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cadet blogs

An Update

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith It’s been awhile since I’ve updated you guys, so here it goes.

From last semester: I finished finals all right, and ended up with an okay GPA. This semester was definitely the most challenging I’ve ever experienced. I went from failing all of my first tests to eventually improving and coming out about average for my class. Militarily, my uniform appearance wasn’t stellar and I had trouble managing time. I gave up doing a sport so I could focus more on academics, and was tired most of the time. Christmas leave was awesome. It was definitely a much needed break for me to reflect on my experiences so far at the Academy, and realize what I was doing wrong. In my opinion, failure is acceptable if you learn from it.

Now let’s fast-forward to this semester. Hotel won Honor Company! Basically this means that we were the best out of the eight companies in the Corps of Cadets. Along with that has come a long weekend (we could leave and not have to come back until Sunday), and impressing our new guidon, who was on exchange at another service academy and therefore didn’t know what to expect from the Hotel 4/c.

Unfortunately, I relaxed too much over Christmas break and didn’t have the “sound body” to pass the first Physical Fitness Examination. Luckily though, I got off the remedial PFE today after having passed it two times consecutively.

Things have improved on all fronts for me. I know how to manage my time now, so I can now balance all of my academic, military, and extracurricular obligations. I’m finished with my least favorite class, Macroeconomics, and am in Statics and Engineering Design, which suits me more. I finally have my room condition and uniform appearance under control. Additionally, I’ve been keeping up with school and doing pretty well.

Speaking of school, we’ve yet to have a full week of classes because of all the snow causing the base to be closed. Coming from the Midwest, I’ve seen some pretty heavy snow falls, but nothing like this. It just keeps piling up. Let’s see if we can make it to Spring Break without a full week of school, right?

I think I’m going to do outdoor track as my sport this semester. I ran track and cross country in high school, and hadn’t realized how much I missed it. The only problem is that I put in for first phase Eagle for my 3/c summer, and track may conflict with that. First Phase is going to Ireland, Germany, and London, while Second Phase picks it up in London and heads over to Iceland, Nova Scotia and Boston. Whatever phase I get, it’s going to be a blast. I also put in for the new National Security Cutter, so we’ll see if I get it or not. I should find out in a month or two, and I’ll let you guys know where I’ll be headed this summer.

The period from the beginning of the second semester is traditional called the “Dark Ages” because of the lack of sunlight in New England and the absence of any leave periods. And for 4/c cadets, we are starting to prepare for Boards. Boards is part of the process to earning “carry on”, meaning that the 4/c are recognized by the corps and gain all of the privileges that have been withheld since R-Day. Boards consist of memorizing information about the Coast Guard from a 54 page packet. An upper class will ask us 10 questions from that packet, and we have to get 8 out of 10 correct to pass. All of 2014 has to pass Boards before carry on can be granted. Honestly though, despite the negative stigma attached to the Dark Ages and Boards, second semester has been fantastic. I’ve got my grades under control, good military conduct, a great division, planning on doing a sport again, and haven’t had a full week of school yet. What else could a 4/c cadet want? Well, besides carry on of course.

Have any questions on what the first semester was like? Or what it’s like being a spring semester 4/c? Feel free to shoot me an email at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu

More about Jordan.

Sector New York Trip

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith Today was another eye opening day into the operational Coast Guard—this time to see what a Coast Guard sector is like. After our formal room and wing inspection, a group of 4/c cadets and I boarded a bus to visit Coast Guard Sector New York. The bus ride was three hours long, which was actually great because I was up until 1:30 in the morning cleaning the heads (bathrooms) for our wing area inspections.

When we arrived, an ensign who had recently graduated from the Academy greeted us and gave us a presentation on sectors, an area of the Coast Guard that I was completely unfamiliar with. According to him, sectors are in charge of preventing and responding to natural disasters or anything similar. Their biggest responsibility is keeping ports and waterways safe, and they regularly board merchant vessels and check their cargo, which is an example of prevention.

Remember when that plane crashed into the Hudson River last year? The Coast Guard was on scene shortly afterward. Soon after the plane had landed in the river, the Coast Guard sent out small boats to help the people off of the wings of US Airways Flight 1549 and out of the Hudson in the cold January weather. It was quite an accomplishment for the pilot and the Coast Guard sector. It seems like no matter where you go in the Coast Guard something exciting is going to happen, and we’ll be there to take care of it.

In addition to the presentation, we were given a tour of the control room and the small boat station, which was great. The control room monitors the whole sector and watches the port. The Coast Guard has this area well covered; let’s just say that it would be pretty hard for someone to go unnoticed in the areas that the sector monitors. The response boats look really fun to ride in. I’m actually hoping that I’ll get to go to a small boat station now during 3/c summer. I have to go now, but if you have any further inquires on my sector experience, feel free to shoot me an email at Samuel.J.Keith@uscga.edu

Best,
4/c Jordan Keith

More about Jordan.

Don’t Count Every Hour in the Day, Make Every Hour in the Day Count

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jordan Keith There are several paradoxes to cadet life. One of them is the concept of time. The days drag on, but the weeks fly by. Right now, I’m sitting here finding it hard to believe that it is already Sunday again, or the fact that the month of October went by so quickly. It’s been a little over four months since the Academy became my home, which I find incredible. So many things have happened in between R-Day and today that I feel like it’s been a year since I last saw my hometown, although I know it’s only been a quarter of that time.

Currently, I can divide my life into three different phases: pre R-Day, Swab Summer, and present day, 4/c year. Each one of these phases has had a significant, although different, impact on my personal development. The time before R-Day was about growing up and figuring out what I wanted to do. Swab Summer was about teamwork, discipline and learning to trust and rely on people who were once strangers but are now close friends, which is perhaps one of the greatest things about the Academy. 4/c year so far has been one about self-discipline and drinking water from a fire hose. We, the Class of 2014, had plenty of discipline during the summer, but that was someone administering it to us. Now it is up to us to decide what to do with our time, which is a greater challenge than I expected.

The other night I had a discussion with my guidon on how to manage all of the academic, military, and other requirements and responsibilities that we have. For those of you who don’t know what a guidion is, it is a leadership position held by a 2/c cadet in each of the eight companies. In the words of the announcer at drill ceremonies, the guidon “is a 2/c known for their snap and precision, and is responsible for training the 4/c cadets.” He gave me some great advice on how to do well at the Academy. To summarize our discussion: “study and work with classmates when possible, write things down, discipline yourself to do the work, and prioritize responsibilities. Don’t worry about the amount of tasks that you have to do; just do them.” Great advice, because at the end of the semester what will have mattered is how I used my limited time and, more importantly, knowing that I used it well.

Best,
4/c Jordan Keith

More about Jordan.

Limits: the Hardest Lesson I’ve Had to Learn

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Normally I would write my blog near the beginning of the month – and normally, I would rush to share all my excitement following a big race or athletic event. So, what happened this month? I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th, had the time of my life, crushed my goal time by almost 20 minutes, and came back to school absolutely giddy with excitement. Why didn’t I write then? Two weeks later, I ran Tough Mudder – a 12-mile obstacle course in the freezing cold and mud – with five of my best friends and, again, was left beside myself with glee. Why didn’t I write then?

Why am I waiting until now to sit down and crank out a quick little blog post? Time constraints - for the first time since I’ve been at the Academy (really, for the first time ever), I’ve truly learned what it means to not have a minute to spare.

3/c fall semester has been unlike anything I would have expected – I’ve begun to grow nostalgic for the relative ease of last year! Gone are the days of bracing up, squaring meals, and taking out trash, but in the place of the endless, irritating menial tasks designated to 4/c have come a whole new wave of work and responsibilities. Suddenly, the academic load is both fuller and more challenging. Suddenly, I must write not only my own CER, but one for each of my 4/c as well. Suddenly, I have more jobs and managerial tasks within my division. The authority vested in me has increased, even if just slightly, and with that comes a new set of tasks to complete. I knew, theoretically, that this would happen – it’s a natural part of the Academy training. But it was difficult to predict precisely how it would affect my day-to-day life until now.

What’s more, the graduation from 4/c year to 3/c year gives birth to a sense of confidence unlike anything most of us have ever felt before – now that we know this school, we know our place, and we know our own abilities, we are far more certain of our abilities to accomplish all we must do, and still have the time to do the things we want to do. And so, as 3/c, we become more eager to join new activities, take on new tasks, try to do more than we did before.

This year, I suddenly found myself signed up for not only Glee Club, Triathlon Team, and this blog program but a host of other activities. Suddenly, I’m spending hours each week serving as a Peer Tutor, and attending tutor trainings. Suddenly, I’m going to weekly Honors Colloquium meetings and doing work toward starting a Directed Studies course and applying for scholarships for graduate school. Suddenly, I’m attending lectures and seminars with the Women’s Leadership Council, striving to learn what I need to know to ease my transition into a Coast Guard career a couple years from now.

Yet, even as I add on more things, the other activities I’ve grown so fond of persist – Glee Club practices, concerts, and events; races, morning practices, and team meetings for triathlon and running club; the required CS/IS hours we have to do each semester. And these activities build upon themselves as my time investment in them increases. I may now attend the occasional Fairwinds performance in addition to regular Glee Club performances. Now that I’ve completed a marathon, I’ve taken the next big step and signed up for an Ironman – a 140.6 mile race next November. I get so eager so easily – once I know what I can do, I want to try to do more.

It’s all “fine and well and good”, striving for excellence, pushing yourself, getting involved in your school. I’ve thrived on it for the past four months. But at a certain point, the madness has to cease. When you wear yourself down to 4 hours of sleep per night because you’re constantly on the go, something has to stop. I’ve hit that point – I’ve past my limits.

Thankfully, I’ve “caught myself” before I fell into a death spiral, before my grades started to slip. I’ve been testing my limits, but by now my body has told me “enough is enough.” It’s time to cut back. It may be tempting to try to do everything, but even for a USCGA cadet, it’s not quite possible.

So, that’s why I’m so late in writing my blog this month – I’ve drowned myself in activity, and I’ve learned my lesson. Going forward, I’ll try to “cut back” a little bit on the flurry of constant “stuff” to do and just appreciate the value of some down time.

Yet, I have to say, I’m glad I learned this lesson the hard way – I never “pegged the meter” in testing myself. Until I’d pushed myself past my limits, I never actually knew what my limits actually were. I now know what sorts of energy and fortitude the Academy life and training can produce. I know just how much I can do – now, I just need to be a little more sensible about doing it!

More about Jessie.

Upcoming Events

(Athletics, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik I am capable of reflection – I do it monthly on this blog – and I would write about what’s gone on in the past few weeks if it seemed more pertinent at this point in time. But I’m naturally more of a forward-thinker, and at the CGA, October is a time that certainly invites looking ahead (though, perhaps you could say that for every month here!) There’s a lot to look forward to, and less that most of us would like to look back upon. The end of September and the beginning of this month have been a bit of a slog – Formal Room and Wing, a Personnel Inspection, an extra heavy load of tests and papers, even mid-terms…people have been worn pretty thin. But, it’s analogous to weathering a storm: we’ve been surrounded by all the wind and torrential downpour and chaos for what’s seemed like forever, and suddenly, we’ve broken into the clear. Everything good that’s upcoming is laid out before us – and it looks fantastic!

Here’s the run-down of the excitement:

Columbus Day Long this weekend has everyone’s spirits soaring. Plans are across the board – people going home, visiting different cities, trying to squeeze in one last beach trip before the cold weather hits. For my part, I’m off to New York City with some of my best friends, though a little piece of my heart will be back here in Connecticut. Women’s rugby has their fourth game of the season this Saturday in Stonington – even if I’m not playing this season, I have to give a shout out to my teammates!

Next week, Glee Club will attend our biggest event of the year – the Coast Guard Foundation Dinner in New York City. It was pretty mind-blowing last year as a 4/c…the majority of the “important” people in the Coast Guard all packed into one super-fancy hotel ballroom, and us, the CGA choir, going to sing for them. It’s a great time though and this year, I’m lucky enough to be part of the extended-stay group. The Fairwinds need a 2nd alto to stand in for their performance the next evening – so that means an overnight stay in NYC, and missing classes all day Friday. Jackpot!

But for those back at the Academy that Friday, it won’t be just any school day. Next weekend is Parent’s Weekend, which means hundreds of CGA family members at school and classes, extra band and Glee performances, departmental style drill, the Parents’ Weekend football game, and more overnight liberty for the corps.

The period after Parents’ Weekend marks two enlivening occasions: that end of drill season, and the beginning of the “holiday” season. Yes. That means no more 0655 drill practice every Monday and Friday, no more 1600 Reg Reviews on Friday afternoons when everyone just wants to go out on libo or sleep. It’s a glorious thing. And the end of October, as Halloween approaches, is always a fun time. There’s Aviation Day, room decorating, the Corps costume contest, the Halloween dinner and Trick or Treat on the Hill all in those last couple of weeks of the month. Rarely do we get to “play” so much at the Academy – it’s a nice treat.

And to top all that off, on October 30th, I run the Marine Corps Marathon with the Running Club. Training “crunch time” is already in full swing…

That’s the gist of it – the activities just keep coming and coming, it seems! Hopefully there will be plenty of interesting material for me to report on in the next month. Until then, I’m just contentedly looking forward.

More about Jessie.

Running Right Along

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Back in 2010, I set aside September as rugby month. Now, a year later, I’ve evolved a bit. September is Tri Team month. September is Running Club month. September is race month.

A little background info: in March of this year, I was sitting at my desk working when Dale Carty, a good friend from Swab Summer, waltzed right in and dropped a crazy idea, “Hey Jessie, want to do the Marine Corps Marathon with me?” I’d never seriously thought about doing a marathon before, and considering the workloads the Academy forces us to endure, training for a 26.2 mile road race should have been out of the questions. But, I’ve always been a little overly ambitious. Besides, plenty of cadets run the MCM every year, so it couldn’t be that crazy of an idea. And, with his huge smile, charming Virgin Islands accent, and upfront manner, Dale is terribly convincing. So, I popped off, “Yeah, let’s do it,” and we registered that day.

Flash-forward to the end of the summer – after going on summer assignments for 12 weeks and having no time or place to run during those three months, as soon as leave hit, I began to hit the pavement…hard. Everyone knows that when you start an aggressive running program you’re supposed to ease your way into it, build up a mileage base bit-by-bit, avoid overtraining. I may have skimmed over that particular piece of advice…like I said, overly ambitious.

Long story short, when I got back to school in August and tried to throw rugby practice into the mix of heavy mileage – running in cleats, cutting, starting, stopping sprinting, going to ground, the whole nine yards – I ran into some problems. Essentially, I blew out my shins, knees, and adductors all within the first week of practice. Ouch. Clearly something had to go – marathon training and rugby was just too much for my obviously underprepared body to handle. And seeing as I’d already registered for MCM, Nation’s Triathlon, and the Niantic Half Marathon, I decided to sit the rugby season out.

So let me rephrase my opening statement – September is race month and PT month. The athletic trainers at the Academy, or the PT center in the clinic, are always readily available for ailing athletes. Running at all has required extensive visits to the clinic for ESTIM and ice treatments, plus exercises, plus stretching, and still every long run has been setting me back for a week. Run 10 miles one day…have trouble walking the next. It’s been a strange game…and I’ve been fairly pig-headed about that. I guess I’ve never really learned the meaning of an “off day”!

Still, I can’t say it enough – September is a racing month. September is a running month. September is a training month. Even though Academy life can get wearing by winter, in these first few months of school, energy levels stay high all throughout the corps. And with so many exciting things going on, with MMA Weekend, and Labor Day, and Homecoming Weekend, the energy seeps over to fuel your workouts. It’s easy to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” when there’s something going on every week – because basically each week is a new “tunnel” to conquer.

Enough history. Let’s get into the meat of this story: RACES!

On September 10th, 2011 I hopped in a van loaded down with a dozen-odd cadets, their bikes, helmets, gear bags, and endless high-carb snacks to head down to Washington D.C. for what was many of our first Olympic Distance Triathlon. This is the amazing thing about the Academy – you take trips like this, and all the details are worked out perfectly…transportation, lodging, meal money. We got from Connecticut to D.C. in a day, hassle free. After racking bikes, checking in, and getting a quick meal, we all crashed at Station Washington for some much needed rest. The next morning, the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, at 7a.m., the starting gun fired, and our team of Coasties was off running to their bikes.

It was strange and surreal – dashing through the mud of the transition area on a misty morning in the Capital, racing against a hundred other military cadets from other service academies, and thousands of people total. All that adrenaline, all that athleticism centered in one place…yet it was hard to feel the urge to compete, exactly. All I could think of the entire race was, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here right now!” or “Could they have picked a more amazing place to hold a tri?” The significance of the day was certainly not lost on any of us. To think – ten years ago, our nation endured monstrous acts of violence intended to uproot us, ruin us, and shake the very foundations of our strength and resolve. Yet today, we still stand strong. The athletes racing that day are a testimony that the strength and willpower our citizens – September 11th, with the Nation’s Tri, did not have to be a day of mourning but a day to celebrate the enduring passion, commitment, and community that no external foe can take away from the American people. I don’t know – perhaps it was just “runner’s high,” but I left that race with not just excitement, but a deep sense of contentment.

The period after Nation’s Tri ended up being a bit more of a slog, in terms of training. The Olympic Tri hurt me pretty badly – I was starting to get a bit more diligent about taking care of stress injuries, but regardless, a 40K bike and 10K run will set you back a bit, if you’re still supposed to be healing. Oh well – it was so worth it!

Two weeks later I ran the Niantic Half Marathon with the Running Club. Early on a Sunday morning, I hopped in a 15-passenger van with just one other cadet (great organizational skill there, Running Club!) and popped on over to Niantic for the longest straight-up road race I’d ever done. I knew my legs would punish me for it – 13.1 miles all at once would probably mean an extra two or three PT sessions – but I couldn’t beat that undying compulsion to run. And run I did – I finished in 1:47:20, which bodes well for my goal pace for MCM (just to finish in under 4:00:00). I can’t say it was a wildly inspiring a race as Nation’s Tri, but it was a good race nonetheless.

You’d think a Half Marathon and an Olympic Tri would be enough, right? Wrong! My unexpectedly rapid recovery time after Niantic and the fact that all my endless stress injuries finally seem to be subsiding, has me all fired up and ready for more. The Tri Team has been great about welcoming me in mid-season – so I went ahead and signed up for the Mighty Man Sprint Tri in Montauk, New York on October 1st. Bring on the next race!

More than anything, I really look forward to bonding with my new sports-team-family, the “tri-crazies.” It’s a motley crew, but a good crew. In some ways, I think the Tri Team represents the essence of what Academy cadets are – outgoing, energetic, adventurous, ambitious, supportive. We do insane things, like wake up to go jump in a lake at 0640 in October and race, and we love it. We train like fiends, and we love it. We go amazing places on short notice, because the Academy enables it. We’re always on the go, always looking forward, but always, always feeling the heat of every moment of every race. It’s an exhilarating lifestyle – and I’m incredibly grateful that, here at CGA, it’s readily available to me.

More about Jessie.

