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cadet blogs

Home on Recruiting Leave

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Chris Shih Hey everybody and Happy Thanksgiving! I am writing this blog from home right now, and have just finished recruiting at my old high school (St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California) and her rival (Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose) as well. It’s crazy going back to my roots and seeing how much has changed. My old high school is being renovated, and already has a new multimillion dollar theater!

I must say, that last week was absolutely ridiculous… I don’t think I have had a busier week at the Academy (and I thought senior year was supposed to be easy…). Between academics, working out, filling my duties as Company Commander, and all the new video games that came out (Call of Duty, Skyrim, and Saints Row), I am pretty sure I only had about three hours asleep every night. I guess that is okay however, because it made my transit from New London, Connecticut to San Francisco (about 12 hours of travel time) a really easy one…because I was pretty much asleep the entire time. It has been great coming home for Thanksgiving, and it has been my first Thanksgiving at home for quite some time. I finally was able to get Recruiting Leave this year… since I was able to get my grades high enough. For those of you who don’t know, Recruiting Leave essentially gives me an extra four days of break, and those extra four days makes it worth going home (cadets usually only get 4-5 days for Thanksgiving and Recruiting Leave expands that to about eight, another incentive to do well in school).

It has been really nice to be able to relax at home, and I have enjoyed being able to hibernate each day. I probably should have eaten less, and exercised more, but I have really been enjoying myself. Unfortunately, I have also have had to start doing some homework. I know that some might say, “Why are you doing homework over break!?!?” but to be honest this is all about time management. I know if I don’t do some work over break, I am going to be miserable when I return to school, and not turn in quality assignments. I have four papers to complete, multiple presentations, and a slew of other work that all must be done in less than two weeks. On top of that, finals are just around the corner, so I need to start studying for those. It’s the sad truth, but when you go to the Coast Guard Academy, you’ll probably have some work to do even during your breaks.

I can’t complain however, as I am set to graduate very soon, and will have a job out in the real world in a few short months. There are a lot of things I am thankful for, and one of those things is being able to go to the Coast Guard Academy. Although the Academy at times can be a thorn in my side, it has given me so many friends, taught me so much, and set me up for a successful future. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, and even in hard times remember what you are thankful for!

More about Chris.

Echo Company Commander

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Chris Shih So…my first official cadet blog. What do I write about? I guess I will talk about being Echo Company Commander (CC) since I don’t think it’s something the other cadets have talked about.

Well, Company Commander is a position held by eight cadets at the Academy, one in charge of each of the Academy’s eight companies (which encompasses three departments, and about 120 cadets). To be a CC you have to go through a selection process where you first write about why you want to be in charge of so many people, and then are given an interview with some tricky questions by an officer in the Coast Guard. I went through this process last semester, and somehow was selected to be Company Commander. I had a lot of reasons as to why I wanted to be CC but the main one was to make the people’s lives around me better. I am glad I was selected to be a CC because so far it has been a great experience. I can’t believe how busy I am, and even with my “easy” major I don’t go to bed before midnight ever! Well, maybe I take a nap sometimes after 1600 (maybe in class, too…wait no…wait what?), but the occasion is rare.

I would say that keeping everyone happy is probably the hardest thing to do. In any organization, people will never be satisfied. If you make an announcement people can’t hear you and they just want it sent in an email, if you send an email people don’t read it and want you to make an announcement. It makes me laugh that for all the years I pushed back on people in positions of authority, that it is all coming back at me this semester. Another thing that is difficult is telling your classmates what to do. You have to understand that for three years at the Academy you and members of your class are all essentially the same rank, and have another cadet above you to tell you what to do. But when you become seniors you become the highest ranking cadets, and people like me are the ones who have to tell everyone (classmates included) what to do. It’s good experience for when I have to give orders to someone 20 years older than when I get out in the fleet, but boy is it uncomfortable.

Okay I am making it seem that this job just terrible, and it’s not! Being a CC is pretty awesome! I have more pride in my company than I ever thought I would, and when I can make the people around me happy, it is one of the best feelings in the world! Right now my company (Echo), is absolutely killing it. Whether it comes to formal room and wings (hardcore cleaning of the barracks), personnel inspections (uniform perfection days), or drill (that you have to see to truly understand), we are always near the top. I know we are going to continue this trend of excellence, and who knows? Maybe we will be honor company at the end of the semester.

Okay well…this blog wasn’t as enthralling as I hoped it would be. I think it’s just because I am a noob when it comes to writing these, and just need practice. Maybe someone who is reading this can give me a topic to write about? Remember…my email is Christen.C.Shih@uscga.edu. Thanks for reading!

More about Chris.

