along

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Back in 2010, I set aside September as rugby month. Now, a year later, I’ve evolved a bit. September is Tri Team month. September is Running Club month. September is race month.

A little background info: in March of this year, I was sitting at my desk working when Dale Carty, a good friend from Swab Summer, waltzed right in and dropped a crazy idea, “Hey Jessie, want to do the Marine Corps Marathon with me?” I’d never seriously thought about doing a marathon before, and considering the workloads the Academy forces us to endure, training for a 26.2 mile road race should have been out of the questions. But, I’ve always been a little overly ambitious. Besides, plenty of cadets run the MCM every year, so it couldn’t be that crazy of an idea. And, with his huge smile, charming Virgin Islands accent, and upfront manner, Dale is terribly convincing. So, I popped off, “Yeah, let’s do it,” and we registered that day.

Flash-forward to the end of the summer – after going on summer assignments for 12 weeks and having no time or place to run during those three months, as soon as leave hit, I began to hit the pavement…hard. Everyone knows that when you start an aggressive running program you’re supposed to ease your way into it, build up a mileage base bit-by-bit, avoid overtraining. I may have skimmed over that particular piece of advice…like I said, overly ambitious.

Long story short, when I got back to school in August and tried to throw rugby practice into the mix of heavy mileage – running in cleats, cutting, starting, stopping sprinting, going to ground, the whole nine yards – I ran into some problems. Essentially, I blew out my shins, knees, and adductors all within the first week of practice. Ouch. Clearly something had to go – marathon training and rugby was just too much for my obviously underprepared body to handle. And seeing as I’d already registered for MCM, Nation’s Triathlon, and the Niantic Half Marathon, I decided to sit the rugby season out.

So let me rephrase my opening statement – September is race month and PT month. The athletic trainers at the Academy, or the PT center in the clinic, are always readily available for ailing athletes. Running at all has required extensive visits to the clinic for ESTIM and ice treatments, plus exercises, plus stretching, and still every long run has been setting me back for a week. Run 10 miles one day…have trouble walking the next. It’s been a strange game…and I’ve been fairly pig-headed about that. I guess I’ve never really learned the meaning of an “off day”!

Still, I can’t say it enough – September is a racing month. September is a running month. September is a training month. Even though Academy life can get wearing by winter, in these first few months of school, energy levels stay high all throughout the corps. And with so many exciting things going on, with MMA Weekend, and Labor Day, and Homecoming Weekend, the energy seeps over to fuel your workouts. It’s easy to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” when there’s something going on every week – because basically each week is a new “tunnel” to conquer.

Enough history. Let’s get into the meat of this story: RACES!

On September 10th, 2011 I hopped in a van loaded down with a dozen-odd cadets, their bikes, helmets, gear bags, and endless high-carb snacks to head down to Washington D.C. for what was many of our first Olympic Distance Triathlon. This is the amazing thing about the Academy – you take trips like this, and all the details are worked out perfectly…transportation, lodging, meal money. We got from Connecticut to D.C. in a day, hassle free. After racking bikes, checking in, and getting a quick meal, we all crashed at Station Washington for some much needed rest. The next morning, the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, at 7a.m., the starting gun fired, and our team of Coasties was off running to their bikes.

It was strange and surreal – dashing through the mud of the transition area on a misty morning in the Capital, racing against a hundred other military cadets from other service academies, and thousands of people total. All that adrenaline, all that athleticism centered in one place…yet it was hard to feel the urge to compete, exactly. All I could think of the entire race was, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here right now!” or “Could they have picked a more amazing place to hold a tri?” The significance of the day was certainly not lost on any of us. To think – ten years ago, our nation endured monstrous acts of violence intended to uproot us, ruin us, and shake the very foundations of our strength and resolve. Yet today, we still stand strong. The athletes racing that day are a testimony that the strength and willpower our citizens – September 11th, with the Nation’s Tri, did not have to be a day of mourning but a day to celebrate the enduring passion, commitment, and community that no external foe can take away from the American people. I don’t know – perhaps it was just “runner’s high,” but I left that race with not just excitement, but a deep sense of contentment.

The period after Nation’s Tri ended up being a bit more of a slog, in terms of training. The Olympic Tri hurt me pretty badly – I was starting to get a bit more diligent about taking care of stress injuries, but regardless, a 40K bike and 10K run will set you back a bit, if you’re still supposed to be healing. Oh well – it was so worth it!

Two weeks later I ran the Niantic Half Marathon with the Running Club. Early on a Sunday morning, I hopped in a 15-passenger van with just one other cadet (great organizational skill there, Running Club!) and popped on over to Niantic for the longest straight-up road race I’d ever done. I knew my legs would punish me for it – 13.1 miles all at once would probably mean an extra two or three PT sessions – but I couldn’t beat that undying compulsion to run. And run I did – I finished in 1:47:20, which bodes well for my goal pace for MCM (just to finish in under 4:00:00). I can’t say it was a wildly inspiring a race as Nation’s Tri, but it was a good race nonetheless.

You’d think a Half Marathon and an Olympic Tri would be enough, right? Wrong! My unexpectedly rapid recovery time after Niantic and the fact that all my endless stress injuries finally seem to be subsiding, has me all fired up and ready for more. The Tri Team has been great about welcoming me in mid-season – so I went ahead and signed up for the Mighty Man Sprint Tri in Montauk, New York on October 1st. Bring on the next race!

More than anything, I really look forward to bonding with my new sports-team-family, the “tri-crazies.” It’s a motley crew, but a good crew. In some ways, I think the Tri Team represents the essence of what Academy cadets are – outgoing, energetic, adventurous, ambitious, supportive. We do insane things, like wake up to go jump in a lake at 0640 in October and race, and we love it. We train like fiends, and we love it. We go amazing places on short notice, because the Academy enables it. We’re always on the go, always looking forward, but always, always feeling the heat of every moment of every race. It’s an exhilarating lifestyle – and I’m incredibly grateful that, here at CGA, it’s readily available to me.

More about Jessie.

I Guess this is Normal Now

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Returning to school from leave has been quite a reality check, though not in the way you’d expect. After three months sailing around the world, leave felt almost unreal. As peculiar as our little Academy-world is, returning has felt like checking back into my own bizarre-but-comfortable version of reality: a reality of uniforms, regulations, opportunities, endless movement, and a corps bubbling with passion and energy and restlessness and impishness all mixed together. This is my new normal – civilian life has become some strangely decadent treat. In a way, it’s soothing to come “back to work.”

And the work is piling up already – the mental effort of keeping track of the countless changes going into affect at the Academy this year provides a daunting challenge in itself. We have a new Superintendant. We have new Assistant Commandant of Cadets. As 3/c cadets, the class of 2014 got shifted into new companies. Reg Staff is new. Command within the companies is new. New annexes have opened up in Chase Hall. A new (and grossly unpopular) open-door room policy has gone into effect. In just a month, new regulations regarding the repeal of DADT will take effect. The amount of “newness” being infused into cadet lives with the start of the school year is mind-boggling.

And beyond the tangible changes in policy and structure, it seems that the very character of CGA is shifting along with changes in the outside world. Even in the isolation of the Academy, “real-world” issues – an unstable economy, and a less-than-prosperous job market – infiltrate the atmosphere. Being a cadet, this year, seems to bear more weight than ever as Command informs the Corps that applications to the Academy are increasing and the availability of Coast Guard job billets is decreasing. The pressure is higher than ever for us to reach the lofty standards laid down for us – to develop into intelligent, honorable, skillful, mature leaders ready to go into the fleet. More is at stake; our places here at the Academy hold more value. We have more reason to be both proud of ourselves for our achievements thus far and humbled by the prospect of what we still must achieve to make proper payment for the opportunity we’ve been afforded. Yes, the return to school had the same hustle-and-bustle to it as always, but this year’s atmosphere held a particular solemn flavor to it as well. The world is changing, and CGA isn’t immune to that.

Still, that’s not to say that all the joys of the Academy don’t still dominate the back-to-school environment. There’s so much excitement just over the horizon. Fall sports are in season already – for me, that means a training-intensive combo of Rugby and Tri-Team, all combined with training for the Marine Corps Marathon and a Tough Mudder. Classes are starting up again – and for me and my classmates, this academic year holds the start of work in our specific majors. The Labor Day long weekend, Spirit Week and MMA Weekend, Homecoming…the next month is going to be one big event after another.

Yep, this is totally, perfectly normal. How funny is that?

More about Jessie.

They Can’t Teach This in the Classroom

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik If you’re moderately up-to-date with Coast Guard cadet life and the class of 2014, the excitement of 3/c summer assignments has probably long-since reached you. If not, here’s the general summary version: for 12 weeks over the summer, rising 3/c cadets escape the strange, self-contained alternate reality that is the Academy and get out into the fleet. Where exactly you go is somewhat luck-of-the-draw, but it’s the same general formula for everyone – six weeks on Eagle with half of your classmates, and six weeks at a cutter or station with just a few other cadets. The idea is to get us “out there,” to let us see how the operational Coast Guard works outside of school, to get some practical qualifications and field experience, and to, for a few months, fulfill the role of “junior enlisted” members of the service and build our empathy and understanding as future officers.

That’s the long version – that’s what the Academy intends for us over the summer. Most cadets break that down into rather more basic goals:
  • Get out of the Academy
  • Get some “quals”
  • Have a ridiculously good time traveling all over the country and the world
For my part, I seemed to hit the jackpot. For the first half of the summer I was stationed on the USCGC Jarvis, a 378-foot cutter based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. And the sweetest deal with Jarvis: our two-week fisheries patrol started out in Majuro, so immediately after leaving the Academy my travel group hopped on a C-130 to fly out to the Marshall Islands to meet the cutter. Talk about starting the summer off with a bang!

Underway life on Jarvis was fairly typical of a high-endurance cutter – very interesting, but a lot of work. Endless hours of Helm and Lookout watch, DCPQS training, break-in engineering security watch, engineering drawings, two full weeks of TSTA drills – I can’t say all of it was wildly exciting, or anything that I know I’ll use directly in the future, and for the most part, I was chronically exhausted from the long days. However, the “lows” of underway time were certainly well worth they “ups” of our onboard (and ashore!) experiences. From driving a small boat, to participating in deck-gun drills, to interacting with some truly incredible crew members, to having some amazing liberty time in Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, Jarvis more than repaid us for our efforts with copious amounts of adventure and fun.

Again, I summarize, but fast-forward a few weeks to mid-June, when summer second phase began. Everyone out in the fleet and everyone on Eagle did a quick switcheroo: first phase had sailed Eagle across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland, Germany, and finally to England, where second phase was to pick it up. So, after departing Hawaii, within 36 hours I’d flown from Honolulu, to Louisiana, to Washington D.C., back to the Academy, to Boston, all the way over to London with 120 of my classmates to pick up our famous tall ship. And that was only half a summer’s worth of travels…

Eagle took second phase from London, to Iceland, up across the Arctic Circle, to Nova Scotia, back home to Boston, from which point our class was granted leave. Of course that started with a bit of a hitch – the day before we were supposed to depart from London, our gyrocompass up and died, and while we can navigate without it, we can’t leave port without it. So, as chance would have it, instead of having a three-day London port call, we were gifted with an 11-day London port call. Oh darn that luck!

Eagle underway life ended up being distinctly different than real underway life – when people call it a “floating Academy,” they aren’t being entirely sarcastic. The workday functions much like the Academy routine does, with a few hectic little hitches thrown in throughout the day (“Sail stations, sail stations, all hands to sail stations!”) You stand watch. You go to trainings. Your uniforms and berthing areas get inspected. You go to muster. Often times cadets are much less enthused about Eagle life than about their cutter experience because you work very, very long, hard hours, and it often feels like you’re under constant scrutiny and supervision.

Still, I think that perspective can be chocked up more to young adults’ general tendency to be “jaded” than it is a good evaluation of Eagle life. Truly, sailing a tall ship (our “pirate ship,” as we lovingly called it) across the ocean is to die for. Some of the sights – the view of the sea from the top of the mast, the mountain-ringed bay of the port of Reykjavik, sea ice and the never-ending sun in the Arctic Circle – can’t be seen anywhere else, in any other way. The things you learn – how to handle lines, and climb the rigging, and navigate by celestial bodies – they don’t teach anywhere else. The experiences, good and bad – standing on bow lookout in rough seas late at night, with only another classmate to rely on; sitting on the mess deck at 0330 with your division, falling apart in giggle-fits because you just got off the midwatch; that kind of stuff – you can’t get anywhere else. You certainly don’t learn those sorts of things in the classroom.

When I look back on my summer, even in just a couple months’ worth of retrospect, all the not-so-fun times fade in comparison to all the amazing things I got to do and see. I ran through the Hawaiian mountains; I hiked an Icelandic mountain; I saw London and Halifax; I snorkeled and beach-basked in Waikiki; I learned the engine room of a 378 and Eagle, steered both through all sorts of crazy, gorgeous, and peaceful weather conditions alike; I climbed a mast, drove a small boat, bonded with my classmates, met new people, and challenged myself in incredible new ways.

I’d say that makes a pretty good summer.

More about Jessie.

Memory Lane

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Well, would you look at that – it’s finally Spring! The equinox was yesterday, and happily enough we’re starting to feel the season in the air. No more grimacing every time you walk outside from the below-freezing temperatures; no more feeling totally drained from a two-minute walk from Chase to Satterlee because the wind is forcing you backwards every step. Dare I say it…? It’s getting nice outside!

And, since it’s such beautiful walking weather, I think it’s time for a nice stroll down Memory Lane. (Oh yes, I’m going to have a bit too much fun with this metaphor!) Brace yourselves; this could get a little cheesy…

One year ago to the day, on Sunday, March 21, 2010, I signed the form accepting my appointment to USCGA, effectively saying “Yes, I am ready to give the next nine years of my life to the Coast Guard and my country.” Quite a heavy statement to put into one quick signature on an unassuming-looking paper document. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time – and I realized at the time that I had no idea what I was getting into. But oddly enough, I was ok with that.

It was an abrupt decision, accepting my appointment. I think it may have surprised my family and friends even more than my decision to apply to the Academy in the first place. I didn’t make much show of weighing the pros and cons of going military before picking my path – that dialogue was mostly internal. To everyone I knew it looked like I left for a long weekend with no particular inclination as to where I would go to college and returned on Monday having signed up with the U.S. military. Talk about doing a 180 on people!

I applied to under Early Action, received a conditional appointment in December, and got my medical clearance in early February. I toured as a “bean sprout” at the very end of February – but I reserved judgment. I’d applied to a number of Ivies, and they wouldn’t send out their decisions until May. Don’t get me wrong – I loved what I saw at the Academy. But how could I know if I would love it just as much if I were accepted to Harvard, or Columbia? I thought I’d wait until I had all my options before me so I could make a good, logical decision.

But in the end, what fun is logic? As much as you sit and stress and strain while you work a decision over in your head, sometimes all it does is give you a migraine. I know we’ve got a lot of super-scholars looking into the Academy – I’ve walked that line myself. You want to reason out a concrete, “best” decision; you want to find the “perfect” choice; you want a “right answer”…

When it comes to decisions like college, however – especially if you’re considering making that jump from the civilian to the military world – there isn’t a right answer. Terrifying, right? There’s no instant validation of your choice – only time can tell you if you chose right, chose wrong, or something in between. You have to intuit. And eventually, you have to stop debating, stop agonizing, and just make a choice.

Uh oh…looks like Memory Lane is taking a pretty convoluted path right now. I’m getting lost in reminiscence. Let me get back on a more narrative track…

I mentioned that I left on a long weekend and came back with a firm decision to come to the Academy. Here’s some fun irony: that long weekend I spent on a Caribbean cruise. Yes – I made my decision to join the Coast Guard from the deck of a Carnival cruise ship. Not quite what you’d call “salty,” but it’s fitting enough…

I was sitting on the porch as we pulled into the Bahamas, just watching the hustle-and-bustle down in the port as we prepared to dock. And what do you know, if we didn’t pass a Coast Guard vessel. Of course, my eyes went straight to it…and I got the strangest sensation…

I unexpectedly found myself wishing I could switch ships – stop lazing about on a cruise and join the Coast Guard crew I saw working so diligently beside us. I always get a little restless on vacation (maybe I’ve mentioned I’m a little hyperactive…) The thought of working on the water, always being on the go, off to some new adventure every moment, and doing something beneficial to humanity, suddenly looked very romantic, very noble, and very appealing.

When my family joined me out on the porch, I announced that I no longer cared to hear if Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Vanderbilt, or any such “name” schools wanted me – it was of no consequence. I was going to the United States Coast Guard Academy, and that was that. Two days later, I signed the acceptance form and mailed it off, “sealing my fate” in a little white envelope. And you know what? I couldn’t have been more certain that I had found “the right answer” to my college dilemma.

I guess that little Memory Lane stroll turned into more of long trek! All I’m trying to get at through this little nostalgia trip is this: sometimes it’s best not to over think your actions, or your decisions, even the big ones. I spent 18 years of my life stuck in Georgia trying to plan out how to have some adventure in my life. Yet all the thinking and planning in the world couldn’t have given me half the adventure that I’ve found here at the Academy already. I’m glad I took that leap of faith. I’m glad I stopped “reasoning” and just did what felt right. I’m glad I am where I am.

More about Jessie.

The Great Mental De-Clutter

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Well, that was anticlimactic – Boards are over.

Well, at least for 72% of our class Boards are over…that’s a pretty impressive initial pass rate, if I do say so myself. For almost three-quarters of the 4/c to get that big-long-oh-so-scary indoc test knocked out the first weekend says a lot about Class of 2014.

Still, it blows my mind that we’ve been stressing out, frantically studying our Boards packet since Christmas, and then suddenly, on an otherwise uneventful Saturday morning or Sunday night, in less than 15 minute in most cases…it’s all over. We’re done. No fireworks, marching band, or celebratory parade to mark the coming of our mental freedom, just a simple, “Very well, 4/c Lukasik, you’re dismissed.” Its almost incomprehensible – just a few minutes of effort in the actual Boards room, after all those weeks and weeks of preparation, and I’m just…done.

Of course, the situation was not so incomprehensible as to prevent me from gleefully shoving my 52-page study packet into the recycle bin the minute I got back to my room.

This is one of those times when the figurative idea of “a weight being taken off your shoulders” almost physically manifests itself. There are three big 4/c “things” that each class goes through during spring semester: 101st Night, Boards, and Challenge of the Guardian. Well, we got 101st Night out of the way on Super Bowl weekend; and I personally may not get to do Challenge of the Guardian because of a crew meet (we’ll have to see – that’s still pending). So now, with Boards done and over with, I could very well be done with painful, stressful, 4/c “events.” That’s kind of hard to grasp.

But what’s more, the amount of time and mental energy I’m getting back is almost mind-blowing. Time…yes, the time we earn back by passing Boards almost trumps the privileges we earn as a class. No more scheduled study groups. No more bringing your Boards packet everywhere you go. No more studying on the treadmill. No more quizzing your classmates when you’d planned to just watch a movie. And no more of that awful feeling of, “Well, it’s late and I want to go to sleep now…but I should be studying for Boards.” It’s a Great Mental De-Cluter – this big, scary, looming concept sucking the life out of your brain, draining your stamina and focus, is finally gone. My mind is so much clearer now – I can apply myself to other things!

And how fortunate that is; there are certainly enough other things to apply myself to these days. More to come on that at a later date!

More about Jessie.

Commmunications Breakdown

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik I knew it was coming – I could tell from reading my own letters home to friends and family, counting the number of strange, new acronyms I toss around, listening to my shipmates and my quirky punch lines, reviewing my daily routine in my head – I knew what to expect when I went home on Thanksgiving leave. I knew it… but I still wasn’t prepared for what awaited me back in the civilian world: a communication breakdown of epic proportions.

You develop an entirely new language here at the Academy, jargon that has no point or purpose in the civilian world. This is the natural course of things with any job I suppose. Still, it’s utterly bizarre to go home, swap stories with your friends off in other colleges, and realize that you have to define every other word. Take a simple sentence you might use to describe a morning mishap:

“My clocks for morning formation were awful today, so the guidon told me I’d be doing 10s on the bulkhead by the OOD desk until he secured me.”

This makes perfect sense to a cadet – but such stories left my friends and family with great, gaping, “Huh?” looks on their faces. Coming home, I had to quite literally relearn normal speech. All the terms that had become a part of my daily life had to be obliterated temporarily for courtesy to those around me.

Additionally, just a semester of 4/c year completely warps your sense of humor. Things that the “normal world” doesn’t find all that funny – and really, honestly, shouldn’t be all that funny – suddenly have you bubbling with hilarity. How do you explain to the world back home how bizarrely amusing it is to bus to class in formation and be giggling because your bus is about to “run over” upper class blocking the path of your section? The idea that these poor pedestrians are about to get “hit by a bus” – but a bus of people – is completely ridiculous. But when you’re there, when you’re in a good mood, it can be really, really funny…

Maybe that’s how we get across the communication barrier going from the military to civilian world and back – take everything with a grain of salt. Maybe the military humor and military language may not be all that interesting to the guys back home – but I think anyone can appreciate someone with the ability to laugh at themselves. And 4/c life does leave ample opportunity for that!

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Snow Day

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik While I am certainly no Southerner-at-heart, there are some things that have become ingrained in my head from living in Georgia my entire life. One of those things: utter fascination with snow. It’s not that we never get a good dusting of white back home, but that’s all it is – a dusting, and only, if ever, in late January or maybe February. And the minute a few flakes start floating down, the whole state freaks out. Schools shut down; all the grocery stores within a ten mile radius of the “bad weather” are depleted of their stocks of bread and milk; the phone lines get tied up with family members all abuzz about “the storm.”

Imagine my astonishment when I woke up this morning to find white on the ground…in November.

Everyone in the corps seemed to have their own take on the wintery weather. My roommate – a Houston, TX native – was almost beside herself with excitement. At the same time, another 4/c in my company spent the morning lamenting how this “isn’t even real snow.” Others just seem to hate snow in the first place, “real” or not. As for me, I am delighted. This simple little turn of events made my Monday.

We don’t get seasons like this in Georgia. Summer consists of blazing hot, soup-like mugginess; spring and autumn are temperate, generally crisp, but warm, and quite comfortable; and winter is a slog through numbing, drippy, gray slush. Our state isn’t like Florida, mind you – we can, in fact, identify four distinct seasons, but they’re all moderate. They lack the intensity and distinctive quality of northern seasons. Everything blends together…you miss out on the extremes of hot and cold, light and dark hours, sights and scents of the outdoors as the climate shifts.

I get a marvelous jolt of energy out of seemingly the most insignificant impressions, experiences, and sensations. Here in Connecticut, when I can walk outside and look around and see everything all powdered in white, feel the sharp breeze stinging my cheeks, feel how warm and protected I am under my jacket, and smell late fall in the air, that’s all it takes to put me in a blissful mood for the rest of the day.

Simply put, I think that here at the Academy, the world is just gorgeous. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to wake up in the morning, take one quick look around and honestly say, “Wow, I love my life.”

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Well, This is New

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik I’m astounded. Last Saturday, I fractured my ankle. For all the time I’ve spent being active and rough-and-tumble, I’ve never had any sort of significant injury. How bizarre…

I’ve always been pretty durable – I like to think of myself as “elastic.” You can hit me, stress me, stretch me, strain me, and I’ll take the blow and spring right back, which has always come in handy on the rugby field. In my first year playing, my high school coach actually stuck me playing Flyhalf (a kind of “captain” of the back line) for that exact reason; he said something along the lines of, “The Flyhalf gets laid out all the time…and you take a hit well.” Thanks for that, coach.

Guess that wasn’t the case this time. It was October 16th, our last regular season rugby game; we were playing away at Providence College, it was an insanely gorgeous fall afternoon, and A-side had just gotten a win that would send them into the upper rounds of the playoffs. Needless to say, as we, the bold ladies of B-side (“Sweet Side”) took the field, we were all pretty pumped up. It was going to be a fabulous game.

Unfortunately, I only got about five minutes worth of playtime. There was one of those moments where, in the frenzy to win the ball, there were just too many people in one place at one time. I lunged for a tackle. I fell. Several other people fell. And someone fell right onto my vulnerable little outstretched ankle. There was a nasty cracking noise, and before I knew it I was being carried off the field.

I was confused…I didn’t bounce back this time. I broke. That’s not how it’s supposed to work!

But in all seriousness, I was apparently hurt pretty badly. I went down to the clinic Monday morning to get checked out, and they told me I have an avulsion fracture. I won’t go into the science of it – frankly, that isn’t all that important to me. What I care about right now is just this: when can I walk again? When can I run again? How long until I’m back out on the athletic field?

The diagnosis wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear – crutches for a week, and then a boot for 4 to 6 weeks. Yikes. I don’t know exactly how I’m supposed to do indoor track starting November 1st. If I can’t exercise like a normal, healthy cadet for over a month, I’m going to go absolutely stir-crazy! And what’s more, inane little daily tasks – even just getting to class – are needlessly difficult when you’re doing them one-legged and with arms tied up in crutches. I wish I had done more pushups earlier in the semester...every muscle in my upper body is shot from trying to haul myself around!

Still, looking on the bright side, other than some sore arms, I’m not in much pain. Actually, I’m pretty lucky to have played rugby for two full seasons before getting hurt…it’s inevitable with that sport. They made fun of me a little bit in the clinic. The conversation went something like: Clinic: “So, tell me what happened.” Me: “Well, I was playing rugby, and…” Clinic: “Oh God, not another one!” It seems that being on crutches is just another rugby team-bonding experience.

But I’m being a bit too cynical. There has been quite a bit of good that has come out of this injury, in a way. I have come to realize, once again, what a first-rate place the Academy is, what amazing people live and work here. I can’t limp three yards down the hallway without someone offering to hold a door, carry my bags, carry me, or even just ask, “How are you feeling?” It’s a far stretch from my high school – where people with crutches would occasionally get knocked over without anyone blinking an eye. The supportiveness and compassion here is profound. I guess if I’m going to be injured, this is the place to be.

(And just for the record – any prospective rugby players please don’t write it off just because it’s rough. Yes, people get messed up from time to time, but that happens in any sport. For my part, busted-up though I may be, I can’t wait to get back out there. All the bumps and bruises are worth it for the intensity, team bonds, and fun – trust me.)

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Fear or Respect: Which Do I Want?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." — G. K. Chesterton

Since returning to the Academy, the talk amongst the class of 2014 has been this upcoming summer. Sure, it is packed with Range week, CATP, Rules of the Road, Ludders, and other various weeks of training, but the main focus is the cadre experience. Whether it be as a CGAS, AIM, Waterfront, or Swab Summer cadre, every one of my classmates will be thrust into some sort of leadership experience that will be shaping the future generation of Coast Guard officers. There are mixtures of excitement and terror surrounding my class when we ponder the weight of exactly what we are entering into, and in a few weeks, we will be putting in our dream sheets for what cadre section we want. As such, I figured it would be a good time to reflect upon what type of cadre I want to be.

The general answer to this question is a “respected” one, but of course that answers nothing. Here is a little breakdown. Every former swab has seen both good and bad examples of leadership. I was very fortunate that my Swab Summer experience with cadre was mostly positive, but there are always stories of that one guy/gal who goes on a power trip and “wrecks” the swabs because they think that is the way to earn respect. So this leads me to the question that seems to be circulating around in conversations at the Academy: am I going to be like that cadre?

At the top of this blog, I have one of my favorite quotes. While this quote only embodies a small portion of my leadership philosophy, I think it appropriately sums up my answer to this question. I do not want to be like “those cadre”, because I will not be acting out in hatred towards swabs but out of love for what I am fighting for and that is the Coast Guard and the citizens that we protect. I will correct not to “wreck” the swabs but to instill the discipline that I know will be best for those they will one day save. I want to be a cadre that cares so deeply that my swabs would become successful officers of character that I am not afraid to fight for excellence. To sum it up, I want to be a cadre who is respected, not feared; who acts out in love, not hatred; who demands the best as a means to encourage the swabs to reach the bar but never to tear them down.

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Scholastic Steel Challenge 2011

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson This semester I decided to try out for the Combat Arms team, which is the Academy’s tactical shooting team. After an interview and a test shoot, I made the team and started the two-a-week practices. Us new team members started off by taking the basic pistol qualification test, which is a series of timed shooting intervals that range from 12 minutes to less than thirty seconds. Now, for some personal background, I am not a very experienced or practiced shooter. However, I knew this team would teach me a lot, and I would have some fun in the process. Still, to my dismay, I did poorly on this first basic pistol test, getting an 89 when I needed a 113 to pass. With the help of Gunner (the Academy’s Chief Warrant Officer for the range) and the rest of the team, I was able to pass the test the next practice with a 114. My next goal is Sharp Shooter or Expert, but these goals will definitely take some more practice.