I Guess this is Normal Now

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Returning to school from leave has been quite a reality check, though not in the way you’d expect. After three months sailing around the world, leave felt almost unreal. As peculiar as our little Academy-world is, returning has felt like checking back into my own bizarre-but-comfortable version of reality: a reality of uniforms, regulations, opportunities, endless movement, and a corps bubbling with passion and energy and restlessness and impishness all mixed together. This is my new normal – civilian life has become some strangely decadent treat. In a way, it’s soothing to come “back to work.”

And the work is piling up already – the mental effort of keeping track of the countless changes going into affect at the Academy this year provides a daunting challenge in itself. We have a new Superintendant. We have new Assistant Commandant of Cadets. As 3/c cadets, the class of 2014 got shifted into new companies. Reg Staff is new. Command within the companies is new. New annexes have opened up in Chase Hall. A new (and grossly unpopular) open-door room policy has gone into effect. In just a month, new regulations regarding the repeal of DADT will take effect. The amount of “newness” being infused into cadet lives with the start of the school year is mind-boggling.

And beyond the tangible changes in policy and structure, it seems that the very character of CGA is shifting along with changes in the outside world. Even in the isolation of the Academy, “real-world” issues – an unstable economy, and a less-than-prosperous job market – infiltrate the atmosphere. Being a cadet, this year, seems to bear more weight than ever as Command informs the Corps that applications to the Academy are increasing and the availability of Coast Guard job billets is decreasing. The pressure is higher than ever for us to reach the lofty standards laid down for us – to develop into intelligent, honorable, skillful, mature leaders ready to go into the fleet. More is at stake; our places here at the Academy hold more value. We have more reason to be both proud of ourselves for our achievements thus far and humbled by the prospect of what we still must achieve to make proper payment for the opportunity we’ve been afforded. Yes, the return to school had the same hustle-and-bustle to it as always, but this year’s atmosphere held a particular solemn flavor to it as well. The world is changing, and CGA isn’t immune to that.

Still, that’s not to say that all the joys of the Academy don’t still dominate the back-to-school environment. There’s so much excitement just over the horizon. Fall sports are in season already – for me, that means a training-intensive combo of Rugby and Tri-Team, all combined with training for the Marine Corps Marathon and a Tough Mudder. Classes are starting up again – and for me and my classmates, this academic year holds the start of work in our specific majors. The Labor Day long weekend, Spirit Week and MMA Weekend, Homecoming…the next month is going to be one big event after another.

Yep, this is totally, perfectly normal. How funny is that?

More about Jessie.

They Can’t Teach This in the Classroom

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik If you’re moderately up-to-date with Coast Guard cadet life and the class of 2014, the excitement of 3/c summer assignments has probably long-since reached you. If not, here’s the general summary version: for 12 weeks over the summer, rising 3/c cadets escape the strange, self-contained alternate reality that is the Academy and get out into the fleet. Where exactly you go is somewhat luck-of-the-draw, but it’s the same general formula for everyone – six weeks on Eagle with half of your classmates, and six weeks at a cutter or station with just a few other cadets. The idea is to get us “out there,” to let us see how the operational Coast Guard works outside of school, to get some practical qualifications and field experience, and to, for a few months, fulfill the role of “junior enlisted” members of the service and build our empathy and understanding as future officers.

That’s the long version – that’s what the Academy intends for us over the summer. Most cadets break that down into rather more basic goals:
  • Get out of the Academy
  • Get some “quals”
  • Have a ridiculously good time traveling all over the country and the world
For my part, I seemed to hit the jackpot. For the first half of the summer I was stationed on the USCGC Jarvis, a 378-foot cutter based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. And the sweetest deal with Jarvis: our two-week fisheries patrol started out in Majuro, so immediately after leaving the Academy my travel group hopped on a C-130 to fly out to the Marshall Islands to meet the cutter. Talk about starting the summer off with a bang!

Underway life on Jarvis was fairly typical of a high-endurance cutter – very interesting, but a lot of work. Endless hours of Helm and Lookout watch, DCPQS training, break-in engineering security watch, engineering drawings, two full weeks of TSTA drills – I can’t say all of it was wildly exciting, or anything that I know I’ll use directly in the future, and for the most part, I was chronically exhausted from the long days. However, the “lows” of underway time were certainly well worth they “ups” of our onboard (and ashore!) experiences. From driving a small boat, to participating in deck-gun drills, to interacting with some truly incredible crew members, to having some amazing liberty time in Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, Jarvis more than repaid us for our efforts with copious amounts of adventure and fun.

Again, I summarize, but fast-forward a few weeks to mid-June, when summer second phase began. Everyone out in the fleet and everyone on Eagle did a quick switcheroo: first phase had sailed Eagle across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland, Germany, and finally to England, where second phase was to pick it up. So, after departing Hawaii, within 36 hours I’d flown from Honolulu, to Louisiana, to Washington D.C., back to the Academy, to Boston, all the way over to London with 120 of my classmates to pick up our famous tall ship. And that was only half a summer’s worth of travels…

Eagle took second phase from London, to Iceland, up across the Arctic Circle, to Nova Scotia, back home to Boston, from which point our class was granted leave. Of course that started with a bit of a hitch – the day before we were supposed to depart from London, our gyrocompass up and died, and while we can navigate without it, we can’t leave port without it. So, as chance would have it, instead of having a three-day London port call, we were gifted with an 11-day London port call. Oh darn that luck!

Eagle underway life ended up being distinctly different than real underway life – when people call it a “floating Academy,” they aren’t being entirely sarcastic. The workday functions much like the Academy routine does, with a few hectic little hitches thrown in throughout the day (“Sail stations, sail stations, all hands to sail stations!”) You stand watch. You go to trainings. Your uniforms and berthing areas get inspected. You go to muster. Often times cadets are much less enthused about Eagle life than about their cutter experience because you work very, very long, hard hours, and it often feels like you’re under constant scrutiny and supervision.

Still, I think that perspective can be chocked up more to young adults’ general tendency to be “jaded” than it is a good evaluation of Eagle life. Truly, sailing a tall ship (our “pirate ship,” as we lovingly called it) across the ocean is to die for. Some of the sights – the view of the sea from the top of the mast, the mountain-ringed bay of the port of Reykjavik, sea ice and the never-ending sun in the Arctic Circle – can’t be seen anywhere else, in any other way. The things you learn – how to handle lines, and climb the rigging, and navigate by celestial bodies – they don’t teach anywhere else. The experiences, good and bad – standing on bow lookout in rough seas late at night, with only another classmate to rely on; sitting on the mess deck at 0330 with your division, falling apart in giggle-fits because you just got off the midwatch; that kind of stuff – you can’t get anywhere else. You certainly don’t learn those sorts of things in the classroom.

When I look back on my summer, even in just a couple months’ worth of retrospect, all the not-so-fun times fade in comparison to all the amazing things I got to do and see. I ran through the Hawaiian mountains; I hiked an Icelandic mountain; I saw London and Halifax; I snorkeled and beach-basked in Waikiki; I learned the engine room of a 378 and Eagle, steered both through all sorts of crazy, gorgeous, and peaceful weather conditions alike; I climbed a mast, drove a small boat, bonded with my classmates, met new people, and challenged myself in incredible new ways.

I’d say that makes a pretty good summer.

More about Jessie.

Memory Lane

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Well, would you look at that – it’s finally Spring! The equinox was yesterday, and happily enough we’re starting to feel the season in the air. No more grimacing every time you walk outside from the below-freezing temperatures; no more feeling totally drained from a two-minute walk from Chase to Satterlee because the wind is forcing you backwards every step. Dare I say it…? It’s getting nice outside!

And, since it’s such beautiful walking weather, I think it’s time for a nice stroll down Memory Lane. (Oh yes, I’m going to have a bit too much fun with this metaphor!) Brace yourselves; this could get a little cheesy…

One year ago to the day, on Sunday, March 21, 2010, I signed the form accepting my appointment to USCGA, effectively saying “Yes, I am ready to give the next nine years of my life to the Coast Guard and my country.” Quite a heavy statement to put into one quick signature on an unassuming-looking paper document. I had no idea what I was getting into at the time – and I realized at the time that I had no idea what I was getting into. But oddly enough, I was ok with that.

It was an abrupt decision, accepting my appointment. I think it may have surprised my family and friends even more than my decision to apply to the Academy in the first place. I didn’t make much show of weighing the pros and cons of going military before picking my path – that dialogue was mostly internal. To everyone I knew it looked like I left for a long weekend with no particular inclination as to where I would go to college and returned on Monday having signed up with the U.S. military. Talk about doing a 180 on people!

I applied to under Early Action, received a conditional appointment in December, and got my medical clearance in early February. I toured as a “bean sprout” at the very end of February – but I reserved judgment. I’d applied to a number of Ivies, and they wouldn’t send out their decisions until May. Don’t get me wrong – I loved what I saw at the Academy. But how could I know if I would love it just as much if I were accepted to Harvard, or Columbia? I thought I’d wait until I had all my options before me so I could make a good, logical decision.

But in the end, what fun is logic? As much as you sit and stress and strain while you work a decision over in your head, sometimes all it does is give you a migraine. I know we’ve got a lot of super-scholars looking into the Academy – I’ve walked that line myself. You want to reason out a concrete, “best” decision; you want to find the “perfect” choice; you want a “right answer”…

When it comes to decisions like college, however – especially if you’re considering making that jump from the civilian to the military world – there isn’t a right answer. Terrifying, right? There’s no instant validation of your choice – only time can tell you if you chose right, chose wrong, or something in between. You have to intuit. And eventually, you have to stop debating, stop agonizing, and just make a choice.

Uh oh…looks like Memory Lane is taking a pretty convoluted path right now. I’m getting lost in reminiscence. Let me get back on a more narrative track…

I mentioned that I left on a long weekend and came back with a firm decision to come to the Academy. Here’s some fun irony: that long weekend I spent on a Caribbean cruise. Yes – I made my decision to join the Coast Guard from the deck of a Carnival cruise ship. Not quite what you’d call “salty,” but it’s fitting enough…

I was sitting on the porch as we pulled into the Bahamas, just watching the hustle-and-bustle down in the port as we prepared to dock. And what do you know, if we didn’t pass a Coast Guard vessel. Of course, my eyes went straight to it…and I got the strangest sensation…

I unexpectedly found myself wishing I could switch ships – stop lazing about on a cruise and join the Coast Guard crew I saw working so diligently beside us. I always get a little restless on vacation (maybe I’ve mentioned I’m a little hyperactive…) The thought of working on the water, always being on the go, off to some new adventure every moment, and doing something beneficial to humanity, suddenly looked very romantic, very noble, and very appealing.

When my family joined me out on the porch, I announced that I no longer cared to hear if Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Vanderbilt, or any such “name” schools wanted me – it was of no consequence. I was going to the United States Coast Guard Academy, and that was that. Two days later, I signed the acceptance form and mailed it off, “sealing my fate” in a little white envelope. And you know what? I couldn’t have been more certain that I had found “the right answer” to my college dilemma.

I guess that little Memory Lane stroll turned into more of long trek! All I’m trying to get at through this little nostalgia trip is this: sometimes it’s best not to over think your actions, or your decisions, even the big ones. I spent 18 years of my life stuck in Georgia trying to plan out how to have some adventure in my life. Yet all the thinking and planning in the world couldn’t have given me half the adventure that I’ve found here at the Academy already. I’m glad I took that leap of faith. I’m glad I stopped “reasoning” and just did what felt right. I’m glad I am where I am.

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The Great Mental De-Clutter

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik Well, that was anticlimactic – Boards are over.

Well, at least for 72% of our class Boards are over…that’s a pretty impressive initial pass rate, if I do say so myself. For almost three-quarters of the 4/c to get that big-long-oh-so-scary indoc test knocked out the first weekend says a lot about Class of 2014.

Still, it blows my mind that we’ve been stressing out, frantically studying our Boards packet since Christmas, and then suddenly, on an otherwise uneventful Saturday morning or Sunday night, in less than 15 minute in most cases…it’s all over. We’re done. No fireworks, marching band, or celebratory parade to mark the coming of our mental freedom, just a simple, “Very well, 4/c Lukasik, you’re dismissed.” Its almost incomprehensible – just a few minutes of effort in the actual Boards room, after all those weeks and weeks of preparation, and I’m just…done.

Of course, the situation was not so incomprehensible as to prevent me from gleefully shoving my 52-page study packet into the recycle bin the minute I got back to my room.

This is one of those times when the figurative idea of “a weight being taken off your shoulders” almost physically manifests itself. There are three big 4/c “things” that each class goes through during spring semester: 101st Night, Boards, and Challenge of the Guardian. Well, we got 101st Night out of the way on Super Bowl weekend; and I personally may not get to do Challenge of the Guardian because of a crew meet (we’ll have to see – that’s still pending). So now, with Boards done and over with, I could very well be done with painful, stressful, 4/c “events.” That’s kind of hard to grasp.

But what’s more, the amount of time and mental energy I’m getting back is almost mind-blowing. Time…yes, the time we earn back by passing Boards almost trumps the privileges we earn as a class. No more scheduled study groups. No more bringing your Boards packet everywhere you go. No more studying on the treadmill. No more quizzing your classmates when you’d planned to just watch a movie. And no more of that awful feeling of, “Well, it’s late and I want to go to sleep now…but I should be studying for Boards.” It’s a Great Mental De-Cluter – this big, scary, looming concept sucking the life out of your brain, draining your stamina and focus, is finally gone. My mind is so much clearer now – I can apply myself to other things!

And how fortunate that is; there are certainly enough other things to apply myself to these days. More to come on that at a later date!

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Communications Breakdown

(The Cadet Experience) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik I knew it was coming – I could tell from reading my own letters home to friends and family, counting the number of strange, new acronyms I toss around, listening to my shipmates and my quirky punch lines, reviewing my daily routine in my head – I knew what to expect when I went home on Thanksgiving leave. I knew it… but I still wasn’t prepared for what awaited me back in the civilian world: a communication breakdown of epic proportions.

You develop an entirely new language here at the Academy, jargon that has no point or purpose in the civilian world. This is the natural course of things with any job I suppose. Still, it’s utterly bizarre to go home, swap stories with your friends off in other colleges, and realize that you have to define every other word. Take a simple sentence you might use to describe a morning mishap:

“My clocks for morning formation were awful today, so the guidon told me I’d be doing 10s on the bulkhead by the OOD desk until he secured me.”

This makes perfect sense to a cadet – but such stories left my friends and family with great, gaping, “Huh?” looks on their faces. Coming home, I had to quite literally relearn normal speech. All the terms that had become a part of my daily life had to be obliterated temporarily for courtesy to those around me.

Additionally, just a semester of 4/c year completely warps your sense of humor. Things that the “normal world” doesn’t find all that funny – and really, honestly, shouldn’t be all that funny – suddenly have you bubbling with hilarity. How do you explain to the world back home how bizarrely amusing it is to bus to class in formation and be giggling because your bus is about to “run over” upper class blocking the path of your section? The idea that these poor pedestrians are about to get “hit by a bus” – but a bus of people – is completely ridiculous. But when you’re there, when you’re in a good mood, it can be really, really funny…

Maybe that’s how we get across the communication barrier going from the military to civilian world and back – take everything with a grain of salt. Maybe the military humor and military language may not be all that interesting to the guys back home – but I think anyone can appreciate someone with the ability to laugh at themselves. And 4/c life does leave ample opportunity for that!

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Snow Day

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik While I am certainly no Southerner-at-heart, there are some things that have become ingrained in my head from living in Georgia my entire life. One of those things: utter fascination with snow. It’s not that we never get a good dusting of white back home, but that’s all it is – a dusting, and only, if ever, in late January or maybe February. And the minute a few flakes start floating down, the whole state freaks out. Schools shut down; all the grocery stores within a ten mile radius of the “bad weather” are depleted of their stocks of bread and milk; the phone lines get tied up with family members all abuzz about “the storm.”

Imagine my astonishment when I woke up this morning to find white on the ground…in November.

Everyone in the corps seemed to have their own take on the wintery weather. My roommate – a Houston, TX native – was almost beside herself with excitement. At the same time, another 4/c in my company spent the morning lamenting how this “isn’t even real snow.” Others just seem to hate snow in the first place, “real” or not. As for me, I am delighted. This simple little turn of events made my Monday.

We don’t get seasons like this in Georgia. Summer consists of blazing hot, soup-like mugginess; spring and autumn are temperate, generally crisp, but warm, and quite comfortable; and winter is a slog through numbing, drippy, gray slush. Our state isn’t like Florida, mind you – we can, in fact, identify four distinct seasons, but they’re all moderate. They lack the intensity and distinctive quality of northern seasons. Everything blends together…you miss out on the extremes of hot and cold, light and dark hours, sights and scents of the outdoors as the climate shifts.

I get a marvelous jolt of energy out of seemingly the most insignificant impressions, experiences, and sensations. Here in Connecticut, when I can walk outside and look around and see everything all powdered in white, feel the sharp breeze stinging my cheeks, feel how warm and protected I am under my jacket, and smell late fall in the air, that’s all it takes to put me in a blissful mood for the rest of the day.

Simply put, I think that here at the Academy, the world is just gorgeous. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to wake up in the morning, take one quick look around and honestly say, “Wow, I love my life.”

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Well, This is New

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessie Lukasik I’m astounded. Last Saturday, I fractured my ankle. For all the time I’ve spent being active and rough-and-tumble, I’ve never had any sort of significant injury. How bizarre…

I’ve always been pretty durable – I like to think of myself as “elastic.” You can hit me, stress me, stretch me, strain me, and I’ll take the blow and spring right back, which has always come in handy on the rugby field. In my first year playing, my high school coach actually stuck me playing Flyhalf (a kind of “captain” of the back line) for that exact reason; he said something along the lines of, “The Flyhalf gets laid out all the time…and you take a hit well.” Thanks for that, coach.

Guess that wasn’t the case this time. It was October 16th, our last regular season rugby game; we were playing away at Providence College, it was an insanely gorgeous fall afternoon, and A-side had just gotten a win that would send them into the upper rounds of the playoffs. Needless to say, as we, the bold ladies of B-side (“Sweet Side”) took the field, we were all pretty pumped up. It was going to be a fabulous game.

Unfortunately, I only got about five minutes worth of playtime. There was one of those moments where, in the frenzy to win the ball, there were just too many people in one place at one time. I lunged for a tackle. I fell. Several other people fell. And someone fell right onto my vulnerable little outstretched ankle. There was a nasty cracking noise, and before I knew it I was being carried off the field.

I was confused…I didn’t bounce back this time. I broke. That’s not how it’s supposed to work!

But in all seriousness, I was apparently hurt pretty badly. I went down to the clinic Monday morning to get checked out, and they told me I have an avulsion fracture. I won’t go into the science of it – frankly, that isn’t all that important to me. What I care about right now is just this: when can I walk again? When can I run again? How long until I’m back out on the athletic field?

The diagnosis wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear – crutches for a week, and then a boot for 4 to 6 weeks. Yikes. I don’t know exactly how I’m supposed to do indoor track starting November 1st. If I can’t exercise like a normal, healthy cadet for over a month, I’m going to go absolutely stir-crazy! And what’s more, inane little daily tasks – even just getting to class – are needlessly difficult when you’re doing them one-legged and with arms tied up in crutches. I wish I had done more pushups earlier in the semester...every muscle in my upper body is shot from trying to haul myself around!

