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cadet blogs

Leadership at the Academy

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I do some of my best work for this blog site while I’m sitting in an airport terminal waiting for my flight. It is with this basic ideology that I have set down to pen this entry. I am writing to you all now from the International Departures terminal of the Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. My family moved to Okinawa this past summer, and I had the opportunity to go visit them.

This semester is fast approaching, in fact, as I sit here; we only have about 36 hours before leave expires. That being said, I’m beginning to feel the weight of the Academy bearing back down upon my shoulders. This semester will be a tad different from those that have passed before me: this will be my first semester in a leadership role. After the Change of Command ceremony which will happen our first day back, I shall become the Respect Master at Arms, the second class in charge of the Respect Department’s underclass, responsible for helping the Guidon instruct and lead the fourth class, and ensure that all the needs of the department are met. I have already spoken with the Guidon and he has big plans for us this semester.

I have high hopes that this up and coming semester will be a rewarding one. I have put in for a summer staff position and the rumor is that we will hear back on the first Monday of classes as to who will receive the appointments. I’m anxiously awaiting to hear back on whether or not I will be able to help the class of 2014 in their soon-to-be role of cadre, and get a chance to interact with members of the class of 2016 during their first, critical summer.

Leadership roles at the Academy aren’t hard to come by, there are a multitude of them waiting for you if you’re willing to put in the time and effort required to apply for them. Once you have them though, your workload begins to compound, and it is really under that crucible of pressure that you find your true leadership style and potential.

Unfortunately, I will be cutting this blog entry short, they have just announced that they will begin boarding my flight to Chicago. In a short 13 hours I will be landing back in the United States, rested and ready to start a new year, hopefully one, which will prove rewarding in light of the new leadership opportunities that will come my way. However busy I am this semester, I will do my best to keep you all updated. As always feel free to ask me any questions, I promise I will do my best to respond quickly and give you my opinions and advice on your questions

Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

More about Stephen.

How Times Flies

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I will always be the first one to admit that time flies here quicker than you will ever believe possible. A very wise cadet (now Ensign) once told me that you can break the Academy up into three distinct parts, each seeming to last as long as the other: Swab Summer, 4/c Year, and everything else. I am well into the third aspect of that separation scheme and never have I found it truer. As the days fly by, I find it hard to believe that my classmates and I are applying for leadership positions for the spring; we’re applying to be Guidons and MAAs, we’ve even put in the paperwork to be Summer Staff, to be the Company Commanders for the Summer, or to work on Regimental Staff. We’re applying for firstie positions. It’s strange… and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I’ve talked to people who have left the Academy and they’ve all echoed the same notions that I’ve been feeling as of late, time here flies fast. Even though the days seem to drag by, weeks and months seem to pass in a blink of an eye, and though I don’t doubt that this place is capable of fashioning high school graduates into officers of the finest sea-going service that America has to offer in only four years, I do doubt my ability to acquire the knowledge that they’re forcing into my brain at a thousand miles per second. I know it works, but it still bothers me that time seems to be slipping by so quickly.

We ordered our rings this past week. It’s the symbol that we will wear on our hands at every class function from now until we pass on. It’s an outward symbol of our having attended this institution… It’s also one step closer to graduation. All of these events seem to be happening simultaneously and it’s a bit nerve racking. Now that 2011 is gone, my classmates and I are taking charge, we’re standing JOOD (Junior Officer of the Deck/Day) and we’re standing ACDO (Assistant Cadet Duty Officer). We’ve been crossing off items on our checklists for graduation left and right, and even though we’ve still more than 18 months to go, it feels like it’s beginning to sneak up on us. And even though I want nothing more than to graduate and be gone to the fleet and begin my career, I can’t help but thinking how much I would miss the people here. I think back to a young JG who spoke to us when we were just 4/c, at that time sure that four years would never end. With two and a half of them just about done, his words seem more poignant than ever before “Remember that never again will you live just down the hall from 200 of your closest friends.”

I hope you all will forgive me my ramblings, I just wanted to convey to you a sense of how quickly time will pass once you get here, even if you don’t believe it during your first seven weeks at the Academy. If you have any questions you may always email me. I will answer them as soon as I can!

Semper P.

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Amazing Summer Experiences

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan There can be no doubt that the academic year at the United States Coast Guard Academy is a rigorous one; there is no pretending that this institution doesn’t attempt to force far more knowledge into our poor little heads than we have the capacity for, and yet despite all the learning that goes on during the year, the truest growth in knowledge happens over the summer when cadets are far way from their books and studies. Whether they are on the bridge of a ship, climbing the rigging, inspecting container ships, working at an internship, or even climbing a glacier, the varied summer experiences of cadets help shape their leadership styles.

This summer, while my swabs were on Eagle and my voice was recuperating, I had a chance to drive down to Sector New York and spend a week getting to know what life is like at a sector. I spent my week boarding container ships more than a thousand feet long, conducting inspections of power plants that abut the water of the harbor, working out with the MSST New York and observing the hectic atmosphere of the Communications Room of one of the biggest sectors in the country. The Marine Safety program, as it’s called, is relatively new having only come into existence last summer, and it was founded out of a desire to allow cadets to experience a different aspect of the Coast Guard that they are not typically exposed to while at the Academy.

Most of the class of 2012 also made their way to the sea this summer. While most cadets got assigned to Coast Guard cutters scattered around the country, a few had a slightly different experience. As 1/c Christine Roselli relates:

I was on the Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Kojima, underway for 24 days straight as we made the transit from Honolulu, Hawaii to New York. I was able to participate in Boat Ops, Search and Rescue drills, and experience a total cultural immersion with the Japanese Coast Guard Academy cadets. The experience was unforgettable and I still keep in contact with many of the friends I formed on board.

This exchange program offered five Coast Guard Academy cadets the chance to forge new relationships with our counterparts in the Japanese Coast Guard, and to get a chance to experience how different countries handle the multitude of problems that inevitably arise in the maritime domain, which always seem to fall to the Coast Guard.

By far though, one of the most exhilarating summers had by a cadet, happened hundreds of miles away from any ocean, up in the mountains of Alaska. There, on the Matanuska Glacier, 1/c Ryan Flanagan and 1/c Sarah Colmenero spent 23 days hiking over ninety miles over the glacial terrain with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). They were joined by three instructors, including LT Chis Bruno (’02), as well as nine midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy. 1/c Colmenero recalls that over the course of the trek, LT Bruno was “provid[ing] us with a direct application of NOLS’ leadership philosophy to situations in our future line of work as officers in the Coast Guard.”

Not only were they expected to follow the instructors and learn from observing them, they were given the invaluable experience of leading the expedition for themselves for an entire day. They were tasked with “setting goals for the group, reading the terrain, constantly monitoring the safety of the group… and making decisions of how to best overcome various obstacles which arose from severe conditions and unexpected natural blockades.”

These skills are directly transferable to the duties and responsibilities of an officer in the Coast Guard who, among other things, are charged with the safety and well being of the crew, maintaining the integrity of the vessel and ensuring the successful completion of the mission at hand. All in all, 1/c Colmenero believes that this past summer was “the most valuable and powerful training experience I have ever received at the CGA.”

Cadets are naturally curious creatures, who love to experience new and exciting things. Given the chance to be underway or in a classroom, it’s no doubt which choice the typical cadet would make. We’re destined to spend our careers in the fleet, taking the lessons and mistakes that we have learned here, and applying them directly to making a difference to our future units, our service and our nation. As such, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that the most valuable lessons we learn, are often taught to us during the summer months, when we’re getting a chance to test-drive our careers. Remember if you have any questions; please feel free to email me at Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

(Note: This article was originally written and printed in an extended form in the USCGA’s Alumni Magazine, The Bulletin)

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Q&A with 2c Nolan

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I am always grateful when I receive an email from a prospective cadet who has read an entry of mine and has reached out to me to ask a few questions. It lets me know that somehow, I’m connecting with someone, and perhaps making an impression on some of you as well. As the coordinator of the blogging program is always encouraging us to write more, I felt as though I would take the opportunity today, while I’m traveling home on leave, to write an entry that addresses the most common questions I get from people who are preparing to start, or have already initiated, the application process. Although this blog differs stylistically from the manner in which I typically write my discourse, I hope you’ll bear with me and gain a kernel or two of knowledge about the application process: from a cadet’s perspective of course.

I’m not the top of my class, but my grades are still pretty good. What can I do to make my application look better?

I can assure you that your grades, while extremely important, do not have to be perfect in order to get into the Academy. They must be strong, especially in the math and science areas, but it is by no means a requirement to have a perfect 4.0. What is helpful is that you show Admissions that you are a well-rounded individual. A person who shows community involvement through volunteering, a person who plays sports and has a leadership role on the team, and a person who is employed: is a person who has demonstrated that they are capable of prioritizing their time, and has already taken the first steps necessary to becoming leaders of character. Now, it is important to note that although being involved is important, being a member of 50,000 organizations, but not really having a leading role in them, doesn’t say much about your prospects of becoming a leader. Ensure that you’re getting involved and leading the way, that will impress Admissions.

How important are high SAT scores to getting into the Academy?

Although I don’t work in Admissions, I have talked to several people regarding this matter. Over the years the Academy’s Admissions division has collected enough data that they can fairly accurately predict how a cadet will do at the Academy based solely on the math and science sections of the SAT. I personally never took the SATs, in my area of the country it was ridiculously hard to schedule a session, so I took the much more prevalent ACT. So for those of you who were wondering, it is most definitely possible to get in with just the ACT score.

I’ve never been on or near the water before. How will that affect my performance at the CGA?

