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cadet blogs

Dear Families of New Swabs

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Opas Photo Dear Families of New Swabs,

 

Looking back at the singular year I’ve been in the Coast Guard, I realize how fulfilling it has been. But that sense of fulfillment did not come without an initiation period. As swabs, just like our enlisted and officer brethren in the fleet, we must break into Academy life. We must go through trials and tribulations alongside our classmates for these seven brief weeks so that we learn to take care of ourselves AND lean on each other during times of stress. To you, the summer without your swab may feel immeasurably long. To your swab, this summer will feel like an eternity. It will not be without tears, bruises, scrapes, or sacrifices; and certainly not without a profuse amount of sweating.

 

But know this. Your swab is in good hands. If not their more-than-capable company chiefs and officers, or their cadre, but their classmates. Your swabs are making some of the BEST friendships they have ever made, and will ever make in their lives. The men and women your swab stood shoulder to shoulder with on Washington Parade Field will be your sons and daughters’ family. They will buoy them up at 2 a.m. when they have to write a 1,000-word paper due the next day, they will run alongside them to make sure they pass the PFE every semester, and they will give your swab that integral piece of motivation when they hit the point in the summer where they feel they cannot take one step further.

 

I still remember running across Washington Parade Field in the last ten minutes I had to say goodbye to my family last summer. I recall the tears blurring my vision. But I also remember the pride I saw in my parents’ faces. The swabs may have already come to grips with the fact they won’t be home often anymore. If they haven’t, they will in time. Let them. It’s not that you’re losing a child, but rather that they’re becoming a part of something bigger than themselves. They’re ripping themselves from their comfort zones, devoting themselves to a higher calling, and doing some seriously amazing things in the process. You should be incredibly proud of them; they’re growing up a lot faster than their high school peers.

 

When you see your swab this summer, and believe me, you will, make sure to give him or her a hug‒ the cadre tend not to budget time in the swabbies’ schedules for them to bond and simply be human. Don’t pester your swab for stories, he or she will tell them in good time. Make sure to send swabbie snacks during the summer, and send letters‒even if it’s just to tell them what the weather’s like back home. Letters and packages make the roughest days just a bit better. But don’t necessarily expect a response immediately or frequently. It depends on the person, but with very little time to themselves, every swab budgets their time differently.

 

Take comfort in the knowledge that every swab is learning valuable life lessons. Be proud of them, be supportive of them, and be accepting of the new adults they’re becoming.

 

Cheers,
Former Swab Opas

 

More about Leah.

 

Dear Class of 2021 Parent

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Farlow Photo June 26, 2017 will now always mark a special place in your heart. Maybe not quite like a birthday or anniversary, but when you see it on the calendar it will make you smile, at least for a second. It was the day your child made the biggest commitment thus far in their lives, and whether you realize it now or later, you made a commitment too, and you became part of the Coast Guard family. Swab Summer is tough, but your child will make it through and then fourth class year will be full of ups and downs, learning experiences, and most importantly lifelong bonds and memories. Before you know it, your swab turned third class cadet will be sitting here writing a letter to the class of 2022 parents, wondering where their first year of college went and how their second summer is almost complete. Between now and then, there will be good days and bad days, days they are sure they will make it and days they are unsure how they made it this far. When I look back on my fourth class year, I struggle to remember the negative events, and although it may not seem like it, in a year your 3/c cadet will do the same. They will think back to Day One, killing a calculus test, a weekend full of adventures with friends in NYC, coming home for the first time, their first practice or game as a collegiate athlete, passing boards, and earning carry-on and everything else will fade away.

 

Fourth class year is hectic, even on a slow day. Bear (no pun intended) with your cadet as they figure out their schedule and when they have time to talk and when they can’t. If they say they need to write a paper, or they need to prep a uniform, they have a three hour practice, they need to wax their floor, or attend CAAP, I promise those are all things that need to be done, sometimes all in one day after attending a full day of classes. Just tell them to breathe and that when all those things are complete you will still be around. If they mention trying a new sport or joining a club, encourage them, even if you don’t know anything about it, because distractions from Academy life are key to survival. Also, encourage them to take adventures on long weekends; it will give them something to look forward to. Tell them to go to NYC or Boston, if nothing else it is worth it to be able to wear civilian clothes and feel like a person instead of a cadet, even if it is just for three days.

 

Finally, as a cadet there is only so much I can say about being the parent of a cadet, so my own parents would tell you that the Academy experience in general, and fourth class year in particular, is your child’s experience. Your son or daughter, prior to Day One, probably did not fail at much, so it will be difficult to listen to their struggles—and they will struggle, get knocked down, fail, be challenged and pushed—perhaps to points they did not know they had. Despite the temptation, allow them to tackle this challenge on their own terms. Support them on this journey, but always know that you cannot take the journey for them. Remind them to laugh—to never lose their sense of humor. Above all, be proud of the fact that your son or daughter has answered the call to service; raised their right hand and taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Welcome to your new family—the parents of USCGA cadets.