Still, looking on the bright side, other than some sore arms, I’m not in much pain. Actually, I’m pretty lucky to have played rugby for two full seasons before getting hurt…it’s inevitable with that sport. They made fun of me a little bit in the clinic. The conversation went something like: Clinic: “So, tell me what happened.” Me: “Well, I was playing rugby, and…” Clinic: “Oh God, not another one!” It seems that being on crutches is just another rugby team-bonding experience.

But I’m being a bit too cynical. There has been quite a bit of good that has come out of this injury, in a way. I have come to realize, once again, what a first-rate place the Academy is, what amazing people live and work here. I can’t limp three yards down the hallway without someone offering to hold a door, carry my bags, carry me, or even just ask, “How are you feeling?” It’s a far stretch from my high school – where people with crutches would occasionally get knocked over without anyone blinking an eye. The supportiveness and compassion here is profound. I guess if I’m going to be injured, this is the place to be.

(And just for the record – any prospective rugby players please don’t write it off just because it’s rough. Yes, people get messed up from time to time, but that happens in any sport. For my part, busted-up though I may be, I can’t wait to get back out there. All the bumps and bruises are worth it for the intensity, team bonds, and fun – trust me.)

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Fear or Respect: Which Do I Want?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." — G. K. Chesterton

Since returning to the Academy, the talk amongst the class of 2014 has been this upcoming summer. Sure, it is packed with Range week, CATP, Rules of the Road, Ludders, and other various weeks of training, but the main focus is the cadre experience. Whether it be as a CGAS, AIM, Waterfront, or Swab Summer cadre, every one of my classmates will be thrust into some sort of leadership experience that will be shaping the future generation of Coast Guard officers. There are mixtures of excitement and terror surrounding my class when we ponder the weight of exactly what we are entering into, and in a few weeks, we will be putting in our dream sheets for what cadre section we want. As such, I figured it would be a good time to reflect upon what type of cadre I want to be.

The general answer to this question is a “respected” one, but of course that answers nothing. Here is a little breakdown. Every former swab has seen both good and bad examples of leadership. I was very fortunate that my Swab Summer experience with cadre was mostly positive, but there are always stories of that one guy/gal who goes on a power trip and “wrecks” the swabs because they think that is the way to earn respect. So this leads me to the question that seems to be circulating around in conversations at the Academy: am I going to be like that cadre?

At the top of this blog, I have one of my favorite quotes. While this quote only embodies a small portion of my leadership philosophy, I think it appropriately sums up my answer to this question. I do not want to be like “those cadre”, because I will not be acting out in hatred towards swabs but out of love for what I am fighting for and that is the Coast Guard and the citizens that we protect. I will correct not to “wreck” the swabs but to instill the discipline that I know will be best for those they will one day save. I want to be a cadre that cares so deeply that my swabs would become successful officers of character that I am not afraid to fight for excellence. To sum it up, I want to be a cadre who is respected, not feared; who acts out in love, not hatred; who demands the best as a means to encourage the swabs to reach the bar but never to tear them down.

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Scholastic Steel Challenge 2011

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson This semester I decided to try out for the Combat Arms team, which is the Academy’s tactical shooting team. After an interview and a test shoot, I made the team and started the two-a-week practices. Us new team members started off by taking the basic pistol qualification test, which is a series of timed shooting intervals that range from 12 minutes to less than thirty seconds. Now, for some personal background, I am not a very experienced or practiced shooter. However, I knew this team would teach me a lot, and I would have some fun in the process. Still, to my dismay, I did poorly on this first basic pistol test, getting an 89 when I needed a 113 to pass. With the help of Gunner (the Academy’s Chief Warrant Officer for the range) and the rest of the team, I was able to pass the test the next practice with a 114. My next goal is Sharp Shooter or Expert, but these goals will definitely take some more practice.

So you might be wondering what exactly does the Combat Arms team do? I know when I first made the team, I wasn’t exactly sure either, but to give you an idea, here is what we did this past weekend.

On Friday morning, the team loaded up a couple of vans with three pistols and enough ammo for the weekend, and we headed up to Hartford for a brief pistol practice. When we reached Hartford, we set up two stages of the Scholastic Steel challenge that we were going to shoot the next day. While each stage is different, the general set up is to have four steel targets staggered apart and another steel target that acts as the stop plate. Then each contestant gets unlimited ammunition to hit the targets as fast as they can and finishing with the stop plate to end the timer. A good marksman can complete some of the stages in less than three seconds.

After running through the two stages for practice, we loaded up the vans again and headed up further north to stay at one of the team member’s house for the night. The next morning, we all bundled up for a day on the range and drove to Exeter, New Hampshire, where the Sig Sauer Academy is located. After we all registered and dry fire practiced some more, the Scholastic Steel Challenge began. Our team, along with the teams from Harvard, Yale, and Vermont, were broken into squads of five, and we each ran through four different stages. At each stage we were given five tries to reach our best time, with the worst time thrown out for grading purposes.

The first stage we went to, I went first for my squad, and let me tell you, I was nervous! After that however, I was raring to go and excited for the rest of the competition. Then came the second stage. Like I said before, I am not a great shooter, but that stage was beyond hard for me, and the third stage proved to be just as difficult.

By the time we got to the fourth stage, I was frustrated but determined to end well on the last stage. This time I went last, and when I stepped up to table, loaded the pistol, and got ready for the timer to start, my mind was focused on everything that I had been taught up to then. Line up the sites. Smooth trigger pull, and repeat. When the timer started, I focused in on the first target, pulled the trigger and missed. I shot again and again and missed again and again. Finally, I pulled the trigger and was rewarded with the ever-satisfying ping.

With the timer still racing, I quickly moved to the next target. Smooth trigger pull. Bang...ping! After that first target, I was able to hit all of the other targets in one or two shots, reaching one of my best times all day. It was a great way to finish off the competition. Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot to take with me into practices and future competitions. While the scores haven’t been finalized yet, I know the rest of the team had a lot of fun.

So that is just a brief example of what the Academy’s Combat Arms team does. Even though this is my first year doing it, I have really enjoyed the team and the sport itself. Everyone helps everyone on the range, and while we all have fun, we are all focused on safety and learning how to handle the firearms properly. These sorts of skills are definitely going to carry out into the Coast Guard, and I am excited to one day go to Boarding Officer School and learn how to use them to help with maritime law enforcement. As always, if you have any questions about the team or the Academy in general, send me an email! Happy Veteran’s Day and God bless.

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Tips on Applying

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson ‘Tis the season for applying and here are a few tips that helped me in my application process…

1. Put down every activity, club, and sport you are a part of. The Academy is looking for well-rounded individuals and is looking to see that you can do well in multiple areas, not just one. Be exhaustive in showing what you do. I put down sports, city races, community service, church involvement, honor society, etc. The point is to give the Academy a broad view of who you are.

2. Be yourself. In the essays, answer them in a way that truly reflects you. For example, my faith is a huge part of who I am, so in the essays, I wrote about that. Similarly, if sports are big to you, put that in there as well. The application is for the Academy to get to know you and see if you would be a good fit, so be personal.

3. Take your time. Each year thousands of students apply to the Coast Guard Academy, but only about 250-300 of them get in. One big factor differentiating those that get in and those that do not is effort. Be methodical and thoughtful as you write your application and essays. Think before you write, and edit when you do. You want to show the Academy your best, so take your time. It does not matter whether you get your application in the day it is due or a month before, what matters is the content.

4. Lastly, the biggest question I get is about grades. Personally, I was just an average homeschooled girl, who got good but not genius status grades. What was more important to the Academy was that I was well rounded and had taken on leadership roles in high school. Verify that your GPA and SAT scores meet the requirements, and then focus on the rest of who you are. Are you the captain of a sports team? An intern at your church? Do you get involved in community service? Like I mentioned earlier, the Academy wants to know that you are well rounded and have leadership potential. Grades are but a small piece of what the Academy looks at.

All in all, be yourself! Good luck on your applications, and if you have any more questions (I know I did when I was in your shoes), feel free to send them my way! God bless and happy studying!

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Summer and Now

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Wow - This is way overdue, but hello again! Last time I wrote, I was still a 4/c and the class of 2015 was still a group of high school graduates. Since then, I have had a crazy, exciting and yet difficult summer of trainings; the class of 2015 reported in and completed Swab Summer; and we have both gone through the first five weeks of the school year.

To quickly, or not so quickly, recap the summer, I was on a 418 foot National Security Cutter, the USCGC Waesche, for five weeks. On board, I was assigned to the Deck Watch side and did everything from small boat inspections and handling to scrubbing rust off the side of the ship. I got to stand man overboard watch during a fueling at sea, break in helm and lookout, drive the ship during a weapons drill, and ultimately stand my first qualified watch as helm and lookout. Probably the most important aspect of this part of the summer was what it taught me about leadership. Not that I have my leadership philosophy completely figured out, but as a junior member of the crew, I got to observe the different leadership styles, both good and bad. Overall, I had a great time on the Waesche working with the junior enlisted and experiencing first hand the bond you can form with your crew.

After the Waesche, which was out of California, I flew to London, England to pick up the USCGC Eagle. We were supposed to get underway right away, but the gyrocompass broke so we wound up having ten days in London. It was so awesome! Sightseeing anyone? When we finally did get underway, we headed north and after one week underway, we moored up in Reykjavik, Iceland and spent three days there, giving tours and of course more sightseeing! After the stop in Iceland came the toughest part of the summer. We spent two weeks underway in some rough and freezing conditions, and being someone who gets sea sick, it was an interesting experience for me :).

Despite the craziness of it all, the coolest experiences of Eagle for me happened during this time. I loved climbing into the rigging and scurrying up the masts to handle the sails, so I volunteered to go up whenever they needed help. Well, one day we hit a small storm that was rocking the ship both side-to-side and front to back. It was like being on a roller coaster; minus the safety of knowing it was going to end in two minutes. Anyway, they needed people to climb up and pull in the sails, so I volunteered to go up. I can’t really explain how awesome it was, because it is something you just have to experience yourself. But, there was a combination of fear and shear elation; it felt like I was flying being up on this little cable, a hundred feet over the North Atlantic, going up and down with the waves. On top of the excitement, there was real pressure to focus and get the job done, as the safety of the crew and the wellbeing of the ship rested in getting the sails tied down. We finished the job, and life went on as normal aboard the ship, but that experience was definitely a highlight of my time on Eagle.

After two weeks, we pulled into Halifax, Nova Scotia and, by that time, I think everyone was ready to get home for a few weeks of leave. We still managed to have some fun in Halifax, got back aboard the ship, sailed for a week to Boston and debarked for leave. After six weeks in the freezing North Atlantic, it was pretty shocking when I got off of the plane in Hawaii, but it was so nice to be home!

Now it has been about five weeks into the school year, and it is crazy how much life changes from when you’re a 4/c to being a 3/c. Not only am I now allowed to look around and be a relatively normal person, I have more responsibilities, like taking care of a 4/c and making sure they are squared away academically and militarily. Not to borrow too much from Spiderman, but it is true that with the new rank has come way more responsibility both militarily and academically. I switched majors last semester to Civil Engineering, and while I love the classes, they are definitely harder than anything I have done before! But as always, I am so grateful to be at the Academy where everyone is willing to help you out. Good luck to all of those sending in their early admission applications for the Academy, and for those juniors interested in applying, I would definitely suggest trying for AIM, but that is a whole other topic of which I could write forever :). Feel free to send me questions, and I will try my best to respond!

Jessica.L.Nelson@uscga.edu

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Letter to the Class of 2015

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Dear Class of 2015,

I would like to dedicate this blog entry to YOU :). First of all, I cannot express how excited I am for you to arrive. Not only because it will mean that I am no longer a 4/c, but also because I am excited to welcome another group of individuals committed to something bigger than themselves to this fine school. Just in my one year here, I have learned and matured in so many ways, so I hope you are pumped for what this next year will bring.

Right now you are probably thinking about Swab Summer. Will it be hard? Yes, I am not going to lie to you, but from personal experience, it is so worth it. Swab Summer pushes you mentally, physically, and emotionally. But the best part is that after the summer, you are mentally, physically, and emotionally stronger, and you walk away with some of your fondest memories and deepest friendships. I do not remember every single work-out session, but I do remember most of the fun and rewarding experiences. Like the times we made a time interval or when we marched down the street to the cadence of Taylor Swift. Swab Summer can be fun if you let it. So here are my top 5 dos and don’ts of the summer:

1. Come with a good attitude – You will be yelled at. I can guarantee that. It will be stressful, but you do not need to become stressed. It is all a matter of perspective. I remember the first time I got personally dropped into the push up position and was individually punished. Sure, it was scary and stressful, but I was able to walk away from it with a positive attitude because I understood that all in all, the cadre just didn’t want me to redo what I had just done. So, I would say prepare now to look at things in a way that absorbs the constructive criticism and throws out the rest.

2. Take the summer seriously – You will get the most out of your summer experience and the least amount of negative attention if you take the summer seriously. Work hard to achieve goals, push yourself. Those people that laughed the summer off as a joke not only hurt their team who relied on them, but they also hurt themselves. They did not learn anything from the summer, and they certainly did the most amounts of pushups.

3. Hydrate and bring DEODORANT! – Even if you don’t think you smell, you do! I thought I smelled like a bowl of petunias the whole summer, but I smell some of the clothes from the summer, and let me just say that I stunk. As for hydrating, you will sweat more than you ever thought you could and then some. You can always drink more water.

4. Take advantage of coach time and Vespers – Any opportunity that you have to leave Chase Hall, take it. I wanted to be on the dinghy sailing team just so I could go down to the waterfront during sports time and sail for an hour. It was super important to have those getaways. And on Sundays, take advantage of the hour for religious services. It is important to have those precious moments to just breathe and relax.

5. Know your fellow swabs – Swab Summer is definitely a team effort. You will only be able to make it through with the help of the rest of those in your company. Get to know their names. It may sound silly, but you will need these friendships to not only get through Swab Summer but also first year here at the Academy.

I am sure that there are many more things I could share with you about the summer, and if you have any specific questions, feel free to shoot me an email. Once again, I want to congratulate you on your appointments; it takes a strong individual to get accepted here, so you should be proud of it. I look forward to meeting you all next semester, and have a great summer!

Very Respectfully,
4/c (soon to be 3/c) Nelson

More about Jessica.

Summer, Snow and Sailing

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Hey guys, its me again! I have been super busy recently with sports and academics, and I am getting pumped up for the summer, but even though my mind is thinking about summer, I am finding that New England is not. Two weeks ago, I walked outside in a t-shirt and shorts, thinking that spring had arrived and the weather was cooperating with temperatures in the upper fifties and sixties. Three days later it snowed, and I am back to wearing a fleece under my parka! I liked the snow a few months ago, but now it is time for spring, warmth and leaves on trees, etc. It might be a while before the weather remembers that the first official day of spring was a week ago and catches up with the calendar.

One awesome part of spring, despite the cold, is that the spring sailing season started! I crew for the dinghy team and have really enjoyed getting back on the water after three months of no sailing. We have only been back to practice for three weeks now, and I have already competed in two regattas. The whole team has really hit the ground running, and we have already had some substantial victories on the water! The Coast Guard Academy took sixth out of sixteen at the regatta I competed in this past weekend, and at the other regatta in Boston, our top boat took second in A division. This is panning out to be an exciting season and I am personally excited to watch the team push each other and give our best for the next few weeks of this short season.

In other news, the fourth class recently found out their summer assignments, and as we all get ready to go out to the fleet in a few short weeks, I can’t help but be a little nervous. I am moving from being a complete follower who is told where to look and how to eat, to a contributing member of a crew. I know that I will make my fair share of mistakes and learn many lessons, and I couldn’t be more excited about shipboard life and port calls. I am sure I will take away from this summer many life long memories and friendships, and I can’t wait to get started. But, while I can’t wait to be done with finals and get to my cutter, I am definitely nervous about the unknown. Questions such as: What will I be doing? Where will I be going and even, am I ready for the responsibility? are running through my mind. All in all though, I would leave yesterday to get on a Coast Guard cutter and start supporting the mission. This is what I am at the Academy to prepare for, and I couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to try it out.

Thanks guys for reading and please feel free to write me with any questions! I am super excited to welcome the class of 2015 in only a few months, and if there are any questions about Swab Summer, I would love to help answer them.

More about Jessica.

What To Do About Boards?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Boards. Those six simple letters mean the world to a 4/c. They mean time taken away at night and on weekends. They mean repetition, stress, and worst of all, memorization. Boards is the 4/c indoctrination test, that my entire class must pass before we are able to move toward privileges. The months and weeks leading up to it are crunch time and can be extremely stressful.

First off, what is Boards? It is a test of nautical knowledge. From ranks and rates to the draft of an Island Class Cutter, any part of the 52-page packet was fair game on this ten question oral exam. The passing score was 8 out of 10.

I had good intentions to start studying early, and I took my Boards packet home with me over winter break but when the battle between sleeping and studying for Boards arose, sleep won every time. The first time I even glanced at the packet was on the flight home from break, a mere six weeks before the testing day.

I started off slow, memorizing the easy facts, and eventually ramped up the intensity to studying for one or more hours each night, spending even my snow days pouring over these 52 pages. Did I mention that the thing was 52-pages long?

In the weeks leading up to the fateful Boards testing day, I went through two mock Boards, so that I would know what was coming. These mock trials proved to be very helpful in getting prepared, but in each one I got a score of 6.5/10, a whole 1.5 points away from a passing grade. Yikes! I needed to work harder if I wanted to pass this thing the first time, so I studied harder.

Then the day came. My shoes were polished within a centimeter of perfection, and I probably lint-rolled my uniform five times right before. As I waited for my 0800 time slot to come, I watched one by one as my classmates walked in the testing room, yelled the mission and got tested. Then watched one by one as my classmates passed. With each pass, I was both relieved but incredibly nervous at the same time. Looking back, I was ridiculously nervous pacing back and forth, lint rolling, and repeating to myself the Academy’s mission.

After several “belay my lasts” and exaggerated pauses, I passed with a 9.5/10! More than the grade, however, it was nice to be done and to know that I could move past the endless hours of studying. I am certain that at least half of my class felt ten times lighter that day with it being over! It only took a few more weeks until my entire class passed, and now we are all enjoying our first set of privileges. We are now allowed to write on our white boards and listen to music out loud! While it seems small, you have no idea how revolutionary those concepts are! I mean, it’s almost like we are normal people again. Almost.

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Snow Day, 2011

(Just for Fun, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson So there I was eating dinner, halfway through a perfect square, when I first heard the noise.

"YES!" "WOHOO!"

Soon others joined in until the whole wardroom was full of cheering. At first I assumed that the other classes were playing some cruel joke to make the 4/c break their brace, but someone from my company ran up to me and told me the reason for all the commotion.

"School is canceled, Nelson!"

