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CADET BLOGS

cadet blogs

Administrative Action

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Sharp Photo Well, I have almost officially made it to my first Thanksgiving break at USCGA, which means that I have almost officially made it through my first semester of “college.” Now, clearly, this is not your average college experience. Over the past few weeks, I have seen many of my shipmates get honor-boarded and masted, have attended a formal dinner training that our instructor said was the worst she had ever seen, and have experienced a “bussing and respect remedial.”

 

No, this place is not your average college. We take honor, respect, and devotion to duty very seriously. And, right when you start slipping through the cracks and lose sight of these three pillars, you had better believe that there is someone there to remind you–albeit through administrative action, or through a light slap on the wrist and some notecards. As fourth class, we are the followers. A part of being on this lovely level of the chain of command is that, sometimes, we get to write these notecards. On such notecards, we get the privilege to write, in pen, mind you (so you cannot re-use the note cards), “1/c (name of your Company Commander), 4/c (Your last name) respectfully requests to inform you that (insert anything you might need to inform people of–your whereabouts, something you did wrong, indoc test corrections, etc.).”

 

On another note, honor boards are where a cadet who has acted in a manner that rubbed someone the wrong way (cadets are honor-boarded when they are suspected of cheating, fraternization, or simply breaking the regulations). This process consists of the cadet walking in and sitting at the position of attention with an upperclassmen advisor of their choice. The upperclassmen who comprise the honor board and will ask the cadet questions about the situation. The board then makes a recommendation to Commander Barker, who oversees the mast. Most honor boards lead to masts. The mast is much more formal because it is where Commander Barker decides how hefty the punishment will be for the cadet in question. 

 

Cadets are required to attend certain dinner and etiquette trainings so that we learn the importance of respect and how to act toward officers and how to act when we become officers. Due to the nature of such trainings, we cadets get restless and sometimes feel the need to occupy our time with other things to distract us from the training. Unfortunately, my classmates and I made a very negative impression on our instructor, adding to the respect issues and misconduct coming from the Class of 2019. We fourth class cadets who attended this specific dinner training were addressed about our misconduct and now have to write a memo and apology notes to the trainer and the staff. This is an understandable punishment that we are all dealing with and will get through together.

 

On another note, this morning, our first class that is in charge of fourth class behavior and misconduct, and our company guidons, second class cadets who are in charge of the fourth class of their company, met with us during our morning training period. Although the training took time out of our mornings, everything that they had to say was correct. This always happens to the fourth class. Thanksgiving rolls around and we start getting bored with doing our jobs. When we square corners, it looks more like circling the corners. When we speak to upperclassmen, we drop our “sirs and ma’ams.” When we are marching in section to class (also known as “busing”), we speak to each other, which is not allowed. I think that we have forgotten our place at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak. We have forgotten what we learned over Swab Summer about teamwork and that we need each other to get through this. We have forgotten that we still have another semester of being fourth class. We have forgotten that we can never get too comfortable. About anything. Ever.

 

The main thing that I have learned is that life at the Academy is like one giant, slightly bruised apple. You can look at it and be like, “ew. This apple is gross. Why would anyone want that?” Or, you can journey through the process of eating the apple. One bite at a time. When you decide to deal with it and eat the apple, you find some bruises. That bitter, sour taste enters your mouth and you squinch your face up. In fact, when you are least expecting to find a bruise, you find one. That’s the best part. You never know when it’s coming. It just does. And there is nothing you can do about it. You just have to embrace it. Think about all of the people before you that had a bruised apple. You aren’t special. Embrace that bruised apple. Because, you know what? What it comes down to is the fact that somewhere out there, there is someone who would die for that apple.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. USCGA has made me who I am today and I am forever grateful. I have gotten to travel an insane amount. I have been to New York City and Newport, Rhode Island on Eagle over Swab Summer, Canada with the dance team and Wind Jammers, Boston for a dance team competition, numerous church camps, Colgate College for a Mock Trial competition, and, of course, initially to lovely New London, Connecticut. To make everything that much better, the people here are amazing. We have all been through some sort of trial that has brought us together and formed a level of respect for one another. We have done something and are doing something that nobody else in the whole wide world gets to do. It sounds super cheesy, but I always feel blessed here. On my hardest day, when I am getting called out, have a bad test grade, or am fighting with my best friend, none of it matters. Because I am here. I am doing what I truly believe I was meant to do. I am glad to be here. And I can’t wait to see what lies for us next.

 

More about Kirsten.

 

An Uphill Battle

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Silliman Photo The day before R-Day legitimately frightened me. Three weeks of summer had flown by and now I would spend the next seven weeks in the toilsome world of Swab Summer. I did not have the easiest time as a swab; in fact, I probably had one of the hardest. As the Academy begins to prepare for the arrival of thee Class of 2020, I hope I can help incoming swabs understand what they need to do to get through the summer. I faced a very tough uphill battle to get into the Coast Guard Academy as I was wait-listed in the Early Action round of applicants in December and did not receive my appointment until May. A big reason for having been wait-listed was because I had not visited the Academy since eighth grade so they had no real way to gauge my interest. By keeping in touch with my Admissions Officer and asking people with connections to the Coast Guard to vouch for me, I eventually received my appointment.

 

I feel from my Admissions experience that I am in a good position to give advice to new applicants. I think I can also draw now from my time here even though it has only been a few months. I have struggled with the military aspect of being a cadet, but having mostly acted with the best intentions has prompted my superiors to mentor me and help me through a situation rather than punish me. I hope the experiences I am having as a cadet can be used for other incoming cadets to learn from. As a prospective cadet, I was always looking at the blogs to read what people had to say, and I emailed two cadets when I was in high school. I remember emailing Ensign Samuel Krakower when he was a 4/c for advice, and then I emailed 1/c Caroline Miller for advice on getting off the wait-list. Both of them responded to me promptly and that response of being able to interact with other cadets was huge to me.