The Tsunami

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren While I am writing this, I have been back at the Academy from winter leave for less than a month. The sheer amount of work I have had to do is staggering. Having to switch around classes and pack back into Chase Hall after my exchange at West Point, having to cope with eyes that are healing from PRK surgery, and having taken the senior most 2/c position in Hotel Company, has created an incredibly intense four weeks back. I love what I do though so I take the busy-ness in stride.

The Academy seems extremely quiet at some times, but then at other times there seems to be a great flood of work that doesn’t seem to end. The flood began as soon as I arrived back from my semester at West Point. As Hotel Company’s new Guidon Bearer, I had the incredible challenge of meeting and getting to know over half of the company (freshmen and sophomores) who were not in the company when I left for USMA. Meanwhile, I am responsible for 4/c training (approximately 32 freshmen), which is stressful at times because of the Academy’s high standards, but a lot of fun at other times because of the large responsibility I have been given.

Combat Arms Team has kicked into gear as we prepare for the Joint Service Academy Combat Weapons Competition in April. The only setback has been that I need to re-qualify on the pistol and rifle according to Coast Guard standards while my eyes are still healing and blurry at distances. Also, I am designing my own academic internship for this summer. I will be working on an organizational change-related project with the Unmanned Aerial Systems Branch at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. My hope is that the research helps the Coast Guard better integrate UAV-qualified pilots into the ranks of traditional search and rescue pilots within the next few years.

Now onto February…this month promises to be just as busy as last, but just as exciting too.

More about Hunter.

“A December to Remember”: Army-Navy Week and My West Point Departure

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren What a month… It started with returning from Thanksgiving leave, a well-deserved five days off that acts as a re-motivator as we all prepare for the two and a half week onslaught of projects, presentations, and final exams that are guaranteed once it is over. Being home for five days was exactly what I needed though: a warm-up for winter leave. Most years, I am more than happy to see the fall semester come to an end. This year, however, is a little more bittersweet than usual.

I have had an unforgettable experience as an exchange cadet at West Point for the past four months. I have met many lifelong friends, learned an incredible amount about the Army, Iraq, and Afghanistan, practiced with USMA’s Combat Weapons Team to maintain my skills for when I return to USCGA, earned the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, and I was even filmed as part of a CNBC special entitled the “The Future of Leadership.” There are so many things that have happened to me in the past months that I will never forget. To think that I worked so hard to get into USCGA in the first place and then just tried to survive fourth-class year and on top of that was selected to attend another service academy is incredible for me to reflect upon. The opportunities available to service academy cadets are truly unparalleled.

This week should be interesting. Not only is it the final week of classes in which a ton of work is due – but it is Army-Navy week – the week where the USNA Midshipmen on exchange at USMA will be tormented endlessly. I just hope that the CGA cadets are not included in the tormenting… The Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, next weekend, will prove to be an exciting football game. Navy is generally thought of as being not as good as usual and Army is better than usual this year – this will be a close matchup. My parents will be at the game, as well, since I only live 30 minutes south of Philly and, then, I will get to see them again four days later when I come home after finals. Wow, this will be a busy week and a half! Happy Holidays and I look forward to blogging again next year when I am back home in Hotel Company at USCGA. GO ARMY! BEAT NAVY!

More about Hunter.

Return from West Point

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren This past weekend I was able to travel back to USCGA from my exchange at USMA in West Point, New York. Exchanging at West Point has been an incredible opportunity so far. I have only been at USMA for a little over a month, but it is humbling when I look back at how many new friends I have made and how much I have learned about the U.S. Army. The Army is a completely different culture from the Coast Guard, mainly because of its massive size and land (as opposed to nautical) roots. In addition, West Point is very different from our Academy. The sheer size (approximately 4,700 cadets) takes away from: 1. the close-knit family atmosphere of the CGA and 2. the excellent food that a school with less than 1,000 cadets can serve. However, West Point does offer many more majors and elective courses.

West Point cadets have been really friendly to “Coasties” and luckily the three of us CGA cadets should be exempt from the “torture” that Navy and Air Force cadets go through the week before Army plays their football teams. As much as I love gaining a new perspective on service academy life and our fellow armed forces, I still enjoyed returning to CGA this past weekend. Not only do I miss my shipmates in the Class of 2012, but it was awesome talking with my former swabs from Hotel who are now 4/c cadets in spread throughout the corps. I have not seen them since before they left for Eagle, so speaking with them was really motivating for me.

Stay tuned for more experiences from West Point when I post a blog in October. GO ARMY, BEAT NAVY!

More about Hunter.

