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Medallions, Colors, and Perfect Water

(Athletics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Kukich Photo While the Regimental Review for Homecoming Weekend and the football game the following Saturday afternoon have always been mandatory for cadets, this was the first Homecoming at the Academy that meant anything to me. It seemed like everyone was excited to see their older brother or parent that weekend; the alumni parked literally everywhere on campus Friday morning, including outside of our windows in the quad. Classes and trainings continued as scheduled, with one modification for the Medallion Ceremony to be held in the late afternoon.

 

Every year the class celebrating their 50th reunion from the Academy is invited to return specially for participation in the Medallion Ceremony. The Commandant of the Coast Guard is aided by three cadets, from Delta Company (the best company), in honoring each alumni with a medallion around their neck as their name and highest rank attained is read off by a senior cadet in the gymnasium. Surrounding the alumni, who sit on the court, in the bleachers as a Corps of Cadets is a powerful atmosphere in itself, but not the most personal. For me to feel connected to the events of Homecoming I needed more.

 

This year after assisting the Color Guard present the colors at the Regimental Review and Medallion Ceremony, I headed down to the boathouse for crew practice. Being a Friday and pretty late already around 5 p.m., I decided to go out on the water as soon as possible. Without waiting for my teammates I paddled down to Jacob’s Rock, about 300 meters, in my single rowing shell. Not far from shore I could hear alumni joining the women’s soccer team on the field, saw the lights illuminating the football field, and again, found cars scattered in every possible place around campus. Yet, there I was alone on the water with what felt like no connection to any of those cars or people.

 

Listening to evening colors as the sun sets at both the Coast Guard Academy and Naval Sub Base New London on the water rowing back to the dock is always breathtaking. The sounds echo from both sides of the river and on a clear night, the complete silence when the music stops seems to linger just long enough. On this night, however, the puttering burp of an engine filled that silence, along with the brushing of oars other than my own against the dock. Catching the gaze of the five men sitting in the boat across the dock was just what I needed for Homecoming to mean something. The tired looks of men who wrestled with calculus, stood years of midwatch, and had time to start families stared at me, who at twenty was exhausted from a paddle. One of them asked if it was a good row. “Yes, the water was perfect” was my response.

 

At the end of this year’s Homecoming Weekend I chose to reflect on the exchange with an alumni crew who still mustered the energy for a row. There were many reminders that there are thousands who have graduated before us, who wear medallions, and observe colors. Being tired is not a valid excuse not to care. It is a reason to keep searching and eventually, somehow finding the perfect water.

 

More about Sarah.

 

In a Flash

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Corbett Photo Last year upperclassmen said it all the time. “Trust me after 4/c year this place flies by.” Here I sit with midterms behind me and Thanksgiving staring me down. I remember being in Swab Summer thinking it was the longest seven weeks of my life and now life is a steady stream flowing day to day. So what have I learned thus far in the semester?

 

Other than all the crazy electrical engineering knowledge that is being crammed in my brain, there have been a few Academy lessons. Like I said, this semester has flown by. After all, time stops for no man. Sometimes people become so busy and caught up in life you forget to just breathe and take in your surroundings. Looking around the Academy and across the Thames, all the trees have changed to their fall wardrobe of oranges, yellows, and reds. (Which, if you have never been to the Academy or New England, is truly breathtaking). Taking in the small moments is difficult but necessary to stay sane. If you don’t stay caught up in work you will just become overloaded, frustrated, and stress. I try to keep stress out as much as possible.

 

Being a 3/c is very different from being a 4/c. For obvious reasons such as: not having to square, not having to take out trash, etc. Bigger than that however, the respect that comes with the new title is relieving. 4/c look to you for advice, for help, and as someone who is above them who has the wisdom of a year under their belt. Which is true, 3/c are the “friendlies.” We are not the enforcers or trainers. Our role is to set the example and help the 4/c pass the year. Now I might not know everything, but when I hear “Mr. Corbett sir” I am sure to stop and help however I can.

