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CADET BLOGS

cadet blogs

From California to New York…

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Just for Fun, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo I remember when I was applying to the Coast Guard Academy, I had resigned myself to one (false!) idea – it’s the U.S. Coast Guard, so I’m not going to get to travel much farther than the states. Being someone with a huge travel bug (I had been to six other countries by the time I enrolled), you can imagine how discouraging that thought was. Fortunately, I dealt with my misconceptions, reported in, and had my preconceived notions blown completely out of the water. Not only have I had the chance to go international with the Coast Guard, I’ve been to states I had never seen, and taken day trips to cities that used to require weeks of planning!

 

Back in Nebraska, going to New York City was an exotic vacation spot; somewhere on that strange land they call the “East Coast.” That being said, I’ve now been there seven times, sometimes just for a day! The other popular destination is Boston – while I’ve only been there once, it seems like every other weekend there’s a flock of cadets headed that way! One can also check out Providence and Hartford for a pleasant day trip (not as popular destinations, however, as they’re still within the 75-mile zone in which underclass are prohibited from wearing civilian attire).

 

That’s all just on weekends during the school year – imagine where we go when we have more time! Over the summer, my classmates and I visited Canada and the Caribbean on the Tall Ship Eagle (including another stop in New York City on my phase – go figure), and some of us went to such places as Guam, Hawaii, Alaska (my first time there!), and Mexico! Over leave periods there are often international trips available. Some cadets save up their monthly paychecks and go on excursions to Cancun, Puerto Rico, Honduras, and other such places during their winter, spring, and summer leave periods. The Command Religious Program offers a trip during spring breaks – last year, they went to Israel, and this year will be going to Ireland. As much as I would love to join them, I haven’t been able to go on those trips because Glee Club does its own events during that time (by the way, if you really want to go places, join Glee – it’s responsible for half of my New York trips, and for taking me to Maine and California also for the first time!). Last year we enjoyed a few days in Florida, but even all that sunshine can’t trump the excitement I feel for this year’s spring voyage – Germany! Even better is the fact that I get to travel with my dad on that trip; turns out everyone can benefit from Coast Guard travel!

 

So, technically, the Coast Guard is in the Department of Homeland Security… but I’ll tell you what, that homeland is a whole lot more expansive than you might imagine.

 

More about Abby.

 

Giving Thanks for Friends

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo As Thanksgiving Leave approaches, it is the perfect time to reflect on what we are thankful for. The other day, I was asked to say the thing I was most thankful for this year. There were many things I could have answered. I could have said that I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had this past year including sailing to the Caribbean and working in the Coast Guard fleet for six weeks, or for having job security and no college debt in the future, or for being able to earn good grades this semester, or for the endless support from my family, or for everything I’ve learned this past year. The list goes on because there is so much to be thankful for each and every day. Right now, though, I am most thankful for the new friends I’ve made at the Academy.

 

It amazes me how close I have become with people I’ve known for just over a year. I feel like I’ve known my three best Academy friends for my entire life. I could trust them with anything. Maybe it comes with living in the same building and happens at every college, but I think it’s a little different here. At the Academy, cadets all face the same challenges that people our age normally don’t have to face. It’s the things like not having cars and having specific liberty hours that give us a different kind of bond. Instead of being designated drivers for each other, we walk around aimlessly together, visit each other’s rooms, and ride the liberty bus together. Like other college students, we’ve helped each other through our worst times, but unlike normal college students, by worst, I don’t mean drunk and out of control. I mean stressed out, struggling to stay awake at a 7 a.m. training after a long night of homework and only 30 minutes of sleep.