Swab Summer Cadre and Summer Leave

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren I returned to the Academy several days ago after three weeks of leave. Three weeks of leave with my family and friends, spent mostly in Ocean City, Maryland, was very refreshing. Although I really enjoyed my first week of Swab Summer cadre in Hotel Company and learned an incredible amount about leadership…it was exhausting! The week of cadre following R-Day seemed like it would never end; 19-hour after 19-hour day for a whole week. Now I am thrilled to be back and witnessing an obvious transformation in Hotel Company! I have no doubts that all 33 swabs of the original 36 will become excellent fourth-class cadets!

This will be my last blog entry before I ship out to West Point for the fall semester in a week and a half. I am going to miss my fellow cadets at CGA tremendously until I return in January. However, my only regret so far about becoming a service academy exchange student is missing the development of the class of 2014 through the course of their first fall semester. This summer has been incredibly rewarding between the huge diversity in training programs (aviation, T-boats, firing range, etc.) and being charged with the development of the Hotel swabs into military members. I cannot wait to write another blog in a month telling about my experience becoming a part of the West Point Corps of Cadets.

More about Hunter.

Second Class Summer and Cadre Preparation

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren 2/c (pronounced “second class”) summer has been an excellent departure from the 3/c academic year! The best thing by far about 2/c summer compared with 3/c summer and the academic year is the wide range of training required every week. I am part of Cadre 1 and we are responsible for training the incoming swabs (freshmen) in our particular companies, which in my case is Hotel. Cadre 1 is responsible for weeks 1, 5, and 6 of Swab Summer and has completed several training weeks together so far this summer including Leadership and Management School, firing range (basic pistol qualification), CATP (the Cadet Aviation Training Program), and T-boats (basic ship-handling and advanced seamanship).

This summer has been a blast so far and should become an even more memorable experience once Swab Summer begins. One thing I will never forget about this summer is how much better I have come to know my shipmates in the class of 2012. With the new 1/c and 3/c cadets out in the field for the summer, 2012 has grown into an even closer team as we begin to take on the role of leaders in the Corps of Cadets. If you have any specific questions about what the CATP (Mobile, Alabama) or T-boats consisted of, make sure to contact me at Hunter.C.Warren@uscga.edu. I will make sure to post a blog again in July once I become a Swab Summer cadre…until then, have a great summer!

More about Hunter.

National Conferences and Government Travel

(Academics, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren Last month, I was given the unique opportunities to travel to another military academy and a fellow service academy. The amount of work required to stay ahead in my classes while missing numerous lectures, hours of project work time, and an exam was far outweighed by the incredible travelling, learning experience, and Coast Guard representation I was able to accomplish during the two conferences. First, I spent two days at the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, in Charleston. The conference was entitled Principled Leadership, which in essence means learning to effectively lead others while maintaining your core values. The Coast Guard’s Core Values, which every cadet learns to live by during their time at the Academy, are Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. No matter what the situation entails, these Core Values are never flexible and are not up for debate. My time at the Citadel was eventful and full of beautiful Charleston weather. I expanded my repertoire of leadership techniques as I prepare for my cadre experience this summer. Also, I met a variety of Citadel students entering all branches of the service, Army ROTC cadets from southern schools, other service academy cadets, and even civilian students from select southern universities.

Next, I was fortunate enough to travel with my Academic Advisor, CDR Singleterry, the United States Military Academy at West Point. This conference’s topic was Negotiation, particularly in tactical or combat situations when stress is high, tempers may be flaring, and two parties need to reach a sustainable agreement. Once again, the two days were jam-packed full of panel question and answer sessions with junior U.S. Army officers recently returned from the Middle East; group discussions and presentations; and expert speakers. In addition, I had the opportunity to interact with cadets from all five U.S. armed forces and the Canadian Forces (Royal Military College of Canada). Attending a U.S. service academy and particularly Coast Guard, because of its small size, offers cadets once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which other civilian students would simply not have available.

More about Hunter.

Combat Arms Team and Club Sports

(Athletics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren I’d like to tell you about Club sports at the Academy. To make it simpler to understand, there are three types of sports teams at the Academy in which 100% of cadets participate in some form. First are Intercollegiate or NCAA sports. Most of our “varsity” sports compete Division III because of the size of our school; however, select teams, primarily on the waterfront, compete Division I. Second are inter-company sports, or “IC’s” as they are often referred – the equivalent of intramural sports. There are five IC seasons, two of which we must participate in during each semester for sports credit. Sports credit is something that must be earned for both the fall and spring semesters for athletes who choose not to participate in varsity sports or certain credit-giving club sports.