So you might be wondering what exactly does the Combat Arms team do? I know when I first made the team, I wasn’t exactly sure either, but to give you an idea, here is what we did this past weekend.

On Friday morning, the team loaded up a couple of vans with three pistols and enough ammo for the weekend, and we headed up to Hartford for a brief pistol practice. When we reached Hartford, we set up two stages of the Scholastic Steel challenge that we were going to shoot the next day. While each stage is different, the general set up is to have four steel targets staggered apart and another steel target that acts as the stop plate. Then each contestant gets unlimited ammunition to hit the targets as fast as they can and finishing with the stop plate to end the timer. A good marksman can complete some of the stages in less than three seconds.

After running through the two stages for practice, we loaded up the vans again and headed up further north to stay at one of the team member’s house for the night. The next morning, we all bundled up for a day on the range and drove to Exeter, New Hampshire, where the Sig Sauer Academy is located. After we all registered and dry fire practiced some more, the Scholastic Steel Challenge began. Our team, along with the teams from Harvard, Yale, and Vermont, were broken into squads of five, and we each ran through four different stages. At each stage we were given five tries to reach our best time, with the worst time thrown out for grading purposes.

The first stage we went to, I went first for my squad, and let me tell you, I was nervous! After that however, I was raring to go and excited for the rest of the competition. Then came the second stage. Like I said before, I am not a great shooter, but that stage was beyond hard for me, and the third stage proved to be just as difficult.

By the time we got to the fourth stage, I was frustrated but determined to end well on the last stage. This time I went last, and when I stepped up to table, loaded the pistol, and got ready for the timer to start, my mind was focused on everything that I had been taught up to then. Line up the sites. Smooth trigger pull, and repeat. When the timer started, I focused in on the first target, pulled the trigger and missed. I shot again and again and missed again and again. Finally, I pulled the trigger and was rewarded with the ever-satisfying ping.

With the timer still racing, I quickly moved to the next target. Smooth trigger pull. Bang...ping! After that first target, I was able to hit all of the other targets in one or two shots, reaching one of my best times all day. It was a great way to finish off the competition. Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot to take with me into practices and future competitions. While the scores haven’t been finalized yet, I know the rest of the team had a lot of fun.

So that is just a brief example of what the Academy’s Combat Arms team does. Even though this is my first year doing it, I have really enjoyed the team and the sport itself. Everyone helps everyone on the range, and while we all have fun, we are all focused on safety and learning how to handle the firearms properly. These sorts of skills are definitely going to carry out into the Coast Guard, and I am excited to one day go to Boarding Officer School and learn how to use them to help with maritime law enforcement. As always, if you have any questions about the team or the Academy in general, send me an email! Happy Veteran’s Day and God bless.

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Tips on Applying

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson ‘Tis the season for applying and here are a few tips that helped me in my application process…

1. Put down every activity, club, and sport you are a part of. The Academy is looking for well-rounded individuals and is looking to see that you can do well in multiple areas, not just one. Be exhaustive in showing what you do. I put down sports, city races, community service, church involvement, honor society, etc. The point is to give the Academy a broad view of who you are.

2. Be yourself. In the essays, answer them in a way that truly reflects you. For example, my faith is a huge part of who I am, so in the essays, I wrote about that. Similarly, if sports are big to you, put that in there as well. The application is for the Academy to get to know you and see if you would be a good fit, so be personal.

3. Take your time. Each year thousands of students apply to the Coast Guard Academy, but only about 250-300 of them get in. One big factor differentiating those that get in and those that do not is effort. Be methodical and thoughtful as you write your application and essays. Think before you write, and edit when you do. You want to show the Academy your best, so take your time. It does not matter whether you get your application in the day it is due or a month before, what matters is the content.

4. Lastly, the biggest question I get is about grades. Personally, I was just an average homeschooled girl, who got good but not genius status grades. What was more important to the Academy was that I was well rounded and had taken on leadership roles in high school. Verify that your GPA and SAT scores meet the requirements, and then focus on the rest of who you are. Are you the captain of a sports team? An intern at your church? Do you get involved in community service? Like I mentioned earlier, the Academy wants to know that you are well rounded and have leadership potential. Grades are but a small piece of what the Academy looks at.

All in all, be yourself! Good luck on your applications, and if you have any more questions (I know I did when I was in your shoes), feel free to send them my way! God bless and happy studying!

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Summer and Now

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Wow - This is way overdue, but hello again! Last time I wrote, I was still a 4/c and the class of 2015 was still a group of high school graduates. Since then, I have had a crazy, exciting and yet difficult summer of trainings; the class of 2015 reported in and completed Swab Summer; and we have both gone through the first five weeks of the school year.

To quickly, or not so quickly, recap the summer, I was on a 418 foot National Security Cutter, the USCGC Waesche, for five weeks. On board, I was assigned to the Deck Watch side and did everything from small boat inspections and handling to scrubbing rust off the side of the ship. I got to stand man overboard watch during a fueling at sea, break in helm and lookout, drive the ship during a weapons drill, and ultimately stand my first qualified watch as helm and lookout. Probably the most important aspect of this part of the summer was what it taught me about leadership. Not that I have my leadership philosophy completely figured out, but as a junior member of the crew, I got to observe the different leadership styles, both good and bad. Overall, I had a great time on the Waesche working with the junior enlisted and experiencing first hand the bond you can form with your crew.

After the Waesche, which was out of California, I flew to London, England to pick up the USCGC Eagle. We were supposed to get underway right away, but the gyrocompass broke so we wound up having ten days in London. It was so awesome! Sightseeing anyone? When we finally did get underway, we headed north and after one week underway, we moored up in Reykjavik, Iceland and spent three days there, giving tours and of course more sightseeing! After the stop in Iceland came the toughest part of the summer. We spent two weeks underway in some rough and freezing conditions, and being someone who gets sea sick, it was an interesting experience for me :).

Despite the craziness of it all, the coolest experiences of Eagle for me happened during this time. I loved climbing into the rigging and scurrying up the masts to handle the sails, so I volunteered to go up whenever they needed help. Well, one day we hit a small storm that was rocking the ship both side-to-side and front to back. It was like being on a roller coaster; minus the safety of knowing it was going to end in two minutes. Anyway, they needed people to climb up and pull in the sails, so I volunteered to go up. I can’t really explain how awesome it was, because it is something you just have to experience yourself. But, there was a combination of fear and shear elation; it felt like I was flying being up on this little cable, a hundred feet over the North Atlantic, going up and down with the waves. On top of the excitement, there was real pressure to focus and get the job done, as the safety of the crew and the wellbeing of the ship rested in getting the sails tied down. We finished the job, and life went on as normal aboard the ship, but that experience was definitely a highlight of my time on Eagle.

After two weeks, we pulled into Halifax, Nova Scotia and, by that time, I think everyone was ready to get home for a few weeks of leave. We still managed to have some fun in Halifax, got back aboard the ship, sailed for a week to Boston and debarked for leave. After six weeks in the freezing North Atlantic, it was pretty shocking when I got off of the plane in Hawaii, but it was so nice to be home!

Now it has been about five weeks into the school year, and it is crazy how much life changes from when you’re a 4/c to being a 3/c. Not only am I now allowed to look around and be a relatively normal person, I have more responsibilities, like taking care of a 4/c and making sure they are squared away academically and militarily. Not to borrow too much from Spiderman, but it is true that with the new rank has come way more responsibility both militarily and academically. I switched majors last semester to Civil Engineering, and while I love the classes, they are definitely harder than anything I have done before! But as always, I am so grateful to be at the Academy where everyone is willing to help you out. Good luck to all of those sending in their early admission applications for the Academy, and for those juniors interested in applying, I would definitely suggest trying for AIM, but that is a whole other topic of which I could write forever :). Feel free to send me questions, and I will try my best to respond!

Jessica.L.Nelson@uscga.edu

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Letter to the Class of 2015

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Dear Class of 2015,

I would like to dedicate this blog entry to YOU :). First of all, I cannot express how excited I am for you to arrive. Not only because it will mean that I am no longer a 4/c, but also because I am excited to welcome another group of individuals committed to something bigger than themselves to this fine school. Just in my one year here, I have learned and matured in so many ways, so I hope you are pumped for what this next year will bring.

Right now you are probably thinking about Swab Summer. Will it be hard? Yes, I am not going to lie to you, but from personal experience, it is so worth it. Swab Summer pushes you mentally, physically, and emotionally. But the best part is that after the summer, you are mentally, physically, and emotionally stronger, and you walk away with some of your fondest memories and deepest friendships. I do not remember every single work-out session, but I do remember most of the fun and rewarding experiences. Like the times we made a time interval or when we marched down the street to the cadence of Taylor Swift. Swab Summer can be fun if you let it. So here are my top 5 dos and don’ts of the summer:

1. Come with a good attitude – You will be yelled at. I can guarantee that. It will be stressful, but you do not need to become stressed. It is all a matter of perspective. I remember the first time I got personally dropped into the push up position and was individually punished. Sure, it was scary and stressful, but I was able to walk away from it with a positive attitude because I understood that all in all, the cadre just didn’t want me to redo what I had just done. So, I would say prepare now to look at things in a way that absorbs the constructive criticism and throws out the rest.

2. Take the summer seriously – You will get the most out of your summer experience and the least amount of negative attention if you take the summer seriously. Work hard to achieve goals, push yourself. Those people that laughed the summer off as a joke not only hurt their team who relied on them, but they also hurt themselves. They did not learn anything from the summer, and they certainly did the most amounts of pushups.

3. Hydrate and bring DEODORANT! – Even if you don’t think you smell, you do! I thought I smelled like a bowl of petunias the whole summer, but I smell some of the clothes from the summer, and let me just say that I stunk. As for hydrating, you will sweat more than you ever thought you could and then some. You can always drink more water.

4. Take advantage of coach time and Vespers – Any opportunity that you have to leave Chase Hall, take it. I wanted to be on the dinghy sailing team just so I could go down to the waterfront during sports time and sail for an hour. It was super important to have those getaways. And on Sundays, take advantage of the hour for religious services. It is important to have those precious moments to just breathe and relax.

5. Know your fellow swabs – Swab Summer is definitely a team effort. You will only be able to make it through with the help of the rest of those in your company. Get to know their names. It may sound silly, but you will need these friendships to not only get through Swab Summer but also first year here at the Academy.

I am sure that there are many more things I could share with you about the summer, and if you have any specific questions, feel free to shoot me an email. Once again, I want to congratulate you on your appointments; it takes a strong individual to get accepted here, so you should be proud of it. I look forward to meeting you all next semester, and have a great summer!

Very Respectfully,
4/c (soon to be 3/c) Nelson

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Summer, Snow and Sailing

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Hey guys, its me again! I have been super busy recently with sports and academics, and I am getting pumped up for the summer, but even though my mind is thinking about summer, I am finding that New England is not. Two weeks ago, I walked outside in a t-shirt and shorts, thinking that spring had arrived and the weather was cooperating with temperatures in the upper fifties and sixties. Three days later it snowed, and I am back to wearing a fleece under my parka! I liked the snow a few months ago, but now it is time for spring, warmth and leaves on trees, etc. It might be a while before the weather remembers that the first official day of spring was a week ago and catches up with the calendar.

One awesome part of spring, despite the cold, is that the spring sailing season started! I crew for the dinghy team and have really enjoyed getting back on the water after three months of no sailing. We have only been back to practice for three weeks now, and I have already competed in two regattas. The whole team has really hit the ground running, and we have already had some substantial victories on the water! The Coast Guard Academy took sixth out of sixteen at the regatta I competed in this past weekend, and at the other regatta in Boston, our top boat took second in A division. This is panning out to be an exciting season and I am personally excited to watch the team push each other and give our best for the next few weeks of this short season.

In other news, the fourth class recently found out their summer assignments, and as we all get ready to go out to the fleet in a few short weeks, I can’t help but be a little nervous. I am moving from being a complete follower who is told where to look and how to eat, to a contributing member of a crew. I know that I will make my fair share of mistakes and learn many lessons, and I couldn’t be more excited about shipboard life and port calls. I am sure I will take away from this summer many life long memories and friendships, and I can’t wait to get started. But, while I can’t wait to be done with finals and get to my cutter, I am definitely nervous about the unknown. Questions such as: What will I be doing? Where will I be going and even, am I ready for the responsibility? are running through my mind. All in all though, I would leave yesterday to get on a Coast Guard cutter and start supporting the mission. This is what I am at the Academy to prepare for, and I couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to try it out.

Thanks guys for reading and please feel free to write me with any questions! I am super excited to welcome the class of 2015 in only a few months, and if there are any questions about Swab Summer, I would love to help answer them.

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What To Do About Boards?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Boards. Those six simple letters mean the world to a 4/c. They mean time taken away at night and on weekends. They mean repetition, stress, and worst of all, memorization. Boards is the 4/c indoctrination test, that my entire class must pass before we are able to move toward privileges. The months and weeks leading up to it are crunch time and can be extremely stressful.

First off, what is Boards? It is a test of nautical knowledge. From ranks and rates to the draft of an Island Class Cutter, any part of the 52-page packet was fair game on this ten question oral exam. The passing score was 8 out of 10.

I had good intentions to start studying early, and I took my Boards packet home with me over winter break but when the battle between sleeping and studying for Boards arose, sleep won every time. The first time I even glanced at the packet was on the flight home from break, a mere six weeks before the testing day.

I started off slow, memorizing the easy facts, and eventually ramped up the intensity to studying for one or more hours each night, spending even my snow days pouring over these 52 pages. Did I mention that the thing was 52-pages long?

In the weeks leading up to the fateful Boards testing day, I went through two mock Boards, so that I would know what was coming. These mock trials proved to be very helpful in getting prepared, but in each one I got a score of 6.5/10, a whole 1.5 points away from a passing grade. Yikes! I needed to work harder if I wanted to pass this thing the first time, so I studied harder.

Then the day came. My shoes were polished within a centimeter of perfection, and I probably lint-rolled my uniform five times right before. As I waited for my 0800 time slot to come, I watched one by one as my classmates walked in the testing room, yelled the mission and got tested. Then watched one by one as my classmates passed. With each pass, I was both relieved but incredibly nervous at the same time. Looking back, I was ridiculously nervous pacing back and forth, lint rolling, and repeating to myself the Academy’s mission.

After several “belay my lasts” and exaggerated pauses, I passed with a 9.5/10! More than the grade, however, it was nice to be done and to know that I could move past the endless hours of studying. I am certain that at least half of my class felt ten times lighter that day with it being over! It only took a few more weeks until my entire class passed, and now we are all enjoying our first set of privileges. We are now allowed to write on our white boards and listen to music out loud! While it seems small, you have no idea how revolutionary those concepts are! I mean, it’s almost like we are normal people again. Almost.

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Snow Day, 2011

(Just for Fun, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson So there I was eating dinner, halfway through a perfect square, when I first heard the noise.

"YES!" "WOHOO!"

Soon others joined in until the whole wardroom was full of cheering. At first I assumed that the other classes were playing some cruel joke to make the 4/c break their brace, but someone from my company ran up to me and told me the reason for all the commotion.

"School is canceled, Nelson!"

School canceled? And because of snow no less? This was something new to this Hawaii girl, whose idea of a day off was because a sweet set was coming in on the North Shore and all the students were taking a surf day. Needless to say, I was downright giddy about a snow day. And what a day it turned out to be! The whole campus was lively with people sledding, snowball fighting, and romping around in the winter wonderland. For me, it was quite possibly the best day here at the Academy. I had never played in that much snow before! My checklist consisted of making a snowman, making a snow angel, hiking all over the campus in the snow, having an epic snowball fight, and sledding. Then, of course, the day would not be complete with out a cup of hot cocoa tacked on to the end.

That snow day was a nice tension-breaker to the stress of coming back to the Academy. At the beginning of winter break, I was all excited for the new semester, but toward the end of the three-week leave period, I was dragging my feet about coming back. While I love the Academy, I had a hard time saying goodbye once again to my family and home. It was also not easy leaving sunny Hawaii to come back to the “Dark Ages” in New London, where the sun sets at 1630. I guess it was what I was making of it, because after playing around for a day and enjoying the cold, I actually kind of appreciate the climate change.

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The Cove 2010

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson This Thanksgiving I was blessed to go on a retreat to the BGA Retreat Center (“The Cove”) in the mountains around Ashville, North Carolina. About twenty-four cadets went with Officer’s Christian fellowship, and we got to stay from Thursday to Sunday. It was an amazing time of not only great food and scenery but also socializing with the other students. The Cove hosts all of the military academies every four years for this retreat. There were about seventy from the Air Force Academy and then at least twenty from each of the others. I absolutely loved meeting all of the cadets from the other academies, because while all the services are different, we all share the same basic experiences. But, of course, most conversations were spent bragging and comparing the different schools. What can I say; we are all 100% certain that “our” academy is the absolute best.

While I did not get to go home for Thanksgiving, I would not have traded this experience for anything. I made a ton of friends and strengthened the friendships I already had with the 4/c from CGA. It was a great experience to represent my school and my profession. I have never been so proud to walk around in my Coast Guard hoodie or talk Coast Guard with people.

Now I just have to get through finals, and I will have conquered the first semester as a 4/c! Only two weeks and I am home in Hawaii; then it’s Christmas time!! My roommate and I have already decorated for Christmas, and Chase Hall is bright with wrapping-papered doors and Christmas trees. While I do not have a tree, my green plant, the one on my bookshelf, is wrapped in green ribbon with a fake flower ornament. It is almost like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

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Live Long, Sail Often

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson This past week marked the end of the dinghy sailing season. It was getting way too cold out on the Thames River, and my Hawaiian blood was missing the warm Pacific Ocean. Despite the cold, I am sad to see it end, especially since it was the first season for me. I walked onto the team with only a year of sailing experience in single-handed craft (lasers) and only a vague idea of what it meant to do a roll tack, and am walking off knowing more than I ever realized existed.

At the beginning of the season, I was immediately placed as crew (the person in charge of the jib) with a second class. He taught me not only how to roll tack but basically how to race double-handed craft (FJs and 420s) in college competitions. The coaches also had me switch boats and sail with other skippers so that I got multiple viewpoints on what makes a good crew. I never realized how enormous a job the crew had until I came to the Academy!

With all of the new knowledge I gained from the team, I was able to compete in the Freshman Championships this past week with two of the top freshmen on the sailing team; we ranked third at that regatta! The whole CGA team did well in fact, as the woman’s double-handed team qualified for the Atlantic Coast Championships (ACCs). Go Lady Bears! This season was definitely one of the best experiences for me as a sailor, and I am so grateful for my amazing team. Bring on the spring season!

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Aviation Day

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Today was Aviation Day at the Coast Guard Academy, which consisted of several Coast Guard pilots flying in, talking with us, and giving us a tour of their aircraft. I was pumped to be around so many people that live out the Coast Guard mission every day. Think about it. By this time next week, how many people will they have helped, saved, or protected? As always happens when I ponder this thought, I simply cannot wait to get out to the fleet!

I was also reminded today of why I choose the Coast Guard in the first place. Last summer, I went through the AIM program here at the Academy, and one night my cadre told a story of a challenging Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Without going into too much detail, hearing this story was a defining moment in my decision process, and because of it, I was certain that the Coast Guard was where I wanted to be. Fast forward to Aviation Day, one of the pilots that visited was one of the pilots in that story!

This man, unbeknownst to him, had been tremendously influential in my career decision, and he was standing before me. This got me thinking. If he is just an average Coast Guardsmen, then that means that anyone who graduates from the Academy, including me, can one day be what he is already: a hero. Stories like his are not the exception; they happen everyday by normal people who have a passion for excellence and a strong resolve to help and protect those in need. It is because of this that I find myself content to remain here at the Academy and learn everything I can about becoming one of those leaders of character.

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A New Attitude

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron January is come and gone and I could not be happier with the way the semester is playing out so far. My classes are much better because I am taking more major-specific classes and I am training for my first marathon. I have already completed seven half marathons and it finally feels to take it up a notch. Luckily, there are classmates who are supportive and are also just as crazy as me to run so much. This time last year I was playing Lacrosse and although it was a great experience, I really wanted to focus on my personal lifetime goals. As for classes, I am also changing my habits and approaches. In high school, I was an avid student and it carried over to the Academy and continues to this day. What is changing is my understanding of how to handle specific classes based on the instructor.

During my 4/c year, teachers were very regimented and had schedules set in stone because the entire freshman class had the same courses. However this year, my instructors are free to alter and take out things from the syllabus. (This can get a little frustrating.) Nonetheless, one has to be on their toes and be prepared for anything. This is my new skill: preparing for ambiguity. Now, I know that seem to be contradicting and impossible but it makes things interesting. Militarily, the summer cadre assignments are still pending. I am requesting the prep program – Coast Guard Academy Scholars (CGAS) because that was my own stepping stone to the Academy and eventually a commission. For right now, all I can do is wait to hear who is assigned to what. More progress will be posted as soon as I hear anything. Lastly, I have 32 days until my big Spring Break trip to ROME! I am going with the Catholic Club (officially called St. Francis De Sales club). It’s going to be a great semester!

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Putting Finals Behind Me

(Academics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron I can finally breathe and uplift the stressful burden we all know as finals. Its really ironic actually, finals week at the Academy is the calmest week of the entire semester; mainly because the school devotes 100% of its focus on academics, rather than the additional military and athletic obligations. This year, the majority of my finals were before the actual finals week. This made things very interesting because not only did I have to juggle the multiple everyday assignments, but also I had to study for finals. Amazingly, I made it out alive and well. I surprisingly was not as stressed as I thought I’d be and the exams were not as arduous as I presumed. This entire semester has been a rollercoaster of successes and failures and throughout my entire academic carrier; I have never worked so hard and had so many sleepless nights. The rumors of 3/c year being the most challenging are indeed true but as for anything difficult, it is the most rewarding once completely done.

As a Government major, I thought I would not be as stressed or overworked as my Engineering classmates but there were times where my roommate (Mechanical Engineer) was blissfully watching a movie while I was frantically writing a six page paper for one class and a four pager for another and reading half a book in one night. Nonetheless, the work was manageable and as the phrase goes, “out with the old and in with the new”. It’s time to store everything I have learned from last semester and bring in the new material.

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A Good Balance

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron As we come closer to the Dark Ages (a time in which academics are the most demanding and the sun sets a little too early and rises a bit too late), I am starting to feel bombarded with the amount of projects and tests closing in, just in time for the end of the semester. Nevertheless, I am confident everything will be fine. As a role model this year, I have found how important it is to have good communication with the 4/c. Because they are still relatively new to the Academy lifestyle, I often see a few who are still too apprehensive to speak to their chain of command. As a 3/c it is our role to allow them to feel comfortable to talk to us at the very least about any positive or negative events going on. I am very happy to be able to relate to both my 4/c and share my experiences with them. Aside from academics and military life, my overall life is going really well. Its funny to have my life divided into different sections but it’s the only way to maintain my sanity. For instance, I am currently on my way home (Newport, Rhode Island) and although I am always going to uphold the core values, I am also not going to keep my room “inspection ready”. It’s the little things in life the make a huge difference and that is one of the many things the Academy is teaching us.

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On Being a 3c

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron 3/c year, as the stereotype states, it is the most academically demanding year of the four years. However, not being braced up makes my experience here that much better. As I transition into my major-specific classes for Government, I am becoming more conformable with the flow of my schedule. I am currently taking Morals and Political Philosophy as well as Principles in American Government. Both are very interesting and it is even more thrilling to be able to be in a class with my fellow Government majors. Rather than an instructor forcing a discussion, I have noticed students leading many of the discussions.

As a 3/c, also known as the “role model” for the 4/c, I quickly became aware of my specific role this year. To an extent, the new 4/c immediately became my little brothers and sisters and because I perceived them in this manner, I want to make sure they are taken care of in any predicament such as I would for my actual younger brother and sister. It was a very odd transition from constantly being braced up to walking around carefree. Although now being able to walk on the sidewalk may not seem like a privilege to those in the civilian world, but to a new 3/c, it makes the difference between making it to class on time comfortably and speed walking at an uncomfortable stride.

As for athletics, I am in the middle of the Cross Country season and thus far we are doing very well as a team. Currently, we are ranked in the top ten for New England and are hoping to continue our success for the rest of the season. The freshman adapted well to the team and we are stuck together like glue.

For now, I am about to tackle another week here at the CGA and day by day, I have learned, is the best way.

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Don’t Eat the Marshmallows Yet…

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron My dad once gave me a book entitled "Don’t Eat the Marshmallows Yet…" by Joachim de Posada. The overall theme is patience and as a result, good things come with time. I didn’t think anything of it back then. Now I am beginning to see what my dad was trying to tell me. As 4/c year draws to a close, more and more privileges are earned. Although looking at food does not seem to be all that exciting, it means a great deal to a 4/c. Essentially, getting things taken away and given back gradually instills patience and it is probably one of the hardest virtues to uphold. I have learned not to complain but to understand the ‘why’. In addition to infusing life lessons, there is the education. Academics are tough but it is great to have shipmates who are all willing to work together to learn the material. December and April are the most demanding times of the academic year. Most of the major projects are due and instructors are racing the clock to teach the last bit of material before finals.

The 4/c are on the verge of carry-on, 3/c are almost allowed to wear civilian clothes, 2/c will have cars and 1/c will move on to bigger and better things. Spring is probably the most exciting time of the year. It has been a long year of 4/c duties and obligations but, the snow has melted, the birds are chirping and I can feel the sun on my skin and I am preparing for an exciting trip to Europe with Eagle. I know I’m proud to be here.

To the class of 2015, your time is coming soon. As the class of 2014 transitions to become your mentors, know you are in the hands of some great cadets. Swab Summer will test you mentally, physically, and success truly lies in teamwork. Regardless of where you came from, the end results will be the same: becoming cadets with sound bodies, sound hearts and alert minds. This time last year I was packing my things from NMMI (prep school) and getting ready to begin my life at the Academy. I didn’t anticipate how much my life would change. I have made great friends and its only gets better as time passes.

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Go Books, Go Bears

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron We are almost done with our 4/c year and I must say it is very exciting. As a celebration of our progress of 4/c year, the class of 2014 held a formal at which our class crest was unveiled. The crest is a symbol of our class and our motto: Aeterita Custodite Honorate Futura (honor past protecting future). It was great to see the class come together and celebrate. The follow weeks will be tough. However, they will move like lightning. Each class here at the academy is preparing for their prospective future and I firmly believe the 4/c are the most anxious for this year to come to a close. As we cadets say here “Go Books, Go Bears”.

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Fourth Class Challenges

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron As a 4/c, there are a series of challenges and traditions held at the Academy. The primary event is the dreaded Sea Trials at the conclusion of Swab Summer, a fifteen-hour challenge filled with physical discipline and teamwork. The second event is 101st night, which takes place in the second semester right before Boards. 101st night indicates 100 days until graduation for the 1/c. On that occasion, 4/c are asked a series of indoc questions throughout a tour of Chase Hall; if one is unable to answer a question, incentive training, also known at IT, was implemented.

The third event 4/c have are Boards. In this situation, the freshmen are given a 52-page packet to memorize and are expected to recite. During the actual Boards session, a 1/c will give ten questions from the packet. The goal is to answer at least eight correctly. The success of passing Boards brings more privileges such as listening to music out loud or not writing note cards for every destination. Lastly, 4/c have the Challenge of the Guardian. Another Sea Trial environment, but it allows the 3/c develop leadership and 4/c to reinforce teamwork. Currently, the Class of 2014 has gone through Boards and are anticipating the full competition of this evolution (it takes place during a span of days) . I have spent hours memorizing, repeating, learning, and repeating again the required indoc and I feel prepared. With the help of my 3/c and peers, Boards will become another tradition we have completed as a team.

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How Lucky I Am Today

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron Winter leave came and went. It was a much-needed break and I am recharged and ready for the next semester. The final week prior to winter leave was very hectic. Final exams were tough and required a great deal of preparation. I am happy to say I did prepare well. Over leave, I went to New York City, Boston, and relaxed at home in Newport, Rhode Island. I was able to catch up and spend quality bonding time with the ones I love most.

Because the Academy is very demanding, it is important to have a moment to “stop and smell the roses.” Being home gave me the ability to take a breath and realize how lucky I am today. I firmly believe success at the Academy is derived from personal determination as well as support. As a Patron, I know I will always have my family there to encourage me along the way as I begin the second semester at the USCGA.

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Support Systems

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron This past month has been more demanding than I have ever experienced. With the semester closing, I find myself spending more time with teachers, reinforcing past material to ensure I do well. The good news is that support is always available if you make the effort to find it, and the instructors at the Academy are always more than willing to sit and go over material.