 

The challenges the Academy provides us strengthen our friendships the way no other school can. My friends here are the only ones who completely understand what I’m going through, and sometimes, they are the only ones I can go to because of that. No matter how many stories I tell my family and friends from home, I know they will never comprehend my new lifestyle the way my friends here can. This new network of support not only gets me through every challenge here, but it makes it so much more fun. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the laughs, memories, and support that my friends have given me this past year and for being able to grow and learn through this Academy life together.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Five More Months

(Academics, Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Just for Fun) Permanent link
Cantrell Photo I need to start this off by saying, FIVE MONTHS UNTIL GRADUATION!! What? Where has the time gone? This year has been so bittersweet for me. I am so excited and ready to get out into the fleet, but I am also sad to leave this place that has taught me everything I know about the military and where some of my best friends have been with me throughout this incredible journey. I still have five more months with a lot of work and things to learn to help me in the fleet. The billet list came out last week, which is when this whole graduating thing really hit me. I feel like I was just dropped off by my parents yesterday! (I mean it feels a little longer than that, but you all know what I mean). The billet list is very overwhelming and has got me thinking of all the different options and opportunities I have moving forward. I still need to think about a lot of different factors, but I have a pretty good idea what I would like to do.

 

The corps just returned from a much needed Thanksgiving break. The morale of the corps is high right now since everyone is full of turkey and ready to push through the last week and a half of the semester. I will be in sunny Florida in two weeks, so I am excited and ready to push through.

 

This month has consisted of a fair amount of papers, tests, and diving meets every weekend. I also attended a Dierks Bentley concert at Mohegan Sun, which was one of the top three concerts I have been too. He was so interactive with the audience and it made for a very fun concert. I knew most of the songs that he performed, which always helps when singing along. I would definitely suggest seeing him in concert if you are a country music fan. This month also brought a celebration for the Class of 2015 at a local establishment hosted by one of our classmate's parents. It was a great time where our class was able to celebrate together and have fun. I cannot thank them enough for such a wonderful night and I am so thankful to have so many amazing people surrounding me at this institution and into the Coast Guard fleet.

 

More about Sara.

 

Three Parts of Third Class Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Sandri Photo Third class summer at the Academy is divided into three main portions: sailing on the cutter Eagle, experiencing time in the fleet/attending summer school, and going on leave. I was assigned to spend the first five weeks of my summer aboard Eagle followed by six weeks at Station Golden Gate.

 

Eagle was certainly an experience. Our days were filled with double four-hour watches, damage control trainings, working on required tasks such as star shooting and drawing the ship’s firemain system, learning the system of lines so we could help work the ship more efficiently, and of course prepping for in-port duty and liberty. Captain Pulver, the CO, said he wanted to keep us busy, and he definitely succeeded! Here are a few things that made Eagle memorable:

  • My division. Aboard the ship, we attended trainings and stood watches with a group of other 3/c cadets, all under the watch of a 1/c cadet. Although a midnight watch in the engine room may not seem like fun, we made it enjoyable by having discussions and playing lots of games. I couldn’t have survived the five weeks without them!
  • Sometimes, the FS (food service specialist) on duty would make pumpkin cinnamon rolls for people who had the night watch. This always made my night!
  • Spotting wildlife. The Atlantic Ocean is teeming with flying fish, and we would occasionally spot whales or dolphins. It was so exciting to spot them while standing lookout, or waiting during sail stations.
  • The water was colored such a brilliant electric blue around the Caribbean, no wonder there’s a paint color called Caribbean Blue! Not to mention the clarity…you could see directly to the bottom when we pulled into port.
  • Climbing up the masts to pull in or let down sails. The view was incredible, and this was a really special job we got to do.
  • The port calls were amazing. We walked through a 500-year-old fort in San Juan, snorkeled in a natural pool in Aruba, and danced with street musicians in the lively streets of Cozumel.
  • I got to know my classmates better. There are some awesome people in my class who I hadn’t really talked to before, but when you’re together on a 295-foot pirate boat, you get to know each other pretty well.
  • Disconnecting. When you’re underway, there’s no cell service or WIFI access, so we found other ways to entertain ourselves. Sometimes it reminded me of grade school days, in a good way. Frequent time-occupiers included the alphabet game, Never Have I Ever, and writing letters.