This brings me to club sports, which I participate in. I am a member of the Combat Arms Team, which does not grant sports credit. Therefore, I also play IC sports with my fellow company members each fall (softball and flag football) and each spring (volleyball and ultimate Frisbee). Being a part of a combat weapons team is an incredible opportunity that you can only find at the service academies. However, it is much easier to join the weapons team and learn at CGA because we have a team that compares in size to the DoD academies (usually around 14 members) but we only draw from 900 cadets instead of over 4,000. We practice six hours each week in the firing range built in the basement of the Chase Hall barracks. Our primary weapons for competition are the Sig Sauer P229R DAK .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, the Colt M-16A2 5.56 mm assault rifle, and the Remington M870 12-gauge pump shotgun.

For anyone who would like to be a part of the Coast Guard’s homeland security or law enforcement missions, join the FBI after your obligation is up, or simply just learn more about weapons, I would highly recommend looking into trying out for the CGA Combat Arms Team by emailing me at Hunter.C.Warren@uscga.edu. Once again, please contact me if you have any questions about the Academy at all…even if I do not know the answer, chances are I can find someone who can help you out.

More about Hunter.

Academics: The Top Priority

(Academics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren I have just finished the first week of spring semester classes here at the Academy. One thing is for sure, this will be a tough semester. Third-class Management majors like myself are currently finishing the last few classes in mathematics, science, and engineering before we take strictly management core classes next year. My Physics II, Probability and Statistics, and Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering will make this semester especially difficult because they are relatively unrelated to my major. However, I’ve come to learn since I arrived at the Academy that I must “stick it out” and give my classes everything I’ve got. GPA and academic standing plays a larger part at a military school than most think. It determines whether you will be assigned one of your top billet choices upon commissioning and what preference you will be given when applying to a Coast Guard graduate program after a few tours. Academics are truly top priority here at the Academy. Wish me luck in Physics – I can’t wait for management classes next year!

More about Hunter.

Comedy Night Helps Cadets through the Dark Ages

(Just for Fun, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren I am often weary about watching stand-up comedy in person. Everyone knows that most comedians who are filmed for TV are truly funny – which is why they made it to TV in the first place. However, with live comedians you just never know – if they turn out to not be funny it just makes the audience feel awkward. Last January, I decided to try the Comedy Night that the Hotel Company Morale Department sponsored and organized. It turned out to be really funny – everyone who went loved it, which must have been at least 250 cadets. This year’s Comedy Night is five days away, on Friday night, and I can’t wait to see who comes this year. Cadet life is often monotonous and stressful, particularly during the gloomy and frigid months of January and February (the time between winter leave and spring leave is often referred to as “The Dark Ages”). Comedy Night this Friday night should definitely help relieve some monotony and stress here at the Academy!

More about Hunter.

A Bittersweet December

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren Bittersweet is the word I believe best describes my experiences during the month of December here at the Academy. The bitter part of the two weeks we spend here between Thanksgiving and Winter Leave is due to the stress of finishing work for five or six classes. This work includes anything from group projects and presentations to term papers and final exams. Although the stress level here at the Academy runs high during December, the mood is definitely helped by the thought of Christmas, Hanukah, New Years and three weeks of leave just around the corner! One of my favorite things about the Academy around the holidays is when most cadets decorate their rooms. Although the regulations are somewhat strict regarding “fire hazards”, this doesn’t stop the majority of the Corps from adorning their rooms with lights, wrapping paper on the walls, wreathes on the doors, and in some cases Christmas trees!

One more week and all of us will be having so much fun travelling, spending time with family, and seeing friends back home. I know that I will try to do some snowboarding in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains with my family, possibly travel to New York City to do some sightseeing, and even visit my high school for a few hours to do some work for admissions. Although the weight of three final exams is weighing down on me right now, I feel like a scale with the thought of three weeks of leave balancing this stress on the other side. I look forward to some new classes and stories from Winter Leave to share with you when I write again next month. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

More about Hunter.

Almost Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
 Hunter Warren Thanksgiving leave is just around the corner and the fact that nearly all cadets will have three to four total weeks of leave around the holidays this winter is very noticeable. Corps-wide morale is on the upswing! No doubt, the two longest months at the Academy are October and January since each month has only one long weekend: Columbus Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, respectively. We learn to “live for” long weekends here at the Academy since Mondays off allow many cadets (even 4th class or freshman) who live in New England or the mid-Atlantic like myself (I’m from Delaware) to go home. Other cadets from the mid-west, south, and west coast often spend long weekends at sponsor families’ homes around New London or with classmates, they travel to Boston or NYC in groups on Amtrak, or just stay at the Academy and get caught up on homework and coveted sleep.

I am so excited to spend some quality time with my family and visit some friends from high school as I return home next week. I know that once I return to the Academy, things will get crazy… We will have projects and papers due, final exams to study for, and the Combat Arms Team, of which I am a member, is travelling to Hartford for some outdoor weapons practice. Stay tuned for more and Happy Thanksgiving!