School is always a priority, but my family is a huge part of my life and as of last month we found out my dad, a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, is scheduled for deployment this month. The deployment made changes to plans my family had for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, this will be our third deployment and by this time we know what to expect to an extent. With my sister and me out of the house, my brother and my mom are the only ones at home, it is important my sister and I do our best from afar to minimize problems and be more of helpful rather than hindering.

My upperclassmen have been very supportive and I could not be more grateful. I requested a short (going home from Saturday to Sunday) the weekend my father leaves and my Company Commander as well as the rest of the chain of command requested I receive a long (Friday to Sunday). The “Special” was routed up to our company officer who determined whether I would be able to go home. In the end, I will be able to go home Friday and spend the entire weekend with my family and say goodbye to my dad for awhile. I don’t think any other place would show such empathy like the Academy.

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Cross Country

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron I am currently on a bus heading back to the Academy after a fantastic 6K race named the Plansky Invitational. We are just about wrapping up the season with only two races remaining. I have been competing since my freshman year of high school, through prep school, and now here. The Cross Country team at the Academy is fantastic. As a 4/c, you are kept really busy, but being a part of a team makes all the difference. I was included in the group instantly because, in sports, your teammates treat you as part of the family. We travel to all kinds of great places. Every course we race has an element that makes it unique.

Never having lived on the East Coast, I was always fascinated with the changing of the seasons; and this past race was full of turning leaves. I loved it! The hills are a big difference from what I am used to as well, but every run is fun. Practices are everyday with a race on Saturdays, and a day of rest on Sunday. It becomes part of your everyday schedule and for me, Cross Country practice is my favorite part of the day. We sometimes have speed workouts over at Connecticut College, and other days we have fifty minute runs along the coast at Harkness Park or Bluff Point. These next few weeks will be challenging because of preparation for the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) games, but it will be fun the whole way through.

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Being Appointed to Prep School

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carlos Quintero Around the winter holidays, three years ago, was the time when I received a letter from CGA Admissions letting me know whether I received my appointment or not. After applying through “early action” I did not receive my appointment, but I did not give up. Admissions reviewed my profile a second time, and around March I received word that I was accepted as a Coast Guard Scholar. CGAS is a program that gives prospective cadets a chance to improve areas of deficiency, and a better shot at receiving an appointment. Most of my classmates that attended New Mexico Military Institute for prep school received appointments, after improving in the field of academics.

When I received the letter to attend prep school, I was discouraged at first because I thought it was a waste of a year. It was the complete opposite; prep school gave me a chance to improve my academics and set me up for success at the Academy. Something that appealed to me about CGAS was that school was paid for along with some extra money for spending. To be honest, as a prep for that year, we made more money than we do at the Academy now. There were so many Coast Guard classmates at prep school that you never felt like the Academy had forgotten about us. The Academy did a good job of giving us our own personal connections to the school, so we never felt left out.

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Approaching Winter Break

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carlos Quintero Thanksgiving is a nice break right before finals review and then finals week. Over break I always do the things that I am not able to do while I am at the Academy. I spend a lot of time catching up with my family, since I rarely get a chance to be with them. It could be weird to be with your high school friends if you don’t keep up with them as the years go on, that is because it is harder to connect with each other’s lifestyles. As a cadet you learn to enjoy the little things, and what my friends at home take for granted might be a privilege for me. Things like going on a drive, going out to eat and being able to wake up whenever.

Finals week is not bad at all. Cadets describe it as a very “chill” week, that is because you just study, eat, sleep and workout. There are no collateral duties you have to worry about, like usual. During the holidays the Academy is in a happy mood. We decorate our rooms, which makes the environment more pleasant.

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A Memorable Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carlos Quintero Last year some upper-class cadets said that they lived for their assignments during the summer. I came to realize what they meant by that the summer after finishing 4/c (freshmen) year. The previous two summers were nothing but stressful. After graduating high school, I went to CGAS (Coast Guard Academy Scholars) and then on to Prep School in New Mexico. Then a summer later was Swab Summer; so last summer was one of my most memorable life experiences. For five weeks I was stationed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The small boat station was mostly used for law enforcement along with search and rescue on the rivers, and sound surrounding Elizabeth City. The next assignment was on USCGC Eagle, which we boarded when it was docked in London, England. Originally we were only going to be in London for three days, but because of gyrocompass malfunctions our stay was extended for 10 days. In those 10 days, I was able to tour all different parts of London. Reykjavík, Iceland was the next stop and on the transit there we experienced what its like to be in a storm. From Iceland we went up to the Arctic Circle then turned around to reach Halifax, Nova Scotia. From Halifax we sailed back to Boston where our journey ended. The whole experience was amazing; I wish I could do it again.

Returning to the Academy from the summer was different, because my classmates and I were no longer 4/c. Being a 3/c meant that we had more responsibilities, but with that came more privileges. For example, we can go out Friday nights, we don’t have to wear our uniforms out in town, among other things. I played rugby for a month into the school year, but then stopped to focus on academics, which is the most important thing. At the moment I’m taking part of intercompany sports, which is a variety of games like football, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer. A couple of weeks ago, I did all my required community service hours by helping at an ovarian cancer event. I thought I was only going there to receive my required hours, but I was moved by the event and I was able to meet some people from the area. As a Management major, the Introduction to Business class I am taking right now has me writing about two papers a week. But if I do most of it on the weekend, it opens up a lot of time during the week. Physics is a required course for every major and is the class that takes up most of my time. During the class period we work on labs to reinforce concepts, which I like to do. If you are interested in aviation, last weekend some buses took us out to a nearby airport where we got the chance to see and go aboard many Coast Guard aircrafts. On nights like this one when I have a decent amount of work, I have to sometimes do part of it during the day so that later at night you have time to maybe catch a sports game. Speaking of homework, I better turn to that.

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Getting Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This month flew by. Now I am just counting down until Christmas break. I am tired of the constant work…papers, tests and projects and now it is only two weeks until finals and home! I had an interesting start to Thanksgiving break…I had a flight at six and was supposed to get on a 4 a.m. bus to the Hartford airport, but unfortunately the bus never showed and there were 30 of us waiting outside in the rain for half an hour. When we called the bus company they said that there had been no buses scheduled! Finally a senior drove the six of us on the earliest flight to the airport and everyone else had to take taxis. We made it there at boarding time and I was so thankful to make it on the plane and just get home.

I got back from Thanksgiving leave on Sunday and I had such a nice time visiting my grandparents and sister. I haven’t seen my sister in half a year and it was so cool to hear about what she’s been doing since graduating high school. I’m really jealous she has been training to become a fire fighter with Americorps. We had fun being home and driving by our old high school and seeing old friends. It feels like forever ago that I was in high school and living at home.

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October Activities

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This month went by extremely fast. I am ready to be done with dance team, although it has been so much fun, but I am excited to be able to sleep after class. We just traveled to Canada and had an amazing time. I had never been to Canada and it was so cool to see Montreal. We had our performance on the first day after we arrived and we had to do flags for Windjammers (the band) then we had the rest of the time to shop and see Canada. It was also the week before Halloween so we got to dress up in our costumes and go to dinner and see all the Canadian people in their Halloween costumes. Then the weekend after we got back we all had to work hard to catch up on what we had missed. The next weekend was Halloween and our dance team prepared a flash mob to perform at dinner in the wardroom, it was so much fun but I think a lot of people were confused and it was really hard to do the dance with so many people in the way.

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End of September

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy It’s almost the end of the quarter but Christmas break is not coming soon enough. This semester has definitely been stressful. I joined dance team and it’s so much fun but we were required to do flags for Windjammers to get a sports credit so it’s almost like were in two separate sports and it’s super tiring to have to learn different routines and how to do flags. We have had extended practices for a few weeks and it’s exhausting. I’m not used to having my weekends so full.

This was the first weekend I had to just relax, so one of my friends and I walked to downtown New London and had gelato and then we got a massage. It was the best day I’ve had this whole year since school started. In two weeks dance team is going to Canada and I can’t wait! Then dance will be over and I will start boxing.

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Back to School

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy Although my three weeks of leave went by way too fast, I was very excited to get back to school and see all my friends. It was weird being home and seeing all my friends from high school. It was hard to talk to some of them because they just couldn’t understand what I’ve been through this year or weren’t interested. One of my best friends goes to the Naval Academy and I got to see him for one day and it was so much fun to exchange stories. Now I’m thinking about going on exchange there for a semester. They have way different rules than us; some better and some worse. I spent the majority of my break sleeping and visiting relatives and eating frozen yogurt in Boulder.

Finally, it was time to return to school and getting through CAP week was a struggle, getting used to wearing trops all the time and not being able to nap during the day. I was exhausted by the end of the week and wanted my summer back. Now I’ve gotten through the first week of school and it’s taking a while to get used to it they say you are supposed to have more free time 3/c year but so far that’s not the case. I just don’t have to clean anymore but I’m still taking 20 credits, which is going to be difficult. But I’m excited for our first Labor Day long this weekend since I’m going to Long Island with my roommate.

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Small Boat Station, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy My classmates and I got off the plane from Germany, and took a two hour bus from Boston back to the Academy. We had two days to repack and get ready for our second phase of the summer. I was stationed in Florida with one of my best friends, Katie. We were so excited to go to Florida and have a somewhat relaxing six weeks of summer.

We arrived in Florida on a Friday and waited outside the airport in the heat and humidity for someone from the station to pick us up. Finally a young seaman picked us up and we talked the whole way back. She had gone to college in Colorado and we talked about how much we missed the mountains. I was super excited to be in Florida and to learn more about stations and the Coast Guard. We arrived at station and were told that we would be in different rooms. I was downstairs in the CO’s room, which was very nice, and I had only one roommate, while Katie was upstairs in female berthing with four roommates. We had arrived after dinner had been served, so we were given leftovers from the fridge. We met our sponsors and went around getting our sign-offs and then helped with clean-ups, which occur before the new duty section arrives, which is every two days. The next day we woke up to reveille at 7 a.m. and went outside to see what was going on. We helped with boat checks and saw dolphins. We met again with our sponsors and were given or comms packet and our schedule, which we started right away. We were supposed to get communications qualified – a duty in which you answer the station radios and phone and you have to know what to do and say in case of emergency.

We continued getting sign-offs and our schedule for a week until we realized that it was pointless to go into the comms office at certain times because there were new break-ins and it was impossible to get sign-offs. Slowly we began to do our own thing, but it was hard to talk to people on station because a lot of them kind of avoided us. After nearly completing our sign-offs we were told that we had to get everything resigned by officers. This just made us annoyed, because we had already been there three weeks and were ready for our board and we were told to start over. We also had started running to the beach everyday for our workout, which was really nice and we had to workout a lot after gaining some extra weight on Eagle.

After a while, we started doing boat crew stuff and going out on night patrols. It was really cool to actually be out and see what they do. I got to help with boardings and went on a search and rescue mission for a guy who’s Jet Ski had broken down. People then began to talk to us more and we found a lot of things out about the station. Both duty sections seemed to always gossip about each other and compete. It was really funny to watch because we were there all the time. Then, Katie and I helped three of the petty officers build two piers which was a 5 hour project for two days in the middle of the afternoon in Florida. Although it was very hot and the work was hard, it was also rewarding, and I think it made the enlisted people on station respect us more. The next day, we got pepper sprayed, which was also an experience I will never forget. At that point, we only had one day left until we had our summer leave and I went home to Colorado.

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First Phase Eagle

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy I don’t even know where to begin. School ended and we stayed up all night packing our rooms up and getting ready for the 21-day voyage across the Atlantic. The morning before we left, we realized that we would probably need our sweatshirts that we had already packed and put in the trunk room, so we had to go to the book store and buy some warmer clothes, which needed to be squished into our already bursting sea bags. Then we took the yellow school bus down to New London to board Eagle. The first night we were lucky enough to get libo so we went out to dinner at Chili’s and had our last meal on land. We made one final Target run and came back to watch a movie with our classmates on the mess deck. Everything seemed calm and fun. The next morning we woke up early to sail stations and set sail.

On the second day at sea, the sun was out and everyone was on the waist sleeping, because we weren’t yet used to the listing and were extremely tired. That night, the sewage backfired into the female head and a lot of people had to stand in sewage and clean it up. The next morning, the gale hit. We woke up to the alarm of sail stations and quickly changed into foul weather gear and climbed up to the deck, where there were lines across the deck to grab so that we wouldn’t fall but, of course, I fell as soon as I had crossed the middle of the waste. Moments later I turned around to see a classmate of mine fly from one end of the ship to the other into a female crewmember. This ended up in her breaking her leg! We made it through the sail station, which lasted almost three hours in the freezing cold, 20 knot wind with 20 foot wave splashing over the waste. The Captain decided that the conditions were so bad that he sent most of the cadets down to our berthing areas to sleep/wait out the storm. Below deck was not much better. The peanut butter jars from the mess deck had flown into the walls and there was nasty stuff on the floors, walls and ceiling and all of the sick people were sitting down there, because the center of the ship is the least rocky. In my berthing area everyone but me and a couple others were on the ground or in their racks throwing up, so I crawled in my top rack and laid there for several hours with my hands covering my nose, ears and my eyes shut. Finally, we were called on deck after the storm and there was a lot of repairing and cleaning to fix the damage done.

The rest of the voyage seemed like nothing after that incident, it was mostly foggy and rainy and cold the whole way to Ireland, and we hit a small storm off Ireland, which was so uneventful that I even climbed to the ta’gallant during the storm which was scary yet exhilarating. We were listing so far that the water seemed pretty close to the sails. I climbed down from sail stations and was looking forward to the curry dinner, but while I was walking to the benches with my tray in hand, a fellow shipmate who had lost control flew into me, spilling the green curry all over me and my tea hit an FS crew member. After this, we proceeded to sail stations again, which I had to do covered in curry.

We finally arrived in Ireland, which was a blast. I spent time with my friends on land and since we arrived a day early we got two nights of overnight libo and had a traditional Irish meal and went shopping all day. The trip to Germany went by quickly and my family visited me there and I got to give them a tour of Eagle, then we departed for London where we only got 5 hours of libo, then flew back to New London.

More about Megan.

This Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This semester has really flown by! We already have wardroom carry on and next week we are getting full carry-on since Challenge of the Guardian was on Saturday. I was unable to participate because I had two soccer games but everyone has said that it was not as bad as last year. I have found out my company for the next three years, I will be in Echo, and I am happy because one of my really good friends is coming with me. I am sad to leave Hotel and my best friend 4/c Townsend but luckily she is only one deck below me.

I cannot believe there are only two weeks left of school and then off to Eagle. I won’t be back to the Academy for nine weeks!!!! After Eagle I will be at the Fort Meyers Beach small boat station in Florida and I am stationed with one of my best friends 4/c Anderson so I’m super excited for this summer. After that, I’m going to Colorado to stay with my grandparents and catch up with high school friends. I just have to make it through this last week of tests and finals and then I’m on my way to being a 3/c!!!!!!!!

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Megan's March Madness

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This month has flown by. Other than the occasional tests and regular school work, there wasn’t too much going on, but starting spring soccer has made the weeks fly. Also, Katie and I have been painting for at least a couple hours each week and it’s been really fun; we even entered some of our paintings in the art show.

We had formal room and wing this weekend and it was the first time our company went to bed before 11!! Usually we start too late and are up until 3. During formal room and wing I lost my W2 form for my taxes so I’m freaking out and I don’t know what to do, because taxes are due in a week.

We also were told that it was the best formal room and wing that Commander had ever seen, but even then we didn’t get wardroom carry-on yesterday at lunch, which we were all expecting. Even after they told us we would get it! Now we are having our last formal room and wing in a week, which I don’t understand because we just had one.

More about Megan.

February

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This semester has flown by so far. We got back from winter break and have had four day weeks for over a month because of snow days. This last two weeks were the craziest ever. We had 101st night which made us sore and tired all week, then on Sunday we had boards. We studied like crazy and it is such a relief to have passed and be done with it. Boards also made this week harder because I put everything else off until now. We had two tests this week along with lots of other stuff and I am so happy to be done with today. Now life can go back to normal and I don’t have to worry about studying indoc every night.

This past weekend was Presidents’ Weekend and it was so much fun! It’s the first time since Christmas break that I’ve been out of Connecticut. It was such a relief to just relax and not have to worry about homework or studying. My old roommate and I decided to go to NYC for the night and we had a great time. Yesterday, I stayed the night with some people I originally knew in Colorado, but who live ten minutes away from the Academy in Rhode Island. It was great to have a wonderful home-cooked meal and I was sent back with brownies, pizza and lots of treats. Now there are only two weeks to go until spring break! I am so excited that this semester is coming to an end, and am thrilled at the idea of no longer being a 4/c. Brianna and I are going to stay in Arizona with my uncle, so hopefully it will be really warm and we can just relax!

More about Megan.

Arriving Back

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy I have finally arrived back at the Academy and am nervous but also excited to finish the last semester of 4/c year. MAP week, or the week in between break and beginning classes has not been so great for me. I started off with a terrible stomach bug and had to spend the night in the ward, or doctor’s office. I am feeling much better, but had to miss out on a lot of things like our company photo. Luckily, my friends moved my room for me because our deadline to move in is tomorrow morning when Admiral Papp does his walkthrough. I have just finished stowing everything, which was hard, because my new room is a lot smaller, also there is no mirror! My new room is at the other end of the company from all of my best friends and two of my friends didn’t even have to move rooms, I guess I’ll just end up getting more exercise!!!

Tomorrow is my BFF’s Birthday and I’m hoping that I won’t forget because since I’m sick I’ve been forgetting a lot of things. I’m just glad I’m sick now and not during the school year. I am looking forward to getting this semester over with and although boards are coming up, I’m hoping things will be easier since I’m used to everything and I don’t have to take SED. Naut Sci and Macro seem like much better classes than SED and History. We also get to take personal defense this semester, which should be fun.

Feel free to contact me. My email is Megan.M.Rudy@uscga.edu

More about Megan.

Upon Completion of the First Quarter

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This quarter has gone by extremely fast! It’s true that the days are long but weeks are short. It feels like forever ago when I was a swab. The short days of winter will make it hard to keep up the 4/c expectations of bracing up and squaring. It’s getting dark at five o’clock, so I’ve been going to bed much earlier than before, but partly because I’ve learned how to manage my time much better since the beginning of the quarter. I have become very close to my friends in Hotel Company, and sometimes it’s hard to get work done. I’ve learned to prioritize and save the fun for the weekends. Sports practice and looking forward to Friday Night Fights (boxing matches that happen every other Friday between cadets in the boxing club) also make living here much more enjoyable. My first fight was fun, the alumni center was packed and I could feel the enthusiasm of everyone watching, which gave me the huge adrenaline rush to make it through all three rounds. It’s also a great chance to fight your cadre!

Last month was very eventful, four of my best friends from my company and I asked several upper-class to borrow their bicycles. We biked nearly six miles to Ocean Beach, and on the way, we stopped at a shack on the side of the road to pick up clam chowder and fried seafood for a picnic. We ended up going into the old arcade on the beach where we won lots of prizes. That same month, we met the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Papp. Someone asked him for a short (when we get to spend a Saturday overnight away from the Academy), which we got, so my friends and I decided to go to New York City for the night! Doing fun and spontaneous things is what keeps you going here. This weekend my roommate and I went to Boston and got to stay at Harvard with one of my friends. The Academy is a pretty short distance from New York City and Boston, and you can get really good train ticket discounts for being in the military.

This Friday is powder-puff football, where we will get to play against our cadre, and get out of formal room and wing! Some boys in our company are training the girls to play football. I’m really excited; I am playing wide receiver. Also, Christmas break is coming up. I’m thrilled to see my family; I haven’t seen them since R-Day, but I am not looking forward to the 27 hour flight to Bulgaria, or the time change. I am proud to go back and share my stories about boot camp with some of the Marines at the embassy!

More about Megan.

4c Windjammers Season 2010

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Anna Ruth As the first semester of my 4/c year is coming to a close, I realize that my involvement in extracurricular activities has gotten me through the confusing and stressful haze of my new world. As a 4/c, liberty from campus is scarce, and overnights away from the Academy are almost non-existent. While most of my friends have stayed on campus every weekend, I was given multiple opportunities to escape for brief periods of time.

My chief activity is the Windjammers Drum and Bugle Corps, the Academy’s marching band. I was really involved with band in high school, which made the transition much easier. In high school, I played trumpet, but the first day of practice this year, I switched to tuba. I’m so happy with my choice because I got to learn something new with people who were extremely knowledgeable and encouraging. I’m the only girl in the tuba section, and, as a result, I gained the three brothers I never had. Band was a great way to feel welcomed by a group of cadets that I would not have met otherwise.

We have band practice every day from 4:00 to 6:00, which is the corps wide sports period. On Saturdays (and some weekdays) throughout the fall, we perform at games, parades, and other schools. So far this year, we have been to the Big E Fair in Massachusetts, Westfield State (an away football game), Six Flags, and Montreal, Canada. In Canada, we performed our show, the Lion King, at a college game and then explored the city. This past Tuesday, we had our professional recording of the show, and this coming Thursday, we will be driving to New York City to march in the Veteran’s Day Parade.

When people say how daunting 4/c year is, they are mainly speaking for those cadets who are not involved in activities that let them get away. I’m actually enjoying my first semester so far, and I give Windjammers most of the credit. One of my favorite memories was when we made a surprise appearance at a volleyball game. We ran in with our instruments, our drum major screamed at the top of his lungs “MORTAL COMBAT”, and we started playing as loud as we could. The team was so excited that we came to support them! I look forward to practice every day, and it’s saddening that our season ends on Thursday. Even in a few short months, I have made great friends and found a place for me here at the Academy.

More about Anna.

Another Beginning

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend It is always tough returning from leave and coming back to school. It is especially difficult when all I have been doing is sleeping for 12 hours a day and spending time with my family and friends. However, I am very much looking forward to completing one more semester here at the Academy and being half way done with my Academy experience. With classes starting, daily trainings, and the physical fitness evaluation, the beginning of the school year can become very hectic, but eventually I will fall into my normal routine.

With such a busy schedule any weekend off of school is a gift to cadets, and many get away from the Academy to places like New York or Boston. This upcoming weekend is a long weekend for us and I plan on going to Boston with some of my friends to celebrate my birthday and my best friend Megan’s birthday. We often do trips like this to release some built up stress, and just have fun. In lieu of some of my best friends leaving this semester we just want to have one last weekend together, which is exactly what we plan to do. Being at the Academy and spending time with my friends has been very helpful for getting through tough times, and I think it has been one of the best outcomes of my time spent here. The friendships that I have built during my Academy time are unbreakable, which is what I love about being here.

More about Brianna.

Trying New Things

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend As my time continues at the Academy, I am always looking at my past and what I have done so far. This past weekend I went to Montreal, Canada to perform with the Dance Team and the Windjammers at McGill University. I had an amazing time, and it was very nice to get away from the Academy for the weekend. The entire time I was in Canada I thought about why I came to the Academy and one reason that I did was to try new things in my life. Joining the Dance Team was probably the most different thing that I could have done compared to what I would typically do. I have never been on a team like this and it makes for a great opportunity to meet new people.

The Academy creates a completely different atmosphere than other schools because you are able to try everything that you have ever wanted to do. It gives you a chance to experiment with different sports or clubs that may have interested you in the past, but did not have the possibility to try them. I get to live out all of my dreams that I probably would not get to do at a normal college. The bonds that I have built with my Dance teammates would never have been this strong if it was not for the opportunities that I am given here, and I could not be more thankful for that. This past weekend brought many good memories, and I look forward to more exciting times as I continue my years here at the Academy.

More about Brianna.

New Experiences

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This past weekend I attended the Windjammers competition at the United States Naval Academy as part of the color guard. I am always willing to try new things but color guard was a lot different from the other activities that I participate in. The reason for the difference was that it did not come very easily to me but luckily we had over a month to learn choreography and learned how to do the different moves with our flags. I have never been so nervous to perform before; mostly because it was in one of the biggest stadiums that I have ever been in. Despite the nervousness of my team and me, we went on the field and did great. Many of the judges said that our performance was the best they had seen in over ten years from the Windjammers. I learned a lot about myself from that performance in that I can do anything I want to do if I work my hardest and overcome obstacles.

This semester is flying by and it is almost midterms, which makes me nervous because I am that much closer to graduating. Even though it is a few years away, it will come quicker than expected. This past weekend I also attended the Navy/Air Force football game and met a past graduate from the Academy who told me to cherish every moment that I spend here because it will go by fast and that I will miss all of the moments that I enjoy now. That is why for the rest of this semester I intend to enjoy my time here and cherish every moment that I have left at the Academy.

More about Brianna.

Changes

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This semester has been flying by so far, and I have done so much in just the past few weeks. I am well into my academic classes right now and I have even had a few tests already. I have been very busy with schoolwork lately, but luckily I have found time to find my new passion in dancing. This school year I joined the dance team and I love it. We have had two performances so far which were exciting but I was extremely nervous at the same time. I look forward to the rest of our performances such as at the Homecoming Football game, which is this upcoming weekend.

Joining the dance team was not the only change in my life at the Academy; I am now a 3/c cadet, which brings different responsibilities than when I was a 4/c. The transition that all 3/c cadets have to go through if from changing the mentality of followership to being a mentor is not too difficult but it is a big change in the way you act towards others. I am now in responsible for answering any questions the 4/c have and being accountable for them. I enjoy this different role as a cadet especially because it does not involve me taking out the trash everyday!

I am greatly looking forward to what this school year will bring. I hope there are more positive changes and that it will help me grow as a cadet and eventually as a leader.

More about Brianna.

Summer Adventures

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This summer has been very eventful for me so far and it is only halfway done. The past five weeks I have been spending my time on USCGC Eagle and it was a great learning experience and not to mention a lot of fun. On the third day of our trip we hit a large storm that brought 30-foot swells and we all felt like real sailors after conquering that gale. Our trip on Eagle consisted of crossing the Atlantic Ocean for 21 days with our destination set on Waterford, Ireland. I had a great time in Ireland and it was wonderful to be on land after spending three weeks on water! After Ireland we went to Hamburg, Germany to celebrate Eagle’s 75th anniversary in the place that Eagle was born. The celebration was fantastic and my time spent in Hamburg was outstanding. Our last stop on Eagle was London, England which was very beautiful and there were great places that we got to see there such as Big Ben.

I am now at my second assignment for the summer, which is an 87-foot patrol boat in Virginia Beach. It is very warm here but I am having such a good time. Everyone on the boat is so friendly and it makes for a great learning environment. I look forward to learning a lot during my time here and I also look forward to the experiences that I will have this summer.

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The End Has Finally Come!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend Finally! I have finally made it through all of my classes as a 4/c cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, and the only thing that stands between me and an amazing summer in the fleet, is final exams. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t exactly want this year to end because it has been one of the most life-changing and best times in my entire life. This year was a stepping stone on the path that I will have to take during my time at the Academy, and it might have been one of the hardest but it was also one of the most enjoyable.

The end of 4/c year brings many exciting and nerve-wracking events in our lives. We all just received our new company assignments and everyone is extremely thrilled to be in a company for the next three years that they will be spending at the Academy. We also are all very ecstatic about our summer assignments in the fleet, and learning what the Coast Guard is like outside the Academy. This is the first time that many of us will be in the fleet and we are all very eager to learn and experience life in the operational Coast Guard. My summer travels will bring me to Ireland, Germany, London, and Virginia Beach. I am overjoyed to be visiting all of these places, and I look forward to telling you about my travels during the summer and when I return.

More about Brianna.

From California Glow to Connecticut Snow

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This past week has been one of the most hectic and fun weeks that I have had during my time at the Academy. My best friend, Megan, and I decided to spend our spring break with one of her family members rather than one of mine for a change. We spent a lot of time with her family and we did many things, such as driving from Arizona to Los Angeles, learning how to fly, seeing the Hollywood sign, and spending an ample amount of time in the sun. The majority of our time was spent in California, which I absolutely loved because it was my first time on the west coast and I plan on making many trips back.

Right now I am on the long flight from California to Connecticut, and as I sit here on this flight back to the Academy, it makes me realize just exactly why I am here. Spring leave was the first time that I have flown in uniform since Swab Summer, and the great respect that you get from people and the trust and confidence that they have in you is exactly why I wanted to come to the United States Coast Guard Academy.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the coming of spring!

More about Brianna.

Busy Weekends

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This past weekend has been one of the best and most stressful weekends of my time spent here at the Academy. Over the past two months all of the 4/c in the corps have been preparing for an indoctrination test, called boards, that every cadet has to pass during their 4/c year. My friends and I studied for this test in all of our free time and we all felt very prepared for boards. We knew everything about all of the military ranks, the history of the Coast Guard and damage control fundamentals. All of the studying that we did paid off when we all passed, but there were some people that did not pass but they will eventually get there with help of there shipmates.