 

Go Bears!

Francesca Farlow

 

More about Francesca.

 

Swimming in the Bermuda Triangle

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Wheeler Photo Never in my life did I think that I would swim in the Bermuda Triangle! The command of USCGC Eagle, on its voyage to Bermuda, decided to take a break from sailing the crystal clear Atlantic waters one hot afternoon to let the crew go for a dive. We set up a rope swing and jumped off the waist of the ship, not unlike Tarzan, into the bluest waters I've seen in my life. None of us knew how deep it was or what sea creatures lay bellow, but we plunged in anyway. Taking a break from the normal hustle and bustle aboard America's Tall Ship was much needed and many cadets, officers, and enlisted crew alike were relieved by the cool ocean. The swells and waves made the swim even more exciting with up to a hundred of us in the water at once. The fun was cut short by a surprise visit from a couple of Portuguese man o’ war (venomous things that look like bubbles and float on the surface), which was immediately followed by a mass scramble to the rope ladders on the side of the ship. All in all, the swim call was definitely a highlight of the trip and being able to say that we swam in the Bermuda Triangle is incredibly unique, not to mention a lifelong memory.

 

More about Pat.

 

Advice for 2021 and 2022

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Purrington Photo Wow. It’s been too long since I sat down and blogged. Life here really flies by.

 

Cadet for a Day season is upon us again! (This is a program that invites prospective cadets to tour the Academy with a cadet for an entire day in order to see what USCGA is like before coming here.) Seeing all these young men and women has made me think about how useful I found the blogs when I was in high school, which reminded me I should blog, which made me think of a few things I have to pass on to all ye prospective cadets.

 

Class of 2021 

 

  • It’s gonna be hard. It’s different as your support system is ripped out from under you, everything is new and exciting and kind of frightening and you can’t even look around. It’s worth it and it will get better. Swab Summer feels like an eternity but try to remember what a small portion of the Academy experience it is. You will wake up some mornings and want to leave. Don’t. You made it in and you’re tough enough to handle this place.

  • You may not see it but your cadre cares. You matter to them. They love their jobs passionately and training you is their job. They will not baby you and they will not make it easy, but they will be rooting for you even when it seems like they’re not. 2019 is full of some of the most awesome, dedicated people who cannot wait to make you all great shipmates.

  • Do your job. There will be mornings, even during the school year, that you’ll be so tired you won’t want to get out of bed or be able to remember how excited you were to get to come here. It sucks. Get up anyway, square your corners, do your job and do it with as much fake enthusiasm as you can. Fake it until you become it; I’ve found that if you do that, usually, by the end of breakfast, you feel eight million times better. If you can pretend you’re doing great, even when you feel awful, more likely than not some upperclassman will say or do something that makes you feel less like dirt. From personal experience, I can tell you that without fail, every time I am struggling and nothing seems to be going right, someone from my company does or says something – and it could be as small as greeting me by name in the passageway – that helps turn my day around. Make it easy for your shipmates to do this for you; do your job and fake it ‘til you become it.

  • Start getting ready physically for Swab Summer and have fun with your family and friends. I think particularly for those of us who do not live in New England, the last time you will ever get to spend a good amount of quality time with your friends and family is before you report in. Hang out with your friends, but also hang out with your family. I know it may not seem like the coolest thing to do, but especially if you have siblings at home, this is the last time you may ever get to spend a lot of time with them and likely the last few months you’ll ever live together. Go see a few movies together, go to the beach (when it gets warmer!), or an amusement park, or see a concert. Make some good memories and take some pictures while you’re doing so.

 

Class of 2022 (AIMsters) 

 

  • Get to know your cadre. They’re scary. I was an AIMster too, trust me, I know. I was terrified of my AIM cadre, but it’s worth getting to know them and staying connected with them. This year, I was lucky enough to be in the same company I was in for AIM. Last semester, my division officer was my AIM division officer. I was fortunate that he remembered me because I didn’t make any effort to stay in contact with him or any of my other AIM cadre. I wish I had. They’re awesome people and they were rooting for me all the way. My fall division officer is easily one of best leaders I have ever had the pleasure of working for and he will be an amazing officer come May. I got lucky being in his division as well as being in Bravo for AIM and 4/c year because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to know the amazing firsties who were my AIM cadre. Don’t leave that to chance like I did, stay connected with them after AIM.

 

Anyway, hope you guys found something useful that you could take away from this post. As always, feel free to email me with any questions!

 

4/c Darden Purrington
Kathlene.D.Purrington@uscga.edu

 

More about Darden.

 

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.