 

I feel like I usually give some kind of quote in my posts so I will leave you with “Every silver lining has a touch of grey.” –Grateful Dead. Everyone has plans. You have some sort of path of which you hope to travel. You can travel that silver lining all you want, but you have to understand that sometimes the path may be rocky, or may stray off. If you push through the hard times and stay on that silver lining you will reach your goals and ultimately live happier. The Academy was my silver lining and continues to be, but there are some hard times. You look to your left and right and see your shipmates alongside you to carry you through those tough times. The family aspect of this place could be a post on its own so maybe next time. For now I am signing off.

Reach me at Shane.P.Corbett@uscga.edu.

 

More about Shane.

 

Weekly 1/c Summer Reflection

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link
Meyers PhotoWEEK 01

 

During the first week aboard the Joshua Appleby (a 17- foot buoy tender based out of St. Petersburg, Florida), I have already learned a lot about the ship and am well on my way to an in-port watchstander qualification. This qualification will actually mean something, as once you qualify, you become one of two people required to stay onboard the boat, and are directly responsible for the safety of the ship and the people aboard it. Because of the small crew size, some of the qualifications I’m tasked with doing by the Academy will probably not get done. For example, instead of getting Damage Control Personnel Qualification Standard (DCPQS), this boat has what’s called SEOPS, which covers a lot what is in DCPQS, but is intended for smaller crews. Sections of this are required to qualify as in-port watchstander, which should hopefully count toward some points of my DCPQS qualifications. As far as the time I’ve spent on board, the boat just got back from a long trip, so there are only ever two people on board the boat at a time (the watch) while everyone else is home or on liberty. Instead of letting this time go by and waiting for the entire crew to come back to start my qualifications, I’ve been utilizing this time to knock out as many sign-offs as possible. At the end of week one, I’m already almost done with the sign-offs, but still need to do four more of my seven engineering drawings, some more SEOPS material, and read assorted manuals. I came in with the set goal of working hard no matter what and trying to help the crew as much as possible. So far I’m well on my way to doing this and have already given up countless hours of potential liberty in Florida to get qualified sooner. My main hope is that command will see through the list of qualification required by the Academy and see that I’m working as hard as I possibly can to do what I can get done.

 

WEEK 02 

 

I’ve now had the opportunity to meet the whole crew and I’ve already learned a ton from them! Specifically, I’ve worked extensively with BM3 Bryant in the operations department on navigation briefs, track lines, and aids to navigation planning. We got underway this past week and I got my first taste of what the black hull life is like. I was able to drive the ship through several buoy evolutions from start to finish as well as some restricted waters steaming, which were both great opportunities. My CO is absolutely awesome and I have a lot of leadership qualities to learn from him. If I could someday be an officer of his caliber, I would be a happy Coast Guardsman. Another thing we did over the course of the past week was an open house for the public. We moored up at sector and people came on board for tours. I thought that I would be able to offer little to the public as I had only been on board for a few days at that point, but was a huge asset in promoting the Academy. I had five or six individuals who were interested in attending the Academy approach me to ask questions and I did my best to give them some insight into what it’s like. I gave out my contact info to them and have actually been corresponding with a couple of them. On another note, I’ve been able to get off the ship a little bit and have seen the local beach and explored the area. St. Pete is a very nice area with great weather, but is pretty limited in terms of what there is to do. You can go to the beach during the day, or go to the bars at night, and since I’d rather not drink while I’m out by myself, I usually go back to the boat at night to work on qualifications and watch TV on the mess deck. There was a free concert one night that I went to; Bastille was playing in the local park for the public. Overall, week two has been a success and I’m starting to get more comfortable around the boat.

 

"Weekly 1/c Summer Reflection (Continued) PDF 

 

More about James.

 

Peer Tutoring

(Academics, The Cadet Experience) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo Being a 3/c means more involvement and responsibility within the corps. It also means a greater number of opportunities. Through the past five weeks of being back at the Academy, I’ve been offered many chances to become more involved in all three fields of cadet life: academics, athletics, and military. The clubs and activities fair wasn’t rained out this year, so I signed up for several clubs there. After 4/c year and having become accustomed to Academy life, I want to take advantage of more of the opportunities offered here.