More about Hunter.

Lessons from Inside the USCGA Walls

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Nathan White Hello All!!

I am sorry that I haven’t had many blog posts lately; alas, the summer is over and there are no more crazy mountain climbing trips or stories of catching drug runners or migrants on the high seas. No, the school year is in full swing and academics, football, and military duties have gotten in the way of what is really important: keeping the press and paparazzi informed of my day-to-day activities!

In general, 1/c (senior) year has not been the most kind to me; my division is having military trouble, the beloved football team is 1-3, and school (as always) is not sympathetic. However, there are some bright spots: liberty on Thursday nights, being 21, having my Jeep on base, etc. So I have learned a lesson from watching “Spiderman”: with great power comes great responsibility. Actually, I have a better way to phrase it: with great power comes great temptation. I want to leave every night and go out and watch TV or relax, but I ALWAYS have work to do. ALWAYS! I think that that is a leadership lesson you can learn anywhere, here it is just accelerated. So I guess the lesson is this: enjoy where you are at. I am enjoying being a 1/c, but miss the days where I could nap or relax when I wanted. So to you high school seniors fighting and clawing to get in to the Academy, here is an idea: relax. Take a deep breath and enjoy having your family and friends around you. One day, you may miss it.

OK, are you done relaxing? Well good, because I received some emails and want to spread around the information I gave out about choosing to go to the Academy or not. Specifically, peoples’ reasons for applying. I have found that the main difference between the people who stay here and enjoy themselves and those who don’t is their purpose in being here. For example, here are some good reasons:
  1. I know what the Coast Guard does, and I want to be a part of that mission.
  2. I want to serve my country and get a good education at the same time.
  3. I don’t want to just “survive” at normal college, I want to excell.
  4. I want a job with a purpose other than making money.
Bad reasons:
  1. I want a free education (different from needing a free education).
  2. Those navy blue uniforms get the guys/girls! (Maybe true…. still a bad reason….)
  3. I like the beach! (Disclaimer: This was my reason…. I was lucky. But honestly, what’s better than laying out on the beach all day?)
  4. My Mom or Dad says that I should. (This, in my humble opinion, is the most common reason people leave.)
  5. I watched The Guardian once, it was awesome! (Seriously? Worst. Reason. Ever.)
So, if you have any questions or need clarification, let me know by way of email! But for now, I will get back to studying Morals and Ethics, because I just put off studying for that to write this. You are welcome insatiable, unyielding public! Wish me luck!

Sincerely,
1/c Nathan White

More about Nathan.

My Bearded Alaskan Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Nathan White Hello again! As I am writing this blog, I am sitting in Seward, Alaska after one of the best five weeks of my life. What could possibly be better than schoolwork, waking up at 0600, and rooming with Bohdon Wowtschuk you may ask? Well, for the last five weeks I have been living as a civilian in Seward, working at the Alaska SeaLife Center, and getting paid (by the SeaLife Center and the Academy) to do it. As much as the CGA means to me, it is nice to remind myself of what “real” life is like, and this has done it. I haven’t worn a uniform, shined shoes, or had formation in five weeks, trading that in for civilian clothes, a lot of (kind of patchy) facial hair, and sleeping until whenever I want.

So how did I get this gig you may ask? I applied for and somehow got an internship to work in Rehabilitation at the SeaLife Center, which means we rescue and rehabilitate marine mammals, a.k.a., hanging out with harbor seals and sea otters all day! Like holding them, feeding them, etc…it is kind of like having a child, in that they are always whining and poop all over themselves 24/7. But it is still a great time. And in Seward, I have been fishing and caught some nice salmon, climbed a mountain (Mount Marathon) and made friends with interns from California to Connecticut. I am not really sure that I want to leave……. BUT I will soon be reporting to Charleston, where my Jeep Wrangler and the beach are awaiting me. So, once again, I cannot complain. That’s the cool thing about the CGA; although sometimes your friends are partying and having fun while you can’t, now I can laugh at them because most of them will be bagging my groceries and serving up my Bojangles chicken and biscuits (I have to get my fix soon; there are some things when Alaska just doesn’t cut it).

Take a look at the pictures I have uploaded, and feel free to shoot me an email about Bojangles, or ask about how I grew such a great beard in only five weeks, or harbor seals. Or I guess Academy stuff if you want. Yeah, I guess I can answer those questions, too.

More about Nathan.

The (Un) Academy Experience

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Nathan White Hello everyone! Sorry it has been so long since my last post, but the spring semester has been crazy. School has involved too many lab reports, projects, and papers to name! Let me tell you, do not expect an easy junior year if you come here. But, to be honest, I have also been involved in some other stuff which has kept me busy. This includes some stuff which may not technically be scholastics…… OK, well MOST of it has been other stuff, but it still keeps me busy!