Another event that took place this weekend was a leadership conference that was held at the Academy, at which volunteered. The conference was held for 8th through 10th graders from the New England area and there was even one student from Hawaii. It was really interesting to be able to tell prospective cadets about my journey to the Academy and how it changed my life. I loved the idea that I was having an impact in their future and that I was able to portray the Academy to them in such a positive way.

More about Brianna.

The Return from Winter Leave

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend The spring semester has officially begun and I am very excited to start my new classes. This semester I am taking a few different classes such as macroeconomics and personal self defense. After returning from winter leave, our fourth-class responsibilities have taken some time to get used to again, but it is coming back to everyone. Knowing that I was returning to those tasks, I made the most out of my winter break by going on trips and spending time with my family and friends.

The best part of my break was when my family spent a week on a cruise ship and visited numerous tropical islands. The warm weather was not the only part that made it pleasant; I also got to see a Coast Guard rescue take place. A man on our ship was having health issues and a Coast Guard helicopter had to lift him from the ship while it was still moving at a slow pace. They successfully got him off the boat and to a nearby hospital. This situation instilled in me an immense amount of pride in my service, but it was unfortunate that this man had to become ill for it to take place. I look forward to being involved in these rescues in the future, but for now I am going to focus on this semester.

More about Brianna.

A Short Break

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend I just arrived back at the Academy after being on leave for the first time. I spent Thanksgiving break (just five short days) with my family and my roommate. I enjoyed every single part of break but now that I am back at the Academy and with finals approaching, I am reminded to stay focused in order to prepare myself for the end of the semester. There are only a few short weeks until Christmas break and I am very excited for that time to come.

These upcoming weeks will be filled with tests, speeches, and quizzes but after that, the corps and I will receive a well-deserved break. I am looking forward to spending time at home with my family, but I think over Christmas break I will realize how much I miss the new family I have accumulated here at the Academy. I have made so many great friends, and it has made me realize how important the Academy is to me. The people that I am friends with now are the people that will be working with me in four short years as other officers. Realizing this teaches you to treat others with respect because they could be responsible for your life one day.

I hope you enjoy the holidays, and if you have any other questions feel free to contact me, I love answering your questions. Brianna.E.Townsend@uscga.edu

More about Brianna.

The Start of My Experience

(Academics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This first quarter has flown by, and so far I love being at the Academy. This quarter has been pretty challenging, but adjusting to the college lifestyle has not been too bad. Schoolwork and my classes often overwhelm me, but there are always time that you can have to yourself and can just relax. My roommate and I get along extremely well so hanging out in our room is always fun, and it’s a good way to feel less stressed about life in general.

The classes that I am taking right now are not too difficult mostly because I took a lot of them in high school such as Calculus and Chemistry. My favorite class that I am in right now is Statics and Engineering Design. Many people will say that I am crazy to name that as my favorite class, but it involves many of the basic concepts that I will use as a Civil Engineering major. There are some parts to this class that are difficult to grasp but there is always someone that is willing to help you figure it out. That is one of the best things about the Academy, the willingness that people have to help and see you succeed. Everyone wants to help you and offers their expertise in the subject. This makes the Academy extremely different from other colleges, and that is the main reason that I chose the Academy over other schools that I was accepted into.

After the beginning of this first semester I assured myself that coming to the Academy was the right choice for me. Even though I may get a bad grade on a test or a paper, there is always someone here that will help me on the next one to improve. I look forward to my next four years here at the academy and the experiences that I will have.

More about Brianna.

Winter Wonderland

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin It’s 9:59 AM and I’m sitting in seat 25F, probably over Memphis, Tennessee en route to Providence. Usually, many college students dread going back to school at this time of year because classes are wrapping up with projects and final exams which means sleepless nights, but this is my favorite time to go back to school for the few reasons listed below:
  1. A few days at home filled with non-stop gorging of turkey, green bean casserole, brown sugar topped sweet potatoes and a myriad of pies is enough time to recharge and get back to the grind with a fresh mind.
  2. Only 19 days, 2 hours, and 46 minutes until I’m back in good ole’ Texas again (who’s counting, right?) This is the shortest span of time between the Academy and going home again.
  3. On December 1, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza decorations go up in cadet rooms and dayrooms! This is my favorite part of the season in Chase Hall because a whole different feel and atmosphere can be felt throughout. Doors can be wrapped like presents, bright lights are strung across rooms, and Christmas trees can find a home in a corner of the room. My roommate and I are going to try to incorporate a fireplace this year! Talk about deck the halls (or p-ways).
  4. The Holiday Formal
  5. Your most important job during this time is to study and do well on your exams, and the Academy environment is conducive to your success. Since we have all come this far in the semester, now is the final push and instructors and peers are readily available to help you out and make sure you understand the concepts before going into the final exam.
  6. Last but not least, I miss my friends at school. Even though I was only away for less than a week, my friends at the Academy are like my second family.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your exams and holiday travels!

More about Carol.

Unexpected Summer Fun

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin This entry is long overdue but my normal pace of life at the Academy is finally starting to seem like routine all over again. The last time I wrote, I was a 4/c reveling in the fact that I had just been granted carry on. Now I’m a 3/c getting into major specific courses, acting like a normal person in the p-ways, and having six weeks of experience in the fleet. What a big difference one year makes!

The summer did not work out as I had originally planned because the cutter I was supposed to go on did not have enough female berthing. I found out that I would be reporting to CG Station Gulfport instead of USCGC Bertholf the weekend I returned to the U.S. after Eagle. At first I was extremely disappointed because I already mentally prepared myself for more cold weather since Bertholf was performing an Arctic fisheries patrol. I was also upset that I would not be able to go to Hawaii and experience its beautiful beaches and unique way of life. But, the next thing I knew, I was on a plane with my best friend to good ole’ Gulfport, Mississippi.

Gulfport was not what I expected. I was not excited about hot weather and being at a station for six weeks; however, Gulfport was a blessing from Heaven. Besides the intense heat and constant sweating, I had the time of my life at the station. I even ate fried gator for the first time! I was able to see my family and hang out in Mobile, Alabama for a weekend. My classmate, Rebecca, and I drove the station’s 41’ UTB to Mobile for servicing. I was also able to go to the beach everyday because of its proximity to the station, and meet some of the nicest people in my life. At the station, I qualified in Communications Watchstander and stood my own watches guarding the radios and answering phone calls. I also worked toward Boat Crew. But, the most memorable thing I did at the station was get OC sprayed (pepper spray). Now this is something I do not wish upon anyone. Let’s just say that OC feels like bobbing for apples in a French fry fryer.

Shadowing a junior enlisted member this summer, I learned to have a greater appreciation for the junior enlisted and all of their hard work. Without their efforts, the Coast Guard (in my humble opinion) could not function at any level. The enlisted are why the Coast Guard runs smoothly and effectively.

I hope to carry the lessons I learned over the summer to the school year and beyond. Thanks for reading and good luck to those applying for colleges!

More about Carol.

Where Dreams Come True

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin 734. Only the number of meals I have squared since June 28, 2010. No big deal.

Waking up this morning, I did not think that this would be the last day I would eat breakfast braced up with my eyes in the boat. Even this afternoon as I was waking to lunch with my 3/c, I said to him, “I really hope I get carry on.” Believe it or not, on 31MAR11, at approximately 1227, CAPT O’Connor granted the 4/c full wardroom carry on! This is one of the milestones that prove our efforts as a 4/c are paying off, and I cannot express how happy I am that I can finally look at my food and talk to my friends at meals! We’re one step closer to becoming a 3/c! Looking back nine months ago, it is hard to think that I was just a swab and one year ago I was a senior in high school deciding the next four years of my life.

Dragging my feet up the driveway after a long day of school and swim practice, I could not wait to get home. As I walked in the back door, a gleaming ray of light from the breakfast table seemed to beckon my attention. As I approached this mysterious light, I realized it was just the reflection onto a giant envelope from the United States Coast Guard Academy. Jumping up and down while attempting to open the envelope (not recommended), I pulled out the papers and read the first word: “Congratulations!” I literally could not stop cheesing that whole week. Albeit, this is a bit exaggerated, but I had never been more excited in my life! At the time, getting accepted was one of the easier steps in the process; the more difficult step was deciding whether or not I wanted to follow those that had gone before me and join the “Long Blue Line.”

In all honesty, choosing the Academy was one of the best and hardest decisions of my life. In the back of my mind, I wanted to take the normal route with my friends at a civilian college, but it was the higher calling of serving the country that I could not ignore. Leaving home in the middle of summer for R-day, giving up civilian clothing, driving privileges, Friday night sleepovers...the list of what I gave up to attend the Academy could go on and on. But that’s not the point. Fact is, I don’t feel like I’m giving up much for what I will get in return. In four years (it’s hard to believe!) I’m guaranteed a job, lifelong friends, the opportunity to travel all over the world, and ultimately a sense of doing something bigger than myself. After all, what could get any better than living within 50 feet of all your best friends, getting a top notch education and travelling to Europe and Hawaii this summer all in one place?

Forget Disney World. The Academy is where dreams come true.

More about Carol.

Just Be

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin Who: 12 cadets, Chaplain Kleppe, Professor Waid
What: Mission trip
When: Spring Break 2011
Where: Banica, Billiguin: Dominican Republic
Why: Out of love

Situated in the mountains on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic lies the hidden beauties of Banica and Billiguin. Not only did we bless these towns with our works, but they also blessed us by showing us to just be.

Day One

After landing in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, the plane was filled with applause because we safely landed. This was already testament to one of the lessons I learned this break: it’s the little things in life that matter. The instant we stepped outside the airport, I could feel my body soak up the humidity; sweat already beading on my forehead. And thus began our five-hour bus ride to Banica, our home base for two nights before we proceeded to the mountains.

Day Two

Waking up to a beautiful sunrise, I could only embrace the beauty of the countryside and all it had to offer. We had only been in the D.R. for less than a day and already I was overwhelmed with how beautiful the country was! Before a week’s worth of work, the group decided to have a day of fun so off we went to a local water hole where we jumped off rocks and splashed around with the local boys. Later, we trekked up a hill to the cave of St. Francis. This is a special place for the locals because this is where they believe St. Francis started his work. The sights were breathtaking!

Day Three

After a very bumpy two-hour truck ride in the mountains and arriving to the first chapel, we split up into groups, one to gather cement for another chapel and another group to paint the chapel. Every painted chapel in the area has the same color scheme: blue (azul claro) exterior, white (blanco) interior, cream trimming, and brown windows. The blue color really sticks out in the town so everyone who spots a blue building knows that it is the local chapel, a place for people to gather and have a sense of hope. After a morning and afternoon of hard work, the local women provided us with a late lunch of rice, beans, and sardines. Though this may seem like a meager meal, the food was delicious!

Days Four Through Six

We split into groups again and started painting the second, third, and fourth chapels. Because the villages are fairly spread apart, we started everyday at sunrise to travel the bumpy dirt roads to the next village. No matter what chapel we were working at, the locals provided the best hospitality I have ever encountered. One afternoon, a local family invited the group to their home for lunch. I still cannot comprehend the hospitality and love they showed us. A simple meal of rice, beans, and sardines never gets old! With so little, they offered the best they could provide including coffee, a chair to sit on, or even a helping hand. The kids were especially fun to play with and they even offered to help us paint. Though everyday consisted of the same work, the experiences were different. On the last day, for example, the truck got stuck going up the mountain because the tires started to lose traction. Talk about scary! With teamwork and ingenious ideas, we tied a rope to the front of the truck and pulled it up the mountain. The whole time, I kept thinking that the rope was going to break because how could a small rope pull up such a large truck?! Well thank God, everything turned out well and we got the truck up the mountain!

Day Seven

Reflection. People constantly reminded us of how generous we were to give up our spring break to help those in need; however, I beg to differ. Yes, I could say I “gave up” my spring break, but in reality, I don’t feel like I gave up anything at all because I had everything I needed for an unforgettable spring break: good memories. Spending a week with the bare minimum with a good group of cadets was more than I could ask for. I expected to go on this mission trip to help those in need but the locals also taught me more than I anticipated. They taught me that one doesn’t need much to be happy and live peacefully. Language barriers can be overcome through love, smiles, and little things like playing tag or a nice handshake. Even though the locals and I are from very different backgrounds, we are all humans. But the most important lesson I learned on this trip was that love has no language.

Thanks for reading!

More about Carol.

The Magic of 1600

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin Every day when 1600 (the end of the class-day) strikes, there is a renewed sense of energy that resonates throughout the Academy. Everyone’s morale skyrockets because not only is another long day finally coming to an end, but the best part of the day has finally come: sports period. Sports – or any other club – here at the Academy is a great way to get involved with the corps but also find a close group of friends.

Being on the swim team has helped me get through long days and some of the rough times here at the Academy. I look forward to seeing my friends at the pool and swimming hard sets together. Swimming helps me relieve stress because for at least two hours, I can act like a normal person even with upper-classmen. I don’t have to address the upper-class as “sir” and “ma’am” and I can call them by their first name. They are just teammates. It’s also a time where I don’t have to think about anything military or academic and can lose my mind in intense workouts. After swimming ends, I feel a great satisfaction that I accomplished a hard set. Finishing the day with that sense of accomplishment is the best because it gives me more energy to tackle homework back in the barracks. Being part of any team at the Academy is very rewarding and I highly encourage you to find your niche here wherever it may be.

Only twelve more days until I get to go home for winter leave! Have a great holiday season, God Bless, and thanks for reading!

More about Carol.

It’s the People Who Get You By

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin I knew coming to the Academy that I would be challenged academically, but I honestly never thought I would be challenged so mentally. Don’t get me wrong; there are many things at the Academy to look forward to like shorts, spending the weekends around New London with your friends, goofing around in Chase at night to relieve stress, and sports games throughout the week. As a 4/c I have a lot piled on my plate and it’s easy to get discouraged and look at everything in a negative light.

I have to admit, there were a few days I felt down, but in hindsight, my mood was largely based on what was happening in the moment. And that’s the thing here; you can’t focus on the moment. You have to look forward no matter how short term it is. Some days I look forward to lunch or even the next period and some days I look a little further to the weekend. During the times when looking ahead cannot lift you up, it’s the people who help you get by that matters most.

I have made some of my best friends at the Academy and I have only been here since June 28. The people you meet here are your best friends because you go through so much with them, like Swab Summer. You make many fun memories together no matter how difficult the task is. Just laughing with my roommate throughout the day gets my mind off the stressful tasks I have to complete and it is the little things like that which make a big difference.

More about Carol.

Community Service Event - Clinton Rotary Amber Alert

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen Each cadet is required to fulfill a certain number of hours of volunteer service in the community and within the Academy each semester. To help cadets achieve this, Hotel Company sends out an email to the Corps with volunteering opportunities each week. I happened to see that the Clinton Rotary Club was to be hosting a booth for Amber Alert at the Hartford Convention Center. This sounded like a great program to help with, so I signed up, and this past Sunday I worked the event with the Rotarian in charge and four other cadets. The premise of the event was simple, tell parents about the Amber Alert program and register their children in the database. However, after speaking with the Rotary member present, I really saw the significance of the program. The club was passionate about their mission to register children and to inform parents of any updated information. As I am not a parent I cannot fully appreciate the importance of such a program but I certainly respect its goals, achievements, and the people who help make it possible.

More about Brooklyn.

October!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen October! We have officially survived midterms with most of our sanity intact. This has been a busy few weeks as cadets studied for their mid-semester exams and prepared for the arrival of their parents. I’m not sure which is more daunting. But in true Academy fashion everything worked out in the end. As a 2/c in the Parents’ Weekend Division, I saw a lot of the work that goes into making Parents’ Weekend so special, and the immense responsibility my firstie had. As our division workload decreases my excitement for Thanksgiving increases, but first we’ll dress up and celebrate the end of October and our mutual appreciation for pumpkins, costumes, and chocolate. This is the most colorful season at the Academy; I’m ready to see the trees and sidewalks crowded with the fall colors.

More about Brooklyn.

One Person’s Perspective on Diversity

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I grew up in a neighborhood that saw the arrival of more cultures as time passed and the city grew. Growing up with essentially four parents (two were not born in this country), going to high school with classmates who had their own unique family dynamic, and then attending the USCGA brimming with cadets from all over the world and representing such a vast multitude of cultures there is not a “spectrum” large enough to hold them all. Because of this, I am led to believe that my opinion of diversity is perhaps different than others. Diversity is not as simple as the color is one’s skin; it has more dimensions than that.

When I sit at a table to eat dinner in the Wardroom, I hear my friend from Arizona attempting to speak French to my friend from Belize; I’ll also hear a different friend from Virginia with a mother from Laos speaking Spanish to that same friend from Belize. Then when I go back to my room, I’ll discuss how I was raised in comparison to how my roommate from Colorado was brought up, the beliefs that we have in common and those that we do not. Here at the Academy, we have cadets from one parent homes, two parent homes, in some cases three and four parent homes, and in some cases the parent is considered a “legal guardian.” We have cadets from the inner city as well as far away as you can get from a city. We have cadets who are exposed to the traditions of their ancestors’ countries and cultures and we also have cadets whose families have created their own traditions. The Academy exemplifies the true spirit of the American "melting pot."

Bernard Lewis suggested in one of his articles that "tolerance is actually an intolerant idea because it means that one group claims superiority and merely accepts another’s views though do not necessarily afford them equality." This is an interesting viewpoint as the world moves further into the twenty-first century and the United States seeks greater equality amongst its citizens. As one of the United States’ service academies, it is essential that we be open to what diversity truly means.

More about Brooklyn.

Spring Leave

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen As I ascend the scuffed concrete steps my eyes immediately focus on one of New York City’s massive skyscrapers. Lit by a pristine white light the imposing building instantly struck me as a foreshadowing of all of the adventures I knew I was about to embark upon with my aunt and uncle. Spending my Spring Break in New York City and Washington D.C. is not necessarily conventional, however after living first on the West Coast and then a simple train ride away, and still never visiting either city seemed like a serious problem that needed to be fixed! After arriving in New York City, my break had really begun and my aunt was determined to see as many things as possible in these two historic cities. She would have made the most ambitious and professional tourist envious of our schedule. I thought that I had done a lot of walking since coming to the Academy, but we tested that a couple of times on our explorations of Times Square and then at the nation’s capitol.

It is truly a novelty that such history resides in this part of the country, whether it is more recent “pop culture” or the site of this nation’s beginnings. I find a similar charm on the grounds of USCGA, though it is more difficult for cadets to see. This difficulty can at times compel cadets to voice their grievances, a lot! My aunt and uncle quickly learned about many of the nuances of our daily lives. Despite all of this, my uncle still seems to think that my brain will be brimming with vast amounts of knowledge, and that this is a good thing. Alas, as the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end, cadets returned and things have been as normal as can be expected for Academy life. All that separates us from our summer assignments is about seven weeks and most definitely too many exams to count.

More about Brooklyn.

One Way To Cope

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I sit here typing my journal fully realizing that there is something academic-based that I could and probably should be doing. Yet I continue to type, my rationalization is that I am providing invaluable information to those who will maybe one day make the world a better place. It’s important to have your priorities in line. Today marks the first day of classes of the spring semester, the key word here is spring because there is currently a healthy portion of snow on the ground, seen from the rooftops, and being thrown at the 4th class as they march in section (that was a joke of course). It is not even half way through the first day and already cadets were greeting their schedules with sufficient sarcasm and facetious Facebook comments. However, it goes largely unnoticed as that is one of the ways in which we cope with our workloads; together we are one very large and very blue (as in the long blue line) support unit.

More about Brooklyn.

Good Things

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen Eating, sleeping, not signing out every time you leave your house, these are all good things that I enjoyed over my few weeks of Christmas leave. I was anxious to see the California sky, however hazy it is I’ve found that I have grown quite attached to it after eighteen years. As I flew home, on planes that seem to get smaller each time, I thought about everything and everyone I was leaving behind in Connecticut, and I remember thinking how lost I would be if that part of my life was gone. Once people find out I attend the Academy that is about all our conversations entail. Where this was irritating last leave, I find that I now enjoy speaking about life at USCGA and what we do. Still, I always feel as though I am interrogating my friends at civilian colleges asking them about campus activities, classes, and what it is like to live in an apartment! These things fascinate me; I enjoy hearing about the stories behind the pictures I see. While leave is always excellent for recuperating, it never seems quite long enough, yet we survive, looking forward to the next long or three day weekend that is always just around the corner.

More about Brooklyn.

Labor Day Weekend

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen 1 September 2009

We have just concluded our first week of classes and I think most cadets are already looking forward to this Labor Day Weekend. I do admit that I was excited to find my classes interesting and more pertinent to my major. I am looking forward to many discussions and debates and questioning the opinions of my fellow classmates. The set up of these classes are what I would imagine any other civilian college to be, we sit in a circle and have more latitude to speak our minds on a topic.

Labor Day Weekend

One of the aspects that I am still getting used to about the Academy is the close proximity to so many fun places. It is exciting to be able to take a train into Boston, New York City, or anywhere else exciting on the East Coast. For Labor Day, my friends and I went into Boston and walked around the entire city. It’s one of the things that makes going to a military academy more enjoyable. That and the fact that no matter where you go in the New England states, you can find a cadet or a friend of a cadet. They welcome you into your home and make you a part of their family. This is what I have experienced personally, my first roommate of the semester allowed me to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family: the Fitzgerald’s. I saw a family similar to my own and learned that even though a country separates people they are not always so different.

More about Brooklyn.

Packing In

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen 25 August 2009

Here I sit at my computer, re-familiarizing myself with each key and preparing myself for the outrageous amounts of emails that no doubt await me. I will then undertake the daunting task of putting my room into some kind of order and complete what we call the “packing-in” process (which is where the Corps of Cadets unpack their things and properly stow them.)

As I walk through the p-ways of Chase Hall I can see rows of trunks, Tupperware, and anything that can possibly hold items. Despite these familiar images that recall a welcome nostalgia, it is with great trepidation that I begin this new semester. I am a 3/c now with all of the brand new responsibilities and privileges that accompany this position. However, instead of allowing my fear to consume my every thought, I will endeavor to use the outlook I learned from the XO of my cutter this summer and maintain a “cautious optimism” in all of my activities and classes. I will not even let the fact that I got sick the day after I got back from deterring me in my progress. I will not allow that to foreshadow what may come. Instead I will forge ahead and face my 3/c year with confidence.

More about Brooklyn.

On Our Toes

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I am sitting here at 0013 or 12:13 for all of you civilians out there. It is Friday July 25th and the day I depart USCGA for the airport and my summer leave. Words really cannot describe my excitement at the prospect of a summer at home. As a third class, my summer has been significantly different from that of a Swab and 4/c. I have found that as time goes on at the Academy, life will only get better, theoretically. I am anxious about the new year beginning in a month and all of the responsibilities that will be delegated to me as a 3/c and mentor to the 4/c. This is an opportunity for roughly 480 cadets, 4/c and 3/c, to learn from each other and succeed together. We must work as a team, a life lesson I have learned since coming to the Academy.

I feel that I have learned a tremendous amount this summer, to the point of information overload, but then again they say your first year here is like taking a drink from a FIREHOSE. I feel this adequately describes the majority of our experiences – it just keeps all of us on our toes, I guess. I have had an interesting 3/c summer, one that I will never forget and one that will serve as a reminder of everything that I am grateful for. Before I left for the Healy, I had no idea how the operational fleet worked. I still have only a very small amount of experience compared to the men and women who serve every day. I must work hard every day to honor these people. The challenges that face Coast Guardsmen and women are daunting and never ending, this is what separates our service from others.

I cannot explain all of my experiences this past summer because I would not do them justice. I can only say that upon reflection of all that the Coast Guard does and all that I can do being a part of it makes me very proud and very honored.

More about Brooklyn.

Memories Made, Lessons Learned

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen April 9, 2009

Imagine a tiny overheated room filled with one stern-faced “almost-officer”, two eager young adults, and one anxious tutor almost as teeth clatteringly nervous as you are. Yes, you are there and you are too terrified to breathe wrong for fear of being thrown out of the room and failing your ‘4/c Indoctrination Board’. Okay so what we at the Academy refer to as “boards” isn’t quite that intense but it is a test considered similar to an official qualification board, but instead of a qualification to handle equipment or to stand a particular duty it is to ensure that we are ready and qualified to become 3/c. Boards consume the entire corps of cadets. We all work together with the shared goal of teaching the 4/c as much as possible about 49 pages of quality Coast Guard knowledge.

This test, consisting of ten questions administered by those curious upperclassmen mentioned at the beginning of this entry, give the questions and handle the scoring. The uneasy 3/c asserts that they have seen to the training of the 4/c and escort us in. The USCGA is the only service academy that has a comprehensive test of this sort. It is a culmination of all of the information we have learned throughout the year as well as all of the indoc we memorized over swab summer. As a 4/c, I was initially a little frustrated with the extra work this test created in addition to the academic load. However, after completing this test and watching the entire forth class successfully finish their boards and earn Wardroom carry-on (didn’t I mention that? No more playing with our food because we can’t look at where we’re stabbing our fork!). The feeling of accomplishment is well worth the effort. I say this even after I failed to pass my first boards test. The 4/c were offered four tries to correctly answer 8 questions out of 10. We did this after the third opportunity. We are now one step closer to attaining the position of mighty 3/c.

Our next obstacle to overcome is what is known as the ‘Bitter End’ and has been titled “The Guardian Challenge”. Our company guideons have created six events for the 4/c to work together to complete. They have adapted the challenges from our Guardian Ethos as established by Admiral Allen. The goal of completing this task is full carry-on for the 4/c! This is only possibly one of the biggest privileges the 4/c have to earn of the year. As we earn these privileges the upperclassmen may also begin to earn theirs as well. Our Regimental Staff has said that the mood of the corps rests on the performance of the 4/c and this is simply another example. Stand by for more details on the Guardian Challenge.

April 23, 2009

CARRY ON! Those two words firmly asserted by Captain Fitzgerald our Commandant of Cadets last Friday brought glistening tears of bliss to every single 4/c standing on the Academy’s parade field. They made miracles a reality, for us the sun shone brighter, the wind whispered more gently, and the grass grew greener. What exactly does carry on mean for roughly 260 4/c cadets at the Coast Guard Academy? It means we can look around, talk to each other, listen to music out loud; watch movies, NOT square, and so many other activities nearly forgotten.

We earned carry on two and a half weeks before the last day of classes through our participation and completion of the newly created ‘Guardian Challenge.’ As I said in my last blog, we would go through six challenges spread across the week with the goal of carry on. This was an effort achieved in conjunction with and through the support of our guideons, Regimental Staff as well as our Command Staff. With 4/c carry on came what is called “gangway” for the firsties. This is their privilege and allows them the freedom of an officer in the Coast Guard. The 2/c also earned their extended liberty hours on Sundays. This may seem trivial to any other college student, but for cadets here at the Academy it represents one of the many milestones all cadets will go through as a class and as a corps. Yes, this is a privilege for the 4/c but I think it is also meant to build teamwork and encourage mutual cooperation among shipmates. All of this means we are one step closer to becoming 3/c and successfully completing our first year at USCGA. The memories we share are special and the lessons we learn are invaluable.

I will be going with a few other 4/c and upperclassmen to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy stationed out of Seattle. We’ll spend six weeks learning what our enlisted service members do every day. And if we’re lucky, we might even get sprayed in the face with Mace! (This is a qualification you can keep for the duration of your career in the Coast Guard) Together we overcame swab summer and 4/c year, together we will get through the next three years and a career in the Coast Guard.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

More about Brooklyn.

Things Are Changing

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen March 1

As the days fade into hours and those bleed into minutes until finally you’re waiting impatiently for the OOD (Officer of the Day) to check you off and allow you to “officially” go on leave, you don’t think about the people you’ll be leaving. It’s usually the people and places you will be seeing. At least for me, a 4/c, this is generally the process of my mind. However things are changing, as spring break is finally here, I notice that a large part of the 4/c will be spending at least a part of their time off together. We make plans to go skiing together, invite our new friends to our homes, or as many cadets seem to be doing – heading out to Florida and the beach. We make sure to travel with an Academy buddy and saying goodbye is more difficult. There are more people for us to hug, the people who don’t give hugs feel compelled to actually show that their new friends will be missed. I think back to winter leave and notice that the change is subtle and I feel that our new relationships came upon us swiftly. So many talented youths, literally (hopefully) the best and most determined in the nation, all working their shoulder boards off to make it through this place we call the Coast Guard Academy.