 

During CAP week, I found out that I had been recommended by an English teacher to become a peer tutor. Peer tutoring at the Academy is a program where cadets are trained and qualified to help other cadets with academic assignments. A peer tutor must attend eight hours of training and can earn an academic grade and credit hour by logging 24 hours of tutoring over a semester.

 

Being an English peer tutor comes naturally to me. I’ve always valued creativity, but at a military academy, it can be a hard skill to maintain. Expressing thoughts through writing and encouraging others to do so is one way I keep in touch with my creative side.

 

It is also a great opportunity to help other cadets succeed. Certain collaboration policies allow for only help from peer tutors or instructors, and some people are more comfortable asking other cadets for help than approaching teachers. Additionally, meeting with someone in Chase Hall is a lot more convenient than having to hike to an academic building at night. This is one of the great things about the Academy; there are so many ways to get help. Unlike an ROTC program where not everyone understands the challenges you face, everyone here is going through or has been through relatively the same thing. People are more than willing to help each other. There are countless support systems to help a person succeed if utilized.

 

If you have any questions, please contact me at Sarah.R.Ritchie@uscga.edu.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Fifteen Things I Didn't Expect to Learn at West Point

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Frost Photo Going on exchange to another service academy is a unique opportunity that I'm lucky to get to experience. After six weeks of being at West Point, I've finally settled into a schedule with classes and grown closer with the triathlon team. Here are some things that I've learned and experienced over the past several weeks:

 

  1. At less than 5,000 cadets, West Point would be considered a small college to anyone, but it still seems ginormous to a Coastie. And, when everyone asks what the biggest difference between West Point and Coast Guard, the answer is the size every time.
  2. Thinking that because you are just one in a sea of 4.5 thousand, no one will notice you is the biggest lie you could tell yourself because navy blue ODUs do not blend in at all with Army green ACUs. You can be pinpointed from a mile away.
  3. Submersing yourself in a new environment is more challenging than expected, and it gives you a renewed understanding for what the 4/c are going through.
  4. No one understands how you talk; they don't understand your saltiness. The "deck" becomes merely the floor, "p-ways" are hallways, "bulkheads" are hallways, and "shipmates" are battle buddies.
  5. Everything has an acronym, and it's impossible to keep track of them.
  6. People will and do look at you like you have two heads for saying "Bears!" And "Go Bears!" to everything, and it's impossible to explain what needs no explanation to any CGA cadet.
  7. All 2/c cadets a called "cows." It's weird.
  8. You salute without a cover on in the Army and in both gym gear and cadet casual (a.k.a. rec gear).
  9. People will ask you what branch you are going into, and they are blown away when you say your options are flight school, deck watch officer, engineering officer in training, or sector. You quickly learn it's not worth trying to explain that it's not really "branching" like it is in the Army.
  10. Everyone thinks that "The Guardian" is representative of the entire Coast Guard, and they ask you every time if you're going to be Ashton Kutcher.
  11. You will spend all your money at Starbucks and the cadet restaurant, especially if you live closer to it than the mess hall, like me.
  12. Optional breakfast is the greatest thing a cadet could ask for, and West Point does it right. We're talking Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, Nutella, Starbucks iced and hot coffee... It's good. However, you will quickly miss the wardroom dinner selection.
  13. A lot of really awesome speakers come to talk to cadets almost every week, and they are opportunities that you want to take advantage of.
  14. There are so many club sports teams and clubs to join. Joining the triathlon team here has been my best decision yet. You meet amazing people that are completely welcoming to exchangers, and it gives you a close-knit group to experience the semester with.
  15. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn how you handle change when you feel like you're the only one going through it, you learn what a different service values compares to the Coast Guard, and compared to your own, you learn how to lead others when you still need guidance yourself, and you learn how to learn from those whom you lead.

 

More about Christi.