The first thing I have done that has kept me busy is planning my summer, which I really can’t complain about. I am going to Alaska for an internship for five weeks, followed by a six-week stay on the Oak, a 225’ buoy tender out of Charleston, South Carolina! It was my first choice for summer assignment, and I am thrilled. Since Charleston is close to my home, I also am in the process of buying my new car (a Toyota Tundra) so I can use it all summer. And I know a Tundra might not be the best car for gas mileage, but I am sorry, it is just too sweet to pass up. Overall, this summer is not a bad deal, considering most of my friends are currently jobless.

The other things that have been occupying my time are significantly less involved in Coast Guard activities. These have been two main events: spring break and my 21st birthday! For my 21st, about 15 other cadets and I headed to Boston for the weekend and proceeded to celebrate my birthday along with the birthdays of two other cadets. Everyone stayed out of trouble, and we returned to the Academy safe and in one piece, which was an accomplishment/miracle. For spring break this year, my girlfriend and I, along with 10 other cadets, went to Florida on a seven-day cruise! It was awesome, and just a little different than eating and living on a Coast Guard cutter. Having 24/7 room service, pools, and meals/desserts provided led to some weight gain, but hey, football season is coming up anyway.

More about Nathan.

The Rush of Finals Week

(Academics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Nathan White Hello again! Sorry it has been a while since my last entry, but life has been busy here! We are currently in the midst of finals week, and I have had trouble keeping track of everything going on. I am in the middle of studying for Physical Chemistry and Intro to Electrical Engineering finals. But I have to take time to keep y’all updated! Although recently has been busy, these past couple weeks have been about more than studying. As a Marine and Environmental Sciences major, I have had to finish several projects; this includes an analysis for my Geographic Information Systems class. This involved my partner and I picking a topic of interest to us, and using programs such as ArcGIS to analyze our problem and find a solution. We chose to analyze locations for a relief shelter on the Hawaiian Islands. It was interesting to see how what we learn every day in class can be applied to real-life scenarios. Also, I finished up my final lab for Physical Chemistry; it involved analyzing HCl molecules spectroscopically. Although this sounds boring to some, working with $100,000 worth of equipment to solve a problem is my idea of a good way to get college credit!

I have also been recently involved in applying for internships next summer. For 1st class summer, cadets must go for at least six weeks aboard a USCG cutter, but can also apply for several internship opportunities. I have decided to apply for an internship involving research in Seward, Alaska. This would let me do research involving marine mammals, and working closely with these creatures is every Marine Science major’s dream! I am also applying for an internship which takes place in either San Diego or Japan. This involves doing cutting-edge research into plasma, and the opportunity to travel abroad (for free!) would be worth the hard work itself.

Although I have three straight finals, I will be prepared to finish them up and head back home to South Carolina! I love visiting home, but I always miss my friends back here. When we return, we will have to switch roommates. This is unfortunate, because I am currently rooming with 2/c Bo Wowtschuk, who also has a cadet blog! But no matter how much I miss him I know he will miss me more. But I can’t wait to get back home, and hopefully get in some snowboarding, fireworks, and a lot of good Southern cooking before I have to return. Season’s greetings to everyone!

More about Nathan.

The End of Football, the Start of the Off-Season

(Athletics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Nathan White This past week, the football team finished our last game of the year, a wild 63 – 47 loss to Maine Maritime, including eight 4th quarter touchdowns and 1,217 total yards of offense. After a game like this, and after a season like this, we were tired, bruised, and exhausted. Each player had given their all, and the seniors were ready to hang their helmets for the last time. After the game, Coach George told us how proud he was, and we all met as a defensive line for one last time. These are all of the players I have sweated next to lifting in the off-season, running sprints after practice, and in the middle of the most intense game. Each of the seniors said something, a little about much they will miss the game, but mostly about how much they will miss the players that make up the team. It was one of the saddest moments I have had in my 10 years of organized football, but I also know that I will see these teammates go on to graduate and do great things in the fleet. Also, as much as they will be missed, whenever they go back on Academy grounds they will be one of us again. They will always be my teammates, and a year from now when I am a senior I will be able to say the same about those who continue to play Coast Guard Academy football.

Now that I am done with football, I mostly plan on playing Inter-Company sports, such as basketball and soccer, for my other sports credit. IC sports are nice in comparison to football, because they are less of a commitment and more relaxed. It is also nice to hang out with my friends at 1600 and experience some friendly competition. Of course, now that football season is over, the unofficial “lifting season” has begun. Players are already making their weightlifting plans for the off-season, and we are planning on coming back bigger, stronger, and faster next year. Merchant Marine is our first game of the 2011 season, and we will be ready to beat them (for the second straight year).