School canceled? And because of snow no less? This was something new to this Hawaii girl, whose idea of a day off was because a sweet set was coming in on the North Shore and all the students were taking a surf day. Needless to say, I was downright giddy about a snow day. And what a day it turned out to be! The whole campus was lively with people sledding, snowball fighting, and romping around in the winter wonderland. For me, it was quite possibly the best day here at the Academy. I had never played in that much snow before! My checklist consisted of making a snowman, making a snow angel, hiking all over the campus in the snow, having an epic snowball fight, and sledding. Then, of course, the day would not be complete with out a cup of hot cocoa tacked on to the end.

That snow day was a nice tension-breaker to the stress of coming back to the Academy. At the beginning of winter break, I was all excited for the new semester, but toward the end of the three-week leave period, I was dragging my feet about coming back. While I love the Academy, I had a hard time saying goodbye once again to my family and home. It was also not easy leaving sunny Hawaii to come back to the “Dark Ages” in New London, where the sun sets at 1630. I guess it was what I was making of it, because after playing around for a day and enjoying the cold, I actually kind of appreciate the climate change.

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The Cove 2010

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson This Thanksgiving I was blessed to go on a retreat to the BGA Retreat Center (“The Cove”) in the mountains around Ashville, North Carolina. About twenty-four cadets went with Officer’s Christian fellowship, and we got to stay from Thursday to Sunday. It was an amazing time of not only great food and scenery but also socializing with the other students. The Cove hosts all of the military academies every four years for this retreat. There were about seventy from the Air Force Academy and then at least twenty from each of the others. I absolutely loved meeting all of the cadets from the other academies, because while all the services are different, we all share the same basic experiences. But, of course, most conversations were spent bragging and comparing the different schools. What can I say; we are all 100% certain that “our” academy is the absolute best.

While I did not get to go home for Thanksgiving, I would not have traded this experience for anything. I made a ton of friends and strengthened the friendships I already had with the 4/c from CGA. It was a great experience to represent my school and my profession. I have never been so proud to walk around in my Coast Guard hoodie or talk Coast Guard with people.

Now I just have to get through finals, and I will have conquered the first semester as a 4/c! Only two weeks and I am home in Hawaii; then it’s Christmas time!! My roommate and I have already decorated for Christmas, and Chase Hall is bright with wrapping-papered doors and Christmas trees. While I do not have a tree, my green plant, the one on my bookshelf, is wrapped in green ribbon with a fake flower ornament. It is almost like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

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Live Long, Sail Often

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson This past week marked the end of the dinghy sailing season. It was getting way too cold out on the Thames River, and my Hawaiian blood was missing the warm Pacific Ocean. Despite the cold, I am sad to see it end, especially since it was the first season for me. I walked onto the team with only a year of sailing experience in single-handed craft (lasers) and only a vague idea of what it meant to do a roll tack, and am walking off knowing more than I ever realized existed.

At the beginning of the season, I was immediately placed as crew (the person in charge of the jib) with a second class. He taught me not only how to roll tack but basically how to race double-handed craft (FJs and 420s) in college competitions. The coaches also had me switch boats and sail with other skippers so that I got multiple viewpoints on what makes a good crew. I never realized how enormous a job the crew had until I came to the Academy!

With all of the new knowledge I gained from the team, I was able to compete in the Freshman Championships this past week with two of the top freshmen on the sailing team; we ranked third at that regatta! The whole CGA team did well in fact, as the woman’s double-handed team qualified for the Atlantic Coast Championships (ACCs). Go Lady Bears! This season was definitely one of the best experiences for me as a sailor, and I am so grateful for my amazing team. Bring on the spring season!

More about Jessica.

Aviation Day

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jessica Nelson Today was Aviation Day at the Coast Guard Academy, which consisted of several Coast Guard pilots flying in, talking with us, and giving us a tour of their aircraft. I was pumped to be around so many people that live out the Coast Guard mission every day. Think about it. By this time next week, how many people will they have helped, saved, or protected? As always happens when I ponder this thought, I simply cannot wait to get out to the fleet!

I was also reminded today of why I choose the Coast Guard in the first place. Last summer, I went through the AIM program here at the Academy, and one night my cadre told a story of a challenging Coast Guard helicopter rescue. Without going into too much detail, hearing this story was a defining moment in my decision process, and because of it, I was certain that the Coast Guard was where I wanted to be. Fast forward to Aviation Day, one of the pilots that visited was one of the pilots in that story!

This man, unbeknownst to him, had been tremendously influential in my career decision, and he was standing before me. This got me thinking. If he is just an average Coast Guardsmen, then that means that anyone who graduates from the Academy, including me, can one day be what he is already: a hero. Stories like his are not the exception; they happen everyday by normal people who have a passion for excellence and a strong resolve to help and protect those in need. It is because of this that I find myself content to remain here at the Academy and learn everything I can about becoming one of those leaders of character.

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A New Attitude

(Academics, Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron January is come and gone and I could not be happier with the way the semester is playing out so far. My classes are much better because I am taking more major-specific classes and I am training for my first marathon. I have already completed seven half marathons and it finally feels to take it up a notch. Luckily, there are classmates who are supportive and are also just as crazy as me to run so much. This time last year I was playing Lacrosse and although it was a great experience, I really wanted to focus on my personal lifetime goals. As for classes, I am also changing my habits and approaches. In high school, I was an avid student and it carried over to the Academy and continues to this day. What is changing is my understanding of how to handle specific classes based on the instructor.

During my 4/c year, teachers were very regimented and had schedules set in stone because the entire freshman class had the same courses. However this year, my instructors are free to alter and take out things from the syllabus. (This can get a little frustrating.) Nonetheless, one has to be on their toes and be prepared for anything. This is my new skill: preparing for ambiguity. Now, I know that seem to be contradicting and impossible but it makes things interesting. Militarily, the summer cadre assignments are still pending. I am requesting the prep program – Coast Guard Academy Scholars (CGAS) because that was my own stepping stone to the Academy and eventually a commission. For right now, all I can do is wait to hear who is assigned to what. More progress will be posted as soon as I hear anything. Lastly, I have 32 days until my big Spring Break trip to ROME! I am going with the Catholic Club (officially called St. Francis De Sales club). It’s going to be a great semester!

More about Jennifer.

Putting Finals Behind Me

(Academics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron I can finally breathe and uplift the stressful burden we all know as finals. Its really ironic actually, finals week at the Academy is the calmest week of the entire semester; mainly because the school devotes 100% of its focus on academics, rather than the additional military and athletic obligations. This year, the majority of my finals were before the actual finals week. This made things very interesting because not only did I have to juggle the multiple everyday assignments, but also I had to study for finals. Amazingly, I made it out alive and well. I surprisingly was not as stressed as I thought I’d be and the exams were not as arduous as I presumed. This entire semester has been a rollercoaster of successes and failures and throughout my entire academic carrier; I have never worked so hard and had so many sleepless nights. The rumors of 3/c year being the most challenging are indeed true but as for anything difficult, it is the most rewarding once completely done.

As a Government major, I thought I would not be as stressed or overworked as my Engineering classmates but there were times where my roommate (Mechanical Engineer) was blissfully watching a movie while I was frantically writing a six page paper for one class and a four pager for another and reading half a book in one night. Nonetheless, the work was manageable and as the phrase goes, “out with the old and in with the new”. It’s time to store everything I have learned from last semester and bring in the new material.

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A Good Balance

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron As we come closer to the Dark Ages (a time in which academics are the most demanding and the sun sets a little too early and rises a bit too late), I am starting to feel bombarded with the amount of projects and tests closing in, just in time for the end of the semester. Nevertheless, I am confident everything will be fine. As a role model this year, I have found how important it is to have good communication with the 4/c. Because they are still relatively new to the Academy lifestyle, I often see a few who are still too apprehensive to speak to their chain of command. As a 3/c it is our role to allow them to feel comfortable to talk to us at the very least about any positive or negative events going on. I am very happy to be able to relate to both my 4/c and share my experiences with them. Aside from academics and military life, my overall life is going really well. Its funny to have my life divided into different sections but it’s the only way to maintain my sanity. For instance, I am currently on my way home (Newport, Rhode Island) and although I am always going to uphold the core values, I am also not going to keep my room “inspection ready”. It’s the little things in life the make a huge difference and that is one of the many things the Academy is teaching us.

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On Being a 3c

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron 3/c year, as the stereotype states, it is the most academically demanding year of the four years. However, not being braced up makes my experience here that much better. As I transition into my major-specific classes for Government, I am becoming more conformable with the flow of my schedule. I am currently taking Morals and Political Philosophy as well as Principles in American Government. Both are very interesting and it is even more thrilling to be able to be in a class with my fellow Government majors. Rather than an instructor forcing a discussion, I have noticed students leading many of the discussions.

As a 3/c, also known as the “role model” for the 4/c, I quickly became aware of my specific role this year. To an extent, the new 4/c immediately became my little brothers and sisters and because I perceived them in this manner, I want to make sure they are taken care of in any predicament such as I would for my actual younger brother and sister. It was a very odd transition from constantly being braced up to walking around carefree. Although now being able to walk on the sidewalk may not seem like a privilege to those in the civilian world, but to a new 3/c, it makes the difference between making it to class on time comfortably and speed walking at an uncomfortable stride.

As for athletics, I am in the middle of the Cross Country season and thus far we are doing very well as a team. Currently, we are ranked in the top ten for New England and are hoping to continue our success for the rest of the season. The freshman adapted well to the team and we are stuck together like glue.

For now, I am about to tackle another week here at the CGA and day by day, I have learned, is the best way.

More about Jennifer.

Don’t Eat the Marshmallows Yet…

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron My dad once gave me a book entitled "Don’t Eat the Marshmallows Yet…" by Joachim de Posada. The overall theme is patience and as a result, good things come with time. I didn’t think anything of it back then. Now I am beginning to see what my dad was trying to tell me. As 4/c year draws to a close, more and more privileges are earned. Although looking at food does not seem to be all that exciting, it means a great deal to a 4/c. Essentially, getting things taken away and given back gradually instills patience and it is probably one of the hardest virtues to uphold. I have learned not to complain but to understand the ‘why’. In addition to infusing life lessons, there is the education. Academics are tough but it is great to have shipmates who are all willing to work together to learn the material. December and April are the most demanding times of the academic year. Most of the major projects are due and instructors are racing the clock to teach the last bit of material before finals.

The 4/c are on the verge of carry-on, 3/c are almost allowed to wear civilian clothes, 2/c will have cars and 1/c will move on to bigger and better things. Spring is probably the most exciting time of the year. It has been a long year of 4/c duties and obligations but, the snow has melted, the birds are chirping and I can feel the sun on my skin and I am preparing for an exciting trip to Europe with Eagle. I know I’m proud to be here.

To the class of 2015, your time is coming soon. As the class of 2014 transitions to become your mentors, know you are in the hands of some great cadets. Swab Summer will test you mentally, physically, and success truly lies in teamwork. Regardless of where you came from, the end results will be the same: becoming cadets with sound bodies, sound hearts and alert minds. This time last year I was packing my things from NMMI (prep school) and getting ready to begin my life at the Academy. I didn’t anticipate how much my life would change. I have made great friends and its only gets better as time passes.

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Go Books, Go Bears

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron We are almost done with our 4/c year and I must say it is very exciting. As a celebration of our progress of 4/c year, the class of 2014 held a formal at which our class crest was unveiled. The crest is a symbol of our class and our motto: Aeterita Custodite Honorate Futura (honor past protecting future). It was great to see the class come together and celebrate. The follow weeks will be tough. However, they will move like lightning. Each class here at the academy is preparing for their prospective future and I firmly believe the 4/c are the most anxious for this year to come to a close. As we cadets say here “Go Books, Go Bears”.

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Fourth Class Challenges

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron As a 4/c, there are a series of challenges and traditions held at the Academy. The primary event is the dreaded Sea Trials at the conclusion of Swab Summer, a fifteen-hour challenge filled with physical discipline and teamwork. The second event is 101st night, which takes place in the second semester right before Boards. 101st night indicates 100 days until graduation for the 1/c. On that occasion, 4/c are asked a series of indoc questions throughout a tour of Chase Hall; if one is unable to answer a question, incentive training, also known at IT, was implemented.

The third event 4/c have are Boards. In this situation, the freshmen are given a 52-page packet to memorize and are expected to recite. During the actual Boards session, a 1/c will give ten questions from the packet. The goal is to answer at least eight correctly. The success of passing Boards brings more privileges such as listening to music out loud or not writing note cards for every destination. Lastly, 4/c have the Challenge of the Guardian. Another Sea Trial environment, but it allows the 3/c develop leadership and 4/c to reinforce teamwork. Currently, the Class of 2014 has gone through Boards and are anticipating the full competition of this evolution (it takes place during a span of days) . I have spent hours memorizing, repeating, learning, and repeating again the required indoc and I feel prepared. With the help of my 3/c and peers, Boards will become another tradition we have completed as a team.

More about Jennifer.

How Lucky I Am Today

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron Winter leave came and went. It was a much-needed break and I am recharged and ready for the next semester. The final week prior to winter leave was very hectic. Final exams were tough and required a great deal of preparation. I am happy to say I did prepare well. Over leave, I went to New York City, Boston, and relaxed at home in Newport, Rhode Island. I was able to catch up and spend quality bonding time with the ones I love most.

Because the Academy is very demanding, it is important to have a moment to “stop and smell the roses.” Being home gave me the ability to take a breath and realize how lucky I am today. I firmly believe success at the Academy is derived from personal determination as well as support. As a Patron, I know I will always have my family there to encourage me along the way as I begin the second semester at the USCGA.

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Support Systems

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron This past month has been more demanding than I have ever experienced. With the semester closing, I find myself spending more time with teachers, reinforcing past material to ensure I do well. The good news is that support is always available if you make the effort to find it, and the instructors at the Academy are always more than willing to sit and go over material.

School is always a priority, but my family is a huge part of my life and as of last month we found out my dad, a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, is scheduled for deployment this month. The deployment made changes to plans my family had for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, this will be our third deployment and by this time we know what to expect to an extent. With my sister and me out of the house, my brother and my mom are the only ones at home, it is important my sister and I do our best from afar to minimize problems and be more of helpful rather than hindering.

My upperclassmen have been very supportive and I could not be more grateful. I requested a short (going home from Saturday to Sunday) the weekend my father leaves and my Company Commander as well as the rest of the chain of command requested I receive a long (Friday to Sunday). The “Special” was routed up to our company officer who determined whether I would be able to go home. In the end, I will be able to go home Friday and spend the entire weekend with my family and say goodbye to my dad for awhile. I don’t think any other place would show such empathy like the Academy.

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Cross Country

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Jennifer Patron I am currently on a bus heading back to the Academy after a fantastic 6K race named the Plansky Invitational. We are just about wrapping up the season with only two races remaining. I have been competing since my freshman year of high school, through prep school, and now here. The Cross Country team at the Academy is fantastic. As a 4/c, you are kept really busy, but being a part of a team makes all the difference. I was included in the group instantly because, in sports, your teammates treat you as part of the family. We travel to all kinds of great places. Every course we race has an element that makes it unique.

Never having lived on the East Coast, I was always fascinated with the changing of the seasons; and this past race was full of turning leaves. I loved it! The hills are a big difference from what I am used to as well, but every run is fun. Practices are everyday with a race on Saturdays, and a day of rest on Sunday. It becomes part of your everyday schedule and for me, Cross Country practice is my favorite part of the day. We sometimes have speed workouts over at Connecticut College, and other days we have fifty minute runs along the coast at Harkness Park or Bluff Point. These next few weeks will be challenging because of preparation for the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) games, but it will be fun the whole way through.

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Being Appointed to Prep School

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carlos Quintero Around the winter holidays, three years ago, was the time when I received a letter from CGA Admissions letting me know whether I received my appointment or not. After applying through “early action” I did not receive my appointment, but I did not give up. Admissions reviewed my profile a second time, and around March I received word that I was accepted as a Coast Guard Scholar. CGAS is a program that gives prospective cadets a chance to improve areas of deficiency, and a better shot at receiving an appointment. Most of my classmates that attended New Mexico Military Institute for prep school received appointments, after improving in the field of academics.

When I received the letter to attend prep school, I was discouraged at first because I thought it was a waste of a year. It was the complete opposite; prep school gave me a chance to improve my academics and set me up for success at the Academy. Something that appealed to me about CGAS was that school was paid for along with some extra money for spending. To be honest, as a prep for that year, we made more money than we do at the Academy now. There were so many Coast Guard classmates at prep school that you never felt like the Academy had forgotten about us. The Academy did a good job of giving us our own personal connections to the school, so we never felt left out.

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Approaching Winter Break

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carlos Quintero Thanksgiving is a nice break right before finals review and then finals week. Over break I always do the things that I am not able to do while I am at the Academy. I spend a lot of time catching up with my family, since I rarely get a chance to be with them. It could be weird to be with your high school friends if you don’t keep up with them as the years go on, that is because it is harder to connect with each other’s lifestyles. As a cadet you learn to enjoy the little things, and what my friends at home take for granted might be a privilege for me. Things like going on a drive, going out to eat and being able to wake up whenever.

Finals week is not bad at all. Cadets describe it as a very “chill” week, that is because you just study, eat, sleep and workout. There are no collateral duties you have to worry about, like usual. During the holidays the Academy is in a happy mood. We decorate our rooms, which makes the environment more pleasant.

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A Memorable Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carlos Quintero Last year some upper-class cadets said that they lived for their assignments during the summer. I came to realize what they meant by that the summer after finishing 4/c (freshmen) year. The previous two summers were nothing but stressful. After graduating high school, I went to CGAS (Coast Guard Academy Scholars) and then on to Prep School in New Mexico. Then a summer later was Swab Summer; so last summer was one of my most memorable life experiences. For five weeks I was stationed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The small boat station was mostly used for law enforcement along with search and rescue on the rivers, and sound surrounding Elizabeth City. The next assignment was on USCGC Eagle, which we boarded when it was docked in London, England. Originally we were only going to be in London for three days, but because of gyrocompass malfunctions our stay was extended for 10 days. In those 10 days, I was able to tour all different parts of London. Reykjavík, Iceland was the next stop and on the transit there we experienced what its like to be in a storm. From Iceland we went up to the Arctic Circle then turned around to reach Halifax, Nova Scotia. From Halifax we sailed back to Boston where our journey ended. The whole experience was amazing; I wish I could do it again.

Returning to the Academy from the summer was different, because my classmates and I were no longer 4/c. Being a 3/c meant that we had more responsibilities, but with that came more privileges. For example, we can go out Friday nights, we don’t have to wear our uniforms out in town, among other things. I played rugby for a month into the school year, but then stopped to focus on academics, which is the most important thing. At the moment I’m taking part of intercompany sports, which is a variety of games like football, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer. A couple of weeks ago, I did all my required community service hours by helping at an ovarian cancer event. I thought I was only going there to receive my required hours, but I was moved by the event and I was able to meet some people from the area. As a Management major, the Introduction to Business class I am taking right now has me writing about two papers a week. But if I do most of it on the weekend, it opens up a lot of time during the week. Physics is a required course for every major and is the class that takes up most of my time. During the class period we work on labs to reinforce concepts, which I like to do. If you are interested in aviation, last weekend some buses took us out to a nearby airport where we got the chance to see and go aboard many Coast Guard aircrafts. On nights like this one when I have a decent amount of work, I have to sometimes do part of it during the day so that later at night you have time to maybe catch a sports game. Speaking of homework, I better turn to that.