I’ve said this before, but I think it’s important; the people we will know here will be with us throughout our careers. They will have helped us through our worst and celebrated with us at our best. For our firsties, Billet Night has already decided where they will begin to make a name for themselves in the Coast Guard. All of Chase Hall welcomed the news, how could we ignore the constant playing of the latest classic song “I’m On a Boat”?

March 15

My first official spring break/spring leave of my Academy career is already over. The entire corps is now one and a half months away from beginning their summer assignments. Yet I am sure our thoughts are still on what we did for our breaks. I slept, spent time with my friends, family, and favorite pets. On one particular evening I remember just sitting around my living room with three of my best friends catching up on the last few months of our lives. Though we fell into conversation easy enough, I could not help but notice that every once and a while there would be a pause and silence would follow. To me this was an awkward silence in which no one had anything to say. Luckily then one of us would say something completely random but also trademark of our characters and we would all laugh until we were crying. These were some of my favorite times of spring break, but I found myself wondering about the new friends I made here. I wondered what they were doing and if they were enjoying themselves as much as I was.

I am truly lucky to have so many friends in so many places. The Academy has done that. I realize that a big part of our time at the Academy allows us to network; we meet extraordinary people from so many unique places each with their own qualities. I also know that in the future, if I need to call one of my friends they will do whatever they can. I don’t think I had this same confidence in more than ten people just last year. I like to think of myself as a ‘people person’; perhaps that’s why I feel that the relationships we are developing at the Academy are so important and special. We help and encourage our fellow shipmates just as we know we will still be cheering each other on long after we graduate.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

More about Brooklyn.

Happy To Be Home

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen As I sit here contemplating what will become my next cadet journal I am listening to the iPod I just got for my birthday. I was surprised at how normal my birthday could be. I opened presents the morning I turned 19, ate a huge birthday cake and talked (probably too long) to all of my friends in my hometown. I ordered a present to be sent to my sister two days before my birthday, since that’s the day of her birthday. My goal is for there to be as little distance between my family and myself as possible; excluding of course the looming fact that I am indeed over 3,000 miles away from them. So it is no wonder that this time is difficult for me. I am contemplating what I should say to those of you who could be the future of the Coast Guard but all I can think of is my home and my family.

In less than six days, the corps of cadets will be leaving one home for another. Chase Hall will be empty but 900 houses all over the world will have one or maybe a few cadets trying to adjust to yet another new routine, for a little while at least. Spring break for many if not most college students is about letting lose, it is not so different for us cadets, except I know that for me as a 4/c letting lose means NOT: BRACING UP, KEEPING MY EYES IN THE BOAT, or TAKING OUT THE TRASH. Ok, so I’ll probably still be helping out with chores at my parents’ house. With spring break also comes our midterms, and so I multitask, studying for one test while packing one suitcase. This will be the second time I have been home in nine months and I relish the prospect of flying home (for a total flight time of eight hours). I will be planning my days while accepting the fact that the hyperactive mental schedule I have in my mind will never become a reality when put up against my father’s easygoing approach. He says we can “play it by ear” and I know I’ll just be happy to be home, eating and sleeping on my own time and for large amounts at a time. Spring break will be a good opportunity for everyone to take a time out from Academy life and as many officers say “recharge our batteries”. I feel that taking some time for yourself is vital to surviving in this place. We can refocus and prioritize.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

More about Brooklyn.

A World Away from California

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I believe it’s true that we learn something new every day. Well, this winter break I learned Connecticut is definitely a world away from California, on the other side of the country as a matter of fact. I spent two ‘Academy-free’ weeks with friends and family and probably slept more in that time than I did the first half of my first semester. This, however, is simply a sign that I need to prioritize my time much more effectively. I spent a lot of time talking to my friends about their college experiences; the contrasts were both large and small in certain areas. For example, one friend is at a state college in Southern California paying $700 for an apartment she shares with two other roommates, I personally find this to be a bit pricey, I’m not sure about anyone else. All of my friends seem to freak out substantially for their exams so this seems to match most cadets here.

Winter break is a good chance to recuperate and prepare for another semester; still I’m timid to admit that I’m excited to begin a new semester. As we all get ready to work harder than we thought possible, I have the added distraction of what is going on at my home in California. I try to ignore the pangs I feel about leaving my childhood neighborhood in order to embark on a greater adventure. So I have resolved to talk to my family when possible and take advantage of what the Academy offers. Not just the essential stuff like a clinic and food, but the sponsor program, and all of the people around me who are willing to help. I have visited with my roommate’s sponsor family and bonded with my company; these new friendships I am making will not replace any old ones but help me experience all that the Academy and the Coast Guard have to offer. Not to mention help me out almost every night I have homework in SED. Speaking of SED, I believe my Statics book is calling to me now. If you have any questions please don’t forget my email address and email me any time.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

More about Brooklyn.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen 7 December

I grew up in the Central Valley of California, surrounded by the mountains that witnessed the Oregon Trail and so much more. I always knew that I would go to college and wherever I went, it would be the experience of a lifetime, and that’s how I chose the Coast Guard Academy.

Since my arrival on R-Day, it would not be an exaggeration to say that nothing has been what I expected – this applies to aspects both good and not so good. One thing, for example, that continues to surprise me is the fantastically laughable similarities the United States Coast Guard Academy shares with “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” from J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. These small idiosyncrasies represent a minor chunk of this place that makes it special to me. Each person is different – our childhood, our beliefs, our personalities are what have helped shape who we are, but they do not determine who we can become.

The prospect of being able to share my time here at the Academy is both exciting and challenging; I will strive to be accurate and let future cadets make their own judgments based on my entries. I remember looking at the faces of past cadet journalists and reading their excerpts, always with the thought that they seemed so unreal. The things they talked about and the things they were doing were all a part of another world to me. It is still incredible that I have joined that world and have found out it is real. I hope my favorites list helps you to get to know me a little better. If you have any questions or comments please contact me at my email address: Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

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Parents' Weekend

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane All during my classes this morning, I looked around at my classmates in various states of somnolence. Why, you might ask, were there so many drooping eyelids on a warm, sunny October morning? Aside from the fact that it’s Monday, last weekend was Parents Weekend. Proud Coast Guard parents from all parts of the country flocked to the Academy to see what daily life is like for their sons and daughters.

My Mom and Dad came to my cross country meet on Saturday, which was just down the road at Harkness Park. It was a gorgeous day for a race – sunny and around 60 :) – but extremely windy. Our team did really well, and a lot of girls got PR’s on our second 6K course of the season. It was nice to have so many fans! Every time I came around a corner there was someone cheering on Coast Guard runners. My Mom was extremely easy to spot in her bright orange Coast Guard sweatshirt. Cross country this year has been a blast. We have a lot of fun, especially at meets and off-base runs, and we’re also very competitive within our conference. A few weeks ago, we were ranked #10 out of all of the D3 schools in New England!

After the meet, my parents and I had a brick-oven baked pizza at Two Wives Pizza, which was delicious, and headed over to Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic. At the Cider Mill, we had fresh-pressed hot apple cider and apple cider doughnuts so fresh they were still steaming when they put them in the bag! Clyde’s is a really cool place – they have an apple cider press from 1898 that they still use. They also sell all kinds of delicious things – pies, apple dumplings, homemade doughnuts, pumpkin bread… all reasons that I love fall in New England!

As always, if you have any questions about life at the Coast Guard Academy, feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

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CATP

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Second-class summer was undoubtedly one of the best summers of my life thus far. I sailed the mighty vessel Shearwater (one of the 44 foot Luders) on her last cruise with five friends; got hoisted into a MH-60T helicopter with a rescue swimmer at Air Station Elizabeth City; learned ship-handling skills on one of the Academy’s T-boats (tug boats) and successfully avoided smashing 92 tons of boat into Eagle pier; and was a swab summer cadre to the Class of 2015 (one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life). I also passed ROTR (Rules of the Road), but that was slightly less adrenaline-inducing. I wish that I had time to write about all of the incredible experiences that my class had over the summer, but unfortunately the school year is now in full swing and I’m figuratively swamped in essays, problem sets, lab reports, and repeat miles, so I’ll have to limit it to a few stories.

The second week after my leave, ten other cadets and I drove down to North Carolina to spend a week at Air Station Elizabeth City. There, we had the opportunity to get duck-hoisted, which makes my little brother extremely jealous. After passing a simple swim test in the same pool where they filmed scenes from “The Guardian” (yeah, we were in the same pool as Ashton Kutcher), one of the AST3s taught us how to clear a mask and snorkel underwater. We also got to practice climbing into the basket and rescue strop while the AST3 used the mechanical winch to hoist us. The next day, some Coast Guard Auxiliary members took us out onto the water for our duck-hoist. One at a time, we jumped into the water and swam over to the edge of the rotor wash stirred up by the Jayhawk above. Then the rescue swimmer towed us through the spray and chop until we were directly below the helicopter. Even on a perfectly calm, sunny day, in the rotor wash I could barely hear the rescue swimmer as he shouted instructions and spray pelted our faces. I can only imagine what it must be like in cold water, at night, in a storm. Once we were under the helicopter they dropped the strop down, the rescue swimmer clipped in and got me situated, and they hoisted us right up. At the door of the cabin, the flight mech shouted, “Have a sucker!” and popped a Tootsie pop right into my mouth! (My week was a lucky group – the week before they ran out of lollipops so they were popping pieces of their boxed lunches into cadets’ mouths. One person I know got a hard-boiled egg). Then they let us back down and I swam over to the boat.

While at the air station, we got to ride along on some of the flights. One of my classmates and I got to fly with the crew of an MH-60T to a search and rescue exposition. We left in the morning and flew for about an hour. We had the door of the cabin open, and I got to sit right at the edge, looking out over the land and water over 600 feet below us. At the exposition there were Coast Guard members from a small boat station nearby, local police and fire, a Marine helicopter, FEMA workers, and other representatives from organizations that do search and rescue. My favorite part of the entire day was talking to the MH-60T crew. They were absolutely awesome. They taught the other cadet and me a ton about the helicopter and how its systems work and told us stories about some of the incredible rescues they’ve been part of. They are extraordinarily skilled at what they do and they clearly love it. I’m really proud to be in the same service as people like them.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

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Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Swab Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane First off, congratulations to the incoming Class of 2015! To all of you who have accepted your appointments, you’re joining a great service. You’re definitely not taking the easy path, but if you’re willing to work hard you’ll have some amazing experiences and become part of an incredible group of people – the Corps of Cadets.

I’m not going to tell you the secret to success during Swab Summer; there isn’t one. Some days you’ll be miserable and discouraged, other days you’ll feel like you and your company could accomplish anything. It’s all part of the experience. I will, however, share with you a few things that I wish someone had told me before Swab Summer.
  1. ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM! Seriously, you are only going to be a recently emancipated high schooler for a couple weeks of your life. You might as well live it up. Spend as much time as possible with your friends and family and enjoy being obligation-free.
  2. In terms of preparing for Swab Summer, there are a few things I would do. First of all, check out a couple YouTube videos and read some cadet blogs to get a sense of what the summer is going to be like. It’s good to have at least a general sense of what you’ve gotten yourself into. You should also maintain a good level of physical fitness. Other than that, don’t stress yourself out! No amount of mentoring, pep-talking, or worrying is going to make you perform better over the summer, so just relax and have fun.
  3. This is something someone actually did tell me before Swab Summer; my aunt, who was in the Navy, told me, “If thousands of people before you have gotten through it, you can, too.” If you want to get through it, you will.
Good luck Class of 2015! You guys have made a great decision. Enjoy the end of your senior year, see you this summer!

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Big Brothers Big Sisters

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane At the Academy, 3/c and 4/c cadets are required to do at least two hours of institutional service and six hours of community service (2/c and 1/c have to do at least eight hours as well, but it can be divided however they want). This might sounds like kind of a drag – it’s not like we have a whole lot of free time in our schedules – but depending on how you go about it, it can actually be really fun.

This winter I became a “Big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters. After a pretty simple application and interview process, I was paired up with a “Little” who lives close by. Now, about twice a month, I drive one of the great big vans the parents’ organization has so kindly provided for cadet activities to pick her up and hang out. A couple weeks ago we went bowling. It was my first time duckpin bowling (we only have candlepin up in Boston), so she basically destroyed me, but it was a lot of fun. We’ve also been mini-golfing and done some cool arts and crafts stuff.

Community service is a great way to get away from the Academy for a little bit and have fun while getting involved in the local community.

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3/c Summer: Guam and Eagle

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Coming back to classes and homework after the summer is always tough, especially when you’ve had an awesome summer. For my 3/c summer I spent five weeks with the CGC Sequoia in Guam and six weeks sailing aboard the Eagle. Even though my cutter in Guam did not get underway, I have never before learned so much in such a short span of time. The crew was awesome. They taught me a ton about the Sequoia, “The Black Pearl of the Pacific” and they included the 1/c cadet that I was there with and me in a lot of the cool stuff that they did. While I was there, I got hands-on experience learning how to use pipe-patching kits, submersible pumps, fire hoses, and eductors and earned my basic damage control qualification. I also practiced shooting pistol at the range and got pepper-sprayed as part of a qualification I will need eventually when I become a boarding officer.

In Guam, I also got underway with the CGC Washington for a short time, and drove the 110-foot cutter while we were practicing man-overboard approaches. I spent a week with the small boat station there in Apra Harbor learning about the 25-foot small boats that they use. One of the coolest things I did was participate in tactical training with them. I was harnessed into the gun on the bow as the coxswain did 180-degree turns going over 30 knots. While we weren’t on duty, the other cadet and I got scuba qualified and saw some of the most amazing coral reefs and tropical fish in the world. I went snorkeling, hiking, cliff-jumping, and cave swimming. Overall, it was a really awesome five weeks.

For the second half of the summer I was on Eagle. My phase began in Cozumel, Mexico; sailed to Veracruz, Mexico; Corpus Christi, Texas; Tampa, Florida; and departed from Fort Lauderdale. Since Eagle is an experience that pretty much all cadets will have, I’ll just share a couple brief stories with you.

On the way to Corpus Christi, we were sailing behind Hurricane Alex. The winds were so strong that they actually ripped a couple of sails and parted a few sheets (snapped the lines that you use to trim the sails). We were healed over at a 30-degree list and went through some good-sized waves.

Another cool thing that happened was one night a bunch of friends and I decided to climb up to the royal, the highest yardarm, to watch the sunset. It was a really calm, clear night, and just as the sun slipped below the horizon it turned from orange to green for a split second. The green flash is a pretty rare thing to see, so it was especially cool to see it from the royals. 3/c summer is a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to graduate and get out into the fleet.

As always, if you’ve got any questions feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

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Carry On and Looking Forward to Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane WE JUST GOT CARRY ON! For all of you out there wondering what the heck that means, it means that the extraordinary class of 2013 no longer has to square corners, keep our eyes in the boat, walk in the center of the passageway, take the long way to class because we’re not allowed to walk on certain sidewalks, march in section during the workday, etc. (the list goes on and on). After nine and a half long months we can finally act like normal people, and let me tell you, life is sweet. I mean, I’m sure I’ll miss awkwardly staring at my classmates across the table at dinner and only speaking to ask for a napkin (note the sarcasm), but it sure is nice to be able to have a conversation with friends while eating dinner and actually talk to new people. 4/c year is difficult and often tedious, but everyone who has graduated from the Academy has gone through a similar experience, so if nothing else, it allows you to bond over the common complaints. Chase Hall has gotten a whole lot louder now that we’re allowed to listen to music, watch movies, and talk in the passageways, but I like it. It’s spring (the campus is gorgeous and nearly everywhere you walk you can smell the deliciously intoxicating scent of blossoming trees) and everything seems more alive. Only a week of classes left before finals, and after that everyone heads off to their summer assignments!

Speaking of summer assignments, on May 8th I leave for Santa Rita, Guam, where I will be aboard the USCGC Sequoia, a 225-foot buoy tender. After spending about five weeks there, I’ll head to the Eagle along with about half of my classmates. We’re meeting “The Dirty Bird”, as she is affectionately known, in Mexico and then sailing up to Texas and over to Florida. I can’t wait!!! One thing that I really struggled with when I was deciding if I wanted to come here was the fact that we only get three weeks of summer leave. In some ways that’s hard because I really would love to spend more time with my friends and family relaxing, but when I think about the incredible opportunities that I’ve had so far and that I will have in the future, there’s really no comparison. Last summer we all underwent an amazing transformation to become members of the U.S. military and made incredibly close friends. This summer, I’ll get to see what life is really like out in the fleet (in Guam!) and sail around the Caribbean on America’s Tall Ship. And oh yeah – rumor has it we might get to meet Jimmy Buffet.

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Spring Track

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane This spring I’ve been running outdoor track and I love love LOVE it. Over the winter I didn’t play any sports, I just ran on my own. It was really nice because I could run alone or find a friend to run and talk with. To keep motivated, my Dad and I planned on running an 11.2 mile (18K) race on December 26th. Yup, the day after Christmas. He tried to wimp out on me that morning because it was raining, but I reminded him of all the dessert from the night before because, goshdarnit, I hadn’t run all those afternoon miles for nothing. Unfortunately, he beat me in that race, but we have a rematch scheduled for August.

In February, practice for spring track started and we’ve been going strong ever since. In high school I ran the mile, but this season I’ve been running the steeplechase for the most part. The steeplechase is 3K, a little under 2 miles, and you jump over hurdles, one of which has a pit of water on the other side. I’ve been told it was originally a race for horses, but I don’t know what genius decided to have humans run it. Being clumsy and uncoordinated, this race did not seem like an ideal fit for me at first (my family came to my first race and asked if I was going to wear a mask and snorkel), but a 1/c (senior) on the team helped me with hurdles and gave me a lot of encouragement. So far I’ve only fallen three times in races, but they were small stumbles, not full-blown face plants. Keep your fingers crossed for me this weekend at the NEWMAC championships, where I’m seated 8th. Impressive, right? Don’t ask me how many girls are running. Ok, fine, there are 10.

Being on the team has been a lot of fun. I’ve gotten to run with the girls from cross country again and met some new friends. All of the girls are incredibly hard-working and have such great attitudes; they always cheer me up if I’m having a rough day. We have a lot of fun, having sing-alongs as we warm down, getting weird looks from the guys team, and playing the one-word game while we’re holding planks and trying really hard not to laugh because it kills your abs. This Saturday is the last meet for most people, and I’m really going to miss track when it’s over. But there’s always cross country to look forward to in the fall!

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The Coast Guard and Environmental Protection

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Recently I had a really cool opportunity; I got to help try to save a beluga whale! One of the whales over at the Mystic Aquarium (rest in peace – no, it was not something I did) was having kidney problems and the Aquarium needed volunteers to hold the whale still while the veterinarian took blood samples and administered the medicine. I thought, “How many people can say that they’re held a beluga whale?”, so I signed up and very early one bright March morning, my friend Lauren and I dragged ourselves out of bed and down to the van waiting outside the archways. When we got to the Aquarium, the vet gave us a run down of what we needed to do and we put on the dry suits and Neoprene gloves.

We went to one of the tanks out back and climbed down into the water with the whale (it was only about 3 feet deep). My job was to hold the tail above the water with a member of the Coast Guard Reserve so that they could take a blood sample. I’d never touched a whale before. He felt kind of firm and rubbery, and when I got close enough I could actually see spidery purple veins through his white skin. Being that close to the whale was an amazing experience alone, but I also had the pleasure of talking to the Reservist.

He was from Long Island and was one of the people who responds when animals become stranded on the beaches. His passion for the animals that he saves was incredible, and he was telling me about how glad he was to see cadets concerned about animals and the environment. Often, people focus on the law enforcement and search and rescue missions of the Coast Guard because that’s where most of the action and glory is, but environmental protection is also a really important core mission. Talking to him gave me more of an appreciation for Coast Guard Reservists, because they really love what they do and are truly dedicated to their missions. Helping out at the Aquarium was a very different experience from what I’m used to, and it was completely worth waking up a couple of hours early.

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Getting Ready for the Tap

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Near the end of February, when everyone was getting worn down and Spring Break was still four papers, three midterms, a math test, and two lab reports away, our class vice president sent out an email with this Winston Churchill quote:

"To every man, there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered that chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for that which would be his finest hour."

I think that that quote really sums up why we are here, and why the Academy is not easy. We are preparing to be leaders in the U.S. Coast Guard, which will require us to make some extremely difficult decisions and face challenges that seem unconquerable to me right now. Nearly everything that we do here, even the small things that at times seem tedious and unimportant, has a purpose. We learn discipline, confidence, and critical thinking so that when we do finally get out into the fleet, we can learn how to be good officers. When the moment comes and we have a chance to truly make a difference, I like to think that we will be well prepared by all of the hard work that we are putting in now at the Academy.

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That's Why I'm Here

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Over break, as I told my high school friends stories about swab summer and Academy life, some of them thought I was crazy. “Why on earth did you go there?,” they asked me. And I have to admit, sometimes being here is not that great. Like on Friday night, we were getting ready for a formal room and wing inspection and a few other cadets and I were cleaning the laundry room. As I shined the floor drain at midnight, I wondered what some of my friends at civilian colleges were doing right then, and I highly doubt that they were cleaning any laundry rooms. But all of the hard work is worth it, because I can sincerely say that there is nowhere else I would rather be.

At other prestigious universities, you might be pushed academically, but nowhere else will you be challenged in so many ways or have so many responsibilities. Here at the Academy you are expected to work hard in your classes and earn good grades, give your all on the athletic field and stay in good shape, make sure your uniform, room, and the common spaces of Chase Hall always look good, understand and memorize information and procedures that you’ll need later in the fleet, help your shipmates out whenever they need it, and above all maintain your honor and integrity.

When my friends ask me why I came here, I think of a time in November when I was out on liberty and stopped by a grocery store. As I walked out of the store, I saw a man and a little boy who was probably five or six years old. I passed them in the parking lot and the man nudged the boy and said, “Go ahead, say it. ” The little boy saluted me and said, “Thanks for serving our country.” I was overcome with pride to be wearing the Coast Guard uniform and also with a tremendous feeling of responsibility. My friends at civilian colleges have a responsibility to themselves, their family, and their teachers to work hard, but I have made a promise to the American people. They trust that I will be a good Coast Guard officer. That I am capable of rescuing mariners in distress in extreme conditions, preventing oils spills, maintaining our aids to navigation, and stopping illegal drugs from entering our country. So far I haven’t done anything significant, but the trust of the American people and the trust of the men and women that I will someday lead is what motivates me to learn and to work hard. On May 16, 2013 when I receive my commission, I will be ready to do important things, and that is why I’m here.

As always, feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

More about Julie.

Becoming a Coast Guard Cadet

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Being a cadet encompasses a lot of different roles. You are a member of the United States Coast Guard, a future officer, a student, an athlete, a shipmate, and a friend. Somehow you have to find a way to balance these roles and to make each of them a part of who you are.

When I first came here, I hardly knew anything about the Coast Guard. I read everything I could get my hands on about SAR and I knew the main missions of the Coast Guard, but I had no idea what it meant to actually be a part of the service. Since R-Day, however, I’ve gotten a much better sense of what it means to be a Coast Guard cadet. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard because one day, people’s lives will be in your hands and they need to be able to trust you completely. This means you have to be 100% honest, show integrity, and always work your hardest. No one is perfect, but these are the ideals that we strive for everyday. As a cadet you are constantly being pushed physically and mentally and trying to become a stronger person.

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Women’s Cross Country

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Sports period is definitely the best part of the day here. I run cross country, and this year we had an awesome season. Each day I looked forward to 4:00, when the team would meet up and we’d run, do strength-building exercises, chat, goof around, and forget about anything stressful for an hour and a half. Our coach, Coach Brown, was really great and had us work out off campus at least once a week. Most of the time we’d go to Harkness Park and do intervals on a path that wound along the coast and then we’d do our cool down on the beach just as the sun was setting. It was incredible.

The team is amazing. Everyone works really hard at each practice, no matter what kind of a day they’re having. No one complains, and everyone is enthusiastic and encouraging. We also have some fun traditions, like when we raced at Smith College we jumped off a rope swing into the freezing cold river! Being on a team here allowed me to make some really great friends, see how beautiful the area around New London is, and relax and have fun.

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Leadership at the Academy

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I do some of my best work for this blog site while I’m sitting in an airport terminal waiting for my flight. It is with this basic ideology that I have set down to pen this entry. I am writing to you all now from the International Departures terminal of the Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. My family moved to Okinawa this past summer, and I had the opportunity to go visit them.

This semester is fast approaching, in fact, as I sit here; we only have about 36 hours before leave expires. That being said, I’m beginning to feel the weight of the Academy bearing back down upon my shoulders. This semester will be a tad different from those that have passed before me: this will be my first semester in a leadership role. After the Change of Command ceremony which will happen our first day back, I shall become the Respect Master at Arms, the second class in charge of the Respect Department’s underclass, responsible for helping the Guidon instruct and lead the fourth class, and ensure that all the needs of the department are met. I have already spoken with the Guidon and he has big plans for us this semester.

I have high hopes that this up and coming semester will be a rewarding one. I have put in for a summer staff position and the rumor is that we will hear back on the first Monday of classes as to who will receive the appointments. I’m anxiously awaiting to hear back on whether or not I will be able to help the class of 2014 in their soon-to-be role of cadre, and get a chance to interact with members of the class of 2016 during their first, critical summer.

Leadership roles at the Academy aren’t hard to come by, there are a multitude of them waiting for you if you’re willing to put in the time and effort required to apply for them. Once you have them though, your workload begins to compound, and it is really under that crucible of pressure that you find your true leadership style and potential.

Unfortunately, I will be cutting this blog entry short, they have just announced that they will begin boarding my flight to Chicago. In a short 13 hours I will be landing back in the United States, rested and ready to start a new year, hopefully one, which will prove rewarding in light of the new leadership opportunities that will come my way. However busy I am this semester, I will do my best to keep you all updated. As always feel free to ask me any questions, I promise I will do my best to respond quickly and give you my opinions and advice on your questions

Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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How Times Flies

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I will always be the first one to admit that time flies here quicker than you will ever believe possible. A very wise cadet (now Ensign) once told me that you can break the Academy up into three distinct parts, each seeming to last as long as the other: Swab Summer, 4/c Year, and everything else. I am well into the third aspect of that separation scheme and never have I found it truer. As the days fly by, I find it hard to believe that my classmates and I are applying for leadership positions for the spring; we’re applying to be Guidons and MAAs, we’ve even put in the paperwork to be Summer Staff, to be the Company Commanders for the Summer, or to work on Regimental Staff. We’re applying for firstie positions. It’s strange… and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I’ve talked to people who have left the Academy and they’ve all echoed the same notions that I’ve been feeling as of late, time here flies fast. Even though the days seem to drag by, weeks and months seem to pass in a blink of an eye, and though I don’t doubt that this place is capable of fashioning high school graduates into officers of the finest sea-going service that America has to offer in only four years, I do doubt my ability to acquire the knowledge that they’re forcing into my brain at a thousand miles per second. I know it works, but it still bothers me that time seems to be slipping by so quickly.

We ordered our rings this past week. It’s the symbol that we will wear on our hands at every class function from now until we pass on. It’s an outward symbol of our having attended this institution… It’s also one step closer to graduation. All of these events seem to be happening simultaneously and it’s a bit nerve racking. Now that 2011 is gone, my classmates and I are taking charge, we’re standing JOOD (Junior Officer of the Deck/Day) and we’re standing ACDO (Assistant Cadet Duty Officer). We’ve been crossing off items on our checklists for graduation left and right, and even though we’ve still more than 18 months to go, it feels like it’s beginning to sneak up on us. And even though I want nothing more than to graduate and be gone to the fleet and begin my career, I can’t help but thinking how much I would miss the people here. I think back to a young JG who spoke to us when we were just 4/c, at that time sure that four years would never end. With two and a half of them just about done, his words seem more poignant than ever before “Remember that never again will you live just down the hall from 200 of your closest friends.”

I hope you all will forgive me my ramblings, I just wanted to convey to you a sense of how quickly time will pass once you get here, even if you don’t believe it during your first seven weeks at the Academy. If you have any questions you may always email me. I will answer them as soon as I can!

Semper P.

More about Stephen.

Amazing Summer Experiences

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan There can be no doubt that the academic year at the United States Coast Guard Academy is a rigorous one; there is no pretending that this institution doesn’t attempt to force far more knowledge into our poor little heads than we have the capacity for, and yet despite all the learning that goes on during the year, the truest growth in knowledge happens over the summer when cadets are far way from their books and studies. Whether they are on the bridge of a ship, climbing the rigging, inspecting container ships, working at an internship, or even climbing a glacier, the varied summer experiences of cadets help shape their leadership styles.

