Greetings from the Academy! I recently reflected on my current journey to becoming an officer in the United States Coast Guard, and I can say it has been one difficult challenge. So if you read my bio you know I am from a Navy town, my cousin is a graduate of the Naval Academy and here I am at the Coast Guard Academy. Well, that is only the short story. After looking into colleges in my freshman year of high school, I thought I wanted to go to the Naval Academy. I grew up surrounded by Navy chiefs, my dad was a FC1 (Fire Controlman First Class) in the Navy and like I said before my cousin was a graduate. Funny thing is they all told me to look into the Coast Guard. Let me say, I instantly fell in love with Coast Guard and later in love with the Academy. I visited the campus the summer of my junior year and knew this was the school for me. I applied early action and waited. Finally, my package came in and I got the bad news that I had not been accepted. I was crushed. Luckily, about two weeks prior I had gotten accepted into the university located by my house so I had a fall back. Then at the beginning of May I went to the Daytona Beach National Drill Competition, and lo and behold there was a little Coast Guard Academy table. Even though it was a three-day competition, my path never crossed with the man running the table. The last day we were there, I asked the women in the booth next to the Academy’s and she said, “There he is!” I turned to meet the man who would kick-start my dreams of becoming a Coast Guard officer, standing there holding a hot dog. After talking to him for about an hour (with my friends talking me up) he told me about the Prep Program at the Academy. A week later he called and told me I had been accepted to the Coast Guard Academy Scholars program (CGAS for short). I was so happy; I was able to tell everyone at my high school graduation that I was going to go to the United States Coast Guard Academy!
July 25th 2011, I reported to the Academy for the CGAS program; unfortunately not expecting anything that was going to happen. Think of Swab Summer condensed into three weeks, now add a 3:1 cadre ratio and just multiply it by 300. This is what I was experiencing; I didn’t know if I would be able to make it. But three weeks later, I finished and was flown to the great state of Alabama. Now, I had never been to Alabama before and let me just say I have never seen so much nothing. After the bus picked us up from Birmingham, we began the long drive to Marion Military Institute located in Marion, Alabama. I lost cell service within the hour and I was nervous about what to expect. After becoming a cadet of the corps, classes soon started and the year took off. I had a different experience at Marion than my fellow shipmates. I was placed in a company where it was primarily West Point and Air Force preps with just one other CGA prep. I have to say it was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I had an amazing roommate that is now an Army cadet in the Class of 2016 and I met friends that will be in another service that I will remain friends with for years to come. We had a blast and we always had each other’s backs. We knew the goals of one another and we all strived to make sure the goals would be accomplished. In March of 2012, I received some hard news. We found out that the Academy was expecting above a 3.0 to receive an appointment. I only had a 2.7 and I quickly saw my dream slip away. However, at the end of March after leaving lunch early I returned to my room to troll Facebook when one of my friends came in to hug me and asked if I was ok. I didn’t know what he was talking about, he had said that most of the preps received their appointments and were celebrating but he had not seen me and thought I hadn’t gotten mine. I checked my email and saw the message that would make me fly out of my seat hitting my head on the top of the doorway. I had gotten my appointment to the Class of 2016! The rest of the year was bright and I was ready to report on June 25th to begin my new journey of getting through the Academy! I can’t wait to have a follow up story for my 1/c year!
If you have any questions please do not hesitate! Nathan.D.Belanger@uscga.edu
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