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Getting Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This month flew by. Now I am just counting down until Christmas break. I am tired of the constant work…papers, tests and projects and now it is only two weeks until finals and home! I had an interesting start to Thanksgiving break…I had a flight at six and was supposed to get on a 4 a.m. bus to the Hartford airport, but unfortunately the bus never showed and there were 30 of us waiting outside in the rain for half an hour. When we called the bus company they said that there had been no buses scheduled! Finally a senior drove the six of us on the earliest flight to the airport and everyone else had to take taxis. We made it there at boarding time and I was so thankful to make it on the plane and just get home.

I got back from Thanksgiving leave on Sunday and I had such a nice time visiting my grandparents and sister. I haven’t seen my sister in half a year and it was so cool to hear about what she’s been doing since graduating high school. I’m really jealous she has been training to become a fire fighter with Americorps. We had fun being home and driving by our old high school and seeing old friends. It feels like forever ago that I was in high school and living at home.

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October Activities

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This month went by extremely fast. I am ready to be done with dance team, although it has been so much fun, but I am excited to be able to sleep after class. We just traveled to Canada and had an amazing time. I had never been to Canada and it was so cool to see Montreal. We had our performance on the first day after we arrived and we had to do flags for Windjammers (the band) then we had the rest of the time to shop and see Canada. It was also the week before Halloween so we got to dress up in our costumes and go to dinner and see all the Canadian people in their Halloween costumes. Then the weekend after we got back we all had to work hard to catch up on what we had missed. The next weekend was Halloween and our dance team prepared a flash mob to perform at dinner in the wardroom, it was so much fun but I think a lot of people were confused and it was really hard to do the dance with so many people in the way.

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End of September

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy It’s almost the end of the quarter but Christmas break is not coming soon enough. This semester has definitely been stressful. I joined dance team and it’s so much fun but we were required to do flags for Windjammers to get a sports credit so it’s almost like were in two separate sports and it’s super tiring to have to learn different routines and how to do flags. We have had extended practices for a few weeks and it’s exhausting. I’m not used to having my weekends so full.

This was the first weekend I had to just relax, so one of my friends and I walked to downtown New London and had gelato and then we got a massage. It was the best day I’ve had this whole year since school started. In two weeks dance team is going to Canada and I can’t wait! Then dance will be over and I will start boxing.

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Back to School

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy Although my three weeks of leave went by way too fast, I was very excited to get back to school and see all my friends. It was weird being home and seeing all my friends from high school. It was hard to talk to some of them because they just couldn’t understand what I’ve been through this year or weren’t interested. One of my best friends goes to the Naval Academy and I got to see him for one day and it was so much fun to exchange stories. Now I’m thinking about going on exchange there for a semester. They have way different rules than us; some better and some worse. I spent the majority of my break sleeping and visiting relatives and eating frozen yogurt in Boulder.

Finally, it was time to return to school and getting through CAP week was a struggle, getting used to wearing trops all the time and not being able to nap during the day. I was exhausted by the end of the week and wanted my summer back. Now I’ve gotten through the first week of school and it’s taking a while to get used to it they say you are supposed to have more free time 3/c year but so far that’s not the case. I just don’t have to clean anymore but I’m still taking 20 credits, which is going to be difficult. But I’m excited for our first Labor Day long this weekend since I’m going to Long Island with my roommate.

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Small Boat Station, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy My classmates and I got off the plane from Germany, and took a two hour bus from Boston back to the Academy. We had two days to repack and get ready for our second phase of the summer. I was stationed in Florida with one of my best friends, Katie. We were so excited to go to Florida and have a somewhat relaxing six weeks of summer.

We arrived in Florida on a Friday and waited outside the airport in the heat and humidity for someone from the station to pick us up. Finally a young seaman picked us up and we talked the whole way back. She had gone to college in Colorado and we talked about how much we missed the mountains. I was super excited to be in Florida and to learn more about stations and the Coast Guard. We arrived at station and were told that we would be in different rooms. I was downstairs in the CO’s room, which was very nice, and I had only one roommate, while Katie was upstairs in female berthing with four roommates. We had arrived after dinner had been served, so we were given leftovers from the fridge. We met our sponsors and went around getting our sign-offs and then helped with clean-ups, which occur before the new duty section arrives, which is every two days. The next day we woke up to reveille at 7 a.m. and went outside to see what was going on. We helped with boat checks and saw dolphins. We met again with our sponsors and were given or comms packet and our schedule, which we started right away. We were supposed to get communications qualified – a duty in which you answer the station radios and phone and you have to know what to do and say in case of emergency.

We continued getting sign-offs and our schedule for a week until we realized that it was pointless to go into the comms office at certain times because there were new break-ins and it was impossible to get sign-offs. Slowly we began to do our own thing, but it was hard to talk to people on station because a lot of them kind of avoided us. After nearly completing our sign-offs we were told that we had to get everything resigned by officers. This just made us annoyed, because we had already been there three weeks and were ready for our board and we were told to start over. We also had started running to the beach everyday for our workout, which was really nice and we had to workout a lot after gaining some extra weight on Eagle.

After a while, we started doing boat crew stuff and going out on night patrols. It was really cool to actually be out and see what they do. I got to help with boardings and went on a search and rescue mission for a guy who’s Jet Ski had broken down. People then began to talk to us more and we found a lot of things out about the station. Both duty sections seemed to always gossip about each other and compete. It was really funny to watch because we were there all the time. Then, Katie and I helped three of the petty officers build two piers which was a 5 hour project for two days in the middle of the afternoon in Florida. Although it was very hot and the work was hard, it was also rewarding, and I think it made the enlisted people on station respect us more. The next day, we got pepper sprayed, which was also an experience I will never forget. At that point, we only had one day left until we had our summer leave and I went home to Colorado.

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First Phase Eagle

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy I don’t even know where to begin. School ended and we stayed up all night packing our rooms up and getting ready for the 21-day voyage across the Atlantic. The morning before we left, we realized that we would probably need our sweatshirts that we had already packed and put in the trunk room, so we had to go to the book store and buy some warmer clothes, which needed to be squished into our already bursting sea bags. Then we took the yellow school bus down to New London to board Eagle. The first night we were lucky enough to get libo so we went out to dinner at Chili’s and had our last meal on land. We made one final Target run and came back to watch a movie with our classmates on the mess deck. Everything seemed calm and fun. The next morning we woke up early to sail stations and set sail.

On the second day at sea, the sun was out and everyone was on the waist sleeping, because we weren’t yet used to the listing and were extremely tired. That night, the sewage backfired into the female head and a lot of people had to stand in sewage and clean it up. The next morning, the gale hit. We woke up to the alarm of sail stations and quickly changed into foul weather gear and climbed up to the deck, where there were lines across the deck to grab so that we wouldn’t fall but, of course, I fell as soon as I had crossed the middle of the waste. Moments later I turned around to see a classmate of mine fly from one end of the ship to the other into a female crewmember. This ended up in her breaking her leg! We made it through the sail station, which lasted almost three hours in the freezing cold, 20 knot wind with 20 foot wave splashing over the waste. The Captain decided that the conditions were so bad that he sent most of the cadets down to our berthing areas to sleep/wait out the storm. Below deck was not much better. The peanut butter jars from the mess deck had flown into the walls and there was nasty stuff on the floors, walls and ceiling and all of the sick people were sitting down there, because the center of the ship is the least rocky. In my berthing area everyone but me and a couple others were on the ground or in their racks throwing up, so I crawled in my top rack and laid there for several hours with my hands covering my nose, ears and my eyes shut. Finally, we were called on deck after the storm and there was a lot of repairing and cleaning to fix the damage done.

The rest of the voyage seemed like nothing after that incident, it was mostly foggy and rainy and cold the whole way to Ireland, and we hit a small storm off Ireland, which was so uneventful that I even climbed to the ta’gallant during the storm which was scary yet exhilarating. We were listing so far that the water seemed pretty close to the sails. I climbed down from sail stations and was looking forward to the curry dinner, but while I was walking to the benches with my tray in hand, a fellow shipmate who had lost control flew into me, spilling the green curry all over me and my tea hit an FS crew member. After this, we proceeded to sail stations again, which I had to do covered in curry.

We finally arrived in Ireland, which was a blast. I spent time with my friends on land and since we arrived a day early we got two nights of overnight libo and had a traditional Irish meal and went shopping all day. The trip to Germany went by quickly and my family visited me there and I got to give them a tour of Eagle, then we departed for London where we only got 5 hours of libo, then flew back to New London.

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This Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This semester has really flown by! We already have wardroom carry on and next week we are getting full carry-on since Challenge of the Guardian was on Saturday. I was unable to participate because I had two soccer games but everyone has said that it was not as bad as last year. I have found out my company for the next three years, I will be in Echo, and I am happy because one of my really good friends is coming with me. I am sad to leave Hotel and my best friend 4/c Townsend but luckily she is only one deck below me.

I cannot believe there are only two weeks left of school and then off to Eagle. I won’t be back to the Academy for nine weeks!!!! After Eagle I will be at the Fort Meyers Beach small boat station in Florida and I am stationed with one of my best friends 4/c Anderson so I’m super excited for this summer. After that, I’m going to Colorado to stay with my grandparents and catch up with high school friends. I just have to make it through this last week of tests and finals and then I’m on my way to being a 3/c!!!!!!!!

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Megan's March Madness

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This month has flown by. Other than the occasional tests and regular school work, there wasn’t too much going on, but starting spring soccer has made the weeks fly. Also, Katie and I have been painting for at least a couple hours each week and it’s been really fun; we even entered some of our paintings in the art show.

We had formal room and wing this weekend and it was the first time our company went to bed before 11!! Usually we start too late and are up until 3. During formal room and wing I lost my W2 form for my taxes so I’m freaking out and I don’t know what to do, because taxes are due in a week.

We also were told that it was the best formal room and wing that Commander had ever seen, but even then we didn’t get wardroom carry-on yesterday at lunch, which we were all expecting. Even after they told us we would get it! Now we are having our last formal room and wing in a week, which I don’t understand because we just had one.

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February

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This semester has flown by so far. We got back from winter break and have had four day weeks for over a month because of snow days. This last two weeks were the craziest ever. We had 101st night which made us sore and tired all week, then on Sunday we had boards. We studied like crazy and it is such a relief to have passed and be done with it. Boards also made this week harder because I put everything else off until now. We had two tests this week along with lots of other stuff and I am so happy to be done with today. Now life can go back to normal and I don’t have to worry about studying indoc every night.

This past weekend was Presidents’ Weekend and it was so much fun! It’s the first time since Christmas break that I’ve been out of Connecticut. It was such a relief to just relax and not have to worry about homework or studying. My old roommate and I decided to go to NYC for the night and we had a great time. Yesterday, I stayed the night with some people I originally knew in Colorado, but who live ten minutes away from the Academy in Rhode Island. It was great to have a wonderful home-cooked meal and I was sent back with brownies, pizza and lots of treats. Now there are only two weeks to go until spring break! I am so excited that this semester is coming to an end, and am thrilled at the idea of no longer being a 4/c. Brianna and I are going to stay in Arizona with my uncle, so hopefully it will be really warm and we can just relax!

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Arriving Back

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy I have finally arrived back at the Academy and am nervous but also excited to finish the last semester of 4/c year. MAP week, or the week in between break and beginning classes has not been so great for me. I started off with a terrible stomach bug and had to spend the night in the ward, or doctor’s office. I am feeling much better, but had to miss out on a lot of things like our company photo. Luckily, my friends moved my room for me because our deadline to move in is tomorrow morning when Admiral Papp does his walkthrough. I have just finished stowing everything, which was hard, because my new room is a lot smaller, also there is no mirror! My new room is at the other end of the company from all of my best friends and two of my friends didn’t even have to move rooms, I guess I’ll just end up getting more exercise!!!

Tomorrow is my BFF’s Birthday and I’m hoping that I won’t forget because since I’m sick I’ve been forgetting a lot of things. I’m just glad I’m sick now and not during the school year. I am looking forward to getting this semester over with and although boards are coming up, I’m hoping things will be easier since I’m used to everything and I don’t have to take SED. Naut Sci and Macro seem like much better classes than SED and History. We also get to take personal defense this semester, which should be fun.

Feel free to contact me. My email is Megan.M.Rudy@uscga.edu

More about Megan.

Upon Completion of the First Quarter

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Megan Rudy This quarter has gone by extremely fast! It’s true that the days are long but weeks are short. It feels like forever ago when I was a swab. The short days of winter will make it hard to keep up the 4/c expectations of bracing up and squaring. It’s getting dark at five o’clock, so I’ve been going to bed much earlier than before, but partly because I’ve learned how to manage my time much better since the beginning of the quarter. I have become very close to my friends in Hotel Company, and sometimes it’s hard to get work done. I’ve learned to prioritize and save the fun for the weekends. Sports practice and looking forward to Friday Night Fights (boxing matches that happen every other Friday between cadets in the boxing club) also make living here much more enjoyable. My first fight was fun, the alumni center was packed and I could feel the enthusiasm of everyone watching, which gave me the huge adrenaline rush to make it through all three rounds. It’s also a great chance to fight your cadre!

Last month was very eventful, four of my best friends from my company and I asked several upper-class to borrow their bicycles. We biked nearly six miles to Ocean Beach, and on the way, we stopped at a shack on the side of the road to pick up clam chowder and fried seafood for a picnic. We ended up going into the old arcade on the beach where we won lots of prizes. That same month, we met the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Papp. Someone asked him for a short (when we get to spend a Saturday overnight away from the Academy), which we got, so my friends and I decided to go to New York City for the night! Doing fun and spontaneous things is what keeps you going here. This weekend my roommate and I went to Boston and got to stay at Harvard with one of my friends. The Academy is a pretty short distance from New York City and Boston, and you can get really good train ticket discounts for being in the military.

This Friday is powder-puff football, where we will get to play against our cadre, and get out of formal room and wing! Some boys in our company are training the girls to play football. I’m really excited; I am playing wide receiver. Also, Christmas break is coming up. I’m thrilled to see my family; I haven’t seen them since R-Day, but I am not looking forward to the 27 hour flight to Bulgaria, or the time change. I am proud to go back and share my stories about boot camp with some of the Marines at the embassy!

More about Megan.

4c Windjammers Season 2010

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Anna Ruth As the first semester of my 4/c year is coming to a close, I realize that my involvement in extracurricular activities has gotten me through the confusing and stressful haze of my new world. As a 4/c, liberty from campus is scarce, and overnights away from the Academy are almost non-existent. While most of my friends have stayed on campus every weekend, I was given multiple opportunities to escape for brief periods of time.

My chief activity is the Windjammers Drum and Bugle Corps, the Academy’s marching band. I was really involved with band in high school, which made the transition much easier. In high school, I played trumpet, but the first day of practice this year, I switched to tuba. I’m so happy with my choice because I got to learn something new with people who were extremely knowledgeable and encouraging. I’m the only girl in the tuba section, and, as a result, I gained the three brothers I never had. Band was a great way to feel welcomed by a group of cadets that I would not have met otherwise.

We have band practice every day from 4:00 to 6:00, which is the corps wide sports period. On Saturdays (and some weekdays) throughout the fall, we perform at games, parades, and other schools. So far this year, we have been to the Big E Fair in Massachusetts, Westfield State (an away football game), Six Flags, and Montreal, Canada. In Canada, we performed our show, the Lion King, at a college game and then explored the city. This past Tuesday, we had our professional recording of the show, and this coming Thursday, we will be driving to New York City to march in the Veteran’s Day Parade.

When people say how daunting 4/c year is, they are mainly speaking for those cadets who are not involved in activities that let them get away. I’m actually enjoying my first semester so far, and I give Windjammers most of the credit. One of my favorite memories was when we made a surprise appearance at a volleyball game. We ran in with our instruments, our drum major screamed at the top of his lungs “MORTAL COMBAT”, and we started playing as loud as we could. The team was so excited that we came to support them! I look forward to practice every day, and it’s saddening that our season ends on Thursday. Even in a few short months, I have made great friends and found a place for me here at the Academy.

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Another Beginning

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend It is always tough returning from leave and coming back to school. It is especially difficult when all I have been doing is sleeping for 12 hours a day and spending time with my family and friends. However, I am very much looking forward to completing one more semester here at the Academy and being half way done with my Academy experience. With classes starting, daily trainings, and the physical fitness evaluation, the beginning of the school year can become very hectic, but eventually I will fall into my normal routine.

With such a busy schedule any weekend off of school is a gift to cadets, and many get away from the Academy to places like New York or Boston. This upcoming weekend is a long weekend for us and I plan on going to Boston with some of my friends to celebrate my birthday and my best friend Megan’s birthday. We often do trips like this to release some built up stress, and just have fun. In lieu of some of my best friends leaving this semester we just want to have one last weekend together, which is exactly what we plan to do. Being at the Academy and spending time with my friends has been very helpful for getting through tough times, and I think it has been one of the best outcomes of my time spent here. The friendships that I have built during my Academy time are unbreakable, which is what I love about being here.

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Trying New Things

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend As my time continues at the Academy, I am always looking at my past and what I have done so far. This past weekend I went to Montreal, Canada to perform with the Dance Team and the Windjammers at McGill University. I had an amazing time, and it was very nice to get away from the Academy for the weekend. The entire time I was in Canada I thought about why I came to the Academy and one reason that I did was to try new things in my life. Joining the Dance Team was probably the most different thing that I could have done compared to what I would typically do. I have never been on a team like this and it makes for a great opportunity to meet new people.

The Academy creates a completely different atmosphere than other schools because you are able to try everything that you have ever wanted to do. It gives you a chance to experiment with different sports or clubs that may have interested you in the past, but did not have the possibility to try them. I get to live out all of my dreams that I probably would not get to do at a normal college. The bonds that I have built with my Dance teammates would never have been this strong if it was not for the opportunities that I am given here, and I could not be more thankful for that. This past weekend brought many good memories, and I look forward to more exciting times as I continue my years here at the Academy.

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New Experiences

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This past weekend I attended the Windjammers competition at the United States Naval Academy as part of the color guard. I am always willing to try new things but color guard was a lot different from the other activities that I participate in. The reason for the difference was that it did not come very easily to me but luckily we had over a month to learn choreography and learned how to do the different moves with our flags. I have never been so nervous to perform before; mostly because it was in one of the biggest stadiums that I have ever been in. Despite the nervousness of my team and me, we went on the field and did great. Many of the judges said that our performance was the best they had seen in over ten years from the Windjammers. I learned a lot about myself from that performance in that I can do anything I want to do if I work my hardest and overcome obstacles.

This semester is flying by and it is almost midterms, which makes me nervous because I am that much closer to graduating. Even though it is a few years away, it will come quicker than expected. This past weekend I also attended the Navy/Air Force football game and met a past graduate from the Academy who told me to cherish every moment that I spend here because it will go by fast and that I will miss all of the moments that I enjoy now. That is why for the rest of this semester I intend to enjoy my time here and cherish every moment that I have left at the Academy.

