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cadet blogs

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Schroeder Photo I cannot believe it; the last week of my undergraduate studies is finally here. It is the last Monday, and on Wednesday we wrap up classes. Next week is finals and after that I have pre-graduation things to take care of, and in less than a month I will be packing out of Chase Hall and putting the Academy in my rear view mirror.

 

A lot has changed over the past four years; I have grown immensely as a person, a leader, a daughter, a sister and a friend and I have started to become someone I am proud of. On May 18th, I will graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Marine and Environmental Sciences, and receive a commission as an ensign in the world’s best Coast Guard.

 

With all of the stress that goes along with being a cadet at a service academy, dealing with all the academic and military and athletic obligations, I sometimes forget just how fortunate I am to be here and how excited I am to be a Coast Guard officer. My time here at the Academy has been memorable; I’ve made a ton of lifelong friends and have learned a lot. I didn’t believe everyone when they told me it would go by fast but it has. All my hard work has paid off and I must say it was worth it. On June 22nd, I report in to my first unit, the USCGC Mohawk in Key West, Florida. Not only do I get to live in Key West for the next two years, I also get the chance to travel the Caribbean, Central America and South America with my 270 foot cutter. I will be serving as Weapons Officer onboard and I can’t wait to meet the crew and get started on all the learning and responsibilities I will be undertaking.

 

As I am getting ready to leave the Academy I’ve done a lot of self reflection. Although the Academy can be very trying at times, it is important to remember that if you are given the opportunity to come to a military academy you are one of the few lucky American citizens. Over the past four years, I have had so many experiences my high school classmates could only dream of. I’ve sailed the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Alaska. I’ve spent my summers in South Florida, North Carolina, Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Alaska and Cape Cod. I’ve been a part of a nationally ranked college rugby team. I’ve made lifelong friends and received a top notch education. Throughout all this, I’ve kept in mind that the “light at the end of the tunnel” is graduation and becoming a Coast Guard officer. Now that the light is finally in sight, I can’t believe it. I’m nervous and excited, but I’m also extremely fortunate in that I’m graduating college debt free with a job lined up for at least the next five years. If you are thinking about coming to the Academy, just keep in mind that all the hard work and sacrifices you will put in over four years all pay off in the end.

 

More about Jade.

 

It Was All Worth It!

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Roesch Photo I can’t believe, as I’m sitting here in Chase Hall, that these next few nights will be the last I spend here as a cadet. Time seemed to fly by so incredibly fast as a 1/c. I got back from my summer assignment (Eagle and Air Station New Orleans) and rolled right into a whirlwind of a semester. As one of the primary planners of our annual Parents’ Weekend, managing schoolwork, and completing the many steps of my flight school application, fall semester went by so fast with all of the tasks on my to-do list. Spring semester was no different and started off equally fast-paced; however, most of those items were glaring reminders that “real life” was right around the corner and ENS Roesch was quickly becoming a soon-to-be reality. From submitting my dream sheet of billet requests, completing my flight school interview, and getting settled into my last semester of undergraduate courses, I played the waiting game until Billet Night to figure out where I would be going for my first tour.

 

Billet Night was, by far, the best night of my four years at the Academy. Beforehand, everyone had the same amount of nervousness jumping around inside of them, anxiously waiting to hear where they would be assigned next. The excitement inside Leamy Hall that night was tangible and all of 2016 was ready to hear our futures. Recalling the moment I was called to the stage to receive my billet, all I can remember is the feeling of my heart pounding inside my chest. Standing on the stage waiting to open my folder was undoubtedly the longest seconds I’ve ever experienced! When I opened my folder, I couldn’t breathe and the tears began to roll down my face: I was going to flight school! That night is something I will never forget – five years of intense, hard work all became extremely worth it within a matter of seconds! What’s even better is that all of my close friends received billets that they were extremely excited about. Being able to share those same emotions with my best friends made the night even sweeter.

 

Following Billet Night, everything seemed to just start happening at an unusually fast pace. Emails with paperwork, forms, trainings, and more to be completed began making their way into my in box, but it was all thrilling because it all meant one thing: I was graduating and making my way down to Pensacola, Florida to become a Coast Guard aviator! I can definitely fill out a bunch of paperwork for that! I began looking for an apartment and things to fill it with (my OWN place!!), swim teams in the area that I can join, parks I can run in with my dog…basically beginning my new life. It’s all so crazy, but so exciting.

 

Now, as I wait for my family to make their way to New London for Commencement Week, all I can do is just sit back and smile. Though this place had its countless unique challenges, I’m walking away with so many experiences that have taught me about life, the world, our society, and myself. Most importantly, I’m walking away with some of the best friends I will ever have. I am so glad, and somewhat surprised, that I made it through and that all those dreams I had in high school are becoming a reality! My advice to anyone starting their journey: never give up, stay focused on your goals, be resilient, and ignore the naysayers – it will all be very worth it one day!

 

More about Allie.

 

Top Five Experiences

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Hello again.

 

As is often a common phrase now when I write my blogs, I had no intention for such a long delay between posts. If fall flew by, then winter was here and gone in a blink of the eye. As spring approaches the Academy, I wanted to take a moment and be reflective on the top five coolest things that the Coast Guard Academy has enabled me to do while I was a cadet. This place has given me so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences and that I wanted to take a quick moment to jot down just some of them.

