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cadet blogs

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.

 

Florida to Haiti

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo A little bit delayed, but… I got my billet, and I am going to flight school! I am still dumbfounded at this blessing, but I just cannot wait to see what the next couple of years in flight training has in store for me! Plus there are 12 other fantastic classmates of mine going, so it is going to be a wonderful community of students. Praise the Lord!

 

The whole thing was made even more exciting, though, by an experience that began less than 48 hours after I received my billet. I found myself boarding a plane to spend my spring break on a mission trip in Haiti with some awesome friends from the Academy. We travelled into a mountain village called Cap Rouge, and spent a week preparing the organization’s new missions house, helping the locals with their housework and gardening, immersing ourselves in the Haitian Creole culture, and learning to serve God in a completely new environment.

 

Going to Haiti changed my perspective on serving the Lord in incredible ways. I realized that my view of God’s purpose for the gifts and skills with which He has blessed me was a sort of tunnel vision; there are so many other ways that God could use me to serve Him. I wish every college senior could experience something like this, just to see what it means to be a disciple of God and where we fit in that equation.

 

I think of the end of the gospel of Matthew, where Jesus tasks the apostles with the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20) I absolutely cannot wait for the earthly career I will have in the military, and learning to be an aviator. But, that gospel task is my true career, and who knows how God will shape that one?

 

I am forever thankful for my time in Haiti…a future in service to the Lord is much, much wider than what I envisioned on stage with my first assignment in hand. It’s amazing to watch your understanding of God’s Kingdom expand in one short week.

 

More about Abby.

 

Rooms, Food, and Other Usual College Questions

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo High school teachers helping students through the college admissions process often tell students to take campus, food, living arrangements, and amenities into consideration before they apply. Now, this shouldn’t be the deciding factor for you if you are trying to decide to come to the CGA, but sure, it plays a part. Having done a year of college before coming to CGA, I can definitely give you a good comparison of the differences.

 

In terms of living arrangements, most cadet rooms are doubles. The rooms are relatively small, and must be kept in good order at all times. You can only room with the same gender and the same class (i.e., freshmen must room with freshmen). Also, you will be living “on campus” the whole time you are here. Things need to be stowed, folded, and clean just about at all time. We will have Formal Room and Wing inspections roughly once per month. You can only have two personal shelves with your effects on it, and one picture can be hung (24’x24’ max). When I did ROTC and lived in a dorm back in 2012, I could leave my room however I wanted—room inspections and constant order was not part of that military experience. We typically have a quick room inspection at least once daily.

 

The food here is actually much better compared to the colleges that I attended and visited long ago. At state college, most students will purchase a meal plan, which allows them to eat for a certain set number of meals per week. Food here at the CGA is made available in the cadet wardroom, or cafeteria. All cadets receive pay, and the expense for food is automatically deducted from cadet salary. Cadets are provided 21 meals per week, or what would typically exceed the largest meal plan at any other college. The food quality is actually very good for cafeteria food, and is much better than what I ate at state college, although sometimes it can be repetitive. Also, living here for four years on campus means that you cannot opt out of the meal plan.

 

Breakfast and lunch are typically family style, where every cadet (roughly 1,000) eats at the same time. Following formation in the morning and afternoon, all of the cadets head into the wardroom for the meal, sit down at the same time, and leave at the same time. Dinner is typically buffet style, which is what most college meals are like. The wardroom is open from 5:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and cadets can choose from roughly 3-4 different meal choices on any given evening.

 

More about William.

 

Liberty, Liberty, Liberty

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo A question I get very often from my friends outside the Academy as well as prospective cadets and parents is “when do they let you out?” Well, I decided to discuss this topic to break it down for prospective cadets. For starters, cadets have a summer break, Thanksgiving break, winter break, and spring break. Cadets (everyone except for the freshmen who are in Swab Summer) receive three weeks of leave during the summer following or sometime between training.