Once again I speak from personal experience in order to address this question. I spent my entire high school career in the Great State of Kansas, about as far away from an ocean as you can possibly be. Despite this, what some might consider, setback I am on the offshore sailing team and doing just fine at the Coast Guard Academy. It’s only a hindrance if you let it be so. Although some people start off with a bit more knowledge, there is so much to learn that the playing field is pretty much level to start with.

I know old CGA Alumni, should I have them write my letters of recommendation? Can I get a Congressional Nomination and send it in with my packet to improve my chances of getting accepted?

Although it never hurts to have your letters of recommendation come from alumni, it doesn’t really throw around much clout. The Academy is extremely protective of its reputation as the only service Academy that doesn’t require congressional nomination. We pride ourselves on being an Academy that is completely merit-based: so in short, don’t focus on whom you know, focus on who you are. Don’t try to bulk up your application with reputations and names, build it up with accomplishments and activities. Those things are far more likely to impress an Admissions Officer than a name on a page.

I would like to reiterate the point that all of these answers are only my personal opinions on the matter, generated from my own observations. I highly encourage that you take the time to pose your questions to not only cadets, but to the Admissions Officer assigned to your area of the country. They are the ones who should best be able to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. That being said, if you still have any questions you would like to hear my perspective on, I would love to answer them, so please, keep them coming!

As always,
Semper P

More about Stephen.

Midnight Cadre Musings

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan “Charlie Company: Ears!”

“OPEN”

Every single conversation I have with my swabs starts this way. It lets me know that they are actively listening to what I am saying, and it lets me know that they aren’t zoning out on me. More and more though, I feel as though my shipmates should be saying that to me. I need them to verify that I’m not zoning out, or that I’m actively listening, because never in my life have I been as utterly exhausted as I am right now.

I’m not hallucinating: I remember my own Swab Summer quite vividly, I remember those late nights working to chip away at the seemingly endless stack of homework in the depths of third class year, I remember late nights out on liberty, and double four to eight watches underway, and yet I can say with absolute certainty, that I have never been this tired. The lack of sleep, coupled with the sheer amount of yelling that has to be done, along with trying to make sure that 38 shell shocked swabs are dressed in the right uniform, in the right place, at the right time quickly wears down even the most resolute individuals. It does not help that they have us outnumbered three to one, so corrections happen constantly. There are times where I see a swab do something incorrectly; they round a corner, they fail to greet one of my classmates, or they take their eyes out of the boat, and I want nothing more than to ignore it and let them go on their merry way, but I know that I cannot do that. I have to correct their behavior because the Academy and ultimately the Coast Guard as a whole, has trusted us with the seemingly insurmountable task of training these civilians into being functioning men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

I’m standing night watch now; I’m sitting at my OOD podium, monitoring the hallways from where I sit, and go on a round once an hour to ensure the swabs are staying in their racks and getting their much needed sleep. While standing this watch, I feel almost like a prison guard, making sure no one is escaping the watchful eye of the cadre. Standing this watch also gives me a lot of time to think: it’s a tremendous amount of power we are given in this situation: we tell the swabs when it’s time to eat, when to hit the head, when to shower, when and where to go, we tell them to drop to the deck to do rowers or planks, we control so much of their lives, and we’re only two years older than them. It’s easy to get lost in the moment, but stepping back, it’s truly awe inspiring how much sheer trust the command staff has in us to perform our duties.

It’s funny how much being a cadre changes a person; I’ve noticed it more in my shipmates than in myself. I don’t know what it was, but when we put on those red aiguillettes four days ago, we suddenly became a much bigger part of the system. Somehow we seem more invested in it. Part of it may be derived from being caught up in the moment, but certainly a portion of can be ascribed to a desire to instill in the next odd number class the same training we received and by sheer force of will make them an even better class than we ourselves are. It’s almost as if we have developed a bit of paternal pride for them: granted, most parents don’t show their love through physical remediation, yelling, and military trainings, but the overarching mixed feelings of pride, concern and nurturing are there, even if they’re muffled by the militaristic necessities of the Academy.

I realize now that I’m beginning to ramble; blame it on the sleep deprivation if you must. I think I’m going to end this entry here, before I go on too much farther and bore you to tears. I will just conclude that in just the past four days that I’ve had to work with the Charlie swabs, I think I’ve learned almost as much from them about my leadership abilities, as they’ve learned from me about squaring and sounding off. As always, please feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have.

Semper P.
2/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

More about Stephen.

On Becoming Cadre

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan One of the things you never really think of when you’re a swab, most likely because there isn’t a whole lot of time to ponder the big questions of the universe while you’re percolating, rushing to and fro, and spewing indoc, is how much work goes into prepping Swab Summer. When a swab steps off that bus, he or she is bombarded with cadre yelling as though they’ve been doing it their whole lives, only to sprint up and down passageways that shine and scurry into rooms where the decks are polished and their items are stowed. Swabs go through uniform issue and drill practices, they sign papers and get haircuts, they are literally swamped, and to their eyes it may appear as though the Academy has always been in this state of perpetual anticipation for their arrival. Though swabs consciously know better, it seems to them as though the cadre have always been cadre, that their rooms have always been stowed, and their gear has always been awaiting their arrival: this is not the case.

The first discrepancy I would like to address is this: cadre are not born cadre. Despite how intimidating they may be, how professional they seem, and how inscrutable they appear, they are just as new to the job of being cadre as you are to the job of being a swab. In reality, it is but a mere two years that span the divide between being a swab and wearing the aiguillette of a cadre. That being said, although we are new to the game, it does not mean that we aren’t preparing for it. This week at the Academy is designated as “prep” week for all cadre who are in any way involved in the training of swabs. It’s a week filled with the cleaning of Chase Hall, the retrieval and stowage of standard issue gear, attending trainings, and practicing for the big event. This week is all about ironing out those little wrinkles that could, if left unattended, endanger the smooth mechanical flow of R-Day and the weeks following it. A lot of effort goes into transforming each and every second class into competent cadre, because although it’s unfortunate, the skill sets and talents of being a cadre are not immediately infused into every second class when they don white shields. Training and practicing hone those skills, so that by the time R-Day rolls around, it does seem as though we have always been cadre.

By the time the swabs cross though the Archways on the morning of their Reporting-In day, hundreds of man-hours have already been spent in an effort to allow the day to run smoothly. Dozens of different people across the Academy grounds have to prepare for their arrival. While the soon-to-be cadre are responsible for the overall cleanliness of Chase Hall, the bookstore and the uniform shop prepare for the influx of over 290 persons and the Officers and Chiefs who deal with the logistics work through how to best fit 1,200 extra people onto a base that should comfortably hold less than half that number. All in all, it’s an exhaustive process that many people are involved in planning… and that’s just for the first day.

R-Day is fast approaching and as the day draws nearer the frenzy of activity increases throughout the Academy grounds. The cadre are busy prepping, for despite us being new to the job, we want to exude the confidence and professionalism of the members of the class of 2011 who trained us. We want to be those people that the members of 2015 look up to. We are planning, we are preparing, and we are studying our roles and acting out scenarios: all so that we can be ready for them. We have been entrusted with an important job, for not only are we training the underclassmen to be members of the Corps of Cadets, we’re training the men and women who will serve with us in future years, for although two years at the Academy is a huge span, in the fleet that amount of time is negligible. We’re training a class who will forever be associated with us. When people look at 2013 fifty years down the road, they will be able to say it was their class who trained the class of 2015; and when that day comes, I intend to ensure that those words are said in awe, rather than disdain.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions!
Semper P.
2/c Nolan

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Moving On Up

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan That time of the year is once again upon us; when firsties become Ensigns, fourth class move up from the bottom of the totem pole and a new batch of firsties take the helm. It’s an exciting time for everyone, but the class of 2013 in particular has something to look forward to: our cadre are graduating. It’s an odd feeling knowing that the people who trained you are now heading off into the “real” Coast Guard. In some sense it’s like knowing that the people who were always watching your back are no longer there. It’s a necessary development to be sure, they want to graduate just as much as we want to be cadre, yet it’s odd because it seems as if they’ve always been there.

It’s like any story of old, in order to take your place at the top, you must displace the ones who are currently there, and for us that’s the class of 2011. We can’t really come into our own as upperclassmen until such time as they are no longer in the picture. They knew us as swabs, so until they leave, we can’t really be in charge of our own class, our own swabs. Once they depart, it’s going to be like they’re taking the training wheels off of the Academy… we’ll become the senior odd number class.

It’s going to be a defining summer. The unique nature of the Academy’s summer training program: 2/c training the swabs means that for the rest of your time on this great earth, you will be associated with three classes: your own class, the class who trained you, and the class you train. That means this summer will be important forever, because we will be eternally known as the class that trained 2015. It’s something that we’re taking seriously, and something we’re looking forward to. It’s a chance to stretch our wings a bit, and learn what type of leaders we really are.

I’m looking forward to the summer, and to any incoming members of the class of 2015, I hope you’re looking forward to it as well. It’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be miserable, but I can guarantee you that it will be the best worst time of your life. As always if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu.

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After Receiving my Appointment

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan Spring Break is almost upon us! The excitement is palatable throughout the halls. Everyone is preparing to forge through as best they can through the last day of classes, and break into the glorious freedom that is a week off. People are heading out with their sports teams to Florida, on mission trips to Honduras and the Dominican Republic, and to the mountains to ski. As for myself, I’m heading to Ireland with a few shipmates of mine; it’s sure to be a blast, but that will be another journal.