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Changes

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This semester has been flying by so far, and I have done so much in just the past few weeks. I am well into my academic classes right now and I have even had a few tests already. I have been very busy with schoolwork lately, but luckily I have found time to find my new passion in dancing. This school year I joined the dance team and I love it. We have had two performances so far which were exciting but I was extremely nervous at the same time. I look forward to the rest of our performances such as at the Homecoming Football game, which is this upcoming weekend.

Joining the dance team was not the only change in my life at the Academy; I am now a 3/c cadet, which brings different responsibilities than when I was a 4/c. The transition that all 3/c cadets have to go through if from changing the mentality of followership to being a mentor is not too difficult but it is a big change in the way you act towards others. I am now in responsible for answering any questions the 4/c have and being accountable for them. I enjoy this different role as a cadet especially because it does not involve me taking out the trash everyday!

I am greatly looking forward to what this school year will bring. I hope there are more positive changes and that it will help me grow as a cadet and eventually as a leader.

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Summer Adventures

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This summer has been very eventful for me so far and it is only halfway done. The past five weeks I have been spending my time on USCGC Eagle and it was a great learning experience and not to mention a lot of fun. On the third day of our trip we hit a large storm that brought 30-foot swells and we all felt like real sailors after conquering that gale. Our trip on Eagle consisted of crossing the Atlantic Ocean for 21 days with our destination set on Waterford, Ireland. I had a great time in Ireland and it was wonderful to be on land after spending three weeks on water! After Ireland we went to Hamburg, Germany to celebrate Eagle’s 75th anniversary in the place that Eagle was born. The celebration was fantastic and my time spent in Hamburg was outstanding. Our last stop on Eagle was London, England which was very beautiful and there were great places that we got to see there such as Big Ben.

I am now at my second assignment for the summer, which is an 87-foot patrol boat in Virginia Beach. It is very warm here but I am having such a good time. Everyone on the boat is so friendly and it makes for a great learning environment. I look forward to learning a lot during my time here and I also look forward to the experiences that I will have this summer.

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The End Has Finally Come!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend Finally! I have finally made it through all of my classes as a 4/c cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, and the only thing that stands between me and an amazing summer in the fleet, is final exams. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t exactly want this year to end because it has been one of the most life-changing and best times in my entire life. This year was a stepping stone on the path that I will have to take during my time at the Academy, and it might have been one of the hardest but it was also one of the most enjoyable.

The end of 4/c year brings many exciting and nerve-wracking events in our lives. We all just received our new company assignments and everyone is extremely thrilled to be in a company for the next three years that they will be spending at the Academy. We also are all very ecstatic about our summer assignments in the fleet, and learning what the Coast Guard is like outside the Academy. This is the first time that many of us will be in the fleet and we are all very eager to learn and experience life in the operational Coast Guard. My summer travels will bring me to Ireland, Germany, London, and Virginia Beach. I am overjoyed to be visiting all of these places, and I look forward to telling you about my travels during the summer and when I return.

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From California Glow to Connecticut Snow

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This past week has been one of the most hectic and fun weeks that I have had during my time at the Academy. My best friend, Megan, and I decided to spend our spring break with one of her family members rather than one of mine for a change. We spent a lot of time with her family and we did many things, such as driving from Arizona to Los Angeles, learning how to fly, seeing the Hollywood sign, and spending an ample amount of time in the sun. The majority of our time was spent in California, which I absolutely loved because it was my first time on the west coast and I plan on making many trips back.

Right now I am on the long flight from California to Connecticut, and as I sit here on this flight back to the Academy, it makes me realize just exactly why I am here. Spring leave was the first time that I have flown in uniform since Swab Summer, and the great respect that you get from people and the trust and confidence that they have in you is exactly why I wanted to come to the United States Coast Guard Academy.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the coming of spring!

More about Brianna.

Busy Weekends

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This past weekend has been one of the best and most stressful weekends of my time spent here at the Academy. Over the past two months all of the 4/c in the corps have been preparing for an indoctrination test, called boards, that every cadet has to pass during their 4/c year. My friends and I studied for this test in all of our free time and we all felt very prepared for boards. We knew everything about all of the military ranks, the history of the Coast Guard and damage control fundamentals. All of the studying that we did paid off when we all passed, but there were some people that did not pass but they will eventually get there with help of there shipmates.

Another event that took place this weekend was a leadership conference that was held at the Academy, at which volunteered. The conference was held for 8th through 10th graders from the New England area and there was even one student from Hawaii. It was really interesting to be able to tell prospective cadets about my journey to the Academy and how it changed my life. I loved the idea that I was having an impact in their future and that I was able to portray the Academy to them in such a positive way.

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The Return from Winter Leave

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend The spring semester has officially begun and I am very excited to start my new classes. This semester I am taking a few different classes such as macroeconomics and personal self defense. After returning from winter leave, our fourth-class responsibilities have taken some time to get used to again, but it is coming back to everyone. Knowing that I was returning to those tasks, I made the most out of my winter break by going on trips and spending time with my family and friends.

The best part of my break was when my family spent a week on a cruise ship and visited numerous tropical islands. The warm weather was not the only part that made it pleasant; I also got to see a Coast Guard rescue take place. A man on our ship was having health issues and a Coast Guard helicopter had to lift him from the ship while it was still moving at a slow pace. They successfully got him off the boat and to a nearby hospital. This situation instilled in me an immense amount of pride in my service, but it was unfortunate that this man had to become ill for it to take place. I look forward to being involved in these rescues in the future, but for now I am going to focus on this semester.

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A Short Break

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend I just arrived back at the Academy after being on leave for the first time. I spent Thanksgiving break (just five short days) with my family and my roommate. I enjoyed every single part of break but now that I am back at the Academy and with finals approaching, I am reminded to stay focused in order to prepare myself for the end of the semester. There are only a few short weeks until Christmas break and I am very excited for that time to come.

These upcoming weeks will be filled with tests, speeches, and quizzes but after that, the corps and I will receive a well-deserved break. I am looking forward to spending time at home with my family, but I think over Christmas break I will realize how much I miss the new family I have accumulated here at the Academy. I have made so many great friends, and it has made me realize how important the Academy is to me. The people that I am friends with now are the people that will be working with me in four short years as other officers. Realizing this teaches you to treat others with respect because they could be responsible for your life one day.

I hope you enjoy the holidays, and if you have any other questions feel free to contact me, I love answering your questions. Brianna.E.Townsend@uscga.edu

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The Start of My Experience

(Academics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Brianna Townsend This first quarter has flown by, and so far I love being at the Academy. This quarter has been pretty challenging, but adjusting to the college lifestyle has not been too bad. Schoolwork and my classes often overwhelm me, but there are always time that you can have to yourself and can just relax. My roommate and I get along extremely well so hanging out in our room is always fun, and it’s a good way to feel less stressed about life in general.

The classes that I am taking right now are not too difficult mostly because I took a lot of them in high school such as Calculus and Chemistry. My favorite class that I am in right now is Statics and Engineering Design. Many people will say that I am crazy to name that as my favorite class, but it involves many of the basic concepts that I will use as a Civil Engineering major. There are some parts to this class that are difficult to grasp but there is always someone that is willing to help you figure it out. That is one of the best things about the Academy, the willingness that people have to help and see you succeed. Everyone wants to help you and offers their expertise in the subject. This makes the Academy extremely different from other colleges, and that is the main reason that I chose the Academy over other schools that I was accepted into.

After the beginning of this first semester I assured myself that coming to the Academy was the right choice for me. Even though I may get a bad grade on a test or a paper, there is always someone here that will help me on the next one to improve. I look forward to my next four years here at the academy and the experiences that I will have.

More about Brianna.

Winter Wonderland

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin It’s 9:59 AM and I’m sitting in seat 25F, probably over Memphis, Tennessee en route to Providence. Usually, many college students dread going back to school at this time of year because classes are wrapping up with projects and final exams which means sleepless nights, but this is my favorite time to go back to school for the few reasons listed below:
  1. A few days at home filled with non-stop gorging of turkey, green bean casserole, brown sugar topped sweet potatoes and a myriad of pies is enough time to recharge and get back to the grind with a fresh mind.
  2. Only 19 days, 2 hours, and 46 minutes until I’m back in good ole’ Texas again (who’s counting, right?) This is the shortest span of time between the Academy and going home again.
  3. On December 1, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza decorations go up in cadet rooms and dayrooms! This is my favorite part of the season in Chase Hall because a whole different feel and atmosphere can be felt throughout. Doors can be wrapped like presents, bright lights are strung across rooms, and Christmas trees can find a home in a corner of the room. My roommate and I are going to try to incorporate a fireplace this year! Talk about deck the halls (or p-ways).
  4. The Holiday Formal
  5. Your most important job during this time is to study and do well on your exams, and the Academy environment is conducive to your success. Since we have all come this far in the semester, now is the final push and instructors and peers are readily available to help you out and make sure you understand the concepts before going into the final exam.
  6. Last but not least, I miss my friends at school. Even though I was only away for less than a week, my friends at the Academy are like my second family.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your exams and holiday travels!

More about Carol.

Unexpected Summer Fun

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin This entry is long overdue but my normal pace of life at the Academy is finally starting to seem like routine all over again. The last time I wrote, I was a 4/c reveling in the fact that I had just been granted carry on. Now I’m a 3/c getting into major specific courses, acting like a normal person in the p-ways, and having six weeks of experience in the fleet. What a big difference one year makes!

The summer did not work out as I had originally planned because the cutter I was supposed to go on did not have enough female berthing. I found out that I would be reporting to CG Station Gulfport instead of USCGC Bertholf the weekend I returned to the U.S. after Eagle. At first I was extremely disappointed because I already mentally prepared myself for more cold weather since Bertholf was performing an Arctic fisheries patrol. I was also upset that I would not be able to go to Hawaii and experience its beautiful beaches and unique way of life. But, the next thing I knew, I was on a plane with my best friend to good ole’ Gulfport, Mississippi.

Gulfport was not what I expected. I was not excited about hot weather and being at a station for six weeks; however, Gulfport was a blessing from Heaven. Besides the intense heat and constant sweating, I had the time of my life at the station. I even ate fried gator for the first time! I was able to see my family and hang out in Mobile, Alabama for a weekend. My classmate, Rebecca, and I drove the station’s 41’ UTB to Mobile for servicing. I was also able to go to the beach everyday because of its proximity to the station, and meet some of the nicest people in my life. At the station, I qualified in Communications Watchstander and stood my own watches guarding the radios and answering phone calls. I also worked toward Boat Crew. But, the most memorable thing I did at the station was get OC sprayed (pepper spray). Now this is something I do not wish upon anyone. Let’s just say that OC feels like bobbing for apples in a French fry fryer.

Shadowing a junior enlisted member this summer, I learned to have a greater appreciation for the junior enlisted and all of their hard work. Without their efforts, the Coast Guard (in my humble opinion) could not function at any level. The enlisted are why the Coast Guard runs smoothly and effectively.

I hope to carry the lessons I learned over the summer to the school year and beyond. Thanks for reading and good luck to those applying for colleges!

More about Carol.

Where Dreams Come True

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin 734. Only the number of meals I have squared since June 28, 2010. No big deal.

Waking up this morning, I did not think that this would be the last day I would eat breakfast braced up with my eyes in the boat. Even this afternoon as I was waking to lunch with my 3/c, I said to him, “I really hope I get carry on.” Believe it or not, on 31MAR11, at approximately 1227, CAPT O’Connor granted the 4/c full wardroom carry on! This is one of the milestones that prove our efforts as a 4/c are paying off, and I cannot express how happy I am that I can finally look at my food and talk to my friends at meals! We’re one step closer to becoming a 3/c! Looking back nine months ago, it is hard to think that I was just a swab and one year ago I was a senior in high school deciding the next four years of my life.

Dragging my feet up the driveway after a long day of school and swim practice, I could not wait to get home. As I walked in the back door, a gleaming ray of light from the breakfast table seemed to beckon my attention. As I approached this mysterious light, I realized it was just the reflection onto a giant envelope from the United States Coast Guard Academy. Jumping up and down while attempting to open the envelope (not recommended), I pulled out the papers and read the first word: “Congratulations!” I literally could not stop cheesing that whole week. Albeit, this is a bit exaggerated, but I had never been more excited in my life! At the time, getting accepted was one of the easier steps in the process; the more difficult step was deciding whether or not I wanted to follow those that had gone before me and join the “Long Blue Line.”

In all honesty, choosing the Academy was one of the best and hardest decisions of my life. In the back of my mind, I wanted to take the normal route with my friends at a civilian college, but it was the higher calling of serving the country that I could not ignore. Leaving home in the middle of summer for R-day, giving up civilian clothing, driving privileges, Friday night sleepovers...the list of what I gave up to attend the Academy could go on and on. But that’s not the point. Fact is, I don’t feel like I’m giving up much for what I will get in return. In four years (it’s hard to believe!) I’m guaranteed a job, lifelong friends, the opportunity to travel all over the world, and ultimately a sense of doing something bigger than myself. After all, what could get any better than living within 50 feet of all your best friends, getting a top notch education and travelling to Europe and Hawaii this summer all in one place?

Forget Disney World. The Academy is where dreams come true.

More about Carol.

Just Be

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin Who: 12 cadets, Chaplain Kleppe, Professor Waid
What: Mission trip
When: Spring Break 2011
Where: Banica, Billiguin: Dominican Republic
Why: Out of love

Situated in the mountains on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic lies the hidden beauties of Banica and Billiguin. Not only did we bless these towns with our works, but they also blessed us by showing us to just be.

Day One

After landing in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, the plane was filled with applause because we safely landed. This was already testament to one of the lessons I learned this break: it’s the little things in life that matter. The instant we stepped outside the airport, I could feel my body soak up the humidity; sweat already beading on my forehead. And thus began our five-hour bus ride to Banica, our home base for two nights before we proceeded to the mountains.

Day Two

Waking up to a beautiful sunrise, I could only embrace the beauty of the countryside and all it had to offer. We had only been in the D.R. for less than a day and already I was overwhelmed with how beautiful the country was! Before a week’s worth of work, the group decided to have a day of fun so off we went to a local water hole where we jumped off rocks and splashed around with the local boys. Later, we trekked up a hill to the cave of St. Francis. This is a special place for the locals because this is where they believe St. Francis started his work. The sights were breathtaking!

Day Three

After a very bumpy two-hour truck ride in the mountains and arriving to the first chapel, we split up into groups, one to gather cement for another chapel and another group to paint the chapel. Every painted chapel in the area has the same color scheme: blue (azul claro) exterior, white (blanco) interior, cream trimming, and brown windows. The blue color really sticks out in the town so everyone who spots a blue building knows that it is the local chapel, a place for people to gather and have a sense of hope. After a morning and afternoon of hard work, the local women provided us with a late lunch of rice, beans, and sardines. Though this may seem like a meager meal, the food was delicious!

Days Four Through Six

We split into groups again and started painting the second, third, and fourth chapels. Because the villages are fairly spread apart, we started everyday at sunrise to travel the bumpy dirt roads to the next village. No matter what chapel we were working at, the locals provided the best hospitality I have ever encountered. One afternoon, a local family invited the group to their home for lunch. I still cannot comprehend the hospitality and love they showed us. A simple meal of rice, beans, and sardines never gets old! With so little, they offered the best they could provide including coffee, a chair to sit on, or even a helping hand. The kids were especially fun to play with and they even offered to help us paint. Though everyday consisted of the same work, the experiences were different. On the last day, for example, the truck got stuck going up the mountain because the tires started to lose traction. Talk about scary! With teamwork and ingenious ideas, we tied a rope to the front of the truck and pulled it up the mountain. The whole time, I kept thinking that the rope was going to break because how could a small rope pull up such a large truck?! Well thank God, everything turned out well and we got the truck up the mountain!

Day Seven

Reflection. People constantly reminded us of how generous we were to give up our spring break to help those in need; however, I beg to differ. Yes, I could say I “gave up” my spring break, but in reality, I don’t feel like I gave up anything at all because I had everything I needed for an unforgettable spring break: good memories. Spending a week with the bare minimum with a good group of cadets was more than I could ask for. I expected to go on this mission trip to help those in need but the locals also taught me more than I anticipated. They taught me that one doesn’t need much to be happy and live peacefully. Language barriers can be overcome through love, smiles, and little things like playing tag or a nice handshake. Even though the locals and I are from very different backgrounds, we are all humans. But the most important lesson I learned on this trip was that love has no language.

Thanks for reading!

More about Carol.

The Magic of 1600

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin Every day when 1600 (the end of the class-day) strikes, there is a renewed sense of energy that resonates throughout the Academy. Everyone’s morale skyrockets because not only is another long day finally coming to an end, but the best part of the day has finally come: sports period. Sports – or any other club – here at the Academy is a great way to get involved with the corps but also find a close group of friends.

Being on the swim team has helped me get through long days and some of the rough times here at the Academy. I look forward to seeing my friends at the pool and swimming hard sets together. Swimming helps me relieve stress because for at least two hours, I can act like a normal person even with upper-classmen. I don’t have to address the upper-class as “sir” and “ma’am” and I can call them by their first name. They are just teammates. It’s also a time where I don’t have to think about anything military or academic and can lose my mind in intense workouts. After swimming ends, I feel a great satisfaction that I accomplished a hard set. Finishing the day with that sense of accomplishment is the best because it gives me more energy to tackle homework back in the barracks. Being part of any team at the Academy is very rewarding and I highly encourage you to find your niche here wherever it may be.

Only twelve more days until I get to go home for winter leave! Have a great holiday season, God Bless, and thanks for reading!

More about Carol.

It’s the People Who Get You By

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
 Carol Yin I knew coming to the Academy that I would be challenged academically, but I honestly never thought I would be challenged so mentally. Don’t get me wrong; there are many things at the Academy to look forward to like shorts, spending the weekends around New London with your friends, goofing around in Chase at night to relieve stress, and sports games throughout the week. As a 4/c I have a lot piled on my plate and it’s easy to get discouraged and look at everything in a negative light.

I have to admit, there were a few days I felt down, but in hindsight, my mood was largely based on what was happening in the moment. And that’s the thing here; you can’t focus on the moment. You have to look forward no matter how short term it is. Some days I look forward to lunch or even the next period and some days I look a little further to the weekend. During the times when looking ahead cannot lift you up, it’s the people who help you get by that matters most.

I have made some of my best friends at the Academy and I have only been here since June 28. The people you meet here are your best friends because you go through so much with them, like Swab Summer. You make many fun memories together no matter how difficult the task is. Just laughing with my roommate throughout the day gets my mind off the stressful tasks I have to complete and it is the little things like that which make a big difference.

More about Carol.