 

More about Derek.

 

Enjoying the Little Things During Swab Summer

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kearney Photo Arriving on R-Day, I thought to myself how my brother went through all of this. I grew up with him and remember saying goodbye to him on his R-Day. I saw the ways he changed and the ways he remained the same, and I heard the stories of his experience at the Academy. Being here now, I can put together what I visualized the Coast Guard Academy to be and compare it to what I have actually done.

 

Going through Swab Summer with the company known to be the most challenging on its swabs was difficult but well worth it. Through all those difficulties also came the good moments – small things here and there, Boston and New York on Eagle, and the bonds I made with my shipmates. The workouts were tough and could occur throughout the day. Shaving every day was a first. I had to learn how to memorize information quickly; to get out of bed and put shoes on in 15 seconds; to change out of a uniform, take a shower, and re-dress within 4.5 minutes; and to properly square every corner and every meal. This may all seem daunting but, in fact, it wasn’t as bad as it may sound. It was always helpful to remember that every cadet and officer had to go through the same thing. The key point in making your way through Swab Summer is to give one hundred percent effort. The days are long but the weeks go by quickly on the track of becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. Keeping a positive attitude is vital, and I reminded myself that I must always enjoy the little things.

 

More about Alex.

 

Holiday Sandwiched Mayhem

(Academics, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hi. It’s weird. Driving back to school this time, I did not really experience that stomach drop. At this point, my closest friends are those who walk the halls here at school. Thanksgiving was nice, and it was a chance for me to be completely off guard prior to the most strenuous week of the semester. Funny how that works. I have to say though, the break was nice. I went home to Maryland and was able to get some quality family time in. I was able to depart early for recruiting leave, which was nice. I got to leave the Academy on Friday instead of Tuesday! I went to four high schools but unfortunately the students in my county were already on break, so I met with some teachers. I also did an informational session at a library, which was attended by a variety of people, so I guess I did get some recruiting in.

 

School is about to be crazy in the coming four days. I have two papers and a poster due, and two tests. And then our military scores are also due in, plus we have to attend military trainings. Additionally, I have a take-home test due and another test on Monday. Soooooo, when I finally make it to finals week, I will be one happy camper.

 

OH! Last week, our “shopping list” came out for all firsties!! I cannot even begin to believe that I have made it to this point in my cadet career, but at the same time, it feels natural that we are all considering where we will be spending the next chapter of our Coast Guard lives. People are starting to get sentimental, which may seem premature but honestly I could not tell you where the month of November went!

 

I hope that you continue to follow my journey as it sure to stay interesting!

 

Decisions, Decisions

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo It’s midterms here at the Academy, which means staying up late writing papers, studying for tests, and catching up on homework. However, just like any other day, academic work is not the only thing on our minds. For firsties, the center of discussion is on ensign billets. Last week, we had morning training on the billet selection process, and I swear I have never seen more of my classmates awake and attentive during training than that morning. No one wanted to miss out on a critical date or any piece of information that might keep them from getting their dream billet.

 

I learned quite a bit that morning; however, I believe it can be boiled down to five important lessons:

 

  1. Be realistic in your selections. Our billets are determined primarily by our class rank. For co-location, the engaged cadets are assigned according to the lower class rank. To the number one cadet in our class, congratulations; that person is going to get his or her first choice unless there is some kind of extreme situation. For the rest of us, we have to determine which picks are realistic for us to get based on what the people above us in rank want. As a result, I have to talk to other cadets to see what they are selecting so that I can design a reasonable billet list.
  2. Everyone in our class wants the same billet. This is actually a joke lesson I have learned from talking to people in an attempt to gauge what people above me want for their first assignment. Apparently, no matter what I tell people I am interested in, at least 30 other people want it. If I am thinking about a buoy tender, tons of marine environmental scientists want the same thing. If I want flight… good luck (I don’t, luckily). If I want a fast response cutter (FRC) in South Florida, think again (this is actually what I want). I think this whole discussion is funny because obviously there are going to be a fair amount of people that want the same general units. There are nearly 190 of us commissioning and only so many billets.
  3. Advice should be taken with a grain of salt. A career path/unit that worked for someone else might not be the best fit for me. Everyone has different skills and preferences. I would rather do what makes me happy and worry about the career part later.
  4. There is no bad billet. I don’t think there is a single bad billet in the Coast Guard. Some of them might be less desirable, but we are a great service. If there are bad billets, it is because the command is not good.
  5. Needs of the service. Ultimately, our assignment may come down to needs of the service. I’m not bothered by that, though. I am happy to serve in the Coast Guard.

I have hinted at my ideal billet/career already. I want to go to an FRC, one of our brand new cutters. I want to go to South Florida because I want to be in the mix of all of the migrant and drug interdictions, as well as search and rescue missions. I will be happy if I get the FRC in Miami because I like the location there better than any of the other FRCs, but I would also be happy to get a different FRC or unit in Florida. My second choice is a ‘210 out of Florida. I say those two picks now as if I am 100% settled on them; I am not. I have so much more work to do asking questions of my mentors and professional resources. Luckily, there is no shortage of good advice in my life.

 

I am very excited and somewhat nervous to get started with my career. It should be awesome. We’ll see how excited versus stressed I am in five months when it is billet night at last…

 

If you have any questions, email me at Hunter.D.Stowes@uscga.edu.

 

More about Hunter.