Wow! It has been a really, really long time since I have written a blog. So, time to play a little catch-up! This summer, I had the opportunity to sail aboard the mighty Eagle. The experience was quite different being on board as a 1/c versus a 3/c. As a 1/c, you have much more responsibility and have more difficult watches to stand. I have to say that I had an experience that I will never forget. My summer took me to amazing places including the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Key West. By far, my favorite stop on the trip was the Bahamas. My classmates and I had the opportunity to rent out a house for the night and were able to have a cookout, walk pretty much across the street to the beach, and overall get to bond and become closer friends. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything else this summer. The second phase of Eagle (the Eagle summer training cycle is divided into two sections to incorporate the entire sophomore class), I had the opportunity to be the Cadet in Charge of the phase. This meant that besides working on my own qualifications, I was responsible for the overall success of the phase. It was a rewarding, yet extremely difficult phase. I not only got to practice my leadership skills with the 3/c but I got to work on my peer-to-peer leadership skills as well. I cannot move on from this topic before thanking the crew, Chiefs Mess, and the Wardroom for all of the valuable lessons I learned while on board. Under the leadership of CAPT Pulver and CAPT Meilstrup, and with multiple course corrections with the help of LCDR Rozzi-Ochs, LT Crowley, BOSN3 Greenlee, ENG3 Clark, LTJG Bruce and BMCS Rosati, I believe that I became a better leader overall.
After a brief time at home for leave, I got to drive all 900 miles up I-95 to arrive at the Academy for my 1/c year! I still cannot believe that it is finally here. It seems like only yesterday that I was being “greeted” by, at the time 2/c, now LTJG Zaccano for the beginning of the Coast Guard Scholars Program. I still have many “fond” memories of the three weeks being indoctrinated into the Coast Guard. Now, I have finally made it to the top of the cadet totem pole! I can wear my civilian clothes out on liberty while I drive my own car around town. No more pestering upper-class to bring me to Walmart or the mall! (At least until we have a decent amount of snow. Trust me, no one wants to see a Florida boy drive in the snow…) The school year seems to almost be over, but there is still so much to look forward too! We have Castle Dance, Billet Night, Dining In, spring break (which means Hawaii for me this year), and of course graduation! I cannot wait! But at the same time, it has me feeling a little down as well.
Yes, of course I want to graduate and finally start my Coast Guard career, but the friends you make while at the Academy are lifelong friendships. Just think of every group of friends at the Academy and now compare it to the show Friends. Every group has their Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, and Joey…and we do everything together. We do homework together, eat meals together, play sports together, sit through trainings and corps-wides together, go on liberty together….we literally do everything together. My closest friends live about four doors down the hall, and another one is slightly farther. I am going to miss being able to walk down the hall and just sit around with those friends that I have bonded with so closely. When I found out I got into the Academy, one of my mentors told me that I would lose touch with people at home. He went on to say that those friendships I would form at the Academy wouldn’t compare to anything else. At the time, I thought he was crazy. But after four years now, I can’t believe how true that statement is. It isn’t sad just separating from my friends but separating from my mentors as well. Sure they are an email away, but how often can I go and knock on a CAPT’s door and just sit and talk about how things are going, or get into “creative” arguments with CDRs and LCDRs, ultimately losing but still being able to have a great time. I am even going to miss running into my past Spanish teachers and having to struggle through a brief conversation with them. (Dr. Waid y Dr. Rivera, lo siento. Me espanol es no bueno.) This has been the roughest, most stressful, and challenging time in my life so far but I think one of the most memorable experiences I will ever have. I have made great friends; I have found great mentors ranging from LTJGs to CAPTs. I have definitely had my ups and downs. No matter how much I complain about being here, whenever I am home for too long, I always want to come back. I miss my friends, mainly because they have become part of my family.
The next time you will hear from me, we might already have our billets, depends if I sit down again and have an inspiring thought. Just one thing I ask from everyone that reads this, keep a lookout for a four leaf clover, or maybe a lucky horseshoe, I could use the extra help on Billet Night!
Got a question? Email me Nathan.D.Belanger@uscga.edu!
More about Nathan.