It’s hard to grasp how much time has passed since I was where most of you are right now: spring semester of senior year. I had received my appointment a few days before Christmas, but withheld sending in my acceptance until the end of January. To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure it was what I wanted to do, and I am still a firm believer that, if you decide to come here, you should be certain it’s what you really want. If you’re not, you will be miserable, and in all likelihood, you won’t last. In March of 2009, I was starting to get in shape for Swab Summer; I started jogging more, working out a bit, and just trying to be healthier. Looking back, my only regret is that I didn’t do more of it. Swab Summer still kicked my butt, despite my preparations, and I wish I had worked just a bit harder to have made it through better.

On the flip side of the coin, during senior year, I was doing my best to make sure my grades stayed up to my standards, that I was hanging out with my friends as much as I liked to, and that I was still volunteering. Just like any other college, if things start falling through, the Academy doesn’t have to take you, so making sure that I maintained my appointment after I accepted became a big part of my life. Of course the last really big thing I was dealing with was preparing for graduation. I cannot stress enough to you however, that as important as graduation is, don’t let the celebration ruin your future. There is a tendency for people to go out and drink after graduation, and unfortunately, there are instances where such stupid decisions have lead to people not getting to come to the Academy. If coming here is something you really want, you have to make that choice.

I think that’s about as much preaching as I’m going to do this time. I’ve just finished a massive load of homework, and I am one day and one wake up away from being on a flight to Ireland. I’ve got some packing, sleeping, and planning to get up to, now that the schoolwork is done. As always, if you have any questions, I ask that you please send them my way, and I’ll answer them as soon as I can!

Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Coming Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan Another leave period has passed, and once again I find myself thousands of feet above Middle America penning this latest entry. It’s always bittersweet heading back to the Academy, but today it seems as if the emphasis is more on the bitter than the sweet. My dad is returning from Iraq today, and I’m on a plane heading back to the Ensign factory. Bad timing on both of our parts has lead to our missing each other. In a further sense of irony, I’m flying into the Atlanta Airport for my connecting flight, the airport where my dad was a mere hour ago. Each time I look out the window, I fancy I see another airplane, his, passing by. At a certain point though, I have to accept that sometimes things don’t work out, and I should just be grateful that he’s safe.

I was spending one last night out on the town with my old high school friends last night, and on the way back, we were joking about how our sleep patterns were getting all thrown off by our vacation schedules. At home, I usually went to bed around 0400, and woke up around 1030 or so. It’s about the same amount of time I usually sleep at the Academy… just in a completely different time block. This brought us onto the subject of our normal sleeping patterns, and I made the comment that I usually don’t get to bed before midnight because I end up tutoring people who stop by my room for help. One of my friends looked at me and asked me “how much do you make for that?” I looked at her and asked her what she meant and she reiterated, “how much do they pay you to tutor them?”

I guess this points out the stark difference between the Academy and the rest of the college world; I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone have to pay for tutoring…it’s something that you just do for your shipmates. If you understand something, if you get it, you help someone else with it, because you know at some point down the line, somewhere, you’re going to need someone else’s help. The farther and farther I get from Swab Summer, the more I see the rationale for breaking down the original and depriving swabs of the first person… we really do have to be a cohesive unit to work at the Academy. There are few people, if any, who will turn you away from their door, even at eleven or twelve at night, if you need help. It’s just a totally different atmosphere that my friends portrayed of their colleges. And don’t even get me started on class sizes, when I told them my largest class was Chemistry, with 30 students… well, let’s just say that’s not how it is in most Gen. Ed classes.

I’m heading back to start MAP week. I’ll be quite honest, I’m not sure what it stands for, but I do know what it means for me, three days of meetings, book issues, trainings, the PFE and preparing to start school. We will be switching roommates and rooms this week too in the “free” time that we can find. All in all though, I can’t complain too much, I’d take MAP week over a regular school week any day.

According to the Internet that they have on this airplane, we’re over Mountain Home, Arkansas. I know we’re going to get ready to land soon, so I’m going to wrap this blog entry up in traditional style. I hope you all had a happy holiday season, and if you have any questions, please feel free to shoot me an email at Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu.

Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan

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A Sea Story

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan In approximately one hour, I will be departing the Academy for Thanksgiving leave. After spending the last few days tying up all the loose ends around here, I am ready to leave this place in the dust… at least for a while. I’ve been sitting here for about 10 minutes trying to think about what I want to write about, and what I can convey to you, the reader, about the Academy. What can I say to convince you to come here? As with everything in the Coast Guard, I think the best way to answer that will be with a good “sea story.”

On May 23rd of 2010, I was awoken at 2320. I was pulling the mid-watch that night on helm and lookout on the Coast Guard Barque Eagle, and I had managed to catch a few z’s between dinner and the time I had to get up. I peered up through the thick curtains that kept the light out of my rack to see who was coming down to make sure that I was awake and I got a nasty surprise. It was one of my shipmates from the earlier watch… who was wearing his rain gear. Nothing can quite approach the misery that is standing four hours of watch in the pouring rain, it is a unique feeling of resigned dread that fills your stomach when you realize that’s the type of watch you are in store for.

I dejectedly crawled out of bed and awoke my other division mates and proceeded up to the waist. A smile broke across my face when I opened the hatch… it wasn’t raining any longer. Decidedly happier, I headed up to the bridge, saluted the OOD, took my pass-down, and in short order assumed the helm. I had just gotten fully qualified the day before and it was to be my first time being in control. We split up our division as usual, four heading to the bow to stand look out, and three of us taking over the helm. I was, at the time, the only fully qualified helm-stander, so I had to remain at the helm for the entire time.

No less than five minutes after I took over, a gale blew in. My two shipmates and I struggled to hold the ship on course, throwing all our weight into holding the massive wheel in place. The rain poured down in thick sheets making it almost impossible to see the rudder-angle indicator on top of the pilothouse and the OOD had to yell instructions just to be heard. The rain was so heavy that I could barely see the mainmast, let alone the bow where the rest of my division stood. I remember checking my watch once to see how much longer I had to endure. It only read 0105 on 24 MAY 10.

Looking at that date gave me a start. One year prior I had donned a blue cap and gown and walked across the stage that had been set up in the center of my high school football field. Where were my friends who had walked across that stage with me? How many were lying in their beds; how many were working the graveyard shift for the third night in a row in order to pay off their college loans; how many were still living at home, blissfully unaware of life outside our small town? Despite the winds, despite the chilling rain, despite the bone deep weariness that settled in, I was happy for the rest of my watch. How many other people could say they were driving a three masted tall-ship in the middle of a storm one short year after graduation? How many people had gone through as much as I had in the single year since I received my diploma? The rest of the watch passed by quickly as I realized how unique of an experience I was living.

It would not be a proper sea-story if the rain hadn’t abated five minutes before I was relieved of the watch and if I didn’t say that it was the worst storm I had ever seen. So in true fashion, it did, and it was. I will say this, however: the experiences you gain here – the good and the bad – are ones that you cannot get anywhere else. As always please feel free to email me if you have any questions about the Academy or about anything in general.

As always:
Semper P.
3/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Things Change

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I woke up in a panic this morning. Ten minutes to go was being sounded off right outside my room while my alarm clock screeched in my ear. I leapt out of bed thinking I was late ― for I’ve found that old habits die hard ― and rushed to put my O.D.U. trou on while simultaneously trying to yank on my socks and put my shields on the blouse that I had so carefully prepared the previous night. In the dark of the pre-dawn morning, I had a flashback and thought, for a moment, that my shields were green. It was but a momentary panic, one that quickly dissipated, but I think it clearly illustrates a major difference between fourth and third class years.

Last year, had I woken up to the sound of clocks going off, I would have panicked even worse than I had this morning, because I would legitimately have been late. Now however, I have a little bit more time to sleep in the morning, and after the days I’ve been through as of late, that is a very necessary thing. I think the most striking difference between fourth and third class year, is the emphasis on academics. During fourth class year, the emphasis is on all things military: shining your shoes every day, preparing your uniform, memorizing indoc, squaring corners, addressing upper class, doing clocks, taking out the trash, and cleaning. Third class year, however, the emphasis is on classes. Ask any member of the class of 2013 and they will tell you, without a doubt, that academics are the major focus. This is not to say that academics are unimportant during fourth class year, but they step it up a notch, so to speak, once you put on red shields.

It is already November and this is only the first journal entry that I’ve written since the summer. Last year, I used to regularly write journal entries in my spare time last year… and plan to do so this year, but the problem is that “spare time” has become almost non-existent. I have started working in my major classes, and I can honestly say that being a Marine Environmental Science major was definitely the right move for me. I love my Meteorology and Marine Biology classes, and I can’t wait to go more in-depth with them as time moves on. This year we have also moved into more advanced mathematics, and I’m currently taking Differential Equations, as well as Physics, Professional Rescuer, Ships and Maritime Systems as well as labs for my major classes. All and all, it’s a pretty hefty schedule along with sailing, military trainings, and trying to help out my own fourth class get through their first semester.

I’ll apologize right now if this journal seems a bit disjointed. It has been a very busy week, but I wanted to make sure I at least got one journal entry in before Thanksgiving leave. I’m afraid I must end this post now, because the backlog of things I have left to do is continually piling up and I must try to cut it down to size. However, I encourage you to email me if you have any questions! As always,
Semper P.
3/c Stephen T. Nolan

Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Promotions and Reflections

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan Although I fear that this journal entry will be one of many expressing the same event, emotions, and uplifting spirits I nevertheless feel compelled to share with you the almost unimaginable joy that I felt today. It is with great pride that I am able to tell you that at 1245 on the eighteenth day of May, I became a third class cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy. Words do not exist that can competently express how monumental a moment this is for all of us who have undergone this metamorphosis.