This summer, while my swabs were on Eagle and my voice was recuperating, I had a chance to drive down to Sector New York and spend a week getting to know what life is like at a sector. I spent my week boarding container ships more than a thousand feet long, conducting inspections of power plants that abut the water of the harbor, working out with the MSST New York and observing the hectic atmosphere of the Communications Room of one of the biggest sectors in the country. The Marine Safety program, as it’s called, is relatively new having only come into existence last summer, and it was founded out of a desire to allow cadets to experience a different aspect of the Coast Guard that they are not typically exposed to while at the Academy.

Most of the class of 2012 also made their way to the sea this summer. While most cadets got assigned to Coast Guard cutters scattered around the country, a few had a slightly different experience. As 1/c Christine Roselli relates:

I was on the Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Kojima, underway for 24 days straight as we made the transit from Honolulu, Hawaii to New York. I was able to participate in Boat Ops, Search and Rescue drills, and experience a total cultural immersion with the Japanese Coast Guard Academy cadets. The experience was unforgettable and I still keep in contact with many of the friends I formed on board.

This exchange program offered five Coast Guard Academy cadets the chance to forge new relationships with our counterparts in the Japanese Coast Guard, and to get a chance to experience how different countries handle the multitude of problems that inevitably arise in the maritime domain, which always seem to fall to the Coast Guard.

By far though, one of the most exhilarating summers had by a cadet, happened hundreds of miles away from any ocean, up in the mountains of Alaska. There, on the Matanuska Glacier, 1/c Ryan Flanagan and 1/c Sarah Colmenero spent 23 days hiking over ninety miles over the glacial terrain with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). They were joined by three instructors, including LT Chis Bruno (’02), as well as nine midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy. 1/c Colmenero recalls that over the course of the trek, LT Bruno was “provid[ing] us with a direct application of NOLS’ leadership philosophy to situations in our future line of work as officers in the Coast Guard.”

Not only were they expected to follow the instructors and learn from observing them, they were given the invaluable experience of leading the expedition for themselves for an entire day. They were tasked with “setting goals for the group, reading the terrain, constantly monitoring the safety of the group… and making decisions of how to best overcome various obstacles which arose from severe conditions and unexpected natural blockades.”

These skills are directly transferable to the duties and responsibilities of an officer in the Coast Guard who, among other things, are charged with the safety and well being of the crew, maintaining the integrity of the vessel and ensuring the successful completion of the mission at hand. All in all, 1/c Colmenero believes that this past summer was “the most valuable and powerful training experience I have ever received at the CGA.”

Cadets are naturally curious creatures, who love to experience new and exciting things. Given the chance to be underway or in a classroom, it’s no doubt which choice the typical cadet would make. We’re destined to spend our careers in the fleet, taking the lessons and mistakes that we have learned here, and applying them directly to making a difference to our future units, our service and our nation. As such, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that the most valuable lessons we learn, are often taught to us during the summer months, when we’re getting a chance to test-drive our careers. Remember if you have any questions; please feel free to email me at Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

(Note: This article was originally written and printed in an extended form in the USCGA’s Alumni Magazine, The Bulletin)

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Q&A with 2c Nolan

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I am always grateful when I receive an email from a prospective cadet who has read an entry of mine and has reached out to me to ask a few questions. It lets me know that somehow, I’m connecting with someone, and perhaps making an impression on some of you as well. As the coordinator of the blogging program is always encouraging us to write more, I felt as though I would take the opportunity today, while I’m traveling home on leave, to write an entry that addresses the most common questions I get from people who are preparing to start, or have already initiated, the application process. Although this blog differs stylistically from the manner in which I typically write my discourse, I hope you’ll bear with me and gain a kernel or two of knowledge about the application process: from a cadet’s perspective of course.

I’m not the top of my class, but my grades are still pretty good. What can I do to make my application look better?

I can assure you that your grades, while extremely important, do not have to be perfect in order to get into the Academy. They must be strong, especially in the math and science areas, but it is by no means a requirement to have a perfect 4.0. What is helpful is that you show Admissions that you are a well-rounded individual. A person who shows community involvement through volunteering, a person who plays sports and has a leadership role on the team, and a person who is employed: is a person who has demonstrated that they are capable of prioritizing their time, and has already taken the first steps necessary to becoming leaders of character. Now, it is important to note that although being involved is important, being a member of 50,000 organizations, but not really having a leading role in them, doesn’t say much about your prospects of becoming a leader. Ensure that you’re getting involved and leading the way, that will impress Admissions.

How important are high SAT scores to getting into the Academy?

Although I don’t work in Admissions, I have talked to several people regarding this matter. Over the years the Academy’s Admissions division has collected enough data that they can fairly accurately predict how a cadet will do at the Academy based solely on the math and science sections of the SAT. I personally never took the SATs, in my area of the country it was ridiculously hard to schedule a session, so I took the much more prevalent ACT. So for those of you who were wondering, it is most definitely possible to get in with just the ACT score.

I’ve never been on or near the water before. How will that affect my performance at the CGA?

Once again I speak from personal experience in order to address this question. I spent my entire high school career in the Great State of Kansas, about as far away from an ocean as you can possibly be. Despite this, what some might consider, setback I am on the offshore sailing team and doing just fine at the Coast Guard Academy. It’s only a hindrance if you let it be so. Although some people start off with a bit more knowledge, there is so much to learn that the playing field is pretty much level to start with.

I know old CGA Alumni, should I have them write my letters of recommendation? Can I get a Congressional Nomination and send it in with my packet to improve my chances of getting accepted?

Although it never hurts to have your letters of recommendation come from alumni, it doesn’t really throw around much clout. The Academy is extremely protective of its reputation as the only service Academy that doesn’t require congressional nomination. We pride ourselves on being an Academy that is completely merit-based: so in short, don’t focus on whom you know, focus on who you are. Don’t try to bulk up your application with reputations and names, build it up with accomplishments and activities. Those things are far more likely to impress an Admissions Officer than a name on a page.

I would like to reiterate the point that all of these answers are only my personal opinions on the matter, generated from my own observations. I highly encourage that you take the time to pose your questions to not only cadets, but to the Admissions Officer assigned to your area of the country. They are the ones who should best be able to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. That being said, if you still have any questions you would like to hear my perspective on, I would love to answer them, so please, keep them coming!

As always,
Semper P

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Midnight Cadre Musings

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan “Charlie Company: Ears!”

“OPEN”

Every single conversation I have with my swabs starts this way. It lets me know that they are actively listening to what I am saying, and it lets me know that they aren’t zoning out on me. More and more though, I feel as though my shipmates should be saying that to me. I need them to verify that I’m not zoning out, or that I’m actively listening, because never in my life have I been as utterly exhausted as I am right now.

I’m not hallucinating: I remember my own Swab Summer quite vividly, I remember those late nights working to chip away at the seemingly endless stack of homework in the depths of third class year, I remember late nights out on liberty, and double four to eight watches underway, and yet I can say with absolute certainty, that I have never been this tired. The lack of sleep, coupled with the sheer amount of yelling that has to be done, along with trying to make sure that 38 shell shocked swabs are dressed in the right uniform, in the right place, at the right time quickly wears down even the most resolute individuals. It does not help that they have us outnumbered three to one, so corrections happen constantly. There are times where I see a swab do something incorrectly; they round a corner, they fail to greet one of my classmates, or they take their eyes out of the boat, and I want nothing more than to ignore it and let them go on their merry way, but I know that I cannot do that. I have to correct their behavior because the Academy and ultimately the Coast Guard as a whole, has trusted us with the seemingly insurmountable task of training these civilians into being functioning men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

I’m standing night watch now; I’m sitting at my OOD podium, monitoring the hallways from where I sit, and go on a round once an hour to ensure the swabs are staying in their racks and getting their much needed sleep. While standing this watch, I feel almost like a prison guard, making sure no one is escaping the watchful eye of the cadre. Standing this watch also gives me a lot of time to think: it’s a tremendous amount of power we are given in this situation: we tell the swabs when it’s time to eat, when to hit the head, when to shower, when and where to go, we tell them to drop to the deck to do rowers or planks, we control so much of their lives, and we’re only two years older than them. It’s easy to get lost in the moment, but stepping back, it’s truly awe inspiring how much sheer trust the command staff has in us to perform our duties.

It’s funny how much being a cadre changes a person; I’ve noticed it more in my shipmates than in myself. I don’t know what it was, but when we put on those red aiguillettes four days ago, we suddenly became a much bigger part of the system. Somehow we seem more invested in it. Part of it may be derived from being caught up in the moment, but certainly a portion of can be ascribed to a desire to instill in the next odd number class the same training we received and by sheer force of will make them an even better class than we ourselves are. It’s almost as if we have developed a bit of paternal pride for them: granted, most parents don’t show their love through physical remediation, yelling, and military trainings, but the overarching mixed feelings of pride, concern and nurturing are there, even if they’re muffled by the militaristic necessities of the Academy.

I realize now that I’m beginning to ramble; blame it on the sleep deprivation if you must. I think I’m going to end this entry here, before I go on too much farther and bore you to tears. I will just conclude that in just the past four days that I’ve had to work with the Charlie swabs, I think I’ve learned almost as much from them about my leadership abilities, as they’ve learned from me about squaring and sounding off. As always, please feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have.

Semper P.
2/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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On Becoming Cadre

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan One of the things you never really think of when you’re a swab, most likely because there isn’t a whole lot of time to ponder the big questions of the universe while you’re percolating, rushing to and fro, and spewing indoc, is how much work goes into prepping Swab Summer. When a swab steps off that bus, he or she is bombarded with cadre yelling as though they’ve been doing it their whole lives, only to sprint up and down passageways that shine and scurry into rooms where the decks are polished and their items are stowed. Swabs go through uniform issue and drill practices, they sign papers and get haircuts, they are literally swamped, and to their eyes it may appear as though the Academy has always been in this state of perpetual anticipation for their arrival. Though swabs consciously know better, it seems to them as though the cadre have always been cadre, that their rooms have always been stowed, and their gear has always been awaiting their arrival: this is not the case.

The first discrepancy I would like to address is this: cadre are not born cadre. Despite how intimidating they may be, how professional they seem, and how inscrutable they appear, they are just as new to the job of being cadre as you are to the job of being a swab. In reality, it is but a mere two years that span the divide between being a swab and wearing the aiguillette of a cadre. That being said, although we are new to the game, it does not mean that we aren’t preparing for it. This week at the Academy is designated as “prep” week for all cadre who are in any way involved in the training of swabs. It’s a week filled with the cleaning of Chase Hall, the retrieval and stowage of standard issue gear, attending trainings, and practicing for the big event. This week is all about ironing out those little wrinkles that could, if left unattended, endanger the smooth mechanical flow of R-Day and the weeks following it. A lot of effort goes into transforming each and every second class into competent cadre, because although it’s unfortunate, the skill sets and talents of being a cadre are not immediately infused into every second class when they don white shields. Training and practicing hone those skills, so that by the time R-Day rolls around, it does seem as though we have always been cadre.

By the time the swabs cross though the Archways on the morning of their Reporting-In day, hundreds of man-hours have already been spent in an effort to allow the day to run smoothly. Dozens of different people across the Academy grounds have to prepare for their arrival. While the soon-to-be cadre are responsible for the overall cleanliness of Chase Hall, the bookstore and the uniform shop prepare for the influx of over 290 persons and the Officers and Chiefs who deal with the logistics work through how to best fit 1,200 extra people onto a base that should comfortably hold less than half that number. All in all, it’s an exhaustive process that many people are involved in planning… and that’s just for the first day.

R-Day is fast approaching and as the day draws nearer the frenzy of activity increases throughout the Academy grounds. The cadre are busy prepping, for despite us being new to the job, we want to exude the confidence and professionalism of the members of the class of 2011 who trained us. We want to be those people that the members of 2015 look up to. We are planning, we are preparing, and we are studying our roles and acting out scenarios: all so that we can be ready for them. We have been entrusted with an important job, for not only are we training the underclassmen to be members of the Corps of Cadets, we’re training the men and women who will serve with us in future years, for although two years at the Academy is a huge span, in the fleet that amount of time is negligible. We’re training a class who will forever be associated with us. When people look at 2013 fifty years down the road, they will be able to say it was their class who trained the class of 2015; and when that day comes, I intend to ensure that those words are said in awe, rather than disdain.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions!
Semper P.
2/c Nolan

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Moving On Up

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan That time of the year is once again upon us; when firsties become Ensigns, fourth class move up from the bottom of the totem pole and a new batch of firsties take the helm. It’s an exciting time for everyone, but the class of 2013 in particular has something to look forward to: our cadre are graduating. It’s an odd feeling knowing that the people who trained you are now heading off into the “real” Coast Guard. In some sense it’s like knowing that the people who were always watching your back are no longer there. It’s a necessary development to be sure, they want to graduate just as much as we want to be cadre, yet it’s odd because it seems as if they’ve always been there.

It’s like any story of old, in order to take your place at the top, you must displace the ones who are currently there, and for us that’s the class of 2011. We can’t really come into our own as upperclassmen until such time as they are no longer in the picture. They knew us as swabs, so until they leave, we can’t really be in charge of our own class, our own swabs. Once they depart, it’s going to be like they’re taking the training wheels off of the Academy… we’ll become the senior odd number class.

It’s going to be a defining summer. The unique nature of the Academy’s summer training program: 2/c training the swabs means that for the rest of your time on this great earth, you will be associated with three classes: your own class, the class who trained you, and the class you train. That means this summer will be important forever, because we will be eternally known as the class that trained 2015. It’s something that we’re taking seriously, and something we’re looking forward to. It’s a chance to stretch our wings a bit, and learn what type of leaders we really are.

I’m looking forward to the summer, and to any incoming members of the class of 2015, I hope you’re looking forward to it as well. It’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be miserable, but I can guarantee you that it will be the best worst time of your life. As always if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu.

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After Receiving my Appointment

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan Spring Break is almost upon us! The excitement is palatable throughout the halls. Everyone is preparing to forge through as best they can through the last day of classes, and break into the glorious freedom that is a week off. People are heading out with their sports teams to Florida, on mission trips to Honduras and the Dominican Republic, and to the mountains to ski. As for myself, I’m heading to Ireland with a few shipmates of mine; it’s sure to be a blast, but that will be another journal.

It’s hard to grasp how much time has passed since I was where most of you are right now: spring semester of senior year. I had received my appointment a few days before Christmas, but withheld sending in my acceptance until the end of January. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure it was what I wanted to do, and I am still a firm believer that, if you decide to come here, you should be certain it’s what you really want. If you’re not, you will be miserable, and in all likelihood, you won’t last. In March of 2009, I was starting to get in shape for Swab Summer; I started jogging more, working out a bit, and just trying to be healthier. Looking back, my only regret is that I didn’t do more of it. Swab Summer still kicked my butt, despite my preparations, and I wish I had worked just a bit harder to have made it through better.

On the flip side of the coin, during senior year, I was doing my best to make sure my grades stayed up to my standards, that I was hanging out with my friends as much as I liked to, and that I was still volunteering. Just like any other college, if things start falling through, the Academy doesn’t have to take you, so making sure that I maintained my appointment after I accepted became a big part of my life. Of course the last really big thing I was dealing with was preparing for graduation. I cannot stress enough to you however, that as important as graduation is, don’t let the celebration ruin your future. There is a tendency for people to go out and drink after graduation, and unfortunately, there are instances where such stupid decisions have lead to people not getting to come to the Academy. If coming here is something you really want, you have to make that choice.

I think that’s about as much preaching as I’m going to do this time. I’ve just finished a massive load of homework, and I am one day and one wake up away from being on a flight to Ireland. I’ve got some packing, sleeping, and planning to get up to, now that the schoolwork is done. As always, if you have any questions, I ask that you please send them my way, and I’ll answer them as soon as I can!

Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Coming Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan Another leave period has passed, and once again I find myself thousands of feet above Middle America penning this latest entry. It’s always bittersweet heading back to the Academy, but today it seems as if the emphasis is more on the bitter than the sweet. My dad is returning from Iraq today, and I’m on a plane heading back to the Ensign factory. Bad timing on both of our parts has lead to our missing each other. In a further sense of irony, I’m flying into the Atlanta Airport for my connecting flight, the airport where my dad was a mere hour ago. Each time I look out the window, I fancy I see another airplane, his, passing by. At a certain point though, I have to accept that sometimes things don’t work out, and I should just be grateful that he’s safe.

I was spending one last night out on the town with my old high school friends last night, and on the way back, we were joking about how our sleep patterns were getting all thrown off by our vacation schedules. At home, I usually went to bed around 0400, and woke up around 1030 or so. It’s about the same amount of time I usually sleep at the Academy… just in a completely different time block. This brought us onto the subject of our normal sleeping patterns, and I made the comment that I usually don’t get to bed before midnight because I end up tutoring people who stop by my room for help. One of my friends looked at me and asked me “how much do you make for that?” I looked at her and asked her what she meant and she reiterated, “how much do they pay you to tutor them?”

I guess this points out the stark difference between the Academy and the rest of the college world; I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone have to pay for tutoring…it’s something that you just do for your shipmates. If you understand something, if you get it, you help someone else with it, because you know at some point down the line, somewhere, you’re going to need someone else’s help. The farther and farther I get from Swab Summer, the more I see the rationale for breaking down the original and depriving swabs of the first person… we really do have to be a cohesive unit to work at the Academy. There are few people, if any, who will turn you away from their door, even at eleven or twelve at night, if you need help. It’s just a totally different atmosphere that my friends portrayed of their colleges. And don’t even get me started on class sizes, when I told them my largest class was Chemistry, with 30 students… well, let’s just say that’s not how it is in most Gen. Ed classes.

I’m heading back to start MAP week. I’ll be quite honest, I’m not sure what it stands for, but I do know what it means for me, three days of meetings, book issues, trainings, the PFE and preparing to start school. We will be switching roommates and rooms this week too in the “free” time that we can find. All in all though, I can’t complain too much, I’d take MAP week over a regular school week any day.

According to the Internet that they have on this airplane, we’re over Mountain Home, Arkansas. I know we’re going to get ready to land soon, so I’m going to wrap this blog entry up in traditional style. I hope you all had a happy holiday season, and if you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an email at Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu.

Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan

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A Sea Story

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan In approximately one hour, I will be departing the Academy for Thanksgiving leave. After spending the last few days tying up all the loose ends around here, I am ready to leave this place in the dust… at least for a while. I’ve been sitting here for about 10 minutes trying to think about what I want to write about, and what I can convey to you, the reader, about the Academy. What can I say to convince you to come here? As with everything in the Coast Guard, I think the best way to answer that will be with a good “sea story.”

On May 23rd of 2010, I was awoken at 2320. I was pulling the mid-watch that night on helm and lookout on the Coast Guard Barque Eagle, and I had managed to catch a few z’s between dinner and the time I had to get up. I peered up through the thick curtains that kept the light out of my rack to see who was coming down to make sure that I was awake and I got a nasty surprise. It was one of my shipmates from the earlier watch… who was wearing his rain gear. Nothing can quite approach the misery that is standing four hours of watch in the pouring rain, it is a unique feeling of resigned dread that fills your stomach when you realize that’s the type of watch you are in store for.

I dejectedly crawled out of bed and awoke my other division mates and proceeded up to the waist. A smile broke across my face when I opened the hatch… it wasn’t raining any longer. Decidedly happier, I headed up to the bridge, saluted the OOD, took my pass-down, and in short order assumed the helm. I had just gotten fully qualified the day before and it was to be my first time being in control. We split up our division as usual, four heading to the bow to stand look out, and three of us taking over the helm. I was, at the time, the only fully qualified helm-stander, so I had to remain at the helm for the entire time.

No less than five minutes after I took over, a gale blew in. My two shipmates and I struggled to hold the ship on course, throwing all our weight into holding the massive wheel in place. The rain poured down in thick sheets making it almost impossible to see the rudder-angle indicator on top of the pilothouse and the OOD had to yell instructions just to be heard. The rain was so heavy that I could barely see the mainmast, let alone the bow where the rest of my division stood. I remember checking my watch once to see how much longer I had to endure. It only read 0105 on 24 MAY 10.

Looking at that date gave me a start. One year prior I had donned a blue cap and gown and walked across the stage that had been set up in the center of my high school football field. Where were my friends who had walked across that stage with me? How many were lying in their beds; how many were working the graveyard shift for the third night in a row in order to pay off their college loans; how many were still living at home, blissfully unaware of life outside our small town? Despite the winds, despite the chilling rain, despite the bone deep weariness that settled in, I was happy for the rest of my watch. How many other people could say they were driving a three masted tall-ship in the middle of a storm one short year after graduation? How many people had gone through as much as I had in the single year since I received my diploma? The rest of the watch passed by quickly as I realized how unique of an experience I was living.

It would not be a proper sea-story if the rain hadn’t abated five minutes before I was relieved of the watch and if I didn’t say that it was the worst storm I had ever seen. So in true fashion, it did, and it was. I will say this, however: the experiences you gain here – the good and the bad – are ones that you cannot get anywhere else. As always please feel free to email me if you have any questions about the Academy or about anything in general.

As always:
Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Things Change

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I woke up in a panic this morning. Ten minutes to go was being sounded off right outside my room while my alarm clock screeched in my ear. I leapt out of bed thinking I was late ― for I’ve found that old habits die hard ― and rushed to put my O.D.U. trou on while simultaneously trying to yank on my socks and put my shields on the blouse that I had so carefully prepared the previous night. In the dark of the pre-dawn morning, I had a flashback and thought, for a moment, that my shields were green. It was but a momentary panic, one that quickly dissipated, but I think it clearly illustrates a major difference between fourth and third class years.

Last year, had I woken up to the sound of clocks going off, I would have panicked even worse than I had this morning, because I would legitimately have been late. Now however, I have a little bit more time to sleep in the morning, and after the days I’ve been through as of late, that is a very necessary thing. I think the most striking difference between fourth and third class year, is the emphasis on academics. During fourth class year, the emphasis is on all things military: shining your shoes every day, preparing your uniform, memorizing indoc, squaring corners, addressing upper class, doing clocks, taking out the trash, and cleaning. Third class year, however, the emphasis is on classes. Ask any member of the class of 2013 and they will tell you, without a doubt, that academics are the major focus. This is not to say that academics are unimportant during fourth class year, but they step it up a notch, so to speak, once you put on red shields.

It is already November and this is only the first journal entry that I’ve written since the summer. Last year, I used to regularly write journal entries in my spare time last year… and plan to do so this year, but the problem is that “spare time” has become almost non-existent. I have started working in my major classes, and I can honestly say that being a Marine Environmental Science major was definitely the right move for me. I love my Meteorology and Marine Biology classes, and I can’t wait to go more in-depth with them as time moves on. This year we have also moved into more advanced mathematics, and I’m currently taking Differential Equations, as well as Physics, Professional Rescuer, Ships and Maritime Systems as well as labs for my major classes. All and all, it’s a pretty hefty schedule along with sailing, military trainings, and trying to help out my own fourth class get through their first semester.

I’ll apologize right now if this journal seems a bit disjointed. It has been a very busy week, but I wanted to make sure I at least got one journal entry in before Thanksgiving leave. I’m afraid I must end this post now, because the backlog of things I have left to do is continually piling up and I must try to cut it down to size. However, I encourage you to email me if you have any questions! As always,
Semper P.
3/c Stephen T. Nolan

Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Promotions and Reflections

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan Although I fear that this journal entry will be one of many expressing the same event, emotions, and uplifting spirits I nevertheless feel compelled to share with you the almost unimaginable joy that I felt today. It is with great pride that I am able to tell you that at 1245 on the eighteenth day of May, I became a third class cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy. Words do not exist that can competently express how monumental a moment this is for all of us who have undergone this metamorphosis.

After the ceremony a few of my friends and I were talking, and we came to the unanimous decision that we had never worked harder for anything in our lives. And to be quite honest, that’s what makes it such a worthwhile achievement. Having placed so much time and energy into all the menial tasks that make up the life of a fourth class, having dedicated our lives for nearly a year to taking out trash, mopping decks, standing reg-rio, yelling at clocks morning and afternoon, bussing, squaring and always cleaning; it feels good to know all that is behind us, and perhaps most importantly, that soon we will no longer be at the bottom of the totem pole.

The ceremony was simple, yet somehow fitting. Our cadre received their blue shields from the young officers and senior enlisted members of the USCG Barque Eagle, and our division officers in turn frocked us temporarily leaving us with a single red shield and a single green shield. The irony of this didn’t escape me: We started out that first day of Swab Summer ten months ago with a little blue book and I ended my fourth class year with a few moments of having running light shields. We all got a kick out of it and many photos will soon be floating around Facebook, of happy cadets receiving their first promotion. We then had a choice of who we would ask to pin our second shield on us, many chose friends who had helped them survive the year, some chose crew members who they had become close to, and some chose a second upperclassmen. I was one of the latter, and asked my former Guidon to officially promote me to a third class cadet. It seemed only right that the 2/c who had exerted so much control over my life for the first half of my 4/c year to personally hand me over the reigns to my own existence once again.

So here I sit, about fifty miles from Colombia, green shields in my pocket, and red shields shining brightly from my uniform, and I honestly can’t think of a time I’ve been happier with my life. I know now that every decision that I have made thus far has lead me to this moment of time; the moment when I finally realized that I made the right choice in coming to the Academy. I can say now with 100% certainty that I was meant to be here, and that this is my home, and my life. I urge you now, as ever, to seriously consider coming to the Academy, to experience the joys and achievements, as well as the struggles and the pain that make them worthwhile.

As always:
Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Oh, the People You’ll Meet!

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I imagine that if time seems to be slipping through my fingers right now, that for some of you reading this, time is literally falling through it in a never-ending deluge. I remember one year ago I felt as though I was stuck in fast-forward, my life rushing full ahead towards that day-of-Days, R-Day. For those of you who read that sentence, and thought of your own impending R-Day and felt your heart leap into your throat, know that you are not alone. Hundreds of your future shipmates have felt just the same thing. I want to take the time right now, to think back on people who have had an influence on me this past year; people that you can look forward to meeting in a few short months. Regarding the cadre: you will find out soon enough that there are two types of leaders in this world –good leaders and bad leaders. Swab Summer is about training the individual to be part of a unit, training you to be more like them, thus preparing you to assume your duties as a future officer in the United States Coast Guard. Unfortunately, the Cadre themselves are learning how to lead too, how to be officers in that same Coast Guard. It’s something to remember that these people have only a scant two years more than you under their belts, for some of you, they might even be younger than you are! They too are coming into their own, and learning the ropes, and as such, you will see both types of leaders. Learn from them. I speak from experience when I say that I had cadre who I looked up to, and I had those who I had little respect for. Regardless of which one happens to be yelling at you at that moment, learn from them. Find out which techniques they used that motivated you, and use them on your swabs when the time comes. Find out which techniques made you mentally roll your eyes and store that information away in the recesses of your mind. Remember all that when you’re yelling at some member of the class of 2016.

Chiefs: I would not have survived this past summer without my chief. I once had a conversation with Adiral. Allen, and he gave me one of those “kernels of wisdom” which you’ll pick up over the years: Chiefs are the secret to success as a young officer. Never feel afraid to go and talk to your chief, to go ask for advice, to vent, to run an idea by them. During the summer use your SOS (Swab only Sessions) to your advantage, let your chiefs know exactly what you think is going right and going wrong, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you see a change. After the summer, your chief is a person who you can talk to if you ever need help. They’re a wealth of advice, and they’re always good for a salty sea story.

Regarding your shipmates: you’re going to learn a lot from your shipmates, and you’re going to come to depend on them as well, and you’ll learn a lot from both types; the ones that are gone by the end of the summer, and those that are still there with you when you start the year. Almost inevitably some people will be gone by the end of the summer, whether the cause was ‘D.O.R.-ing’ (dropping on request), or from medical reasons. One of my good friends over the summer was a swab by the name of Helena Pound, she ended up being dis-enrolled for medical reasons, but while she was still here, injured nonetheless, the cadre used her as an example of what we should strive to be like. Despite the pain she was going through, she still managed to be, in the words of one of my cadre, a "stellar swab." People like that are motivating, and they lift up your spirits. You’re also going to really be dependent on your shipmates who stay with you through the summer. There is no such thing as flying under the radar, so go ahead and toss that idea right out the window. There is also no such thing as a perfect swab, you are each going to have your failures, and you’ll have to depend on the rest of the group to overcome your failures: it’s a humbling experience. As cheesy as it sounds, by the end of the summer, you’re going to become a family, and you’ll know each and every one of your shipmates better than some of your friends back home who you’ve known for years.