 

When we pulled into Miami, we went our separate ways. Three other cadets and I flew to Station Golden Gate in Sausalito, California. It was the busiest unit in the Coast Guard last year and is nestled next to its namesake bridge. These are just a few things from my time in the fleet:

  • The enlisted crew at the station was the best that I could ask for. They were able to more than competently get the job done while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere around the grounds. This was especially important because of the high-stress nature of cases around the San Francisco Bay area, and it was neat to see how the crew members manage themselves with little officer interaction. They were extremely knowledgeable and helpful as we worked on qualifying as communications watchstander and boat crew member for the 47-foot motor lifeboat.
  • I definitely got spoiled by Sausalito’s moderate climate and breathtaking views. There was time allotted for exercise almost every day, and I mostly used it to go on runs downtown. Sausalito is a small, artsy city across from San Francisco, and it was beautiful to run through.
  • SAR cases. We got to experience the life-saving service at the heart of the Coast Guard. No matter what time of day, when the alarm went off there was always a crew racing to the docks to save someone. On the days we were on the first responder boat, we would join the crew on cases. By the end of the summer, I had gotten to pick up kite surfers in distress, tow boats, recover bridge jumpers, break in comms watch for a suspected drug interdiction, and so much more.
  • The station dog, Sierra, was always there to take on walks and play with. The crew was allowed to bring in their own dogs too, and once we took three of them on a four-mile walk downtown.
  • Weekends were ours to use as we wanted. I spent time visiting family and friends in the area, hiked Muir Woods, toured San Francisco and spent one weekend working on qualifications.
  • Scary movie night! Somehow I agreed to watch The Conjuring for Scary Movie Monday at the station…never again.

 

3/c summer was definitely the best Academy summer yet. It feels like we packed so much training into the 11 weeks, which were followed by three weeks of leave. After this culminating end to 4/c year, I’m excited to see what the new year has in store!

 

More about Eva.

 

Halloween at the CGA

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Halloween at the Coast Guard Academy is unlike anything you would experience in normal civilian life. To start, instead of getting to decorate houses with scary decorations, we decorate our small rooms with as many decorations as we can fit and put buckets of candy outside our rooms. Some people go all in, and even walking into their room can be a challenge. Then there are people like me who don’t decorate at all.

 

On a company level, there are actually some fun activities to do. On the Wednesday before Halloween, my company had a party. We set up a few tables and played a “cider pong” tournament, which drew a lot of attention. Also, we decorated the dayroom with tons of scary spider webs and Halloween decorations. As we decorated, people enjoyed a massive bucket of candy, pop corn, warm apple cider, and caramel apples. The party was pretty fun, and it was a much welcomed break from the monotony of the week.

 

On the Thursday before Halloween, the corps had a chance to participate in the festivities together. At 1830, we had our annual Halloween dinner. The entire corps got dressed up in their costumes and headed down to the wardroom for a festive dinner and the infamous costume competition. This year, the costumes were awesome. Some costumes were really scary, and others were ridiculously funny. Personally, I dressed up as Brad Pitt from World War Z. Why? Well, my rugby teammates decided that we were all going to dress up as different Brad Pitts from the movies he has appeared in. We had over 30 of our guys dress up as different Brad Pitts, and we all sat together at the dinner. The meal was pretty good, but the most fun part was the costume competition. There were several categories for the competition: most creative, scariest, most nautical, and best group. The winner of each category is whoever receives the loudest support, which is a sight to see in itself. The rugby team went up for best group costume, and we each introduced ourselves as “Brad Pitt from___”. Surprisingly, we were very well received, and we won the group contest. That was awesome.

 

After the meal, hundreds of cadets headed up the “hill” for treats and prizes. The “hill” is where ADM Stosz, the Commandant of Cadets, Assistant Superintendent, Master Chief, and Command Chaplain all live. Each house was giving out handfuls of candy, and the Commandant of Cadets was handing out prizes including: long weekends, late racks, and other rewards. I ended up getting a free pass for me and three friends to go to Monday night football, which is typically reserved for seniors only.

 

After visiting the hill, I went back to the barracks to walk around seeing everyone’s costumes and to check out the parties going on. Overall, I had a lot of fun. Halloween at CGA is very different from what I would normally do at home, but I really enjoy it. The weeks here are long, and celebrations like Halloween and Thanksgiving are great stress relievers. Plus, it’s fun to dress up with all my friends and go have fun for a night, instead of studying or doing work.

 

If you have any questions about any of my blogs, please feel free to email me anytime at Hunter.D.Stowes@uscga.edu. I look forward to hearing from you. Take care!

 

More about Hunter.