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cadet blogs

Becoming a Junior Officer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Holland Photo Hey everyone,

 

It's been a long time since I posted one of these, but I had the time to do so today. As a firstie in the fleet, you get treated a lot like a junior officer, which is critical to your development at the Academy because once this next school year is up, you're an ensign. (That's a scary thought.) I'm currently aboard USCGC Forward on patrol, and it is incredible. The summers are when you realize that everything you work toward at the Academy is worth it, and is very real and close. I'm not 100% sure what I want to do when I graduate, but there are no bad billets in the Coast Guard. (No other service can say that.)

 

For those of you considering joining the Coast Guard, I think that the Coast Guard can best be equated to a family. We are a small service and because of that you gain a reputation among your peers very quickly. In other services, it is easy to get lost in the crowd; however, in the Coast Guard you will know someone at nearly every single unit. It's definitely an incentive to stay on top of your stuff and to always treat others how you would like to be treated. The next part of this summer, I will be the Battalion AIM Officer. I'll be in charge of the Coast Guard's program that educates high school seniors as to what it is we do here at the Academy. I'm very excited to get the opportunity to assist the Class of 2019 in the training and mentoring of future members of the class of 2022. My little sister also reports to the Academy this summer, which will be a lot of fun (for me). I'll update later but, until then, everyone be safe and make good decisions.

 

More about Taylor.

 

The Final Say

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo Recently, the Class of 2017 took the “missing man” picture. We lined up on the bleachers on the parade field and took the same picture that our class took on R-Day, but with gaps in the picture for those who are no longer cadets. I was standing out there in my spot, and thought—holy cow, I made it. In less than seven days, classes will end, and it will all be over. Indeed it will have just begun.

 

As my Academy experience comes to a close, I feel it is my duty to tell the readers what the Academy is really like. It is truly a wonderful place, but it is incredibly difficult. I hope that this final blog serves as an accurate picture of what the Academy is from a cadet’s perspective, and you can see my journey through my cadet blogs beginning in the fall of 2013.

 

Being a cadet is not easy. Let me be real and say that it is easier for some than others, but it is still hard for everyone in at least one way. Some people struggle with academics, weight, fitness, military programs, or maritime qualifications. Everyone is good at something, and we only succeed if we seek out and help each other with our talents. It is incredible that we all come from different parts of the country, with different races, ethnicity, gender, income brackets, etc. The Academy is the ultimate national conference, and we bring with us the joys and tragedies of America. I will say that it was easier for cadets who came from a wealthier background and a means to excellent high schools at first, but over time, that faded because the Academy helps only those who are willing to help themselves. The ultimate equalizer here regardless of who you are or where you came from is effort. Nobody here cares what you look like or sound like. They care about how well you work with a team and your performance.

 

Cadet life is fun. Cadet life is also hard. Five years ago I would not have believed anyone who told me that I would be pulling 20 hour days, but sometimes it is the only way to cut it here. You will be pushed to your physical, mental, and spiritual limits at the Academy, especially as a freshman and a sophomore. Having said that, at least a couple of those 20 hours will be spent having fun, laughing hysterically with your friends, either due to exhaustion or in disbelief. Please understand—it will be incredibly rosy when you are presented your appointment in high school in front of hundreds of people; it will be incredibly testing when you lay in your rack after a hard day of Swab Summer, alone and in the hot summer night. Your body will be hardened, and your heart will be made humble and open.

 

Which brings me to my next topic—cadet summers. Swab Summer will change you. Whether you are continuously falling behind, or if you are voted “super-swab”, you will be pushed to your limits. Swabs are allowed no contact with the outside world, sans one day for a few hours about halfway through the summer at the Mystic Flag Ceremony. You will learn the importance of teamwork, endurance, perseverance, strength, and fitness. You will jump off a high dive, climb 20 foot walls, and maybe lose weight. But through all this, you make friends for a lifetime.

 

During 3/c summer, you will spend half of your summer aboard the Eagle. This experience is also challenging, and while nobody will be yelling at you like during Swab Summer, you will have to work together as a team and sail a great distance. The next half of the summer will be spent chipping paint, riding in small boats, or helping navigate a major cutter. As a 19 year old, I was breaking in as a helmsman with the other 19 year old non-rates. The Coast Guard gives an incredible amount of responsibility to its most junior members, responsibilities that would only be given to more senior officers in the other services.

 

The next summer, I had a blast training the Class of 2019, learning about CG aviation; shooting and learning about Coast Guard small arms; and sailing around New England. I spent part of my summer in Europe studying about the Holocaust on an internship, and also learned basic ship handling and took my Deck Watch Officer exam. 2/c year was a blur traveling to so many different places and getting into the weeds of my major. I never thought I would sail to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, a world of wealth that I could have never imagined as a blue collar kid.

 

First class year flew by and kicked off with over a month on CGC Liberty, a patrol boat in Juneau, Alaska. I saw some of God's most beautiful creations in Alaska, and earned my in-port OOD qualification as well as a Quartermaster of the Watch qualification. I had a wonderful time with the crew and learned what patrol boat life is all about under the tutelage of two capable junior officers and an experienced chief petty officer. Leading Swab Summer was also an excellent leadership journey, and I was pushed to my limits overseeing the Academy's training program. It was a humbling experience, and I had a great time leading Swab Summer with folks who are now my closest friends. I had the privilege again serving on Regimental Staff in the spring, and had a blast with a awesome staff. I worked with a great group of guys on a capstone project to determine the cost and market value of a CGA education for a Coast Guard captain. I got to know, study with, and work with cadets from Mexico, the Republic of Georgia, the Marshall Islands, and Honduras.