More about Nathan.

8th Semester

(Just for Fun, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! It’s that time of year again, when the Academy awakens from its winter break slumber and is re-energized by the return of the Corps. An ocean of smiling cadets, eager to continue in professional leadership development, once again pulsates through the arteries of Chase Hall. The two-and-a-half week winter leave is longer than any cadet wants to be away from the Academy, but it is a good way for every cadet to reflect upon all that they have accomplished so far, and provides each of us a chance to recharge his or her batteries in preparation for the next semester.

As I’m sure you all know by now, this will be (assuming I continue dodging bullets) my last semester at the Academy. These are truly exciting times, and although I loved my time here at the Academy, I cannot wait to get out into the “real” Coast Guard and make a difference in people’s lives. I will talk more about what I intend to do after I graduate in later blogs, don’t you worry, but right now I would like to take the time to tell you a little bit about my leave and what it was like coming back to the Academy.

My first night home (the night of my last final), I went with a friend from high school to our local bowling alley. It was the first time either of us had been there in a while, at least since before we were twenty-one years old, and it was by far the most fun we’ve ever had there. We didn’t go to bowl right away though, we wanted to warm up a little (it’s called injury avoidance), so we first spent some time in the lounge, ordered sixteen sliders and played billiards (I won of course). It was so long ago, I don’t remember the actual bowling score, but I remember I won (of course).

Ah Christmas! My favorite Judeo/Christian holiday! What better way to celebrate the birth of Sir Isaac Newton, than watching football and giving your loved ones a scarf or shawl every year.

Best Christmas Present: Electric Toothbrush (hands down)
Worst Christmas Present: Kindle Fire (Great idea…let’s make reading more convenient)
Best Present I opened that was mislabeled and not actually for me: $70 leather gloves
Most Random Present: Seeing my ex-girlfriend for the first time in over two years
Most Awkward Present: *see above*

New Years Eve: the second most depressing holiday to be single for. I went to a party at my friend’s house, well, I’m only really friends with him on New Year’s Eve when he throws a party. This year I really valued his friendship, because this was definitely one of his best parties yet. It was a great ratio, lots of girls, many of them still in high school, which provided me the opportunity to help them decide on colleges and what kind of educations they were looking to pursue. I obviously recommended they all attend the United States Coast Guard Academy, but unfortunately they didn’t all seem to have the grades to get in first try (Community College is a good education too).

My favorite day of leave was obviously the day I was allowed to return to school. I was so excited I could barely sleep the night before. Now that I'm a senior, I can drive myself back instead of waiting for my parents. This means I can leave as early as I want. The sooner I can get back to see my shipmates' smiling faces the better.

Fun fact: I have a three foot tall cactus named Cactus.

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USCGC (insert name)! Part Deux!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! Due to high demand and tremendous guilt placed on me by my editor, I’ve decided to release the second and final blog entry recapping my time on a real live operational cutter this past summer.

When I left off we were just pulling into Bocas Del Toro, Panama after two straight weeks on patrol. Here’s a quick rundown of the status of the patrol coming into port. The port call provided another great opportunity to get some rest and organize our qualifications packets. After four day and three nights on the tiny, secluded, girl laden, tropical paradise, we were all a bit anxious to get back on the boat.

For the next week we continued patrolling the waters off the coast of Nicaragua. I stopped standing watch down in the engine room, and focused all my efforts on breaking-in OOD (officer of the day) up on the bridge. I was standing a 1-in-4 watch rotation. So, I had two, 4 hour watches every day. By this time, I was pretty much done with all of my required sign-offs, and I was able to enjoy the underway experience. Therefore, when I wasn’t sleeping I was up on the bridge helping to steer the cutter from waypoint to waypoint, and often back to the original waypoint. It was an extremely rewarding experience, knowing I was helping accomplish the Coast Guard mission.

Out of the several boarding’s we completed during my month on the cutter, two stick out in my mind. For the first one, I was actually up on the bridge when we decided to chase and board an American flagged yacht. I didn’t participate in the actual boarding, but I talked to the Boarding Officer (BO) afterwards, and according to him the yacht was being operated by an elderly homosexual couple and a pet cat. They offered the boarding team freshly baked cupcakes.

For the second boarding, we actually chased down another American flagged pleasure craft (thinking it was smuggling narcotics). SPOILER ALERT! There were no narcotics onboard. However, the boat was being operated by three Hungarian men, and a nineteen year old Ecuadorian woman. In addition, according to the BO, the stateroom was strewn with inappropriate material and alcohol. True Story.

