While the paycheck at the Academy is an incentive to some, it turns out that some of the “coins” cadets receive aren’t produced by the U.S. Treasury. Many civilians ask me how I spend my paycheck – to be brief it’s broken up in the following way. 1) The Basic Life Requirements: Haircuts for gents, laundry, wardroom meals, along with a number of other expenses are automatically taken out of biweekly paychecks. 2) The Academy Necessities: This includes all of the uniform issues and formal tickets that test our etiquette skills and ability to keep it classy. 3) The College Wish List: Every wish can’t be fulfilled with our paycheck, but we are extremely lucky to balance the cost of textbooks, some sports equipment, travel home, and entertainment if we budget carefully.
Overall, that steady paycheck can help to make the Academy a rewarding experience. But even more gratifying are the experiences had here. One of my favorite opportunities so far has been participating in the color guard, specifically at the Major Cutters Commanding Officers Dining In event on base in February 2014. The yearly event is hosted at the Academy and in addition to all the major cutter CO’s who attend, the Commandant of the Coast Guard and many distinguished guests also come. It was very nerve-racking to present the colors in front of so much gold, knowing in the back of my mind they very well could be the ones to write my evaluations in a few years. The audience collectively had accomplished an unimaginable magnitude of good and at the end of the event Admiral Papp, Commandant of the Coast Guard, mentioned that my 3/c classmates and I would be the ones to take their place someday as future leaders of the service. In recognition of our small contribution at the event, he presented all nine of us on the line with his challenge coin – a highly regarded tradition in the service. On one side it reads his name, “Admiral Bob Papp” and Commandant, while the other reads “Shipmates Semper Paratus”.
Receiving Admiral Papp’s challenge coin didn’t add to my paycheck, nor did participating in that color guard event necessarily help my grade in Differential Equations, but in the long term that accomplishment is what sets the Academy apart. The idea that one coin can be worth more than a paycheck makes the nightly feeling of exhaustion just a little more satisfying.
More about Sarah.