 

All cadets go home for almost a week for thanksgiving, and each cadet receives two weeks of leave for winter break. Cadets also receive one week or more for spring break in early March. Otherwise, if you ever need to go home for a family emergency, the Academy does an awesome job getting cadets this special leave when they need it.

 

For normal weekends, there is a graduated liberty system, and more privileges come with each successive year at the Academy. Freshmen, or 4/c cadets, can take off from Saturday at 12 p.m., or 1200, and need to return Sunday morning before midnight. Their liberty resumes on Sunday at 8a.m., or 0800 and they need to be back by 1800, or 6 p.m.

 

3/c cadets, or sophomores, have the same liberty as 4/c cadets, but they are granted liberty on Friday nights as well. They need to return by Friday night at midnight.

 

2/c cadets have Friday liberty as well, but are also allowed to take “short weekends.” This means they have an overnight pass from Saturday until Sunday night at 1900, or 7 p.m.

 

1/c cadets have the same privileges as 2/c cadets, but are also granted Thursday night liberty from 1600, or 4 p.m., until 2200, or 10 p.m. Cadets who have a command position, that is a significant military leadership position, are also allotted the same Thursday night liberty times but on Wednesday nights as well. When it has been determined that 1/c have met and exceeded the standard during the spring semester, 1/c cadets are granted gangway, when we can take off so long as we do not have a formation, class, or military obligation. 1/c cadets are also allowed to maintain and own cars on base.

 

So, I hope I was able shed some light on the leave and liberty process here at the Academy—don’t worry, they do let us out and there is a lot to do here in the area!

 

More about William.

 

Flight 101

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo One month until Billet Night! I am so excited to find out where I’ll be for my next two years serving the Coast Guard as an ensign. I put in for flight training as my first choice, so I am finishing up the tail end of a long application process. I’ve been very fortunate to learn a lot about Coast Guard aviation throughout the experience, so even if I don’t get it straight out of the Academy, I’m looking forward to taking another shot at it later down the road!

 

The flight school billets are highly selective. The congressionally permitted maximum number of cadets the flight training program can accept is 10% of the total class membership; the actual percentage is lower than that, and will change from year to year based on the Coast Guard’s needs for afloat and sector ensigns. The process for applying to flight school has morphed a few times since I’ve been a cadet, but for my class (and likely for the next few classes after us), it started in earnest at the beginning of first class year. Basically, there are four steps to getting to flight school as an Academy graduate:

 

  1. Pass the Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB). The ASTB is a pilot aptitude test that evaluates your basic physics, mathematics, mechanical, reading comprehension, hand-eye coordination, task management, and spatial skills. You are allowed to take the exam up to three times in your lifetime. It takes kind of a long time to describe in a blog… I would suggest researching this exam online a bit and getting some study materials to help you prepare. Look for “Military Flight Aptitude Tests” and “ASTB-E” on Google and Amazon!
  2. Write a memo, which is similar to a short essay, about why you want to attend flight school and how you have prepared yourself to do so. This is where you’ll get the chance to talk about any special skills or qualifications you have, like a private pilot’s license, and any unique experiences and activities that have helped you determine that aviation is what you want to do (summer assignments at CATP and air stations, flight team competitions, career aspirations, etc.) Get lots of feedback from aviator officers on your memo; the editing I received from pilots helped me improve my memo so much from my original draft to my final one!
  3. Prepare for your flight board. You’ll sit in an interview with a few active duty aviators from the local area, and they’ll ask you for some more details regarding your memo. It’s good to have a few stories to explain how you got interested in aviation, people who inspired you, and to have an idea of your personal strengths and weaknesses. And ultimately, they are just looking to see if you have a pleasant personality. Be polite, be positive, and be yourself!
  4. Finally, if you are selected to the final pool of candidates, pass your flight physical. A lot goes into this with eye exams, anthropometrics, EKGs, fasting labs, etc., so get it done as quickly as possible!

If you are interested in flight, start learning about it now! Take civilian flight lessons, talk to aviators, read books and study for your ASTB and, most of all, just get excited for a cool career path!

 

More about Abby.