After the ceremony a few of my friends and I were talking, and we came to the unanimous decision that we had never worked harder for anything in our lives. And to be quite honest, that’s what makes it such a worthwhile achievement. Having placed so much time and energy into all the menial tasks that make up the life of a fourth class, having dedicated our lives for nearly a year to taking out trash, mopping decks, standing reg-rio, yelling at clocks morning and afternoon, bussing, squaring and always cleaning; it feels good to know all that is behind us, and perhaps most importantly, that soon we will no longer be at the bottom of the totem pole.

The ceremony was simple, yet somehow fitting. Our cadre received their blue shields from the young officers and senior enlisted members of the USCG Barque Eagle, and our division officers in turn frocked us temporarily leaving us with a single red shield and a single green shield. The irony of this didn’t escape me: We started out that first day of Swab Summer ten months ago with a little blue book and I ended my fourth class year with a few moments of having running light shields. We all got a kick out of it and many photos will soon be floating around Facebook, of happy cadets receiving their first promotion. We then had a choice of who we would ask to pin our second shield on us, many chose friends who had helped them survive the year, some chose crew members who they had become close to, and some chose a second upperclassmen. I was one of the latter, and asked my former Guidon to officially promote me to a third class cadet. It seemed only right that the 2/c who had exerted so much control over my life for the first half of my 4/c year to personally hand me over the reigns to my own existence once again.

So here I sit, about fifty miles from Colombia, green shields in my pocket, and red shields shining brightly from my uniform, and I honestly can’t think of a time I’ve been happier with my life. I know now that every decision that I have made thus far has lead me to this moment of time; the moment when I finally realized that I made the right choice in coming to the Academy. I can say now with 100% certainty that I was meant to be here, and that this is my home, and my life. I urge you now, as ever, to seriously consider coming to the Academy, to experience the joys and achievements, as well as the struggles and the pain that make them worthwhile.

As always:
Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Oh, the People You’ll Meet!

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I imagine that if time seems to be slipping through my fingers right now, that for some of you reading this, time is literally falling through it in a never-ending deluge. I remember one year ago I felt as though I was stuck in fast-forward, my life rushing full ahead towards that day-of-Days, R-Day. For those of you who read that sentence, and thought of your own impending R-Day and felt your heart leap into your throat, know that you are not alone. Hundreds of your future shipmates have felt just the same thing. I want to take the time right now, to think back on people who have had an influence on me this past year; people that you can look forward to meeting in a few short months. Regarding the cadre: you will find out soon enough that there are two types of leaders in this world –good leaders and bad leaders. Swab Summer is about training the individual to be part of a unit, training you to be more like them, thus preparing you to assume your duties as a future officer in the United States Coast Guard. Unfortunately, the Cadre themselves are learning how to lead too, how to be officers in that same Coast Guard. It’s something to remember that these people have only a scant two years more than you under their belts, for some of you, they might even be younger than you are! They too are coming into their own, and learning the ropes, and as such, you will see both types of leaders. Learn from them. I speak from experience when I say that I had cadre who I looked up to, and I had those who I had little respect for. Regardless of which one happens to be yelling at you at that moment, learn from them. Find out which techniques they used that motivated you, and use them on your swabs when the time comes. Find out which techniques made you mentally roll your eyes and store that information away in the recesses of your mind. Remember all that when you’re yelling at some member of the class of 2016.

Chiefs: I would not have survived this past summer without my chief. I once had a conversation with Adiral. Allen, and he gave me one of those “kernels of wisdom” which you’ll pick up over the years: Chiefs are the secret to success as a young officer. Never feel afraid to go and talk to your chief, to go ask for advice, to vent, to run an idea by them. During the summer use your SOS (Swab only Sessions) to your advantage, let your chiefs know exactly what you think is going right and going wrong, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you see a change. After the summer, your chief is a person who you can talk to if you ever need help. They’re a wealth of advice, and they’re always good for a salty sea story.

Regarding your shipmates: you’re going to learn a lot from your shipmates, and you’re going to come to depend on them as well, and you’ll learn a lot from both types; the ones that are gone by the end of the summer, and those that are still there with you when you start the year. Almost inevitably some people will be gone by the end of the summer, whether the cause was ‘D.O.R.-ing’ (dropping on request), or from medical reasons. One of my good friends over the summer was a swab by the name of Helena Pound, she ended up being dis-enrolled for medical reasons, but while she was still here, injured nonetheless, the cadre used her as an example of what we should strive to be like. Despite the pain she was going through, she still managed to be, in the words of one of my cadre, a "stellar swab." People like that are motivating, and they lift up your spirits. You’re also going to really be dependent on your shipmates who stay with you through the summer. There is no such thing as flying under the radar, so go ahead and toss that idea right out the window. There is also no such thing as a perfect swab, you are each going to have your failures, and you’ll have to depend on the rest of the group to overcome your failures: it’s a humbling experience. As cheesy as it sounds, by the end of the summer, you’re going to become a family, and you’ll know each and every one of your shipmates better than some of your friends back home who you’ve known for years.

I’m getting ready to leave for the summer, so this will probably be one of the last times I get to give my advice to you before R-Day. Appreciate your remaining time as a civilian, but take my words to heart. Look forward to the friends you’ll make here, to the people you’ll meet, and the opportunities you’ll have. Recognize that some of you who report in won’t be there at the shoulder board ceremony in August. Come to grips with the fact that you won’t be able to survive the summer alone. If Swab Summer were an individual experience there would be very few people at the Academy right now. Well I’m signing off for now, and though I hope I’ll be able to get a few more posts in before you report in, I would like to wish you the best of luck right now. Here’s to your summer, may it be as positive an experience (overall) as mine was. I hope to see each of you as 4/c in August, and maybe even as my fourth class to those of you who will be in the Class of 2015...

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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The Ten Scariest Things in the World

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan What’s the scariest thing you can think of? If you had asked me this twelve years ago, I would have told you without a moment’s hesitation that it was the monster that hid inside my closet, waiting for me to fall asleep to invade my dreams. Five years ago, at the ripe old age of thirteen, I would scoff at the premise of a monster in my closet and instead inform you that the real thing to fear was being unaccepted, being labeled an outcast by your peers. Nine months ago had you posed this question to me my answer would have been, in a heartbeat, being picked out and noticed by some cadre and being singled out for some special remediation. I’m here to tell you now though, that the scariest thing in the world isn’t some monster, isn’t becoming a social pariah, and most certainly isn’t having a cadre screaming in your face. The most frightening thing in the world is a green tablecloth and four gold bars.

Less than ten minutes ago, I was sitting in a conference room watching one of my classmates being masted. He was brought before the Commandant of Cadets, a Captain with shoulder boards of four golden bars, and was positioned across a green tablecloth from him. His charges were brought before him, and every aspect of his cadet career, every minute detail, positive or negative, was brought forth and splayed out upon the table. I cannot begin to imagine how he felt, standing there waiting for a punishment to be handed down, knowing that his future, his dreams, his goals, his aspirations, all lay waiting to be cut down by a single sentence from the Captain. I had stationed myself in the farthest corner behind a row of people, attempting to distance myself as much as possible from the proceedings, and I still felt as though the Captain was boring into me with his eyes and his words. My shipmate made a very heartfelt apology in his closing statement and in it he recognized the fact that he had made a mistake, and that he had lost the motivation to continue on the course he had set for himself.

So why am I relating this to you? I’ll be quite honest, part of it is out of a purely selfish desire to vent my feelings onto paper, a need to take what I have witnessed and to save my raw feelings and emotions for perusal at a later date, but in a sense I’m also giving you this episode in order to reiterate something I’ve said before: you make sacrifices to come here. Now I’m not going to go into specifics on what my shipmate did, but to put it simply, he sacrificed his honor and his career for a few hours of fun and freedom. When we first put on these uniforms, we sacrificed having a normal life; we are bound by rules and regulations, which no college student on a non-military campus would have to endure. It’s a knowing commitment to a higher ideal that we make, and we have to abide by it.

Why is that green tablecloth the scariest thing in the world to me? It’s not necessarily just because of the fear of being kicked out, its because I fear having to experience that shame and having to bear that burden of knowing that I cheated myself, just as I could tell my shipmate was feeling today. It’s an age-old adage that to get a donkey to pull a cart you need both a carrot and a stick. I can see the carrot lying four years down the road in a single gold bar and a commission, but I think its good that there's such a powerful stick looming over my head, much closer and much stronger a presence than the carrot. I helps to make sure we stay on the right track.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

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Through Another Lens

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan There is a poetry about this place, hidden just beneath its disciplined surface. Its rhythm is that of marching feet and clicking heels. Reveille is her opening line and the late hours after taps, her closing stanza. Her meter is the sounding off days to go, and her spirit is kept alive through sacred tradition. Her tone is kept by the fourth class; changing on a minute-by-minute basis. Poetry is everywhere, from the precise Villanova of drill, to the prose of rocking boats in the waves. From precision to free verse and everything in-between, it all co-exists in this place we, sometimes grudgingly, call home.

I remember quite well the first time I slipped and referred to Chase Hall as home; I was walking back from sailing practice when the words just slipped off my tongue. It was an odd feeling, one that I admittedly fought at first, but which I eventually came to accept. I know that I have stated, repeatedly how much this place can stink, how it can rub a person the wrong way, and how it can slowly drain your energy, how it can make you forget why you came here… but there is a certain beauty about this place, and it is hidden everywhere you look.