Community Service Event - Clinton Rotary Amber Alert

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen Each cadet is required to fulfill a certain number of hours of volunteer service in the community and within the Academy each semester. To help cadets achieve this, Hotel Company sends out an email to the Corps with volunteering opportunities each week. I happened to see that the Clinton Rotary Club was to be hosting a booth for Amber Alert at the Hartford Convention Center. This sounded like a great program to help with, so I signed up, and this past Sunday I worked the event with the Rotarian in charge and four other cadets. The premise of the event was simple, tell parents about the Amber Alert program and register their children in the database. However, after speaking with the Rotary member present, I really saw the significance of the program. The club was passionate about their mission to register children and to inform parents of any updated information. As I am not a parent I cannot fully appreciate the importance of such a program but I certainly respect its goals, achievements, and the people who help make it possible.

More about Brooklyn.

October!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen October! We have officially survived midterms with most of our sanity intact. This has been a busy few weeks as cadets studied for their mid-semester exams and prepared for the arrival of their parents. I’m not sure which is more daunting. But in true Academy fashion everything worked out in the end. As a 2/c in the Parents’ Weekend Division, I saw a lot of the work that goes into making Parents’ Weekend so special, and the immense responsibility my firstie had. As our division workload decreases my excitement for Thanksgiving increases, but first we’ll dress up and celebrate the end of October and our mutual appreciation for pumpkins, costumes, and chocolate. This is the most colorful season at the Academy; I’m ready to see the trees and sidewalks crowded with the fall colors.

More about Brooklyn.

One Person’s Perspective on Diversity

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I grew up in a neighborhood that saw the arrival of more cultures as time passed and the city grew. Growing up with essentially four parents (two were not born in this country), going to high school with classmates who had their own unique family dynamic, and then attending the USCGA brimming with cadets from all over the world and representing such a vast multitude of cultures there is not a “spectrum” large enough to hold them all. Because of this, I am led to believe that my opinion of diversity is perhaps different than others. Diversity is not as simple as the color is one’s skin; it has more dimensions than that.

When I sit at a table to eat dinner in the Wardroom, I hear my friend from Arizona attempting to speak French to my friend from Belize; I’ll also hear a different friend from Virginia with a mother from Laos speaking Spanish to that same friend from Belize. Then when I go back to my room, I’ll discuss how I was raised in comparison to how my roommate from Colorado was brought up, the beliefs that we have in common and those that we do not. Here at the Academy, we have cadets from one parent homes, two parent homes, in some cases three and four parent homes, and in some cases the parent is considered a “legal guardian.” We have cadets from the inner city as well as far away as you can get from a city. We have cadets who are exposed to the traditions of their ancestors’ countries and cultures and we also have cadets whose families have created their own traditions. The Academy exemplifies the true spirit of the American "melting pot."

Bernard Lewis suggested in one of his articles that "tolerance is actually an intolerant idea because it means that one group claims superiority and merely accepts another’s views though do not necessarily afford them equality." This is an interesting viewpoint as the world moves further into the twenty-first century and the United States seeks greater equality amongst its citizens. As one of the United States’ service academies, it is essential that we be open to what diversity truly means.

More about Brooklyn.

Spring Leave

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen As I ascend the scuffed concrete steps my eyes immediately focus on one of New York City’s massive skyscrapers. Lit by a pristine white light the imposing building instantly struck me as a foreshadowing of all of the adventures I knew I was about to embark upon with my aunt and uncle. Spending my Spring Break in New York City and Washington D.C. is not necessarily conventional, however after living first on the West Coast and then a simple train ride away, and still never visiting either city seemed like a serious problem that needed to be fixed! After arriving in New York City, my break had really begun and my aunt was determined to see as many things as possible in these two historic cities. She would have made the most ambitious and professional tourist envious of our schedule. I thought that I had done a lot of walking since coming to the Academy, but we tested that a couple of times on our explorations of Times Square and then at the nation’s capitol.

It is truly a novelty that such history resides in this part of the country, whether it is more recent “pop culture” or the site of this nation’s beginnings. I find a similar charm on the grounds of USCGA, though it is more difficult for cadets to see. This difficulty can at times compel cadets to voice their grievances, a lot! My aunt and uncle quickly learned about many of the nuances of our daily lives. Despite all of this, my uncle still seems to think that my brain will be brimming with vast amounts of knowledge, and that this is a good thing. Alas, as the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end, cadets returned and things have been as normal as can be expected for Academy life. All that separates us from our summer assignments is about seven weeks and most definitely too many exams to count.

More about Brooklyn.

One Way To Cope

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I sit here typing my journal fully realizing that there is something academic-based that I could and probably should be doing. Yet I continue to type, my rationalization is that I am providing invaluable information to those who will maybe one day make the world a better place. It’s important to have your priorities in line. Today marks the first day of classes of the spring semester, the key word here is spring because there is currently a healthy portion of snow on the ground, seen from the rooftops, and being thrown at the 4th class as they march in section (that was a joke of course). It is not even half way through the first day and already cadets were greeting their schedules with sufficient sarcasm and facetious Facebook comments. However, it goes largely unnoticed as that is one of the ways in which we cope with our workloads; together we are one very large and very blue (as in the long blue line) support unit.

More about Brooklyn.

Good Things

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen Eating, sleeping, not signing out every time you leave your house, these are all good things that I enjoyed over my few weeks of Christmas leave. I was anxious to see the California sky, however hazy it is I’ve found that I have grown quite attached to it after eighteen years. As I flew home, on planes that seem to get smaller each time, I thought about everything and everyone I was leaving behind in Connecticut, and I remember thinking how lost I would be if that part of my life was gone. Once people find out I attend the Academy that is about all our conversations entail. Where this was irritating last leave, I find that I now enjoy speaking about life at USCGA and what we do. Still, I always feel as though I am interrogating my friends at civilian colleges asking them about campus activities, classes, and what it is like to live in an apartment! These things fascinate me; I enjoy hearing about the stories behind the pictures I see. While leave is always excellent for recuperating, it never seems quite long enough, yet we survive, looking forward to the next long or three day weekend that is always just around the corner.

More about Brooklyn.

Labor Day Weekend

(Just for Fun, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen 1 September 2009

We have just concluded our first week of classes and I think most cadets are already looking forward to this Labor Day Weekend. I do admit that I was excited to find my classes interesting and more pertinent to my major. I am looking forward to many discussions and debates and questioning the opinions of my fellow classmates. The set up of these classes are what I would imagine any other civilian college to be, we sit in a circle and have more latitude to speak our minds on a topic.

Labor Day Weekend

One of the aspects that I am still getting used to about the Academy is the close proximity to so many fun places. It is exciting to be able to take a train into Boston, New York City, or anywhere else exciting on the East Coast. For Labor Day, my friends and I went into Boston and walked around the entire city. It’s one of the things that makes going to a military academy more enjoyable. That and the fact that no matter where you go in the New England states, you can find a cadet or a friend of a cadet. They welcome you into your home and make you a part of their family. This is what I have experienced personally, my first roommate of the semester allowed me to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family: the Fitzgerald’s. I saw a family similar to my own and learned that even though a country separates people they are not always so different.

More about Brooklyn.

Packing In

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen 25 August 2009

Here I sit at my computer, re-familiarizing myself with each key and preparing myself for the outrageous amounts of emails that no doubt await me. I will then undertake the daunting task of putting my room into some kind of order and complete what we call the “packing-in” process (which is where the Corps of Cadets unpack their things and properly stow them.)

As I walk through the p-ways of Chase Hall I can see rows of trunks, Tupperware, and anything that can possibly hold items. Despite these familiar images that recall a welcome nostalgia, it is with great trepidation that I begin this new semester. I am a 3/c now with all of the brand new responsibilities and privileges that accompany this position. However, instead of allowing my fear to consume my every thought, I will endeavor to use the outlook I learned from the XO of my cutter this summer and maintain a “cautious optimism” in all of my activities and classes. I will not even let the fact that I got sick the day after I got back from deterring me in my progress. I will not allow that to foreshadow what may come. Instead I will forge ahead and face my 3/c year with confidence.

More about Brooklyn.

On Our Toes

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I am sitting here at 0013 or 12:13 for all of you civilians out there. It is Friday July 25th and the day I depart USCGA for the airport and my summer leave. Words really cannot describe my excitement at the prospect of a summer at home. As a third class, my summer has been significantly different from that of a Swab and 4/c. I have found that as time goes on at the Academy, life will only get better, theoretically. I am anxious about the new year beginning in a month and all of the responsibilities that will be delegated to me as a 3/c and mentor to the 4/c. This is an opportunity for roughly 480 cadets, 4/c and 3/c, to learn from each other and succeed together. We must work as a team, a life lesson I have learned since coming to the Academy.

I feel that I have learned a tremendous amount this summer, to the point of information overload, but then again they say your first year here is like taking a drink from a FIREHOSE. I feel this adequately describes the majority of our experiences – it just keeps all of us on our toes, I guess. I have had an interesting 3/c summer, one that I will never forget and one that will serve as a reminder of everything that I am grateful for. Before I left for the Healy, I had no idea how the operational fleet worked. I still have only a very small amount of experience compared to the men and women who serve every day. I must work hard every day to honor these people. The challenges that face Coast Guardsmen and women are daunting and never ending, this is what separates our service from others.

I cannot explain all of my experiences this past summer because I would not do them justice. I can only say that upon reflection of all that the Coast Guard does and all that I can do being a part of it makes me very proud and very honored.

More about Brooklyn.

Memories Made, Lessons Learned

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen April 9, 2009

Imagine a tiny overheated room filled with one stern-faced “almost-officer”, two eager young adults, and one anxious tutor almost as teeth clatteringly nervous as you are. Yes, you are there and you are too terrified to breathe wrong for fear of being thrown out of the room and failing your ‘4/c Indoctrination Board’. Okay so what we at the Academy refer to as “boards” isn’t quite that intense but it is a test considered similar to an official qualification board, but instead of a qualification to handle equipment or to stand a particular duty it is to ensure that we are ready and qualified to become 3/c. Boards consume the entire corps of cadets. We all work together with the shared goal of teaching the 4/c as much as possible about 49 pages of quality Coast Guard knowledge.

This test, consisting of ten questions administered by those curious upperclassmen mentioned at the beginning of this entry, give the questions and handle the scoring. The uneasy 3/c asserts that they have seen to the training of the 4/c and escort us in. The USCGA is the only service academy that has a comprehensive test of this sort. It is a culmination of all of the information we have learned throughout the year as well as all of the indoc we memorized over swab summer. As a 4/c, I was initially a little frustrated with the extra work this test created in addition to the academic load. However, after completing this test and watching the entire forth class successfully finish their boards and earn Wardroom carry-on (didn’t I mention that? No more playing with our food because we can’t look at where we’re stabbing our fork!). The feeling of accomplishment is well worth the effort. I say this even after I failed to pass my first boards test. The 4/c were offered four tries to correctly answer 8 questions out of 10. We did this after the third opportunity. We are now one step closer to attaining the position of mighty 3/c.

Our next obstacle to overcome is what is known as the ‘Bitter End’ and has been titled “The Guardian Challenge”. Our company guideons have created six events for the 4/c to work together to complete. They have adapted the challenges from our Guardian Ethos as established by Admiral Allen. The goal of completing this task is full carry-on for the 4/c! This is only possibly one of the biggest privileges the 4/c have to earn of the year. As we earn these privileges the upperclassmen may also begin to earn theirs as well. Our Regimental Staff has said that the mood of the corps rests on the performance of the 4/c and this is simply another example. Stand by for more details on the Guardian Challenge.

April 23, 2009

CARRY ON! Those two words firmly asserted by Captain Fitzgerald our Commandant of Cadets last Friday brought glistening tears of bliss to every single 4/c standing on the Academy’s parade field. They made miracles a reality, for us the sun shone brighter, the wind whispered more gently, and the grass grew greener. What exactly does carry on mean for roughly 260 4/c cadets at the Coast Guard Academy? It means we can look around, talk to each other, listen to music out loud; watch movies, NOT square, and so many other activities nearly forgotten.

We earned carry on two and a half weeks before the last day of classes through our participation and completion of the newly created ‘Guardian Challenge.’ As I said in my last blog, we would go through six challenges spread across the week with the goal of carry on. This was an effort achieved in conjunction with and through the support of our guideons, Regimental Staff as well as our Command Staff. With 4/c carry on came what is called “gangway” for the firsties. This is their privilege and allows them the freedom of an officer in the Coast Guard. The 2/c also earned their extended liberty hours on Sundays. This may seem trivial to any other college student, but for cadets here at the Academy it represents one of the many milestones all cadets will go through as a class and as a corps. Yes, this is a privilege for the 4/c but I think it is also meant to build teamwork and encourage mutual cooperation among shipmates. All of this means we are one step closer to becoming 3/c and successfully completing our first year at USCGA. The memories we share are special and the lessons we learn are invaluable.

I will be going with a few other 4/c and upperclassmen to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy stationed out of Seattle. We’ll spend six weeks learning what our enlisted service members do every day. And if we’re lucky, we might even get sprayed in the face with Mace! (This is a qualification you can keep for the duration of your career in the Coast Guard) Together we overcame swab summer and 4/c year, together we will get through the next three years and a career in the Coast Guard.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

More about Brooklyn.

Things Are Changing

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen March 1

As the days fade into hours and those bleed into minutes until finally you’re waiting impatiently for the OOD (Officer of the Day) to check you off and allow you to “officially” go on leave, you don’t think about the people you’ll be leaving. It’s usually the people and places you will be seeing. At least for me, a 4/c, this is generally the process of my mind. However things are changing, as spring break is finally here, I notice that a large part of the 4/c will be spending at least a part of their time off together. We make plans to go skiing together, invite our new friends to our homes, or as many cadets seem to be doing – heading out to Florida and the beach. We make sure to travel with an Academy buddy and saying goodbye is more difficult. There are more people for us to hug, the people who don’t give hugs feel compelled to actually show that their new friends will be missed. I think back to winter leave and notice that the change is subtle and I feel that our new relationships came upon us swiftly. So many talented youths, literally (hopefully) the best and most determined in the nation, all working their shoulder boards off to make it through this place we call the Coast Guard Academy.

I’ve said this before, but I think it’s important; the people we will know here will be with us throughout our careers. They will have helped us through our worst and celebrated with us at our best. For our firsties, Billet Night has already decided where they will begin to make a name for themselves in the Coast Guard. All of Chase Hall welcomed the news, how could we ignore the constant playing of the latest classic song “I’m On a Boat”?

March 15

My first official spring break/spring leave of my Academy career is already over. The entire corps is now one and a half months away from beginning their summer assignments. Yet I am sure our thoughts are still on what we did for our breaks. I slept, spent time with my friends, family, and favorite pets. On one particular evening I remember just sitting around my living room with three of my best friends catching up on the last few months of our lives. Though we fell into conversation easy enough, I could not help but notice that every once and a while there would be a pause and silence would follow. To me this was an awkward silence in which no one had anything to say. Luckily then one of us would say something completely random but also trademark of our characters and we would all laugh until we were crying. These were some of my favorite times of spring break, but I found myself wondering about the new friends I made here. I wondered what they were doing and if they were enjoying themselves as much as I was.

I am truly lucky to have so many friends in so many places. The Academy has done that. I realize that a big part of our time at the Academy allows us to network; we meet extraordinary people from so many unique places each with their own qualities. I also know that in the future, if I need to call one of my friends they will do whatever they can. I don’t think I had this same confidence in more than ten people just last year. I like to think of myself as a ‘people person’; perhaps that’s why I feel that the relationships we are developing at the Academy are so important and special. We help and encourage our fellow shipmates just as we know we will still be cheering each other on long after we graduate.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

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Happy To Be Home

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen As I sit here contemplating what will become my next cadet journal I am listening to the iPod I just got for my birthday. I was surprised at how normal my birthday could be. I opened presents the morning I turned 19, ate a huge birthday cake and talked (probably too long) to all of my friends in my hometown. I ordered a present to be sent to my sister two days before my birthday, since that’s the day of her birthday. My goal is for there to be as little distance between my family and myself as possible; excluding of course the looming fact that I am indeed over 3,000 miles away from them. So it is no wonder that this time is difficult for me. I am contemplating what I should say to those of you who could be the future of the Coast Guard but all I can think of is my home and my family.

In less than six days, the corps of cadets will be leaving one home for another. Chase Hall will be empty but 900 houses all over the world will have one or maybe a few cadets trying to adjust to yet another new routine, for a little while at least. Spring break for many if not most college students is about letting lose, it is not so different for us cadets, except I know that for me as a 4/c letting lose means NOT: BRACING UP, KEEPING MY EYES IN THE BOAT, or TAKING OUT THE TRASH. Ok, so I’ll probably still be helping out with chores at my parents’ house. With spring break also comes our midterms, and so I multitask, studying for one test while packing one suitcase. This will be the second time I have been home in nine months and I relish the prospect of flying home (for a total flight time of eight hours). I will be planning my days while accepting the fact that the hyperactive mental schedule I have in my mind will never become a reality when put up against my father’s easygoing approach. He says we can “play it by ear” and I know I’ll just be happy to be home, eating and sleeping on my own time and for large amounts at a time. Spring break will be a good opportunity for everyone to take a time out from Academy life and as many officers say “recharge our batteries”. I feel that taking some time for yourself is vital to surviving in this place. We can refocus and prioritize.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

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A World Away from California

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen I believe it’s true that we learn something new every day. Well, this winter break I learned Connecticut is definitely a world away from California, on the other side of the country as a matter of fact. I spent two ‘Academy-free’ weeks with friends and family and probably slept more in that time than I did the first half of my first semester. This, however, is simply a sign that I need to prioritize my time much more effectively. I spent a lot of time talking to my friends about their college experiences; the contrasts were both large and small in certain areas. For example, one friend is at a state college in Southern California paying $700 for an apartment she shares with two other roommates, I personally find this to be a bit pricey, I’m not sure about anyone else. All of my friends seem to freak out substantially for their exams so this seems to match most cadets here.

Winter break is a good chance to recuperate and prepare for another semester; still I’m timid to admit that I’m excited to begin a new semester. As we all get ready to work harder than we thought possible, I have the added distraction of what is going on at my home in California. I try to ignore the pangs I feel about leaving my childhood neighborhood in order to embark on a greater adventure. So I have resolved to talk to my family when possible and take advantage of what the Academy offers. Not just the essential stuff like a clinic and food, but the sponsor program, and all of the people around me who are willing to help. I have visited with my roommate’s sponsor family and bonded with my company; these new friendships I am making will not replace any old ones but help me experience all that the Academy and the Coast Guard have to offer. Not to mention help me out almost every night I have homework in SED. Speaking of SED, I believe my Statics book is calling to me now. If you have any questions please don’t forget my email address and email me any time.

Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

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Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Brooklyn Andreasen 7 December

I grew up in the Central Valley of California, surrounded by the mountains that witnessed the Oregon Trail and so much more. I always knew that I would go to college and wherever I went, it would be the experience of a lifetime, and that’s how I chose the Coast Guard Academy.

Since my arrival on R-Day, it would not be an exaggeration to say that nothing has been what I expected – this applies to aspects both good and not so good. One thing, for example, that continues to surprise me is the fantastically laughable similarities the United States Coast Guard Academy shares with “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” from J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. These small idiosyncrasies represent a minor chunk of this place that makes it special to me. Each person is different – our childhood, our beliefs, our personalities are what have helped shape who we are, but they do not determine who we can become.