 

5. Participate in an Inaugural Parade
The Coast Guard Academy sends a contingent every four years to march before the President in the Inaugural Parade. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to be selected for this honor, and got to drill with my piece, in downtown Washington, D.C. in front of the Commander-in-Chief. How cool is that?

 

4. Drive a Mercedes in the Military Bowl Parade
Noticing a theme here? The Military Bowl, held in Annapolis, Maryland, solicited for representatives from West Point, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard living in the capitol area to participate in the Military Bowl festivities. This event, which took place on my 22nd birthday, allowed me the privilege to drive the Mayor of Annapolis in the parade, meet Miss. America, escort Medal of Honor winners on the football field during the coin toss, and watch the game from the stadium’s luxury box. Talk about a day to remember!

 

3. Attend the U.S. Naval Academy
This is not a typo – through the Service Academy Exchange Program, which allows members of the service academies to exchange for a semester during their junior year, I was able to attend USNA in the fall of 2014. Although I am proud to say I will graduate from the Coast Guard Academy and serve in the U.S. Coast Guard, my experience at Navy allowed me to interact with peers who are going on to serve in the Marine Corps and Navy. This exposure was invaluable to me, and gave me an overall greater appreciation of not only the other naval services, but also the Coast Guard, as I learned more of the positive impacts my service has had on others.

 

2. Visit Exotic Locations on Eagle
Through my cumulative nine weeks aboard the Coast Guard Academy’s training cutter, I had the opportunity to visit three foreign nations, and five ports-of-call in the United States that I had previously never been to. Although it is hard to pick a favorite, I must say that visiting Bermuda in 2013 has certainly created a desire for me to plan a return trip.

 

1. Get My Dream Job Upon Graduation
When I reported to the Coast Guard Academy in 2012, it was hard for me to gauge how realistic of a goal it was for me to want to be a Coast Guard pilot upon graduation. However, with hard work and perseverance, it really is true that anything is possible. I am happy to report that on August 1, I will report to Pensacola, Florida for Naval Flight Training, and God willing, earn my wings in no more than two years. Although this last experience is a little bit of a cop-out, for those reading this, just know that no matter how hard the Coast Guard Academy is, the end reward, a commission in America’s finest seagoing service, is certainly worth it.

 

I hope you enjoyed my blog; it certainly has been enjoyable for me to relive the cool experiences the past four years have given me. If you have any questions, I invite you to email me at James.D.Engelhardt@uscga.edu. Until next time, Fair Winds and Following Seas, and always Go Bears!

 

More about James.

 

Fastest Four Years I’ve Ever Experienced

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Corcoran Photo 0600: Wake up and splash some cold water on my face.
0620: Morning formation.
0625: Breakfast; try to make conversation with my division despite my exhaustion.
0645: Retreat back to my room; look at the calendar for my to-do list for the day.

 

…but wait, is that calendar correct? Is it really April 15th already? Where has the time gone?! There is still so much to do, but there is also so much to look forward to.

 

I honestly cannot believe there are now less than two weeks left of school and 33 days until the Class of 2016 graduates from this fine institution and will be heading out into the fleet. Seriously, I am in utter disbelief how fast the time has flown the past four years. However, I am also beyond ready to begin a new chapter of my life aboard the USCGC Hamilton, a national security cutter located in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

I am blessed to be heading to Charleston with one of my best friends, Jay Power. However, I cannot help but feel saddened that I will be separated from some of my other best friends. I truly believe that the Coast Guard Academy fosters deep friendships that will last a lifetime. I basically consider all of my best friends I have made here family. Don’t get me wrong, everyone here is a family. We have all been through so much together. From reporting in together as civilians who had no idea what they were doing, to surviving seven weeks of Swab Summer, getting through a strenuous work and passing boards 4/c year, creating and unveiling our class crest, sailing on the USCGC Barque Eagle, being introduced to the fleet, wearing our rec gear to numerous trips to Chili’s, Olive Garden and other liberty bus locations, making it through 100th week, indoctrinating the Class of 2018 as cadre, sailing around New England on $1 million yachts, getting civilian clothes privileges, starting to take command positions, going to Ring Dance and receiving our class rings, being introduced to the fleet as future junior officers, leading the corps through regimental reviews with our swords, attending Castle Dance at Rosecliff Mansion, dining in, enjoying billet night, and so many more memories, it’s hard not to become a family.

 

Looking back at my time here at the Academy, sure there are plenty of things I would do differently, but I would not want to go through it again with any other people. I am so thankful for everyone who has lent a helping hand to me, made me laugh, and showed me the way. I never thought that I would make it until the end of this extremely challenging, but rewarding, 200-week program, but somehow I did! (Knock on wood.)

 

I am so excited to continue learning out in the fleet and start my career, but of course I am also very nervous. However, I will continue to take life as it comes, one day at a time, and I am hoping I will have a long rewarding career – whether that be in the Coast Guard or civilian sector.

 

If there is one piece of advice I can give to those of you still in the Academy or about to join the best Corps of Cadets in the nation, it is to never take any experience you have here for granted. Sure, bracing up isn’t fun and no one wants to clean heads and passageways in their free time, but I urge you to make the best of every situation you’re put in. It’s amazing how much better your experiences will be if you look at the positive side of things and never take situations too seriously. Remember, whatever happens to you, the world keeps turning and time goes on. You will be okay and you will make it through the day.

 

More about Samantha.

 

Looking Back on It All

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Belanger Photo 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.