I’ve seen some breathtaking sights: the Great Wall of China on a misty summer morning, the desert of New Mexico covered by the first snow of winter, the Chrysler Building on a snowy winter’s eve, St. Peter’s Basilica filled with thousands of devout Catholics, and sunrise atop a mountaintop in Maine. Yet somehow they seem to pale in comparison to the sights I’ve seen here. The Great Wall somehow can’t compare with sight of colors racing up the flagpole, the first snowfall in the desert can’t compare with seeing cadets frolicking on the first snow day of the year, St. Peter’s Basilica somehow fails to inspire as much as a congregation of groggy cadets awaking from their one day of sleep in order to give praise, and the sunrise o’er the mountains is nothing next to seeing it peek over the Thames river on a clear crisp winter morning. I know there is seemingly no logic to this, but I still feel that it’s true. I don’t think I’ve ever been as in love with a place as I am with this Academy.

I can’t quite pinpoint what it is that I love about the Academy; it is simultaneously everything about this place and nothing about it. There are times when I am sure that my affection for these grounds derives from nothing but the deep respect I have for the Coast Guard and all it stands for, and there are other times when I feel as though the only source of my fondness is a deprivation of sorts: even a child’s stick figure drawing begins to look like a Picasso after staring at a blank wall for a long enough time. It’s hard to put into words, though I try my best, the feelings that are generated here.

There is most certainly a poetry about this place, but it is often ignored by those who produce it. The Corps of Cadets is the soul of the Academy, yet they sometimes fail to see the beauty that exists all over the place. It’s an acquired trait, and one that you have to force yourself to want to acquire, because it is one worth having. I feel that if I couldn’t see the good behind it all, I would never be able to do what I have to do every day.

Semper Paratus
4/c Stephen Nolan

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This Little Island of Respite

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I have just waded through a veritable sea of homework, and once or twice I nearly sank beneath its vicious waves, though now I stand on that foreign shore of the land they call “Done.” Sailing through such dangerous seas is quite a momentous task, as any seafarer can attest. Standing on the other side though, and looking out to the horizon, I realize that these “seas” that I just came through are little more than microscopic puddles compared to that big sea that surrounds this little island of satisfaction and restfulness that I stand upon now. It is the sea of fourth-class year. Dimly along the horizon, I can just make out the red-stained shores of third class year. I have been told though, by people who have already passed over this ocean that lies between me and that oh-so-distant shore that it too is just a single island (albeit significantly larger than the one upon which I now stand), and that beyond there lies greater oceans and greater islands. Beaches stained white and blue and eventually silver and gold. I have been told that the waters through which I am traversing now, though harrowing, are nothing compared to those that lie beyond.

Rather than think about those journeys that lie before me, I believe I shall make use of this time I have here on this island of respite. I sense the tides will soon shift and an onslaught of duties and homework and endless menial tasks will cover these sandy shores, so I must enjoy it while it lasts. One can never tell exactly when or where these islands of peace will pop up, and it’s necessary to take advantage of them for however long they last. I think its time to kick back and take a short nap, or perhaps to make a phone call to a loved one, maybe I should invest the time in reading a shore little novel, or maybe even jot down a few ideas for some poetry that I’ve had. On the other hand… I can use this little island exactly the way it was meant to be used… for doing nothing at all.

You see, when your life becomes composed of nothing but sailing through the treacherous seas that fill your life in the Coast Guard, you learn to appreciate every single moment you get where you can do absolutely nothing at all. Yet even as I sit here, I can see a squall gathering strength on the horizon. Its time to set sail again, because I can feel the water slowly start to swirl around my feet as this island of “Done” sinks back beneath the tumultuous waves of homework and military obligations from whence it came. It may be just my imagination… but those red stained shores of third class year, look just a tad bit closer than they did yesterday.

As always,
Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

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Welcome Back: Academy Style

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I’m back. I must admit that when I first drove back through those gates in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. You see, as much as I love this place…. It still stinks to be here. I’ve always said that every person who goes to this Academy has to be a bit of a masochist and a bit of a sadist: a masochist because they chose to come to this life of hardship, of late nights, of early mornings, of hard work, and of seemingly impossible tasks and a sadist because two years into it, you’re going to be inflicting the pains that you just felt during swab summer, on someone else. Right now I’m definitely playing the part of a masochist. I hate that morning alarm clock more than anything else I can conceive.

It is so awful to be here some days, so why do I stay? I know you must be asking this because I’ve asked myself the same thing many times. Why do I stay? Is it for the glory or some self-serving pride? Trust me if it were only for that, I would have left here about an hour after stepping into Chase Hall. Is it people’s expectations of me? To be honest, that does somewhat affect me. That’s what kept me going through most of Swab Summer. Every time I thought about quitting what kept me from doing it was the thought of having to go back and face the people who wished me all the luck in the world as I left, and told me I would do a wonderful job. Without that subtle coercion at the beginning, I wouldn’t be here right now. At this point in time however, I no longer feel that those pressures are a driving force.

So what’s left? Why do I stay in this place that some days feels like my own personal Hades? The answer is really quite simple. I stay for two reasons: my shipmates and the days that don’t stink . My shipmates are the most important thing here. My friends are literally my life. Everything I do, I do for them. You realize that it’s a different type of friendship you develop here than ones you’re used to. Not to say that my old friends aren’t wonderful: they are, in every sense of the word, but as my father once put it: “nothing bonds people together like a common misery.” After enduring the “common misery” of Swab Summer and the academic swab year , there is a connection here that no one who hasn’t been in the military can fathom. My shipmates and I are held together by the common bond of having survived a hellish summer, and by the bond of striving to survive a hellish freshman year.

The days here are harder than any I’ve ever experienced before. They’re tougher, they’re longer, and sometimes they’re nigh impossible. Trying to cram twenty-six hours worth of activities into a twenty-four hour period isn’t always easy. Yet, despite how horrific it sounds, there are days where this place is amazing. The hard workload makes you appreciate the rare days when you have nothing to do during study hour. Nothing is more therapeutic than the wind in your face as you race around the Thames on a Colgate, and nothing more liberating than going out on liberty for an hour or two. These little things, so underappreciated in the so-called “real world” are the reasons why we stay. As sad as it may sound… these tiny things, heightened in their importance by the onslaught of other, more oppressive tasks, are the reason that some days seem almost… heavenly.

My friends, my shipmates, and those very rare, once in a semester days where all seems right with the world: That’s the true reason I stay here. Another semester is about to begin; and once again I will attempt to immerse myself in a culture that is slightly less foreign than it was a scant six months ago. I will continue on this 200 week journey that is the Academy, and pray that this semester flies by as quickly as the last one.

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I Sit Now on an Airplane

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan I sit now on an airplane, some 38,000 feet above the ground far below. I’m on my way home for winter leave. As I gaze out over the horizon, I see the patchwork of farms and homesteads that comprise the Midwest. It’s a far cry from that which the Coast Guard normally associates itself with: the absence of “p-ways” and “bulkheads” of “decks” and “heads” reminds me that I’m no longer at the Academy. I must admit that it’s a most delightful experience. I’ve been away from the Academy no more than five hours at most, and yet I’ve already been thanked five or six times. I can’t express to you the feelings that are conveyed to me in those words of thanks. Here I am, a mere freshman, a fourth-class, a peon, a nobody…and yet I’m being thanked for serving my country. It got me thinking back to something one of our second-class told the company right before the last leave…

“You’ll be going home here soon, some of you for the first time since R-day. When you’re traveling in your uniform, you’re going to get noticed, and you’re going to be thanked. I remember when I was a fourth-class I would accept the thanks but always feel really awkward about doing so. I mean, what did I do to deserve it? I wasn’t out there risking my life. All I had to do was brace up, square around, memorize a few page of indoc and march to class. And really, what’s that to them? In fact, I used to think that since they were the taxpayers, I really ought to be thanking them for the free ride. Then it occurred to me. They were thanking me for things I had yet to do. Few, if any of them, realized that I was only a student. They were thanking me for saving their lives, for putting their good ahead of my own, for going out in the cold and wind and rain, to save them and their sons and daughters. They were thanking me for doing a job that I won’t be qualified to do for another four years. They were thanking me in advance. I use their professions of thanks to keep me going. I have yet to earn the respect they were giving me, that they will be giving you. Always strive, in all you do, to earn that respect, to earn those rewarding smiles. If you keep them always in your mind, you won’t be able to do anything wrong. Think about that over break. Think about them…”

I agree with what he said. We’re being thanked for things we’ve yet to do, things that these people imagine that we’ve done because we’re “in the Coast Guard.” This discourse however brings to mind something an Auxillarist once told me. “Never let anyone tell you that you get a free education at this place. You pay for it. Far more than most people.” He had a point. We do pay for this education, through sweat and blood and tears. We pay for it in what we give up: that ‘traditional’ college experience, our summers from home, some basic freedoms. We do pay for it, even if it’s not monetarily. In the end, though, you have to ask yourself the question is it worth it? Is it worth the pain and suffering, is it worth the effort you’ll have to put into it to survive? The answer for me is yes, but that’s not the answer for everyone, and time will tell. I don’t know how, but somehow, this place has a way of rooting out the people who don’t really want to be here.

So what really was the point of this journal? Was it meant to discourage you from applying and joining? No. The fact is, plain and simple, that I love this place. Just like that annoying little sibling, you may hate them at times, but in the end you’ll always love them. I just want to paint a clearer picture of what the Academy truly is.

So what really was the point of this journal? Was it meant to discourage you from applying and joining? No. The fact is, plain and simple, that I love this place. Just like that annoying little sibling, you may hate them at times, but in the end you’ll always love them. I just want to paint a clearer picture of what the Academy truly is.