 

I've spent the last week re-qualifying on the CG basic pistol course and earned my practical pistol qualification in anticipation of reporting in to my unit. I am excited to get out there and serve in the Coast Guard.

 

More about William.

 

And the School Year Goes Rolling Along

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Purrington Photo The title works best if you imagine it being sung to the tune of the “The Army Song.” That’s what I’m doing anyway and it seems to be working for me!

 

This year has been nuts. I still get more sleep than I got in high school but on the flip side, I’m doing more with the time I’m awake than I used to. From running around and making an effort to do the stupid stuff well to sailing to glee to academics and to all the other little things – or perhaps big things – like duty, trainings, physical therapy, set design, and learning indoc, I can honestly say I don’t think I fit this much stuff into a day in high school on a regular basis. Sure, there were a few weeks here and there that were just as hectic, if not more so, but it they were not like that for months on end. They are here. But a lot of you probably already know that, particularly if you have read any of the blogs of the upperclassmen. Time is precious here.

 

And it flies. Holy cow, its October, October 12th at that. What is this madness?!?! Some people here really like the phrase “the days are long and the weeks are short,” but personally, I prefer, “the days are short and the weeks are short.” It just seems more fitting to me. Every morning I get up, do clocks, go to formation, go to breakfast, take out trash, go to class, go to clocks, go to formation, go to lunch, go to class, go to sailing, sometimes go to glee or another training or lecture, do homework, go to bed, repeat. By the time I remember to blink it’s time to go back to sleep again; kinda crazy when you think about it.

 

Speaking of time flying, I should go before it gets away from me and is an unfortunate hour of the morning.

 

As always, email me if you have any questions about our nation’s best service academy or if you just want to talk to a cadet and see what we’re like. We don’t bite unless provoked! ;)

 

Very Respectfully,
4/c Darden Purrington

 

More about Darden.

 

My Appointment to the USCGA: January 8, 2014

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Kokomoor Photo It has been more than three years since I received my appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and there are plenty of moments around that time that I can no longer recall, but January 8, 2014 is not one of them. I remember that day as if I could be living it all over again, right now. I wanted to go to the Coast Guard Academy…REALLY BADLY. I was getting nervous that I had not heard back yet from my early action application submission, and I was starting to doubt everything. I thought about what other colleges I did and didn’t apply to and started to get nervous, more so than I like to admit.

 

On January 8, 2014 I went to morning swim practice, I went to school, and then I went home and took a nap. I knew that I had to get up soon to go to afternoon practice, but it was cold outside and so warm in my bed. I was contemplating extending my nap through practice when my phone started to ring from across the room. I almost didn’t get up to answer it; I never answered my phone in high school. But for some reason, still unknown to me, I got up, dragged myself across the room and picked up the phone. It was John Westkott, Head Coach of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Swimming and Diving Team.

 

Everything from there is cookie cutter, an awkwardly exciting conversation with my soon to be college swim coach, some jumping around my room followed by a quick call to my mom, and then my dad, and then my sister, other sister, brother, high school swim coach, everyone, you name them, they got a call. I was off the wall excited to be going to the Academy.

 

After a few weeks the excitement faded and was replaced by nerves. It was something I thought I wanted more than anything, and I started to second guess myself. I had other options, easier options, to consider, ones with less commitment and definitely less stress. But something carried me through those few unsure month. R-Day and Swab Summer came and went and all of a sudden I’m three years in and I haven’t yet made a decision that I regret. It really does all work out in the end!

 

More about Jacklyn.

 

The Academic Year Comes to a Close

(Academics, Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Silliman Photo As 3/c year slowly dwindles away, everyone at the Academy is looking forward to the summer. This summer, I will be cadre to help train the incoming swabs as they begin their transition from civilians to Coast Guardsmen and women. While it was a long journey for me to get through high school to the Academy, just getting to this point in my Academy career has been daunting.

 

All through high school I wanted to come here and it was not until May of my senior year that I was officially accepted. I was left wondering every day if what I was doing was enough, and here that has not changed. The days have gotten longer in both daylight and in workload. I know a lot of my friends take Friday night and Saturday off from doing anything academic-related but I have not found myself able to do that. Every day I have tried to do something academic. I feel that every day, I have to try my best here. I know a lot of people who do just enough work to keep that 2.0 GPA, or make that 200 on the PFE. I think we all need to try harder than that. Occasionally on a Saturday night I will sit in Panera Bread in Waterford and do my homework. I feel like there I can reconnect with civilization, but at the same time, do the work I need to be successful. I do not think there are any days off before that last final is handed back to the instructor. Some days are more relaxed than others, but there is always something academic to be done.

 

With the added freedom that has come with my class being allowed overnight liberty on Saturdays, I took the opportunity to head home for one night a few weeks ago. Right now I have wanted to be home more than ever. I have been talking to my friends at home about all the fun we are going to have this summer and I am looking forward to it. One program I am excited for this summer in the Coastal Sail Training Program when some of the other cadre and I take a two week yacht cruise through southern New England and we pull right into my hometown, so I’m looking forward to that.

 

Now it is all about finishing the last two weeks of the academic year strong, and, soon, summer will bring some new adventures and good times.

 

More about Derek.