I’m getting ready to leave for the summer, so this will probably be one of the last times I get to give my advice to you before R-Day. Appreciate your remaining time as a civilian, but take my words to heart. Look forward to the friends you’ll make here, to the people you’ll meet, and the opportunities you’ll have. Recognize that some of you who report in won’t be there at the shoulder board ceremony in August. Come to grips with the fact that you won’t be able to survive the summer alone. If Swab Summer were an individual experience there would be very few people at the Academy right now. Well I’m signing off for now, and though I hope I’ll be able to get a few more posts in before you report in, I would like to wish you the best of luck right now. Here’s to your summer, may it be as positive an experience (overall) as mine was. I hope to see each of you as 4/c in August, and maybe even as my fourth class to those of you who will be in the Class of 2015...

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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The Ten Scariest Things in the World

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan What’s the scariest thing you can think of? If you had asked me this twelve years ago, I would have told you without a moment’s hesitation that it was the monster that hid inside my closet, waiting for me to fall asleep to invade my dreams. Five years ago, at the ripe old age of thirteen, I would scoff at the premise of a monster in my closet and instead inform you that the real thing to fear was being unaccepted, being labeled an outcast by your peers. Nine months ago had you posed this question to me my answer would have been, in a heartbeat, being picked out and noticed by some cadre and being singled out for some special remediation. I’m here to tell you now though, that the scariest thing in the world isn’t some monster, isn’t becoming a social pariah, and most certainly isn’t having a cadre screaming in your face. The most frightening thing in the world is a green tablecloth and four gold bars.

Less than ten minutes ago, I was sitting in a conference room watching one of my classmates being masted. He was brought before the Commandant of Cadets, a Captain with shoulder boards of four golden bars, and was positioned across a green tablecloth from him. His charges were brought before him, and every aspect of his cadet career, every minute detail, positive or negative, was brought forth and splayed out upon the table. I cannot begin to imagine how he felt, standing there waiting for a punishment to be handed down, knowing that his future, his dreams, his goals, his aspirations, all lay waiting to be cut down by a single sentence from the Captain. I had stationed myself in the farthest corner behind a row of people, attempting to distance myself as much as possible from the proceedings, and I still felt as though the Captain was boring into me with his eyes and his words. My shipmate made a very heartfelt apology in his closing statement and in it he recognized the fact that he had made a mistake, and that he had lost the motivation to continue on the course he had set for himself.

So why am I relating this to you? I’ll be quite honest, part of it is out of a purely selfish desire to vent my feelings onto paper, a need to take what I have witnessed and to save my raw feelings and emotions for perusal at a later date, but in a sense I’m also giving you this episode in order to reiterate something I’ve said before: you make sacrifices to come here. Now I’m not going to go into specifics on what my shipmate did, but to put it simply, he sacrificed his honor and his career for a few hours of fun and freedom. When we first put on these uniforms, we sacrificed having a normal life; we are bound by rules and regulations, which no college student on a non-military campus would have to endure. It’s a knowing commitment to a higher ideal that we make, and we have to abide by it.

Why is that green tablecloth the scariest thing in the world to me? It’s not necessarily just because of the fear of being kicked out, its because I fear having to experience that shame and having to bear that burden of knowing that I cheated myself, just as I could tell my shipmate was feeling today. It’s an age-old adage that to get a donkey to pull a cart you need both a carrot and a stick. I can see the carrot lying four years down the road in a single gold bar and a commission, but I think its good that there's such a powerful stick looming over my head, much closer and much stronger a presence than the carrot. I helps to make sure we stay on the right track.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

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Through Another Lens

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan There is a poetry about this place, hidden just beneath its disciplined surface. Its rhythm is that of marching feet and clicking heels. Reveille is her opening line and the late hours after taps, her closing stanza. Her meter is the sounding off days to go, and her spirit is kept alive through sacred tradition. Her tone is kept by the fourth class; changing on a minute-by-minute basis. Poetry is everywhere, from the precise Villanova of drill, to the prose of rocking boats in the waves. From precision to free verse and everything in-between, it all co-exists in this place we, sometimes grudgingly, call home.

I remember quite well the first time I slipped and referred to Chase Hall as home; I was walking back from sailing practice when the words just slipped off my tongue. It was an odd feeling, one that I admittedly fought at first, but which I eventually came to accept. I know that I have stated, repeatedly how much this place can stink, how it can rub a person the wrong way, and how it can slowly drain your energy, how it can make you forget why you came here… but there is a certain beauty about this place, and it is hidden everywhere you look.

I’ve seen some breathtaking sights: the Great Wall of China on a misty summer morning, the desert of New Mexico covered by the first snow of winter, the Chrysler Building on a snowy winter’s eve, St. Peter’s Basilica filled with thousands of devout Catholics, and sunrise atop a mountaintop in Maine. Yet somehow they seem to pale in comparison to the sights I’ve seen here. The Great Wall somehow can’t compare with sight of colors racing up the flagpole, the first snowfall in the desert can’t compare with seeing cadets frolicking on the first snow day of the year, St. Peter’s Basilica somehow fails to inspire as much as a congregation of groggy cadets awaking from their one day of sleep in order to give praise, and the sunrise o’er the mountains is nothing next to seeing it peek over the Thames river on a clear crisp winter morning. I know there is seemingly no logic to this, but I still feel that it’s true. I don’t think I’ve ever been as in love with a place as I am with this Academy.

I can’t quite pinpoint what it is that I love about the Academy; it is simultaneously everything about this place and nothing about it. There are times when I am sure that my affection for these grounds derives from nothing but the deep respect I have for the Coast Guard and all it stands for, and there are other times when I feel as though the only source of my fondness is a deprivation of sorts: even a child’s stick figure drawing begins to look like a Picasso after staring at a blank wall for a long enough time. It’s hard to put into words, though I try my best, the feelings that are generated here.

There is most certainly a poetry about this place, but it is often ignored by those who produce it. The Corps of Cadets is the soul of the Academy, yet they sometimes fail to see the beauty that exists all over the place. It’s an acquired trait, and one that you have to force yourself to want to acquire, because it is one worth having. I feel that if I couldn’t see the good behind it all, I would never be able to do what I have to do every day.

Semper Paratus
4/c Stephen Nolan

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This Little Island of Respite

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I have just waded through a veritable sea of homework, and once or twice I nearly sank beneath its vicious waves, though now I stand on that foreign shore of the land they call “Done.” Sailing through such dangerous seas is quite a momentous task, as any seafarer can attest. Standing on the other side though, and looking out to the horizon, I realize that these “seas” that I just came through are little more than microscopic puddles compared to that big sea that surrounds this little island of satisfaction and restfulness that I stand upon now. It is the sea of fourth-class year. Dimly along the horizon, I can just make out the red-stained shores of third class year. I have been told though, by people who have already passed over this ocean that lies between me and that oh-so-distant shore that it too is just a single island (albeit significantly larger than the one upon which I now stand), and that beyond there lies greater oceans and greater islands. Beaches stained white and blue and eventually silver and gold. I have been told that the waters through which I am traversing now, though harrowing, are nothing compared to those that lie beyond.

Rather than think about those journeys that lie before me, I believe I shall make use of this time I have here on this island of respite. I sense the tides will soon shift and an onslaught of duties and homework and endless menial tasks will cover these sandy shores, so I must enjoy it while it lasts. One can never tell exactly when or where these islands of peace will pop up, and it’s necessary to take advantage of them for however long they last. I think its time to kick back and take a short nap, or perhaps to make a phone call to a loved one, maybe I should invest the time in reading a shore little novel, or maybe even jot down a few ideas for some poetry that I’ve had. On the other hand… I can use this little island exactly the way it was meant to be used… for doing nothing at all.

You see, when your life becomes composed of nothing but sailing through the treacherous seas that fill your life in the Coast Guard, you learn to appreciate every single moment you get where you can do absolutely nothing at all. Yet even as I sit here, I can see a squall gathering strength on the horizon. Its time to set sail again, because I can feel the water slowly start to swirl around my feet as this island of “Done” sinks back beneath the tumultuous waves of homework and military obligations from whence it came. It may be just my imagination… but those red stained shores of third class year, look just a tad bit closer than they did yesterday.

As always,
Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

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Welcome Back: Academy Style

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I’m back. I must admit that when I first drove back through those gates in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. You see, as much as I love this place…. It still stinks to be here. I’ve always said that every person who goes to this Academy has to be a bit of a masochist and a bit of a sadist: a masochist because they chose to come to this life of hardship, of late nights, of early mornings, of hard work, and of seemingly impossible tasks and a sadist because two years into it, you’re going to be inflicting the pains that you just felt during swab summer, on someone else. Right now I’m definitely playing the part of a masochist. I hate that morning alarm clock more than anything else I can conceive.

It is so awful to be here some days, so why do I stay? I know you must be asking this because I’ve asked myself the same thing many times. Why do I stay? Is it for the glory or some self-serving pride? Trust me if it were only for that, I would have left here about an hour after stepping into Chase Hall. Is it people’s expectations of me? To be honest, that does somewhat affect me. That’s what kept me going through most of Swab Summer. Every time I thought about quitting what kept me from doing it was the thought of having to go back and face the people who wished me all the luck in the world as I left, and told me I would do a wonderful job. Without that subtle coercion at the beginning, I wouldn’t be here right now. At this point in time however, I no longer feel that those pressures are a driving force.

So what’s left? Why do I stay in this place that some days feels like my own personal Hades? The answer is really quite simple. I stay for two reasons: my shipmates and the days that don’t stink . My shipmates are the most important thing here. My friends are literally my life. Everything I do, I do for them. You realize that it’s a different type of friendship you develop here than ones you’re used to. Not to say that my old friends aren’t wonderful: they are, in every sense of the word, but as my father once put it: “nothing bonds people together like a common misery.” After enduring the “common misery” of Swab Summer and the academic swab year , there is a connection here that no one who hasn’t been in the military can fathom. My shipmates and I are held together by the common bond of having survived a hellish summer, and by the bond of striving to survive a hellish freshman year.

The days here are harder than any I’ve ever experienced before. They’re tougher, they’re longer, and sometimes they’re nigh impossible. Trying to cram twenty-six hours worth of activities into a twenty-four hour period isn’t always easy. Yet, despite how horrific it sounds, there are days where this place is amazing. The hard workload makes you appreciate the rare days when you have nothing to do during study hour. Nothing is more therapeutic than the wind in your face as you race around the Thames on a Colgate, and nothing more liberating than going out on liberty for an hour or two. These little things, so underappreciated in the so-called “real world” are the reasons why we stay. As sad as it may sound… these tiny things, heightened in their importance by the onslaught of other, more oppressive tasks, are the reason that some days seem almost… heavenly.

My friends, my shipmates, and those very rare, once in a semester days where all seems right with the world: That’s the true reason I stay here. Another semester is about to begin; and once again I will attempt to immerse myself in a culture that is slightly less foreign than it was a scant six months ago. I will continue on this 200 week journey that is the Academy, and pray that this semester flies by as quickly as the last one.

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I Sit Now on an Airplane

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I sit now on an airplane, some 38,000 feet above the ground far below. I’m on my way home for winter leave. As I gaze out over the horizon, I see the patchwork of farms and homesteads that comprise the Midwest. It’s a far cry from that which the Coast Guard normally associates itself with: the absence of “p-ways” and “bulkheads” of “decks” and “heads” reminds me that I’m no longer at the Academy. I must admit that it’s a most delightful experience. I’ve been away from the Academy no more than five hours at most, and yet I’ve already been thanked five or six times. I can’t express to you the feelings that are conveyed to me in those words of thanks. Here I am, a mere freshman, a fourth-class, a peon, a nobody…and yet I’m being thanked for serving my country. It got me thinking back to something one of our second-class told the company right before the last leave…

“You’ll be going home here soon, some of you for the first time since R-day. When you’re traveling in your uniform, you’re going to get noticed, and you’re going to be thanked. I remember when I was a fourth-class I would accept the thanks but always feel really awkward about doing so. I mean, what did I do to deserve it? I wasn’t out there risking my life. All I had to do was brace up, square around, memorize a few page of indoc and march to class. And really, what’s that to them? In fact, I used to think that since they were the taxpayers, I really ought to be thanking them for the free ride. Then it occurred to me. They were thanking me for things I had yet to do. Few, if any of them, realized that I was only a student. They were thanking me for saving their lives, for putting their good ahead of my own, for going out in the cold and wind and rain, to save them and their sons and daughters. They were thanking me for doing a job that I won’t be qualified to do for another four years. They were thanking me in advance. I use their professions of thanks to keep me going. I have yet to earn the respect they were giving me, that they will be giving you. Always strive, in all you do, to earn that respect, to earn those rewarding smiles. If you keep them always in your mind, you won’t be able to do anything wrong. Think about that over break. Think about them…”

I agree with what he said. We’re being thanked for things we’ve yet to do, things that these people imagine that we’ve done because we’re “in the Coast Guard.” This discourse however brings to mind something an Auxillarist once told me. “Never let anyone tell you that you get a free education at this place. You pay for it. Far more than most people.” He had a point. We do pay for this education, through sweat and blood and tears. We pay for it in what we give up: that ‘traditional’ college experience, our summers from home, some basic freedoms. We do pay for it, even if it’s not monetarily. In the end, though, you have to ask yourself the question is it worth it? Is it worth the pain and suffering, is it worth the effort you’ll have to put into it to survive? The answer for me is yes, but that’s not the answer for everyone, and time will tell. I don’t know how, but somehow, this place has a way of rooting out the people who don’t really want to be here.

So what really was the point of this journal? Was it meant to discourage you from applying and joining? No. The fact is, plain and simple, that I love this place. Just like that annoying little sibling, you may hate them at times, but in the end you’ll always love them. I just want to paint a clearer picture of what the Academy truly is.

So what really was the point of this journal? Was it meant to discourage you from applying and joining? No. The fact is, plain and simple, that I love this place. Just like that annoying little sibling, you may hate them at times, but in the end you’ll always love them. I just want to paint a clearer picture of what the Academy truly is.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Exams, Leave and Life in Chase Hall

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan If at the end of R-Day you would’ve told me that I would make it here, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. I entertained doubts that I was going to DOR (Drop on Request) quite often during those hazy summer days. Now that I look back however, I’m glad I didn’t. I can honestly say there is no other place I would rather be right now than here in Chase Hall. Time has surely flown. There is a saying here at the Academy “long days, short weeks,” and it truly is an apt description. The days here sometimes seem to be 25 or 26 hours long; yet somehow I always find myself at a weekend before I know it. That in itself is a blessing.

Finals are coming up. They are on everybody’s minds. I’m a lucky fourth class, I only have three finals that I have to take: Calculus 2 (Whatever possessed me to validate Calculus 1, I’ll never know) Chemistry and Nautical Science. I feel that I’m prepared for Naut Sci, but I’m still a bit worried about Chemistry and I know that I need to study more for the Calculus exam. I’ll find time though, I always do. It’s hiding in some little corner of my day, some forgotten miniscule moment hiding out in my schedule. That’s the key here at the Academy I’ve found; ferret out those little minutes and get as much done during them as possible. That’s the only way you get to sleep at a decent hour. It’s the only way to keep a good GPA.

The only other thing that people can seem to talk about other than finals is leave. Ten days from now I’ll be on an airplane home, soaring toward my beloved Kansas, toward family and friends. The rooms are bedecked in tinsel and lights, and nearly every room has a Christmas tree of some size in it. The Christmas spirit is gripping Chase Hall. I’ve always loved this time of year, but this year it seems extra special. It has something about sharing this holiday season with my shipmates: people whom I care about more than anything in the world. Yes, Chase Hall at Christmas time is so different than it was on that first day oh so many weeks ago; so different than it seemed on R-Day. It has finally become… my home. It’s my home in the sense that I feel comfortable here, that my friends are here, that I can’t imagine waking up anywhere else. I’m reminded of what a LT once told the corps at a lecture: “Enjoy your time at Chase Hall. Never again will you live just down the hall from so many close friends.” How right he was…. How right he was.

Semper Paratus
4/c Stephen Nolan

Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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On Women's Rugby and Joining the Military

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward This year has truly been good to the underdogs, at least in my favorite sport. Not only did the New Zealand national team win the World Cup for the first time since 1987, but CGA Women’s Rugby went further than ever before in the playoffs. Since our first game way back in September, we played our hearts out, developing from a mostly green team (10 of our starting 15 had graduated) to a team that played the number one team in DII and came away being told we were the best team they had played yet. It is especially amazing because not two years ago, we were playing in DIII without any expectations of moving up. However, due to the hard work and determination of our ladies, we were moved up to DII the next year, which was highly advised against, and surprised everyone when we made it to the first playoff game. This year we went even further, and were one game from continuing to the Championships in the spring. Next year, I have no doubt that we will make it to spring.

Now, on to a more serious note.

A few weeks ago, my younger brother announced his intention of applying to both the Coast Guard Academy and the Naval Academy to pursue a degree in marine engineering or marine science. I could not be more proud. However, when I was speaking with my parents, they had yet another story about a friend or coworker asking, “What on earth you did to your kids to make them want to go into the military?” The simple answer is nothing. The more in-depth answer is that my parents did a fantastic job of raising us. They taught us the value of protecting your country, of standing up for what you believe in. There was no pre-grooming us for a military career. In fact, when I made my decision, they made every effort to make sure it was what I really wanted.

When I am questioned, my usual response is to request the asker mind their own business. I like where I am and who I have become. Recently, especially this month, I wonder why people ask those questions. So close to Veteran’s Day, I can’t fathom why people would question those who choose to serve. If not for those before me in the Long Blue Line and the rest of the Armed Forces, there would be no America, at least not as we know it. There is a reason we have a day commemorating their service, and I hope that this year, those who question my family will appreciate the sacrifice of those who have served, are serving, or will serve.

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Curtailing Stress

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward February has proven to be a month of ups and downs for me. On one hand, I have begun English riding lessons off campus every week (a miracle I can even stay in the saddle; there’s no horn to hold me in!), which allows for some time to unwind and just be Alexa. Yet the other hand holds the extra stress from approaching midterms and making up snow days (four this year, a new record!).

Classes have been hectic, but we’re slowly recovering. What I really want to focus on in this blog is how I relax around here with all of the stressors surrounding me everyday.

First of all, sports. I don’t know how many of you have actually seen Legally Blonde, but there’s one part of the movie that just sticks out when I think of sports. “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” And that’s why I need those mandatory two sports credits – without them, I go absolutely bonkers from stress. There are times when I begin to get fussy, and my friends force me outside to go running. When I get back an hour or two later, everything is magically better.

Second, getting off campus. Often when people come to the Academy, they get stuck under the impression that liberty means you have to go into the New London area (since that’s where the liberty buses run) and spend money. Personally, I find that more stressful because I have to worry about my finances on top of thinking about the work I’m not doing. My approach is simple. Take the weekend and go somewhere – maybe walk around the Conn College Arboretum, or run across the bridge (endorphins!). Either way, it’s nice to see what else is available besides shopping.

Thirdly, find some activity during the week. This is one of the most important for me, not only because the stress builds up over the course of a week, but it also gives me something to look forward to. This is where the Equestrian Club comes in for me. Once a week, I get to go off campus and ride horses. I know that I’m doing something productive, so I don’t stress out about what else I could be doing, and it’s a simple way for me to relax. I know other people who set aside one night a week where they get their homework done in advance, then watch a movie or read a book. Others go for several mile runs. The most important thing is that it’s an activity you enjoy, something to look forward to. But (the downside) you can’t do this too often or it becomes yet another routine.

As always, feel free to contact me at Alexa.C.Ward@uscga.edu.

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Finals

(Academics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward In the month of December, I automatically think of Christmas, snow (ideally), and shopping for presents. Not so much here. At the Academy, December is when we wrap up the fall semester, in the two and a half weeks after Thanksgiving break when we try to squeeze in that last bit of information before finals.

Unfortunately, for most of us, that means we have innumerable projects, papers, presentations, and tests crammed into just eight days. Classes fall into one of two categories: those that assign last-minute projects, papers, presentations, and tests, and those that have nothing left to teach. The vast majority of my classes this year fall into the former, but I can literally feel the anticipation building, and not just in the barracks.

While many of the cadets are breaking out festive decorations, the teachers too are prone to showing us their holiday spirit as well. In some of my classes, this consists of the instructor donning some ridiculous themed sweater, while others pass out sweets to keep us paying attention. It seems like everyone just wants to clear the Academy and head safely home to recuperate for a couple of weeks.

Alas, the break only comes after finals, when everyone takes a three hour test for every class that requires a final. Some are lucky and can validate based on the class performance, or some teachers decide that they would rather have an in-class final rather than waiting a few extra days to grade. Regardless, I can’t wait to finish my finals and get on home to family and warmer weather!

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The Academy Difference

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward Finally, Thanksgiving is here! It’s time to head back to the ones I’m thankful for and leave the place I’m thankful to be at. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when I go home and get to see the other type of college experience.

Here at the Academy, we have innumerable trainings on our core values: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. November is when we generally put these values to use for the first time. When we go home, it’s difficult to look at our friends and say, “Yeah, I only get to leave campus three days a week. I don’t get to pick my own clothes, and I have to go to all my classes everyday.” Surrounded by a thousand people who live the exact same way that we do, it’s hard to imagine people who can skip their classes without getting demerits, or who drink underage without the possibility of an honor offense. But when we go home, many of us for the first time at Thanksgiving, these are the people we compare ourselves to.

Last year, my biggest challenge was identifying with my friends, people I’d known since elementary school. We all tried to explain our various college experiences, but anyone who wasn’t attending a military academy did not seem to understand any of what I had done throughout the year. Everything they told me about their colleges seemed so trivial and unimportant compared to what I did at the Academy. If they had utterly filthy rooms, it was a small slap on the wrist or nothing at all. If I had a few items left out in the open, it was eight demerits that would bring down my military score.

Probably the most difficult thing to do, though, is making that decision to get back on the plane. It’s so difficult to leave behind not only my family, but also my comfortable couch (the bed got moved out) and the delicious food available at all hours. But I always make it back.

Everyone has their own reasons for choosing the Academy, so when you come here, you have to hold on to whatever motivates you to return. And when you leave behind a warm and loving home, it isn’t always as easy as it seems.

As always, you can ask me questions at Alexa.C.Ward@uscga.edu.

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Second Class Year

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward It seems strange to begin here, partway through my second year at the Academy, but here I am. Now, more than halfway through the first semester, I’m finally getting used to my role as a third class. No more do I feel the aversion to being addressed as “Miss Ward, ma’am,” and I have found myself accustomed to the fourth class emptying my trash and recyclables daily. It seems like my days of squaring and greeting are so far away, even though I know they were only a few short months ago. My sister can attest that I have forgotten how annoying it was to walk up a staircase with someone who could walk up the center, or how difficult it was to avoid upper-class as they weave through the hallways. Regardless, she keeps me mindful that not even a year ago, I was in her position.

These past few months have been hectic. The women’s rugby team moved up to Division II this year, and we made it to playoffs! After a spectacular season with three wins, one tie, and one loss, we exceeded everyone’s expectations by coming in second in our district. Unfortunately, we lost our first playoff game against Boston University and now the season is over. Better luck for next year, I guess. Our B-side players (almost all of them new to rugby) were spectacular with a 6-0 record, and I can’t wait to play with them again next year.

As far as academics go, I’m relieved to finally be out of the standard freshman classes and in subjects that truly interest me. My favorite class right now is probably Mechanics of Materials because it tells me why structures are built with certain materials in a specific way. In the past I was always the child who asked “why?” and now I’m finally getting my questions answered.

Speaking of which, if you have any questions for me, feel free to send me an email at Alexa.C.Ward@uscga.edu.

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Ski Trip!!!

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward The people at the Academy make this place what it is. The good times with them often extend outside of the Academy during liberty and leave. This past winter break, me and four others from the Academy went on a ski trip to Colorado. We spent a week at a friend’s house, and went skiing, hiking, sledding, exploring, (to name a few activities), and played lots and lots of card games. If any of you went skiing this past Christmas in Colorado, the snow in the Breck/Keystone area was less than ideal, especially considering how much better I had said it would be compared East Coast skiing. Instead, we faced up to 50 mph winds one day and were literally stopped in our tracks as we skied. It was so powerful, it even blew one of us over. There was an unusual amount of ice and we joked that it was almost like ice-skating on one slope. Regardless of the conditions, at the end of the week we all agreed it had been totally worth it.

There is nothing like the celebrating New Years in the mountains surrounded with friends. Or going hot-tubbing in the freezing cold, or jumping from trees into mounds of snow or laughing as your body acts like a sail on a mountain. We made it a great time and I still laugh as I think of all the fun we had. It is this attitude of making the most of every situation despite how mundane, unfair, or hard the situation is because at least you are going through it with friends; that makes this place worth it.

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Tough Mudder

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward People often ask what cadets do during their free time and weekends. Although sometimes all that we want to do is go to a sponsor family’s home and sleep, this past weekend the crew team did something incredibly fun. Since Friday was Veteran’s Day we didn’t have school, we had a three day weekend. The women’s crew team went to New Jersey and stayed at different people’s houses until Sunday when we competed in the Tough Mudder. For those of you who don’t know what the Tough Mudder is, I recommend you look it up. Basically, it is 12 miles through mud and obstacles and a great way to hang out with friends, stay in shape, and have a good time. Tough Mudder is also a supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project so it was neat to see members of the military there to support each other and their friends. I’m still sore and bruised from all the crawling and climbing, but it was totally worth the experience to hang out with some of my closest friends and crawl through mud, run through fire and swim in icy water. So next time people ask me what cadets find to do on their weekends, I will have another great story to tell.

As always, feel free to email me, I love hearing from you all!

Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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A Three Day Weekend

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward This past weekend was a great break from the Academy. Three day weekends are generally like that. Saturday was Head of the Housatonic for crew. The 1V and the V4 both took first place, which was really exciting and rewarding. We’re going to be really good this year and I’m looking forward to Head of the Charles in two weeks. (For those of you who don’t know Head of the Charles is the biggest crew regatta in the world and it is held in Boston each year.) It’s a ton of fun to see rowers from all over and of all ages. Crew is generally a tall person’s sport so events like this make the 6’1” me feel at home.

The rest of the weekend I spent at the Teuton’s home. They are the leaders of Officer Christian Fellowship at the Academy and held a retreat at their home for those of us who couldn’t go to the main one in White Silver Springs due to sports/duty conflicts. I was hoping to sleep outside in a hammock again, but I always remembered when I was too tired to set it all up. It was a lot of fun to chill at their home though. Each time I tried to get work done it seems I ended up falling asleep, but I still managed to be somewhat productive and watch a few movies. Normally after breaks like this the idea of school isn’t all that exciting, but Parent’s Weekend is coming Friday so another break will quickly be here.

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Time Flies

(Academics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Everyone says that the longer you are at the Academy the faster time flies. It’s so true. I can’t believe that I’m already a quarter of the way done with my junior year of college. Mechanical Engineering is really hard and involves quite a few long nights, but in the end I think it makes time go faster because I am always so busy. Each year my credit load has dropped a little making it somewhat more manageable as the classes get harder, but even my engineering friends at civilian schools talk about the work load.

Fortunately, I still make time to go out with friends. Last weekend we went camping and slept outside in hammocks and sleeping bags, which was surprisingly comfortable. I also was just involved with a coastal beach cleanup service project as many cadets went to a local beach to collect garbage and recycling. This weekend I’m planning on doing a walk for Ovarian Cancer Awareness with a bunch of friends, which is something I am looking forward to. I know I’m going to miss my friends when I leave, and want to do as much as I can while we are all here, because if time continues to go faster, the next two years won’t seem very long at all.

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2c Summer Part 2

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Cadre was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve yet to have at the Academy. It definitely puts the past two years at the Academy into a different perspective. You see a lot more of why things are done the way they are, but you feel like you are starting to be in a position that you can finally change things. Training the swabs how to become good cadets was so much work. They say it is harder for the cadre and in some ways I would agree. We sleep a lot less and have to coordinate a lot more, but it was a great way to know my classmates and myself better.

After cadre came a week of sailing on Colgates, which was awesome (my swabs were on Eagle during this). I had a blast sailing with some friends around the Academy and to an island and back. I liked it a lot more than I would have guessed. This week before school starts is basically a week of trainings and getting together, but it’s been fun to catch up with all my classmates on what they did this summer. Some people went to Japan and Poland with Academy programs, which were a blast apparently. Hopes this helps catch you up on the rest of my 2/c summer experiences!

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2c Summer Part 1

(Academics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward So I realized I haven’t written a post for a few months now, so I’ll try to catch up on what’s been going on. I finished the semester (thankfully) and am really liking my choice of major much more than I was at the end of the fall semester. In my Material Science class, our labs were a ton of fun and included making fiberglass and going to Mystic and blacksmithing.