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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Exams, Leave and Life in Chase Hall

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Stephen Nolan If at the end of R-Day you would’ve told me that I would make it here, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. I entertained doubts that I was going to DOR (Drop on Request) quite often during those hazy summer days. Now that I look back however, I’m glad I didn’t. I can honestly say there is no other place I would rather be right now than here in Chase Hall. Time has surely flown. There is a saying here at the Academy “long days, short weeks,” and it truly is an apt description. The days here sometimes seem to be 25 or 26 hours long; yet somehow I always find myself at a weekend before I know it. That in itself is a blessing.

Finals are coming up. They are on everybody’s minds. I’m a lucky fourth class, I only have three finals that I have to take: Calculus 2 (Whatever possessed me to validate Calculus 1, I’ll never know) Chemistry and Nautical Science. I feel that I’m prepared for Naut Sci, but I’m still a bit worried about Chemistry and I know that I need to study more for the Calculus exam. I’ll find time though, I always do. It’s hiding in some little corner of my day, some forgotten miniscule moment hiding out in my schedule. That’s the key here at the Academy I’ve found; ferret out those little minutes and get as much done during them as possible. That’s the only way you get to sleep at a decent hour. It’s the only way to keep a good GPA.

The only other thing that people can seem to talk about other than finals is leave. Ten days from now I’ll be on an airplane home, soaring toward my beloved Kansas, toward family and friends. The rooms are bedecked in tinsel and lights, and nearly every room has a Christmas tree of some size in it. The Christmas spirit is gripping Chase Hall. I’ve always loved this time of year, but this year it seems extra special. It has something about sharing this holiday season with my shipmates: people whom I care about more than anything in the world. Yes, Chase Hall at Christmas time is so different than it was on that first day oh so many weeks ago; so different than it seemed on R-Day. It has finally become… my home. It’s my home in the sense that I feel comfortable here, that my friends are here, that I can’t imagine waking up anywhere else. I’m reminded of what a LT once told the corps at a lecture: “Enjoy your time at Chase Hall. Never again will you live just down the hall from so many close friends.” How right he was…. How right he was.

Semper Paratus
4/c Stephen Nolan

Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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On Women's Rugby and Joining the Military

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward This year has truly been good to the underdogs, at least in my favorite sport. Not only did the New Zealand national team win the World Cup for the first time since 1987, but CGA Women’s Rugby went further than ever before in the playoffs. Since our first game way back in September, we played our hearts out, developing from a mostly green team (10 of our starting 15 had graduated) to a team that played the number one team in DII and came away being told we were the best team they had played yet. It is especially amazing because not two years ago, we were playing in DIII without any expectations of moving up. However, due to the hard work and determination of our ladies, we were moved up to DII the next year, which was highly advised against, and surprised everyone when we made it to the first playoff game. This year we went even further, and were one game from continuing to the Championships in the spring. Next year, I have no doubt that we will make it to spring.

Now, on to a more serious note.

A few weeks ago, my younger brother announced his intention of applying to both the Coast Guard Academy and the Naval Academy to pursue a degree in marine engineering or marine science. I could not be more proud. However, when I was speaking with my parents, they had yet another story about a friend or coworker asking, “What on earth you did to your kids to make them want to go into the military?” The simple answer is nothing. The more in-depth answer is that my parents did a fantastic job of raising us. They taught us the value of protecting your country, of standing up for what you believe in. There was no pre-grooming us for a military career. In fact, when I made my decision, they made every effort to make sure it was what I really wanted.

When I am questioned, my usual response is to request the asker mind their own business. I like where I am and who I have become. Recently, especially this month, I wonder why people ask those questions. So close to Veteran’s Day, I can’t fathom why people would question those who choose to serve. If not for those before me in the Long Blue Line and the rest of the Armed Forces, there would be no America, at least not as we know it. There is a reason we have a day commemorating their service, and I hope that this year, those who question my family will appreciate the sacrifice of those who have served, are serving, or will serve.

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Curtailing Stress

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward February has proven to be a month of ups and downs for me. On one hand, I have begun English riding lessons off campus every week (a miracle I can even stay in the saddle; there’s no horn to hold me in!), which allows for some time to unwind and just be Alexa. Yet the other hand holds the extra stress from approaching midterms and making up snow days (four this year, a new record!).

Classes have been hectic, but we’re slowly recovering. What I really want to focus on in this blog is how I relax around here with all of the stressors surrounding me everyday.

First of all, sports. I don’t know how many of you have actually seen Legally Blonde, but there’s one part of the movie that just sticks out when I think of sports. “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” And that’s why I need those mandatory two sports credits – without them, I go absolutely bonkers from stress. There are times when I begin to get fussy, and my friends force me outside to go running. When I get back an hour or two later, everything is magically better.

Second, getting off campus. Often when people come to the Academy, they get stuck under the impression that liberty means you have to go into the New London area (since that’s where the liberty buses run) and spend money. Personally, I find that more stressful because I have to worry about my finances on top of thinking about the work I’m not doing. My approach is simple. Take the weekend and go somewhere – maybe walk around the Conn College Arboretum, or run across the bridge (endorphins!). Either way, it’s nice to see what else is available besides shopping.

Thirdly, find some activity during the week. This is one of the most important for me, not only because the stress builds up over the course of a week, but it also gives me something to look forward to. This is where the Equestrian Club comes in for me. Once a week, I get to go off campus and ride horses. I know that I’m doing something productive, so I don’t stress out about what else I could be doing, and it’s a simple way for me to relax. I know other people who set aside one night a week where they get their homework done in advance, then watch a movie or read a book. Others go for several mile runs. The most important thing is that it’s an activity you enjoy, something to look forward to. But (the downside) you can’t do this too often or it becomes yet another routine.

As always, feel free to contact me at Alexa.C.Ward@uscga.edu.

More about Alexa.

Finals

(Academics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward In the month of December, I automatically think of Christmas, snow (ideally), and shopping for presents. Not so much here. At the Academy, December is when we wrap up the fall semester, in the two and a half weeks after Thanksgiving break when we try to squeeze in that last bit of information before finals.

Unfortunately, for most of us, that means we have innumerable projects, papers, presentations, and tests crammed into just eight days. Classes fall into one of two categories: those that assign last-minute projects, papers, presentations, and tests, and those that have nothing left to teach. The vast majority of my classes this year fall into the former, but I can literally feel the anticipation building, and not just in the barracks.

While many of the cadets are breaking out festive decorations, the teachers too are prone to showing us their holiday spirit as well. In some of my classes, this consists of the instructor donning some ridiculous themed sweater, while others pass out sweets to keep us paying attention. It seems like everyone just wants to clear the Academy and head safely home to recuperate for a couple of weeks.

Alas, the break only comes after finals, when everyone takes a three hour test for every class that requires a final. Some are lucky and can validate based on the class performance, or some teachers decide that they would rather have an in-class final rather than waiting a few extra days to grade. Regardless, I can’t wait to finish my finals and get on home to family and warmer weather!

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The Academy Difference

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward Finally, Thanksgiving is here! It’s time to head back to the ones I’m thankful for and leave the place I’m thankful to be at. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when I go home and get to see the other type of college experience.

Here at the Academy, we have innumerable trainings on our core values: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. November is when we generally put these values to use for the first time. When we go home, it’s difficult to look at our friends and say, “Yeah, I only get to leave campus three days a week. I don’t get to pick my own clothes, and I have to go to all my classes everyday.” Surrounded by a thousand people who live the exact same way that we do, it’s hard to imagine people who can skip their classes without getting demerits, or who drink underage without the possibility of an honor offense. But when we go home, many of us for the first time at Thanksgiving, these are the people we compare ourselves to.

Last year, my biggest challenge was identifying with my friends, people I’d known since elementary school. We all tried to explain our various college experiences, but anyone who wasn’t attending a military academy did not seem to understand any of what I had done throughout the year. Everything they told me about their colleges seemed so trivial and unimportant compared to what I did at the Academy. If they had utterly filthy rooms, it was a small slap on the wrist or nothing at all. If I had a few items left out in the open, it was eight demerits that would bring down my military score.

Probably the most difficult thing to do, though, is making that decision to get back on the plane. It’s so difficult to leave behind not only my family, but also my comfortable couch (the bed got moved out) and the delicious food available at all hours. But I always make it back.

Everyone has their own reasons for choosing the Academy, so when you come here, you have to hold on to whatever motivates you to return. And when you leave behind a warm and loving home, it isn’t always as easy as it seems.

As always, you can ask me questions at Alexa.C.Ward@uscga.edu.

More about Alexa.

Second Class Year

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Alexa Ward It seems strange to begin here, partway through my second year at the Academy, but here I am. Now, more than halfway through the first semester, I’m finally getting used to my role as a third class. No more do I feel the aversion to being addressed as “Miss Ward, ma’am,” and I have found myself accustomed to the fourth class emptying my trash and recyclables daily. It seems like my days of squaring and greeting are so far away, even though I know they were only a few short months ago. My sister can attest that I have forgotten how annoying it was to walk up a staircase with someone who could walk up the center, or how difficult it was to avoid upper-class as they weave through the hallways. Regardless, she keeps me mindful that not even a year ago, I was in her position.

These past few months have been hectic. The women’s rugby team moved up to Division II this year, and we made it to playoffs! After a spectacular season with three wins, one tie, and one loss, we exceeded everyone’s expectations by coming in second in our district. Unfortunately, we lost our first playoff game against Boston University and now the season is over. Better luck for next year, I guess. Our B-side players (almost all of them new to rugby) were spectacular with a 6-0 record, and I can’t wait to play with them again next year.