The prospect of being able to share my time here at the Academy is both exciting and challenging; I will strive to be accurate and let future cadets make their own judgments based on my entries. I remember looking at the faces of past cadet journalists and reading their excerpts, always with the thought that they seemed so unreal. The things they talked about and the things they were doing were all a part of another world to me. It is still incredible that I have joined that world and have found out it is real. I hope my favorites list helps you to get to know me a little better. If you have any questions or comments please contact me at my email address: Brooklyn.A.Andreasen@uscga.edu

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Parents' Weekend

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane All during my classes this morning, I looked around at my classmates in various states of somnolence. Why, you might ask, were there so many drooping eyelids on a warm, sunny October morning? Aside from the fact that it’s Monday, last weekend was Parents Weekend. Proud Coast Guard parents from all parts of the country flocked to the Academy to see what daily life is like for their sons and daughters.

My Mom and Dad came to my cross country meet on Saturday, which was just down the road at Harkness Park. It was a gorgeous day for a race – sunny and around 60 :) – but extremely windy. Our team did really well, and a lot of girls got PR’s on our second 6K course of the season. It was nice to have so many fans! Every time I came around a corner there was someone cheering on Coast Guard runners. My Mom was extremely easy to spot in her bright orange Coast Guard sweatshirt. Cross country this year has been a blast. We have a lot of fun, especially at meets and off-base runs, and we’re also very competitive within our conference. A few weeks ago, we were ranked #10 out of all of the D3 schools in New England!

After the meet, my parents and I had a brick-oven baked pizza at Two Wives Pizza, which was delicious, and headed over to Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic. At the Cider Mill, we had fresh-pressed hot apple cider and apple cider doughnuts so fresh they were still steaming when they put them in the bag! Clyde’s is a really cool place – they have an apple cider press from 1898 that they still use. They also sell all kinds of delicious things – pies, apple dumplings, homemade doughnuts, pumpkin bread… all reasons that I love fall in New England!

As always, if you have any questions about life at the Coast Guard Academy, feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

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CATP

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Second-class summer was undoubtedly one of the best summers of my life thus far. I sailed the mighty vessel Shearwater (one of the 44 foot Luders) on her last cruise with five friends; got hoisted into a MH-60T helicopter with a rescue swimmer at Air Station Elizabeth City; learned ship-handling skills on one of the Academy’s T-boats (tug boats) and successfully avoided smashing 92 tons of boat into Eagle pier; and was a swab summer cadre to the Class of 2015 (one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life). I also passed ROTR (Rules of the Road), but that was slightly less adrenaline-inducing. I wish that I had time to write about all of the incredible experiences that my class had over the summer, but unfortunately the school year is now in full swing and I’m figuratively swamped in essays, problem sets, lab reports, and repeat miles, so I’ll have to limit it to a few stories.

The second week after my leave, ten other cadets and I drove down to North Carolina to spend a week at Air Station Elizabeth City. There, we had the opportunity to get duck-hoisted, which makes my little brother extremely jealous. After passing a simple swim test in the same pool where they filmed scenes from “The Guardian” (yeah, we were in the same pool as Ashton Kutcher), one of the AST3s taught us how to clear a mask and snorkel underwater. We also got to practice climbing into the basket and rescue strop while the AST3 used the mechanical winch to hoist us. The next day, some Coast Guard Auxiliary members took us out onto the water for our duck-hoist. One at a time, we jumped into the water and swam over to the edge of the rotor wash stirred up by the Jayhawk above. Then the rescue swimmer towed us through the spray and chop until we were directly below the helicopter. Even on a perfectly calm, sunny day, in the rotor wash I could barely hear the rescue swimmer as he shouted instructions and spray pelted our faces. I can only imagine what it must be like in cold water, at night, in a storm. Once we were under the helicopter they dropped the strop down, the rescue swimmer clipped in and got me situated, and they hoisted us right up. At the door of the cabin, the flight mech shouted, “Have a sucker!” and popped a Tootsie pop right into my mouth! (My week was a lucky group – the week before they ran out of lollipops so they were popping pieces of their boxed lunches into cadets’ mouths. One person I know got a hard-boiled egg). Then they let us back down and I swam over to the boat.

While at the air station, we got to ride along on some of the flights. One of my classmates and I got to fly with the crew of an MH-60T to a search and rescue exposition. We left in the morning and flew for about an hour. We had the door of the cabin open, and I got to sit right at the edge, looking out over the land and water over 600 feet below us. At the exposition there were Coast Guard members from a small boat station nearby, local police and fire, a Marine helicopter, FEMA workers, and other representatives from organizations that do search and rescue. My favorite part of the entire day was talking to the MH-60T crew. They were absolutely awesome. They taught the other cadet and me a ton about the helicopter and how its systems work and told us stories about some of the incredible rescues they’ve been part of. They are extraordinarily skilled at what they do and they clearly love it. I’m really proud to be in the same service as people like them.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

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Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Swab Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane First off, congratulations to the incoming Class of 2015! To all of you who have accepted your appointments, you’re joining a great service. You’re definitely not taking the easy path, but if you’re willing to work hard you’ll have some amazing experiences and become part of an incredible group of people – the Corps of Cadets.

I’m not going to tell you the secret to success during Swab Summer; there isn’t one. Some days you’ll be miserable and discouraged, other days you’ll feel like you and your company could accomplish anything. It’s all part of the experience. I will, however, share with you a few things that I wish someone had told me before Swab Summer.
  1. ENJOY YOUR FREEDOM! Seriously, you are only going to be a recently emancipated high schooler for a couple weeks of your life. You might as well live it up. Spend as much time as possible with your friends and family and enjoy being obligation-free.
  2. In terms of preparing for Swab Summer, there are a few things I would do. First of all, check out a couple YouTube videos and read some cadet blogs to get a sense of what the summer is going to be like. It’s good to have at least a general sense of what you’ve gotten yourself into. You should also maintain a good level of physical fitness. Other than that, don’t stress yourself out! No amount of mentoring, pep-talking, or worrying is going to make you perform better over the summer, so just relax and have fun.
  3. This is something someone actually did tell me before Swab Summer; my aunt, who was in the Navy, told me, “If thousands of people before you have gotten through it, you can, too.” If you want to get through it, you will.
Good luck Class of 2015! You guys have made a great decision. Enjoy the end of your senior year, see you this summer!

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Big Brothers Big Sisters

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane At the Academy, 3/c and 4/c cadets are required to do at least two hours of institutional service and six hours of community service (2/c and 1/c have to do at least eight hours as well, but it can be divided however they want). This might sounds like kind of a drag – it’s not like we have a whole lot of free time in our schedules – but depending on how you go about it, it can actually be really fun.

This winter I became a “Big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters. After a pretty simple application and interview process, I was paired up with a “Little” who lives close by. Now, about twice a month, I drive one of the great big vans the parents’ organization has so kindly provided for cadet activities to pick her up and hang out. A couple weeks ago we went bowling. It was my first time duckpin bowling (we only have candlepin up in Boston), so she basically destroyed me, but it was a lot of fun. We’ve also been mini-golfing and done some cool arts and crafts stuff.

Community service is a great way to get away from the Academy for a little bit and have fun while getting involved in the local community.

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3/c Summer: Guam and Eagle

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Coming back to classes and homework after the summer is always tough, especially when you’ve had an awesome summer. For my 3/c summer I spent five weeks with the CGC Sequoia in Guam and six weeks sailing aboard the Eagle. Even though my cutter in Guam did not get underway, I have never before learned so much in such a short span of time. The crew was awesome. They taught me a ton about the Sequoia, “The Black Pearl of the Pacific” and they included the 1/c cadet that I was there with and me in a lot of the cool stuff that they did. While I was there, I got hands-on experience learning how to use pipe-patching kits, submersible pumps, fire hoses, and eductors and earned my basic damage control qualification. I also practiced shooting pistol at the range and got pepper-sprayed as part of a qualification I will need eventually when I become a boarding officer.

In Guam, I also got underway with the CGC Washington for a short time, and drove the 110-foot cutter while we were practicing man-overboard approaches. I spent a week with the small boat station there in Apra Harbor learning about the 25-foot small boats that they use. One of the coolest things I did was participate in tactical training with them. I was harnessed into the gun on the bow as the coxswain did 180-degree turns going over 30 knots. While we weren’t on duty, the other cadet and I got scuba qualified and saw some of the most amazing coral reefs and tropical fish in the world. I went snorkeling, hiking, cliff-jumping, and cave swimming. Overall, it was a really awesome five weeks.

For the second half of the summer I was on Eagle. My phase began in Cozumel, Mexico; sailed to Veracruz, Mexico; Corpus Christi, Texas; Tampa, Florida; and departed from Fort Lauderdale. Since Eagle is an experience that pretty much all cadets will have, I’ll just share a couple brief stories with you.

On the way to Corpus Christi, we were sailing behind Hurricane Alex. The winds were so strong that they actually ripped a couple of sails and parted a few sheets (snapped the lines that you use to trim the sails). We were healed over at a 30-degree list and went through some good-sized waves.

Another cool thing that happened was one night a bunch of friends and I decided to climb up to the royal, the highest yardarm, to watch the sunset. It was a really calm, clear night, and just as the sun slipped below the horizon it turned from orange to green for a split second. The green flash is a pretty rare thing to see, so it was especially cool to see it from the royals. 3/c summer is a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to graduate and get out into the fleet.

As always, if you’ve got any questions feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

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Carry On and Looking Forward to Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane WE JUST GOT CARRY ON! For all of you out there wondering what the heck that means, it means that the extraordinary class of 2013 no longer has to square corners, keep our eyes in the boat, walk in the center of the passageway, take the long way to class because we’re not allowed to walk on certain sidewalks, march in section during the workday, etc. (the list goes on and on). After nine and a half long months we can finally act like normal people, and let me tell you, life is sweet. I mean, I’m sure I’ll miss awkwardly staring at my classmates across the table at dinner and only speaking to ask for a napkin (note the sarcasm), but it sure is nice to be able to have a conversation with friends while eating dinner and actually talk to new people. 4/c year is difficult and often tedious, but everyone who has graduated from the Academy has gone through a similar experience, so if nothing else, it allows you to bond over the common complaints. Chase Hall has gotten a whole lot louder now that we’re allowed to listen to music, watch movies, and talk in the passageways, but I like it. It’s spring (the campus is gorgeous and nearly everywhere you walk you can smell the deliciously intoxicating scent of blossoming trees) and everything seems more alive. Only a week of classes left before finals, and after that everyone heads off to their summer assignments!

Speaking of summer assignments, on May 8th I leave for Santa Rita, Guam, where I will be aboard the USCGC Sequoia, a 225-foot buoy tender. After spending about five weeks there, I’ll head to the Eagle along with about half of my classmates. We’re meeting “The Dirty Bird”, as she is affectionately known, in Mexico and then sailing up to Texas and over to Florida. I can’t wait!!! One thing that I really struggled with when I was deciding if I wanted to come here was the fact that we only get three weeks of summer leave. In some ways that’s hard because I really would love to spend more time with my friends and family relaxing, but when I think about the incredible opportunities that I’ve had so far and that I will have in the future, there’s really no comparison. Last summer we all underwent an amazing transformation to become members of the U.S. military and made incredibly close friends. This summer, I’ll get to see what life is really like out in the fleet (in Guam!) and sail around the Caribbean on America’s Tall Ship. And oh yeah – rumor has it we might get to meet Jimmy Buffet.

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Spring Track

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane This spring I’ve been running outdoor track and I love love LOVE it. Over the winter I didn’t play any sports, I just ran on my own. It was really nice because I could run alone or find a friend to run and talk with. To keep motivated, my Dad and I planned on running an 11.2 mile (18K) race on December 26th. Yup, the day after Christmas. He tried to wimp out on me that morning because it was raining, but I reminded him of all the dessert from the night before because, goshdarnit, I hadn’t run all those afternoon miles for nothing. Unfortunately, he beat me in that race, but we have a rematch scheduled for August.

In February, practice for spring track started and we’ve been going strong ever since. In high school I ran the mile, but this season I’ve been running the steeplechase for the most part. The steeplechase is 3K, a little under 2 miles, and you jump over hurdles, one of which has a pit of water on the other side. I’ve been told it was originally a race for horses, but I don’t know what genius decided to have humans run it. Being clumsy and uncoordinated, this race did not seem like an ideal fit for me at first (my family came to my first race and asked if I was going to wear a mask and snorkel), but a 1/c (senior) on the team helped me with hurdles and gave me a lot of encouragement. So far I’ve only fallen three times in races, but they were small stumbles, not full-blown face plants. Keep your fingers crossed for me this weekend at the NEWMAC championships, where I’m seated 8th. Impressive, right? Don’t ask me how many girls are running. Ok, fine, there are 10.

Being on the team has been a lot of fun. I’ve gotten to run with the girls from cross country again and met some new friends. All of the girls are incredibly hard-working and have such great attitudes; they always cheer me up if I’m having a rough day. We have a lot of fun, having sing-alongs as we warm down, getting weird looks from the guys team, and playing the one-word game while we’re holding planks and trying really hard not to laugh because it kills your abs. This Saturday is the last meet for most people, and I’m really going to miss track when it’s over. But there’s always cross country to look forward to in the fall!

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The Coast Guard and Environmental Protection

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Recently I had a really cool opportunity; I got to help try to save a beluga whale! One of the whales over at the Mystic Aquarium (rest in peace – no, it was not something I did) was having kidney problems and the Aquarium needed volunteers to hold the whale still while the veterinarian took blood samples and administered the medicine. I thought, “How many people can say that they’re held a beluga whale?”, so I signed up and very early one bright March morning, my friend Lauren and I dragged ourselves out of bed and down to the van waiting outside the archways. When we got to the Aquarium, the vet gave us a run down of what we needed to do and we put on the dry suits and Neoprene gloves.

We went to one of the tanks out back and climbed down into the water with the whale (it was only about 3 feet deep). My job was to hold the tail above the water with a member of the Coast Guard Reserve so that they could take a blood sample. I’d never touched a whale before. He felt kind of firm and rubbery, and when I got close enough I could actually see spidery purple veins through his white skin. Being that close to the whale was an amazing experience alone, but I also had the pleasure of talking to the Reservist.

He was from Long Island and was one of the people who responds when animals become stranded on the beaches. His passion for the animals that he saves was incredible, and he was telling me about how glad he was to see cadets concerned about animals and the environment. Often, people focus on the law enforcement and search and rescue missions of the Coast Guard because that’s where most of the action and glory is, but environmental protection is also a really important core mission. Talking to him gave me more of an appreciation for Coast Guard Reservists, because they really love what they do and are truly dedicated to their missions. Helping out at the Aquarium was a very different experience from what I’m used to, and it was completely worth waking up a couple of hours early.

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Getting Ready for the Tap

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Near the end of February, when everyone was getting worn down and Spring Break was still four papers, three midterms, a math test, and two lab reports away, our class vice president sent out an email with this Winston Churchill quote:

"To every man, there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered that chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for that which would be his finest hour."

I think that that quote really sums up why we are here, and why the Academy is not easy. We are preparing to be leaders in the U.S. Coast Guard, which will require us to make some extremely difficult decisions and face challenges that seem unconquerable to me right now. Nearly everything that we do here, even the small things that at times seem tedious and unimportant, has a purpose. We learn discipline, confidence, and critical thinking so that when we do finally get out into the fleet, we can learn how to be good officers. When the moment comes and we have a chance to truly make a difference, I like to think that we will be well prepared by all of the hard work that we are putting in now at the Academy.

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That's Why I'm Here

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Over break, as I told my high school friends stories about swab summer and Academy life, some of them thought I was crazy. “Why on earth did you go there?,” they asked me. And I have to admit, sometimes being here is not that great. Like on Friday night, we were getting ready for a formal room and wing inspection and a few other cadets and I were cleaning the laundry room. As I shined the floor drain at midnight, I wondered what some of my friends at civilian colleges were doing right then, and I highly doubt that they were cleaning any laundry rooms. But all of the hard work is worth it, because I can sincerely say that there is nowhere else I would rather be.

At other prestigious universities, you might be pushed academically, but nowhere else will you be challenged in so many ways or have so many responsibilities. Here at the Academy you are expected to work hard in your classes and earn good grades, give your all on the athletic field and stay in good shape, make sure your uniform, room, and the common spaces of Chase Hall always look good, understand and memorize information and procedures that you’ll need later in the fleet, help your shipmates out whenever they need it, and above all maintain your honor and integrity.

When my friends ask me why I came here, I think of a time in November when I was out on liberty and stopped by a grocery store. As I walked out of the store, I saw a man and a little boy who was probably five or six years old. I passed them in the parking lot and the man nudged the boy and said, “Go ahead, say it. ” The little boy saluted me and said, “Thanks for serving our country.” I was overcome with pride to be wearing the Coast Guard uniform and also with a tremendous feeling of responsibility. My friends at civilian colleges have a responsibility to themselves, their family, and their teachers to work hard, but I have made a promise to the American people. They trust that I will be a good Coast Guard officer. That I am capable of rescuing mariners in distress in extreme conditions, preventing oils spills, maintaining our aids to navigation, and stopping illegal drugs from entering our country. So far I haven’t done anything significant, but the trust of the American people and the trust of the men and women that I will someday lead is what motivates me to learn and to work hard. On May 16, 2013 when I receive my commission, I will be ready to do important things, and that is why I’m here.

As always, feel free to email me at Julia.T.Kane@uscga.edu.

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Becoming a Coast Guard Cadet

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Being a cadet encompasses a lot of different roles. You are a member of the United States Coast Guard, a future officer, a student, an athlete, a shipmate, and a friend. Somehow you have to find a way to balance these roles and to make each of them a part of who you are.

When I first came here, I hardly knew anything about the Coast Guard. I read everything I could get my hands on about SAR and I knew the main missions of the Coast Guard, but I had no idea what it meant to actually be a part of the service. Since R-Day, however, I’ve gotten a much better sense of what it means to be a Coast Guard cadet. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard because one day, people’s lives will be in your hands and they need to be able to trust you completely. This means you have to be 100% honest, show integrity, and always work your hardest. No one is perfect, but these are the ideals that we strive for everyday. As a cadet you are constantly being pushed physically and mentally and trying to become a stronger person.

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Women’s Cross Country

(Athletics, Class of 2013) Permanent link
 Julie Kane Sports period is definitely the best part of the day here. I run cross country, and this year we had an awesome season. Each day I looked forward to 4:00, when the team would meet up and we’d run, do strength-building exercises, chat, goof around, and forget about anything stressful for an hour and a half. Our coach, Coach Brown, was really great and had us work out off campus at least once a week. Most of the time we’d go to Harkness Park and do intervals on a path that wound along the coast and then we’d do our cool down on the beach just as the sun was setting. It was incredible.

The team is amazing. Everyone works really hard at each practice, no matter what kind of a day they’re having. No one complains, and everyone is enthusiastic and encouraging. We also have some fun traditions, like when we raced at Smith College we jumped off a rope swing into the freezing cold river! Being on a team here allowed me to make some really great friends, see how beautiful the area around New London is, and relax and have fun.

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