This summer has also been great. Each week is dedicated to a specific topic, from Tug Boats to Aviation to Rules of the Road. It’s been fun to hang out with my classmates and go out on weekdays. This week is dedicated to preparations for Swab Summer that starts in less than a week. I’m really excited to see my swabs and teach them everything about being a cadet. It’s incredible to think that I am at this point in my cadet life. In some ways it seems like I’ve been at the Academy forever, and in others it seems like Swab Summer wasn’t so long ago. It really does go by fast (at least once 4/c year is over). To the class of 2015, welcome. I can’t wait to meet you…

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The Opportunity to Get Away

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward This year, rather than going home for some ”r&r”, for spring break I went to Florida with the CGA Crew team. In addition to getting a great tan and a week of good workouts, I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friends and going random places. We went swimming with manatees, hung out on the beach, shopped, went to the spa, and checked out Daytona’s Bike Week. It was a lot of fun to be with friends outside of the Academy and see how different they are away from the everyday stresses. Often, when cadets struggle with staying at the Academy, one of the biggest reasons they choose to stay is because of the people. You make so many friends and know almost everyone by their first names, something I can’t imagine happening at a large university. So while the Academy can wear you down, often it is the people who bring you back up. Plus, the stress and frustrations at the Academy just help you appreciate spring break, the time with friends, and the opportunity to get away.

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Cadet Activities

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward The size of the Academy does limit the number of cadet activities that go on. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. A few weeks ago the Academy’s Mock Trial Club competed at Regional’s. Mock Trial is an extracurricular competition where the same case is given to schools all across the nation and they put on a three-hour “mock” trial – one school functions as the plaintiff and the other is the defense. We prepared attorneys and witnesses for both sides, so we were ready for whichever was called.

Next week I am going with the Cadet Law Society and will be a mock juror at the Naval Justice School as they prepare attorneys for the military. Similarly, several of my classmates spent a few days in D.C. learning about how the Coast Guard interacts in our nation’s political center. What is really neat is that not everyone, myself included, who does these events is a government major. These activities are open to anyone who is interested. While many of the opportunities that other college students receive are not available at the Academy, there are plenty, you only have to look.

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The Ups and Downs

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward When I was home over the past Christmas break, everyone asked me how I liked the Academy. I often replied that it was a love-hate relationship. While I love the people, I don’t always like having to deal with so many little things. They then asked if I would do it differently if I could go back, and I was surprised at how quickly I said no, that I would make the same choices. As hard as the Academy can be at times, there’s no way I would do it differently because I’ve grown and changed so much. It has given me such great friends and really increased my confidence. There’s no way going to a civilian college would have changed me so much for the better so quickly. While the Academy still remains tedious and frustrating at times, it has made me who I am, and proud of who I am as well.

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The Bigger Picture

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Aside from the many experiences the Academy offers, there are a lot of activities that are organized outside the Academy gates as well. This past Veteran’s Day, the International Council took a trip to NYC. We visited the Jewish Heritage Museum, Ground Zero, and saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Visiting Ground Zero was strange as it has been about seven years since I last was there. Looking at the site reminded me of how many sacrifices can be asked of us for our nation. The memorial to the firefighters, the families left incomplete, the soldiers lost overseas, they all made sacrifices, willingly or unwillingly, and as much as I would like to think I’m special for choosing the Academy, this is something that has been asked of all citizens for far longer than anyone has ever lived.

We’re such a small link in the chain, but we’re also a connection between the past and future so that one day, when more names are etched in stone, others will see that they are not alone. Veteran’s Day may have been a day to get away from the Academy, but it also showed the significance of what we are a part of outside the Academy.

As always, I love hearing from you. Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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The Importance of Sports

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward At the Academy there is a big push to join sports teams, even if it means joining a sport you have never played. Sports are a great opportunity that too often people pass up. Varsity and club sports are more demanding than intramural sports, but they also give a much bigger reward. Last year I walked onto the crew team, having no experience whatsoever. Yes, it was a lot of work, and yes, it was demanding, but I really only started to like the Academy after spring crew started. I may lose my Saturdays to crew regattas, but I know I have a lot of fun spending time with the team. This made me see that I had a place at the Academy. For me, my home is on the crew team, for my roommate it is the rugby team, for others it may come with basketball or boxing.

Sports provide you with a family at the Academy and can often come across as more work then you can handle, when in fact they are what allow you to handle the work. You have others to lead you while you lead others. It’s a great experience, winning or losing, to be on a team, and while the push to join a team may be overwhelming, it helps push back the stresses of the Academy.

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Moving Up The Food Chain

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward For all those of you worried about 4/c year and all it entails let me tell you that as a 3/c it gets much better. It’s a strange experience as a 4/c, one very few people will ever be able to appreciate or relate to, but having completed an entire year of it and now seeing other people where I was in last year is rewarding. As a 4/c, someone told me the red shields I would wear when I became a 3/c bring confidence, and it’s true. You have such a greater grasp on the Academy, what is going on, what people want and need, and that the little things that stressed me out as a 4/c are no longer given a second thought.

However, being a 3/c brings with it another challenge, that of leadership and role-modeling. As a 3/c, there are one or two 4/c in your division that are your responsibility. I never realized that my actions as a 4/c were reflected on my 3/c. When your 4/c has to finish getting everyone in the company’s signature, it is also your responsibility. If they don’t succeed, it is reflected upon you regardless of circumstances. It’s the first time leadership is mandatory at the Academy. I like the system and how it starts out with one or two people as a 3/c and expands over the years. It’s a challenge but it starts out small and you have those above you in your division to help guide you through it. And don’t forget the rewards. When your 4/c finishes that signature sheet, you feel like you did it too. It’s wonderful to know that you were a part of their successes as well. Being a 3/c does pay off and it sets you on the path to greater opportunities and experiences later on.

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My Summer Roller Coaster

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward This summer has been such a roller coaster that which topic to cover has been hard to settle on. So this rather long blog will cover a variety of things.

First, I’m sure you all wonder what exactly this summer consisted of for me. I went on Eagle for the first five weeks. We visited Puerto Rico, Columbia, Curacao, and Mexico. Then I flew to Alameda, California (near San Francisco) and was stationed on CGC Boutwell for six weeks. Then I went on leave for three weeks and spent two of them in Europe. A lot of traveling, let me tell you.

Eagle was an adventure. And a challenge. It was hard to balance the wonder of being on a sailing boat that seems like it could be right out of Master and Commander and the amazing port calls with racks that are three high (triple bunk beds), food that gets boring, sleep that is irregular, and the ever-changing morale. It is a unique experience, but the 10 straight days of 130 classmates, between Puerto Rico and Columbia, with no port calls was a bit redundant and exhausting. And yet, looking back, what we did was incredible. We sailed all over the Caribbean, met people from 11 tall ships from all over the world in Columbia, got to know our classmates better, and learned about the relationship between officers and enlisted (both positive and negative).

The real learning experience, for me at least, came when I was stationed on the CGC Boutwell out of Alameda. On the first Monday, the ship did a shake down (they go out and run drills). Midway through, an engine broke and the cutter returned to port early. The next few weeks were deadlines constantly extended as the crew worked to figure out what had happened. The decision to go out on three engines was made and about a month later we left port. We barely made it into San Francisco Harbor when another engine sprung a major oil leak and other engine problems arose so we dropped anchor. After a few days and a lot of debate, the ship turned around and returned to Alameda. It was quite experience considering showers were not allowed and there were water issues.

For me the whole thing was a lesson in leadership. Often, examples of leadership come from the hero who, in tough times, brought out the best in others and lead them to success. In this case, there was nothing those in command could have done to change what happened. But they were still good leaders. The crew was frustrated about the uncertainty of what was going on, the cutter that seemed endlessly broken, and that all their arrangements were in vain, yet the officers handled it well. Rather than shuffling it off on someone else, or ignoring it all together, the CO set out to inform the crew what exactly was going on and what they could and could not expect. It was not great news, the cutter was still broken, the future dates were still uncertain, and the effects on its patrol were unknown, but the leadership stated the facts and did not ignore the problems. They didn’t magically fix the boat or know exactly what the consequences would be, yet they made sure everyone understood what was going on and that, as frustrating as it was, we were all in it together. Leadership is often defined as bringing people out of the tough times, but leadership is also important during the tough times. It keeps people going and making sure they know that they are necessary even if they dislike what is happening and have no control.

I learned a lot this summer, and I believe it will make me into a better leader and officer when I graduate. If nothing else, it has reinforced my opinion of roller coasters.

As always, I love answering your questions/hearing your concerns. Keep emailing me at Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu.

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College and the Academy

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward R-Day does come upon you fast, but be sure to enjoy what you have now. I think sometimes people (myself included) are so focused on the military/physical aspects of the Academy that they forget that the this is also a college and brings with it those trials and difficulties such as leaving home for good, finding new friends, getting used to roommates and close living environments, etc. College anywhere marks the finality of your "childhood" and the Academy also does this plus the end of your "civilian life."

Of the many difficulties I faced during Swab Summer, I came to realize that many of them would be found at any college. The initial adjustment to life here is hard because you’re facing the burden of those two major endings, but it just means you develop closer friendships and get to see greater personal growth. But before all this comes, enjoy the life you have at home because you will never have it again, and that’s true no matter what college you go to.

Please continue to send me your questions, I enjoy receiving your email. Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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Time Does Fly…Sort Of

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Returning from Christmas break was not an easy task, however, the recent return from spring break was not as difficult. Considering there are only a few more weeks until the semester is over and then a few more until I am a 3/c, life is looking better. I can’t believe that I am almost done with 4/c year. It is crazy thinking that soon someone will fill in the role of the 4/c. It all seems to have gone fast, but then Swab Summer and last semester seem so long ago that it may not have been as fast as I’d like to think. But now the end is near and life is looking up, the start of the summer on Eagle in the Caribbean sounds wonderful, as does a cutter in California for six weeks. Christmas is done, Caribbean here I come.

I love answering all of your questions so feel free to email me. Chances you’re not the only person with questions.

Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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Opportunities in Athletics

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Having just returned from a basketball game, it amazes me how great it is to go to a college in which people can play sports for the first time at the NCAA level, granted it is Division 3. Two seasons of sports are mandatory here, and whether they are sports between companies, clubs, or NCAA players, there is a large opportunity to play. Last fall I rowed crew for the very first time along with seven others. A sophomore here is playing basketball for the first time this year. Many of my friends and shipmates go out for sports they have never tried ranging from pistol to cheerleading to water polo, and not many colleges allow this variety of participation among its students. It’s just another representation of the opportunities given here at the Academy.

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How We Survive

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward People who tour the campus often take photos of 4/c, and ask us how we do it. While visiting with a few “Cadets for a Day” participants, many asked “how do you survive it all?” The daily activities such as squaring, greeting, knowing three meals in advance, taking out everyone’s trash, busing, etc. seem extraordinary for outsiders looking in. And it can seem really intimidating. Because it kind of is. There’s a lot to do as a 4/c that can really stress you out. But as I was talking to a young man who feared he couldn’t keep up with everything that goes on here, especially as a 4/c, I thought about how I could reassure him that it is possible. And here’s what I came up with:

First, thousands of people have done it and will continue with all of it, so it is clearly possible.

Second, you adjust. People often don’t give themselves enough credit about how the human body can adjust to stay sane. There’s a survival mode you go into while you learn the ins and outs of everything here. You may never get used to everything, but eventually the newness and intimidation of it all wears off and everyday becomes another day.

Third, a sense of humor develops within it all. I saw some of the YouTube videos of the Academy before I came here. Needless to say, I never understood the humor until after I came here and showed them to friends at home. They didn’t get it. So, while the world looks on questioning your sanity, you find ways to laugh it all off.

Ultimately, it’s your attitude towards it all that makes it hard or easy to deal with everything as a 4/c. People can take as many photos as they want, but they’ll never understand it, and while they take photos life here continues.

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Back to the Real World

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Christmas break is over, and it wasn’t easy returning from home and my “normal” life. Getting 10 hours of sleep each night is wonderful and you question if you can return to the few you get at the Academy. When I was dreading my return, I just kept thinking that everyone says it is worth it. When I look at my friends at home at “normal” colleges, I know that as much as I didn’t want to return, I’m doing something with my life already. Many of my friends dream about opportunities they might have down the road, and yeah, I will miss out on some of them but I am living an opportunity now, and as much as it isn’t fun at times, it is worth seeing the changes in myself and in my shipmates. I will do things my friends will never have the opportunity to do. We all want a normal life, but we all want to great opportunities. I choose opportunities, I mean, who really wants to be normal anyway?

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It's Not an Easy Decision

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Sitting here at my computer, I cannot believe last year I had no clue about where I would be today. Early action deadlines were all passed and I had applied to zero schools. I was looking around, but every school is so different, that they all blended together and not knowing what I wanted to study made it worse. There were so many different options and so many questions.

Looking at all that, not only am I glad it’s over, but glad chose the Academy. Whether you are a freshman or senior, sometimes it is difficult to separate what matters now, what matters in college, and what matters for the future. And in a way, all three factor into what college you chose. Lectures go on about finding the right college. I attended them and still ended up clueless. They state what to look for, focusing on cost, location, majors, size, everything good and important, but they don’t mention how the place affects you. It’s character. College is a life experience. Everyone emerges changed. And you have to ask yourself who do I want to be, what does the world have to offer me, what will change me into something I can be proud of. For many people this is not found in a military academy, but for others it is. It’s not an easy decision, but it is definitely one to consider.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me: Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu.

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Aviation Day 2011

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock As the President of the Aviation Club here at the Academy, I was given the responsibility and honor of organizing and running the annual Aviation Day event at the local Groton/New London Airport. It was a grueling, yet fun task. The work required organizing such a large event is unimaginable. I learned quickly a major part of leadership: delegation. Sometimes a task is simply too large to complete alone. I worked closely with other cadets to make the event a success. And, without a doubt, it was the best Aviation Day the Academy has ever seen.

We had almost one of every type of Coast Guard aircraft at the airfield, as well as several army and civilian aircraft. We had volunteers from the International Ice Patrol and a local Civil Air Patrol squadron as guests. And, for the first time ever, we had a live DJ, a popular staff member among cadets who works in Information Services.

Aviation Day exposes all cadets to Coast Guard aviation and allows cadets to see the aircraft up close. This year, we even offered six cadets the opportunity to fly in the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter. I will be sure to have a picture from Aviation Day uploaded here – look for it!

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September 11th Memorial Conference in D.C.

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock This September I was one of twenty five cadets selected by faculty to attend the official September 11th Memorial Conference in Washington, D.C. When I first heard, I was ecstatic because President Obama was scheduled to speak at it. Unfortunately, he was not there because that was the night he gave his infamous “Jobs Speech” on television. Still, I got to hear speeches by several famous people and politicians, including the Chief of Staff, the head of FEMA, and Madame Albright. There were many other government officials there as well, including a few congressmen.

The conference was a day-long event full of presentations, discussions, and meet-and-greets. I met many interesting and influential individuals. We all got to see the unreleased plans for the 9/11 memorial as well.

This is just one example of the many amazing opportunities the Academy provides cadets. I have been on many other similar trips, and I have friends who have traveled the world on trips like this (including to the Dominican Republic, Africa, and Italy). If you have any interest in seeing the world and meeting some of the most influential people in the world, the Coast Guard Academy provides that.

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Honduras Again

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock For leave this summer, I decided to take another week to return to Honduras. This was my fifth week-long visit to the Latin American country for some volunteering. I spent three days in the Santa Barbara Mountains north of San Pedro Sula helping paint the interior of a newly constructed library. I had such a good time up there because some local guys came to help us (myself, Mark Zanowicz who is another Academy blogger, and Bobby, the owner of Volunteer Honduras). The locals who helped us were my age so it was a lot of fun working with them and talking with them all day long. It's amazing how similar they are to me. Yeri, a 21-year-old, and I are now both very good friends and will be staying in touch from now on. I love making friends with Hondurans, they are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

Early in the week we went on a half day hike up the Santa Barbara Mountain with an older British gentleman named Malcolm. He is extremely knowledgeable in many environmental subjects, especially birds. It was an amazing (and dangerous) hike several thousand feet in elevation and I took some amazing photographs.

Later in the week we also visited a cave that goes so far into the earth that tourists wishing to complete the entire tour must use oxygen tanks. Unfortunately, we were on the way to a waterfall and did not have shoes, so we were able to complete only the first hour of the cave tour, but it was still very amazing. The waterfall afterwards was also breathtaking. We jumped in the freezing cold river (the water is cold because it comes from a nearby mountain) and swam through the waterfall to a cave behind it. It is the first waterfall I have been to that is “safe” enough to swim through – others I have had to swim around to get behind the waterfall. I even jumped through the waterfall from a cave behind it, though it violently pushed me into the river. Still, it was very adventurous and fun.

Even though we don't get too many long vacations here at the Academy, it's important to do something worthwhile with that little time we are given. When you're here, try something new. Go to another country, and begin to see the world. It's incredible how much there is out there.

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Sector Experience

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock I had many great experiences at Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven for the second half of my 1/c training summer. I participated in several inspections with industry and port partners, specifically with yacht club vessels which transport people between the shore and their yachts. This was a great opportunity to develop my professionalism in the business world in working with industry and port partners. I learned what was required of these vessels and their masters; steps taken to fix any arising issues during the inspection; how to properly inform the master of the vessel of the issue; and how to resolve it to satisfy the requirements of the inspection.

It was an amazing opportunity to participate in the boarding of an oil tanker with a team from the Sector's response department and members from the station. After motoring to the tanker, we all climbed up the jacob's ladder to the main deck. The team I went with went to the bridge with the captain and completed a check of the crew's passports. I was able to directly participate in this evolution and I observed how the rest of the crew interacts with the crew of the ship we are boarding.

I joined the gunner mates (GMs) and several petty officers from the station on a trip to the range. I qualified in both basic pistol and rifle and observed other various courses required for personnel to participate in boardings. I continued my training with the GMs during the week at station and spent time in the armory.

Even though I have always wanted to be a pilot, I am also very interested in working in Coast Guard Intelligence. I worked with the intel officers on sign-offs and independently completed a Field Intelligence Report (FIR). I enjoyed completing the FIR; I researched the reports made, put together the information, did some background research on the people and AORs involved, and produced a finished copy of the FIR which LT Felix reviewed and then submitted as an official FIR, which the CAPT at sector also read.

On Monday, I joined three Marine Safety Technicians on a trip to Guilford, Connecticut to re-inspect a beach for tar balls, followed by a trip to an oil spill on I-95 where a truck carrying fuel got caught on fire and leaked burning fuel down a storm drain and into a marina under the bridge.

I enjoyed spending six weeks at the sector and learning what the Coast Guard does outside of the cutter fleet. I also enjoyed the free time I had after work every day. It's a great career working for the Coast Guard and fulfilling the amazing missions it supports.

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First Class Underway Experience

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock Most prospective cadets, as I did, have one thing on their minds: is the Academy for me? As the years pass by and time is spent underway during the summers, this question evolves into one of a grander scheme: is the Coast Guard for me? My summer experience this year is answering the question for me.

As an aviation enthusiast, I was not fond of the idea of spending five weeks on a cutter this summer despite it being in the tropical utopia of Key West, Florida. I, however, went with an open mind and ended up having an amazing time onboard. Not only was my experience fun, but I learned more that I could have imagined I would. One week was dedicated solely to training on shipboard emergencies, knowledge which will be extremely useful after I graduate.

My favorite part of the experience was a law enforcement case in which we were in a high-speed chase to intercept drug runners from Cuba. Adrenaline was high and greatly boosted the crew's morale. We also conducted several migrant operations and I had the opportunity of being on the cutter when it pulled into Cuba. Not many Americans can say they have been to Cuba!

Now I am at Sector Long Island Sound, which I am very happy about because this summer I am getting both the underway and land experience in the Coast Guard. This will help me decide what I want to do upon graduation if I do not get accepted to flight school right away. My June blog will be about the sector so watch for that, and, as always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

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Ring Dance

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock This past weekend was the Class of 2012’s Ring Dance. The formal dinner was delicious; I chose to have filet mignon. Chef Pat always does an amazing job cooking for the cadets. The cadets are fortunate to have such great food all the time!

After the dinner and a few speeches, the 2/c cadets all made their ways down to Leamy Hall for an evening of dancing and, of course, dipping their new class ring in the Water of the Seven Seas and taking a picture with their date under the big ring. It was a great night and I am very happy with my ring. My family was excited to see it this Easter weekend.

Congratulations to everyone who received their appointments! For those who are applying next year, as always, feel free to contact me at George.G.Glock@uscga.edu.

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NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock As a member of the CGA Regimental Band, I had an amazing experience this semester. All band members were given the opportunity to participate in the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade – yes, the one that is on television! It was a unique experience. I had marched in many parades before, but not one as televised as this one. Marching through NYC with masses of people on either side of the parade was surreal; over three-million people were in attendance. The sound of everyone cheering was deafening. New York City was definitely the place to be this St. Patrick’s Day. This is the type of amazing experience cadets have the opportunity to have!

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El Sol es Fuerte!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock Sorry for not posting recently, but you know how busy it is here! As my blog followers know, this December I traveled to Honduras my third time to engage in volunteer service with Students Helping Honduras (SHH). This time, I kept an electronic journal throughout the week, and I would like to share it all with you. I am going to leave my style of writing as is when I wrote it; some sentences are incomplete, but the purpose is to tell the story of what I did as concisely as possible. For those of you who enjoy volunteer service, you will have many opportunities to do so at the Academy. I hope you enjoy!

Sun 1500 - On plane to Miami. Very excited to see the SHH staff again and to meet all of the other volunteers! I hope some of the kids from Villa Soleada remember me like they did the last time I returned. This time, I brought an entire duffel bag of clothes for them. I got that idea from my friend Chi who did that the last time she went to Honduras. Can't wait for the warm weather. El sol es fuerte!

Sun 2100 - Left Miami, on plane to San Pedro Sula, HN. It has been a very long day, and the flight departed late so I am very tired. I hope I have enough time to meet the other volunteers tonight. They all arrived yesterday and know each other already.

Sun 2145 - Still on the plane for some reason. We are over an hour late now. I feel bad for whichever staff member is picking me up!

Sun 1000 - Ohhh... time zone change... my bad!

Mon 1625 - Wow! What an amazing day so far. After a good night sleep (6 hours is a lot for me), we had some breakfast at the hotel consisting of delicious eggs, refried beans, cheese, and of course, tortillas! Then we all hopped on the bus to head to a nearby school.

This week there are a lot of volunteers and we are divided between three hotels. My hotel, which is not the same one I stayed at the past two times, had 20 volunteers. Everyone has great personalities and we are all already becoming very good friends. I think this will be my best trip yet.

The morning was actually a little chilly (60 degrees is chilly here). When we arrived at the school, the temperature had already risen to about 85 (in December)! All the little kids ran to the bus and started yelling and smiling. It was adorable. We got off the bus and were swarmed by the kids who wanted high fives, hugs, and to be picked up.

We made our way to the work site where one school was finished and the second, which would be joined to the first, had a foundation laid and a trench dug halfway around the perimeter. Today we finished the trench around it which will be for the wall. It was a lot of hard work. We pick-axed and shoveled for hours in the sun then broke for lunch. The village mothers prepared us baleadas: eggs, beans, rice, and tortillas. It was delicious. I love the simplicity of the food here, and it really gets you immersed in the experience.

Tues 1430 - After lunch, we spent another four hours moving cement. It was very hard work. Later in the night we went to Villa Soleada for an hour of salsa dancing. This morning we returned to the school and mixed the cement we moved yesterday. Luckily it was a lot cooler today, though it was raining on and off.

After lunch, we made a quick stop at the mall. It is surrounded by a large stone wall and dozens of federal police officers. Mostly Americans and wealthy Hondurans go there. We are now on the bus and arriving at Villa Soleada. All of the kids are chasing the bus, I'd better go!

Tues 1730 - Villa was so much fun! We got a tour of the village; it was great to see all the progress that has been made since the summer. The learning center now has computers and internet, and the Children’s Home is almost finished. They also now have more agriculture and gardens.

Quite a few kids remembered me. My little buddy Jorge was back too (he was in Villa during my first visit, but not my recent one). We played an intense game of pick-up soccer (Hondurans vs. Gringos). I scored a goal but we still lost 4-1.

We are on the bus now, and just got stuck in mud so we all got out and placed a rock trail in front of the tires to make it through the mud. So much fun! Now we are returning to the hotel for a relaxing evening after a long day.

Weds 1330 - This morning we went to IHNFA, the state orphanage. When we arrived, another group was already there. They had someone dressed up as Santa giving the kids gifts (donations of toys, clothing and candy).

I always enjoy the IHNFA (one of the largest orphanages in Honduras) visit because I get to spend time with the most desperate kids in Honduras. Since there were other visitors as well, I did not get the emotional shock I usually get when I am there. It is great to see that other organizations visit the orphanage as well. Afterwards, we went to Baleadas Express for lunch, an SHH tradition. It is similar to a Chipotles, and is unbelievably delicious and filling.

We are now on the bus and heading to Villa Soleada to paint the new Children's Home and to play soccer again. We just bought some fruit from off the side of the road. I’m not sure what it is, but it's very strong and sour. It’s just like a gummy candy actually.

Weds 1445 -We are about to start the soccer (futbol) game. The mothers are selling the hand-made purses and jewelry; they make for great Christmas presents! And the weather is perfect - sunny but not too hot!

Weds 1745 - We had a great afternoon at Villa today. Lots of soccer games and just playing with the kids.

I hung out with one of the older Honduran girls, Ruthy Adriany Lime Reyes, who goes to college in Honduras and works with us in Villa. She went through my phone's music and told me all of the American songs that are famous in Honduras. I was surprised at how many songs she knew and that she knew many of the words to them. When Hondurans are given the opportunity to be educated, they put 100% effort into it and soak up as much knowledge as they can.

We are on the bus and heading back to the hotel now. Tomorrow we are going to the beach which is always a highlight of the trip! The water is very warm, even in December.

Thurs 1845 - Today was great. We returned to the school to continue laying the foundation for the walls. It was pretty hot today and all the shoveling and manual cement mixing was very tiring, but fun too.

After the construction, we went to a beach in Tela with a group of kids from Villa. It was a blast; the water was warm and the kids were great.

Fri 0820 - Last night we watched Su Nombre. It was my third time seeing it, but I enjoy watching it every time. It is about the gangs in Honduras, and is very educational as well.

Now we are on the bus heading to the school to continue laying cinderblocks for the wall.

Sun 2200 - Finished walls to school. We did way more than they expected us to. And the Honduran locals and workers even commented often about how much we were getting done.

I spent my last day in Honduras to relax and have some adventurous fun. Bobby, a recent SHH staff member, took me and two volunteers to the biggest waterfall in Honduras. It's even higher than Niagara Falls! We descended down the side of a cliff, then jumped down into the water and went through the waterfall. We had to cover our eyes and noses to make it through. Water was shooting everywhere and it was almost impossible to see. Behind the waterfall there is an extremely small entrance to an extremely small cave. We crawled inside despite it being completely pitch black.

The return back through the waterfall was even more dangerous than entering it, but also more fun. On the way up, we stopped to jump off a 30 or so foot cliff. That was a lot of fun considering we had to jump very far to clear rocks, and being only a few meters from the waterfall meant a very strong current. I was very happy I jumped though!

After the waterfall we stopped on the side of the road and purchased a bunch of fireworks. We drove to Villa Soleada (being the first volunteers ever to be there at night), and started lighting some off. After the first BOOM! kids came running out of their houses, even though it was late. We spent the next hour putting on a firework show for the kids.

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Great Start to a New Semster

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 George Glock School is in full swing and I am having a great semester. I feel much less stressed this year, and I find my studying enjoyable because all of my classes are government-related. I find it very useful to combine my homework with working out – an unusual combination – but an efficient one nonetheless. I bring my books to Billard with me, hop on a bike or elliptical, and read for class. This gives me a lot of free time later in the day because I get all of my work done early.

I am keeping very busy holding leadership positions in three clubs (Aviation, Astronomy, and Bowling). The Bowling team is really taking off this year. We are planning several competitions with local colleges and we are going to be joining the Eastern Intercollegiate Bowling Conference (EIBC). I have loved the sport of bowling since middle school, and I am very happy to be continuing it. I have improved so much thanks to my coach LT Smith; my average is around 170 now. I don’t make it to practice much because I am running cross country, but when the season ends I’ll be back into bowling 100%!

Next weekend is Parents Weekend, so my parents will be taking the ferry here from Long Island. I am definitely looking forward to next weekend and having my parents meet the parents of all the new friends I have made. October should make for an exciting month. I am traveling to the Naval Justice School tomorrow with some cadets from my Criminal Justice class, so that should be fun. And, Halloween is only one month away!

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