As far as academics go, I’m relieved to finally be out of the standard freshman classes and in subjects that truly interest me. My favorite class right now is probably Mechanics of Materials because it tells me why structures are built with certain materials in a specific way. In the past I was always the child who asked “why?” and now I’m finally getting my questions answered.

Speaking of which, if you have any questions for me, feel free to send me an email at Alexa.C.Ward@uscga.edu.

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Ski Trip!!!

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward The people at the Academy make this place what it is. The good times with them often extend outside of the Academy during liberty and leave. This past winter break, me and four others from the Academy went on a ski trip to Colorado. We spent a week at a friend’s house, and went skiing, hiking, sledding, exploring, (to name a few activities), and played lots and lots of card games. If any of you went skiing this past Christmas in Colorado, the snow in the Breck/Keystone area was less than ideal, especially considering how much better I had said it would be compared East Coast skiing. Instead, we faced up to 50 mph winds one day and were literally stopped in our tracks as we skied. It was so powerful, it even blew one of us over. There was an unusual amount of ice and we joked that it was almost like ice-skating on one slope. Regardless of the conditions, at the end of the week we all agreed it had been totally worth it.

There is nothing like the celebrating New Years in the mountains surrounded with friends. Or going hot-tubbing in the freezing cold, or jumping from trees into mounds of snow or laughing as your body acts like a sail on a mountain. We made it a great time and I still laugh as I think of all the fun we had. It is this attitude of making the most of every situation despite how mundane, unfair, or hard the situation is because at least you are going through it with friends; that makes this place worth it.

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Tough Mudder

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward People often ask what cadets do during their free time and weekends. Although sometimes all that we want to do is go to a sponsor family’s home and sleep, this past weekend the crew team did something incredibly fun. Since Friday was Veteran’s Day we didn’t have school, we had a three day weekend. The women’s crew team went to New Jersey and stayed at different people’s houses until Sunday when we competed in the Tough Mudder. For those of you who don’t know what the Tough Mudder is, I recommend you look it up. Basically, it is 12 miles through mud and obstacles and a great way to hang out with friends, stay in shape, and have a good time. Tough Mudder is also a supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project so it was neat to see members of the military there to support each other and their friends. I’m still sore and bruised from all the crawling and climbing, but it was totally worth the experience to hang out with some of my closest friends and crawl through mud, run through fire and swim in icy water. So next time people ask me what cadets find to do on their weekends, I will have another great story to tell.

As always, feel free to email me, I love hearing from you all!

Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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A Three Day Weekend

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward This past weekend was a great break from the Academy. Three day weekends are generally like that. Saturday was Head of the Housatonic for crew. The 1V and the V4 both took first place, which was really exciting and rewarding. We’re going to be really good this year and I’m looking forward to Head of the Charles in two weeks. (For those of you who don’t know Head of the Charles is the biggest crew regatta in the world and it is held in Boston each year.) It’s a ton of fun to see rowers from all over and of all ages. Crew is generally a tall person’s sport so events like this make the 6’1” me feel at home.

The rest of the weekend I spent at the Teuton’s home. They are the leaders of Officer Christian Fellowship at the Academy and held a retreat at their home for those of us who couldn’t go to the main one in White Silver Springs due to sports/duty conflicts. I was hoping to sleep outside in a hammock again, but I always remembered when I was too tired to set it all up. It was a lot of fun to chill at their home though. Each time I tried to get work done it seems I ended up falling asleep, but I still managed to be somewhat productive and watch a few movies. Normally after breaks like this the idea of school isn’t all that exciting, but Parent’s Weekend is coming Friday so another break will quickly be here.

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Time Flies

(Academics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Everyone says that the longer you are at the Academy the faster time flies. It’s so true. I can’t believe that I’m already a quarter of the way done with my junior year of college. Mechanical Engineering is really hard and involves quite a few long nights, but in the end I think it makes time go faster because I am always so busy. Each year my credit load has dropped a little making it somewhat more manageable as the classes get harder, but even my engineering friends at civilian schools talk about the work load.

Fortunately, I still make time to go out with friends. Last weekend we went camping and slept outside in hammocks and sleeping bags, which was surprisingly comfortable. I also was just involved with a coastal beach cleanup service project as many cadets went to a local beach to collect garbage and recycling. This weekend I’m planning on doing a walk for Ovarian Cancer Awareness with a bunch of friends, which is something I am looking forward to. I know I’m going to miss my friends when I leave, and want to do as much as I can while we are all here, because if time continues to go faster, the next two years won’t seem very long at all.

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2c Summer Part 2

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Cadre was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve yet to have at the Academy. It definitely puts the past two years at the Academy into a different perspective. You see a lot more of why things are done the way they are, but you feel like you are starting to be in a position that you can finally change things. Training the swabs how to become good cadets was so much work. They say it is harder for the cadre and in some ways I would agree. We sleep a lot less and have to coordinate a lot more, but it was a great way to know my classmates and myself better.

After cadre came a week of sailing on Colgates, which was awesome (my swabs were on Eagle during this). I had a blast sailing with some friends around the Academy and to an island and back. I liked it a lot more than I would have guessed. This week before school starts is basically a week of trainings and getting together, but it’s been fun to catch up with all my classmates on what they did this summer. Some people went to Japan and Poland with Academy programs, which were a blast apparently. Hopes this helps catch you up on the rest of my 2/c summer experiences!

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2c Summer Part 1

(Academics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward So I realized I haven’t written a post for a few months now, so I’ll try to catch up on what’s been going on. I finished the semester (thankfully) and am really liking my choice of major much more than I was at the end of the fall semester. In my Material Science class, our labs were a ton of fun and included making fiberglass and going to Mystic and blacksmithing.

This summer has also been great. Each week is dedicated to a specific topic, from Tug Boats to Aviation to Rules of the Road. It’s been fun to hang out with my classmates and go out on weekdays. This week is dedicated to preparations for Swab Summer that starts in less than a week. I’m really excited to see my swabs and teach them everything about being a cadet. It’s incredible to think that I am at this point in my cadet life. In some ways it seems like I’ve been at the Academy forever, and in others it seems like Swab Summer wasn’t so long ago. It really does go by fast (at least once 4/c year is over). To the class of 2015, welcome. I can’t wait to meet you…

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The Opportunity to Get Away

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward This year, rather than going home for some ”r&r”, for spring break I went to Florida with the CGA Crew team. In addition to getting a great tan and a week of good workouts, I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friends and going random places. We went swimming with manatees, hung out on the beach, shopped, went to the spa, and checked out Daytona’s Bike Week. It was a lot of fun to be with friends outside of the Academy and see how different they are away from the everyday stresses. Often, when cadets struggle with staying at the Academy, one of the biggest reasons they choose to stay is because of the people. You make so many friends and know almost everyone by their first names, something I can’t imagine happening at a large university. So while the Academy can wear you down, often it is the people who bring you back up. Plus, the stress and frustrations at the Academy just help you appreciate spring break, the time with friends, and the opportunity to get away.

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Cadet Activities

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward The size of the Academy does limit the number of cadet activities that go on. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. A few weeks ago the Academy’s Mock Trial Club competed at Regional’s. Mock Trial is an extracurricular competition where the same case is given to schools all across the nation and they put on a three-hour “mock” trial – one school functions as the plaintiff and the other is the defense. We prepared attorneys and witnesses for both sides, so we were ready for whichever was called.

Next week I am going with the Cadet Law Society and will be a mock juror at the Naval Justice School as they prepare attorneys for the military. Similarly, several of my classmates spent a few days in D.C. learning about how the Coast Guard interacts in our nation’s political center. What is really neat is that not everyone, myself included, who does these events is a government major. These activities are open to anyone who is interested. While many of the opportunities that other college students receive are not available at the Academy, there are plenty, you only have to look.

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The Ups and Downs

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward When I was home over the past Christmas break, everyone asked me how I liked the Academy. I often replied that it was a love-hate relationship. While I love the people, I don’t always like having to deal with so many little things. They then asked if I would do it differently if I could go back, and I was surprised at how quickly I said no, that I would make the same choices. As hard as the Academy can be at times, there’s no way I would do it differently because I’ve grown and changed so much. It has given me such great friends and really increased my confidence. There’s no way going to a civilian college would have changed me so much for the better so quickly. While the Academy still remains tedious and frustrating at times, it has made me who I am, and proud of who I am as well.

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The Bigger Picture

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Aside from the many experiences the Academy offers, there are a lot of activities that are organized outside the Academy gates as well. This past Veteran’s Day, the International Council took a trip to NYC. We visited the Jewish Heritage Museum, Ground Zero, and saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Visiting Ground Zero was strange as it has been about seven years since I last was there. Looking at the site reminded me of how many sacrifices can be asked of us for our nation. The memorial to the firefighters, the families left incomplete, the soldiers lost overseas, they all made sacrifices, willingly or unwillingly, and as much as I would like to think I’m special for choosing the Academy, this is something that has been asked of all citizens for far longer than anyone has ever lived.

We’re such a small link in the chain, but we’re also a connection between the past and future so that one day, when more names are etched in stone, others will see that they are not alone. Veteran’s Day may have been a day to get away from the Academy, but it also showed the significance of what we are a part of outside the Academy.

As always, I love hearing from you. Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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The Importance of Sports

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward At the Academy there is a big push to join sports teams, even if it means joining a sport you have never played. Sports are a great opportunity that too often people pass up. Varsity and club sports are more demanding than intramural sports, but they also give a much bigger reward. Last year I walked onto the crew team, having no experience whatsoever. Yes, it was a lot of work, and yes, it was demanding, but I really only started to like the Academy after spring crew started. I may lose my Saturdays to crew regattas, but I know I have a lot of fun spending time with the team. This made me see that I had a place at the Academy. For me, my home is on the crew team, for my roommate it is the rugby team, for others it may come with basketball or boxing.

