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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.

 

Dear Class of 2021

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Friedman Photo First off, congratulations on receiving your appointment and on deciding to come to the Academy. As Swearing-In Day gets closer, the excitement of receiving your appointment has probably transformed into nerves for Swab Summer to come; so, here are my tips for your summer ahead.

 

Don’t try to find or get the Running Light ahead of time. Trust me; you will have plenty of time to learn it this summer and during 4/c year. Spend the time between now and Swearing-In Day with your family and friends.

 

Come in mentally and physically ready. I usually recommend that you are able to do 30 minutes of running, upper body, lower body, and abs. If you can hit that mark great, if not, don’t let it ruin the rest of the time you have left at home with stress. The more important thing is that you can push yourself and never quit. A large part of Swab Summer is learning how to deal with failure and high-stress situations. Come in knowing that you’re not perfect, you are going to fail and that is okay. Learn from it and move on.

 

Don’t take things personally; this goes with being mentally prepared. Nothing your cadre do will be personal. There needs to be a drastic transformation in a relatively short amount of time and this requires all discrepancies to be addressed immediately. We are simply trying to get the action up to standard. People who take corrections personally and let them fester usually have a rougher time during the summer than those who learn the lesson and move on.

 

Ask your friends and family to write to you and send care packages. Getting mail during Swab Summer is super motivating. When my parents sent me mail during my Swab Summer, they would write corny jokes on the card. It is something little but it helped me a lot. Also, tell your parents to send you food if they can. You will be given enough time to eat and as much food as you want, but, as a swab you’re constantly moving so you’re constantly hungry.

 

Females, practice putting your hair up in a bun. Don’t cut your hair within two weeks of Swab Summer to give you a chance to get used to dealing with it. Bring extra hair ties and hair gel. If you think hair ties disappear fast at home, you’ll be amazed at the rate they go missing during Swab Summer.

 

Enjoy the time you have between now and swearing in. I know anticipating the summer is stressful but try to relax and enjoy this time. The summer will come and go; it is only seven-weeks out of your 200-week experience at the Academy. Your cadre are there to help you become a basically trained military member and an effective 4/c cadet. Believe it or not, we want you to succeed and complete the summer. We were in your shoes not too long ago.

 

If you have any other questions please feel free to email me at Jill.M.Friedman@uscga.edu. I know most bloggers put this at the end of their entries, but we mean it. We volunteer to write these blogs because we remember how much they helped us when we were in your shoes so please do feel free to reach out, whether you’re in 2021 or not, we want to help you.

 

More about Jill.

 

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.

 

My Appointment to the USCGA: January 8, 2014

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Kokomoor Photo It has been more than three years since I received my appointment to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and there are plenty of moments around that time that I can no longer recall, but January 8, 2014 is not one of them. I remember that day as if I could be living it all over again, right now. I wanted to go to the Coast Guard Academy…REALLY BADLY. I was getting nervous that I had not heard back yet from my early action application submission, and I was starting to doubt everything. I thought about what other colleges I did and didn’t apply to and started to get nervous, more so than I like to admit.

 

On January 8, 2014 I went to morning swim practice, I went to school, and then I went home and took a nap. I knew that I had to get up soon to go to afternoon practice, but it was cold outside and so warm in my bed. I was contemplating extending my nap through practice when my phone started to ring from across the room. I almost didn’t get up to answer it; I never answered my phone in high school. But for some reason, still unknown to me, I got up, dragged myself across the room and picked up the phone. It was John Westkott, Head Coach of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Swimming and Diving Team.

 

Everything from there is cookie cutter, an awkwardly exciting conversation with my soon to be college swim coach, some jumping around my room followed by a quick call to my mom, and then my dad, and then my sister, other sister, brother, high school swim coach, everyone, you name them, they got a call. I was off the wall excited to be going to the Academy.

 

After a few weeks the excitement faded and was replaced by nerves. It was something I thought I wanted more than anything, and I started to second guess myself. I had other options, easier options, to consider, ones with less commitment and definitely less stress. But something carried me through those few unsure month. R-Day and Swab Summer came and went and all of a sudden I’m three years in and I haven’t yet made a decision that I regret. It really does all work out in the end!

 

More about Jacklyn.

 

Diversity Makes a Difference

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Chang Photo (02APR17) New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world, so coming to New London, Connecticut was a bit of a culture shock. However, there are ways to discuss the concept of diversity and the Academy dedicates one week, Eclipse Week, to these discussions. Personally, Eclipse Week is one of my favorite events because I see it as a way to share stories and perspectives that people wouldn’t normally share. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in classes, sports, and drill that anyone can get distracted from their roots, no matter where they’re from. I’ll be working on this blog over the course of Eclipse week, and I’ll try to do a mini-entry every other day. I’ll also try not to sugar-coat anything, because diversity isn’t something that can be taken lightly. It’s a real issue that goes beyond the Coast Guard, and something that I think we should all consider. Hope you like it!

 

(03APR17) This year’s theme is about “character” and who you are when no one’s watching. Conveniently, we had John Quiñones, an ABC News reporter and host of “What Would You Do?” come and speak to us today. He shared his story, his dreams, and the challenges he faced as a Latino-American. What I got from Mr. Quiñones is to never underestimate the value of empathy. Oftentimes when someone is being mistreated, the people who step in to help have had a similar experience and don’t want to see others suffer, even if they’re a complete stranger. Even more interesting was that, most of the time, the people had almost nothing in common, whether it is ethnicity, occupation, or even wealth. However, all it takes for people to take initiative is a single shared idea that they can all relate to.

 

(06APR17) This morning was my first Eclipse Event, organized by the Asian Pacific American Council (APAC). We had breakfast with Asian Coast Guard officers, ranging from Lieutenants from the class of 2015 to Admirals who have been in for a years, and had mentoring sessions over spam and rice. In the short time we had with them, I learned about life in the fleet, life outside the fleet, and I even got some financial advice. However, the most important thing I learned is that diversity makes a difference. I believe that people are visual beings, meaning that a lot of our actions and emotions are affected by what we see around us. Frankly, talking to Asian American officers was really just refreshing because I saw higher shoulder-boards on someone who looked like me. I found myself relating more and being more comfortable asking questions because we were raised under the same culture, and I think non-Asian cadets benefited just as much from seeing a new perspective.

 

(07APR17) Spectrum Council is the Coast Guard’s first official LGBTQ support group and they hosted a lunch panel about transgender people serving in the military. Along with the amazing number of people who attended, we had the opportunity to meet the Coast Guard’s first transgender officer. However, while we can celebrate the progress we’ve made after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), today’s panel highlighted the changes that will be necessary now that transgender people can openly serve as well. Of course, bathrooms are a prominent issue, but there also needs to be focus on teaching people what exactly “transgender” is and what we can do to help people during their transition, rather than pushing them away. It may be an awkward conversation at first, and some people may be uncomfortable just by reading this entry, but now is the time to adapt and improve our understanding of the changing world around us.

 

(08APR17) So what did I learn this week? I don’t even know where to start. It’s hard to present the concept of “diversity” without making it seem like another mandatory training we have to finish. It’s even harder to show why people should care about diversity issues because they may not see it as a priority, and the worst is when they say, “It’s not that bad.” However, the Coast Guard is a humanitarian service, and taking the perspective of others is one of the basics of our mission. As a Chinese American and member of the LGBTQ community, I truly appreciate how we’re at least making an effort to dispel obstacles and assumptions. Diversity will always be a hard topic and we all have different values, but we should value each other above all else.

 

More about Olivia.