Sports provide you with a family at the Academy and can often come across as more work then you can handle, when in fact they are what allow you to handle the work. You have others to lead you while you lead others. It’s a great experience, winning or losing, to be on a team, and while the push to join a team may be overwhelming, it helps push back the stresses of the Academy.

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Moving Up The Food Chain

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward For all those of you worried about 4/c year and all it entails let me tell you that as a 3/c it gets much better. It’s a strange experience as a 4/c, one very few people will ever be able to appreciate or relate to, but having completed an entire year of it and now seeing other people where I was in last year is rewarding. As a 4/c, someone told me the red shields I would wear when I became a 3/c bring confidence, and it’s true. You have such a greater grasp on the Academy, what is going on, what people want and need, and that the little things that stressed me out as a 4/c are no longer given a second thought.

However, being a 3/c brings with it another challenge, that of leadership and role-modeling. As a 3/c, there are one or two 4/c in your division that are your responsibility. I never realized that my actions as a 4/c were reflected on my 3/c. When your 4/c has to finish getting everyone in the company’s signature, it is also your responsibility. If they don’t succeed, it is reflected upon you regardless of circumstances. It’s the first time leadership is mandatory at the Academy. I like the system and how it starts out with one or two people as a 3/c and expands over the years. It’s a challenge but it starts out small and you have those above you in your division to help guide you through it. And don’t forget the rewards. When your 4/c finishes that signature sheet, you feel like you did it too. It’s wonderful to know that you were a part of their successes as well. Being a 3/c does pay off and it sets you on the path to greater opportunities and experiences later on.

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My Summer Roller Coaster

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward This summer has been such a roller coaster that which topic to cover has been hard to settle on. So this rather long blog will cover a variety of things.

First, I’m sure you all wonder what exactly this summer consisted of for me. I went on Eagle for the first five weeks. We visited Puerto Rico, Columbia, Curacao, and Mexico. Then I flew to Alameda, California (near San Francisco) and was stationed on CGC Boutwell for six weeks. Then I went on leave for three weeks and spent two of them in Europe. A lot of traveling, let me tell you.

Eagle was an adventure. And a challenge. It was hard to balance the wonder of being on a sailing boat that seems like it could be right out of Master and Commander and the amazing port calls with racks that are three high (triple bunk beds), food that gets boring, sleep that is irregular, and the ever-changing morale. It is a unique experience, but the 10 straight days of 130 classmates, between Puerto Rico and Columbia, with no port calls was a bit redundant and exhausting. And yet, looking back, what we did was incredible. We sailed all over the Caribbean, met people from 11 tall ships from all over the world in Columbia, got to know our classmates better, and learned about the relationship between officers and enlisted (both positive and negative).

The real learning experience, for me at least, came when I was stationed on the CGC Boutwell out of Alameda. On the first Monday, the ship did a shake down (they go out and run drills). Midway through, an engine broke and the cutter returned to port early. The next few weeks were deadlines constantly extended as the crew worked to figure out what had happened. The decision to go out on three engines was made and about a month later we left port. We barely made it into San Francisco Harbor when another engine sprung a major oil leak and other engine problems arose so we dropped anchor. After a few days and a lot of debate, the ship turned around and returned to Alameda. It was quite experience considering showers were not allowed and there were water issues.

For me the whole thing was a lesson in leadership. Often, examples of leadership come from the hero who, in tough times, brought out the best in others and lead them to success. In this case, there was nothing those in command could have done to change what happened. But they were still good leaders. The crew was frustrated about the uncertainty of what was going on, the cutter that seemed endlessly broken, and that all their arrangements were in vain, yet the officers handled it well. Rather than shuffling it off on someone else, or ignoring it all together, the CO set out to inform the crew what exactly was going on and what they could and could not expect. It was not great news, the cutter was still broken, the future dates were still uncertain, and the effects on its patrol were unknown, but the leadership stated the facts and did not ignore the problems. They didn’t magically fix the boat or know exactly what the consequences would be, yet they made sure everyone understood what was going on and that, as frustrating as it was, we were all in it together. Leadership is often defined as bringing people out of the tough times, but leadership is also important during the tough times. It keeps people going and making sure they know that they are necessary even if they dislike what is happening and have no control.

I learned a lot this summer, and I believe it will make me into a better leader and officer when I graduate. If nothing else, it has reinforced my opinion of roller coasters.

As always, I love answering your questions/hearing your concerns. Keep emailing me at Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu.

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College and the Academy

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward R-Day does come upon you fast, but be sure to enjoy what you have now. I think sometimes people (myself included) are so focused on the military/physical aspects of the Academy that they forget that the this is also a college and brings with it those trials and difficulties such as leaving home for good, finding new friends, getting used to roommates and close living environments, etc. College anywhere marks the finality of your "childhood" and the Academy also does this plus the end of your "civilian life."

Of the many difficulties I faced during Swab Summer, I came to realize that many of them would be found at any college. The initial adjustment to life here is hard because you’re facing the burden of those two major endings, but it just means you develop closer friendships and get to see greater personal growth. But before all this comes, enjoy the life you have at home because you will never have it again, and that’s true no matter what college you go to.

Please continue to send me your questions, I enjoy receiving your email. Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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Time Does Fly…Sort Of

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Returning from Christmas break was not an easy task, however, the recent return from spring break was not as difficult. Considering there are only a few more weeks until the semester is over and then a few more until I am a 3/c, life is looking better. I can’t believe that I am almost done with 4/c year. It is crazy thinking that soon someone will fill in the role of the 4/c. It all seems to have gone fast, but then Swab Summer and last semester seem so long ago that it may not have been as fast as I’d like to think. But now the end is near and life is looking up, the start of the summer on Eagle in the Caribbean sounds wonderful, as does a cutter in California for six weeks. Christmas is done, Caribbean here I come.

I love answering all of your questions so feel free to email me. Chances you’re not the only person with questions.

Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu

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Opportunities in Athletics

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Having just returned from a basketball game, it amazes me how great it is to go to a college in which people can play sports for the first time at the NCAA level, granted it is Division 3. Two seasons of sports are mandatory here, and whether they are sports between companies, clubs, or NCAA players, there is a large opportunity to play. Last fall I rowed crew for the very first time along with seven others. A sophomore here is playing basketball for the first time this year. Many of my friends and shipmates go out for sports they have never tried ranging from pistol to cheerleading to water polo, and not many colleges allow this variety of participation among its students. It’s just another representation of the opportunities given here at the Academy.

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How We Survive

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward People who tour the campus often take photos of 4/c, and ask us how we do it. While visiting with a few “Cadets for a Day” participants, many asked “how do you survive it all?” The daily activities such as squaring, greeting, knowing three meals in advance, taking out everyone’s trash, busing, etc. seem extraordinary for outsiders looking in. And it can seem really intimidating. Because it kind of is. There’s a lot to do as a 4/c that can really stress you out. But as I was talking to a young man who feared he couldn’t keep up with everything that goes on here, especially as a 4/c, I thought about how I could reassure him that it is possible. And here’s what I came up with:

First, thousands of people have done it and will continue with all of it, so it is clearly possible.

Second, you adjust. People often don’t give themselves enough credit about how the human body can adjust to stay sane. There’s a survival mode you go into while you learn the ins and outs of everything here. You may never get used to everything, but eventually the newness and intimidation of it all wears off and everyday becomes another day.

Third, a sense of humor develops within it all. I saw some of the YouTube videos of the Academy before I came here. Needless to say, I never understood the humor until after I came here and showed them to friends at home. They didn’t get it. So, while the world looks on questioning your sanity, you find ways to laugh it all off.

Ultimately, it’s your attitude towards it all that makes it hard or easy to deal with everything as a 4/c. People can take as many photos as they want, but they’ll never understand it, and while they take photos life here continues.

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Back to the Real World

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Christmas break is over, and it wasn’t easy returning from home and my “normal” life. Getting 10 hours of sleep each night is wonderful and you question if you can return to the few you get at the Academy. When I was dreading my return, I just kept thinking that everyone says it is worth it. When I look at my friends at home at “normal” colleges, I know that as much as I didn’t want to return, I’m doing something with my life already. Many of my friends dream about opportunities they might have down the road, and yeah, I will miss out on some of them but I am living an opportunity now, and as much as it isn’t fun at times, it is worth seeing the changes in myself and in my shipmates. I will do things my friends will never have the opportunity to do. We all want a normal life, but we all want to great opportunities. I choose opportunities, I mean, who really wants to be normal anyway?

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It's Not an Easy Decision

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Jessica Ward Sitting here at my computer, I cannot believe last year I had no clue about where I would be today. Early action deadlines were all passed and I had applied to zero schools. I was looking around, but every school is so different, that they all blended together and not knowing what I wanted to study made it worse. There were so many different options and so many questions.

Looking at all that, not only am I glad it’s over, but glad chose the Academy. Whether you are a freshman or senior, sometimes it is difficult to separate what matters now, what matters in college, and what matters for the future. And in a way, all three factor into what college you chose. Lectures go on about finding the right college. I attended them and still ended up clueless. They state what to look for, focusing on cost, location, majors, size, everything good and important, but they don’t mention how the place affects you. It’s character. College is a life experience. Everyone emerges changed. And you have to ask yourself who do I want to be, what does the world have to offer me, what will change me into something I can be proud of. For many people this is not found in a military academy, but for others it is. It’s not an easy decision, but it is definitely one to consider.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me: Jessica.T.Ward@uscga.edu.

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