On the way to New Hampshire, we stopped for quick port calls in Florida and Northern Jersey. As we were leaving Jersey (and New York Harbor), there was some sort of oil leak in the engine room, and I was actually on the Bridge conning (telling a seaman where to steer) the ship at the time. I’ll be honest I had no idea what to do, and I was immediately relieved by the OOD. We set general emergency and yada yada yada, it worked itself out.

We got to Portsmouth in the evening of the next day and sat in the harbor because Coast Guard cutters rarely ever attempt to come into port during twilight hours. When we finally pulled into the cutters homeport, everyone was a bit disappointed to know that they would have to wait another two months before getting underway again. I spent my next three weeks in Portsmouth before I flew out to Hong Kong. I wish I could say I used those three weeks to study the cutter, work hard on qualifications, and soak up as much knowledge as possible about the operational Coast Guard…I really wish I could.

Fun Fact: Active Military receive a 50% discount at the Nike Employee Store…WINNING.

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USCGC (insert name)

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! The wait is over. Here it is, the highly anticipated blog recapping my experience on a real live operational Coast Guard cutter. I have been looking forward to releasing this blog all summer, and I truly believe you will find it educational.

I flew down to Cartagena, Columbia in mid-May with three other cadets to meet up with the cutter I was assigned to (a 270 foot cutter stationed out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire), which had pulled into the tropical port for the weekend. We had two free days in the city before we got underway for two straight weeks, and like most of the crew, we couldn’t wait to get out on the water. But we took advantage of the time off by getting a lot of rest and planning out what qualifications we would work toward over the next month.

At 0600 the following Monday, it seemed like the entire ship had come alive as the crew prepared to get underway. After sitting in on the Navigational Brief (basically a discussion of the plan to take the ship out of port and into the open ocean), I made my way up to the bridge (where the ship is steered from) to observe the action. It took approximately two hours to get the cutter from the pier to the open ocean, and I enjoyed every second of it. Watching all the Guardians up on the bridge work together as a team to get our cutter safely into the ocean made me realize why I’m at the Academy. It was especially fascinating to watch our Captain take command of the evolution and nurture the young junior officers (all of which I remember from the Academy), who were still learning the ropes. I could picture myself standing in their black boots within a year and having everything I learned in four years at the Academy finally pay off. Though the two hour evolution was extremely taxing on the ensign in charge, I could tell he felt great pride and a sense of accomplishment.

What exactly did we do out there, you ask? Well, during the daytime (or nighttime if we’re talking reverse ops), we would steam over to a spot that we believed might be on a “go fast” route. We would then sit there and wait for nightfall. At about 0200 we would launch our helicopter to fly around for over an hour. It would then come back and we would refuel it, and launch it again. We typically launched the helicopter two or three times a night (until it broke down at the end of the second week). Without the helicopter, it became a lot more difficult to catch drug runners (we didn’t catch any with the helicopter, but the odds were even worse without it). From the bridge we had about a ten mile radius of visibility on a perfect day, and our cutter had a max speed of about 18 knots. Finding and chasing down these drug runners (which can easily make about 40 to 50 knots) was an incredible challenge, but we never gave up. After two weeks of fourteen hour work days, driving many hundreds of miles across the open ocean, and not finding any illegal narcotics we pulled into Panama for a chance to recharge out batteries for a few days.

To be continued...

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Adventures in the Orient

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! I am currently in the eleventh hour of a thirteen hour flight from Tokyo, Japan to JFK International Airport, New York. American Airlines bumped me up to Business Class after the TSA stole one of my souvenirs (I didn’t realize replica 19th century pistol shaped lighters were a threat to national security). So, I’m writing this blog in the short time I have between my complimentary Business Class foot massage and the complimentary Business Class eyebrow plucking I ordered (I should also have a complimentary bottle of Coca-Cola on its way if the stewardess, sorry flight attendant, doesn’t take all year).

This flight marks the conclusion of my first class summer training experience; probably the most exciting summers of my life. My training took me from the historic city of Cartagena to the tranquil forests of New Hampshire all the way to the bustling city of Honk Kong, and numerous places in between. It will take me a couple blogs to properly cover the experience, but since it is still fresh in my mind, I will dedicate this blog to recapping my three weeks in Hong Kong.

If you’ve been reading my blogs you should already know why I went to Hong Kong, so I need not waste time explaining that. I can confidently say that the three weeks I spent studying in Hong Kong were the most fun three weeks of my life (even better than going to school at the Academy). There are many stories from my time there that would be too involved for a blog entry, so I will have to give a general overview.

SHOPPING: Just like any red-blooded American boy, I love shopping. With enough money you can buy anything you want in Hong Kong. And I mean anything. Tailor made suit: 3,380 HK$, fake Rolex: 468 HK$, black dress socks from Brooks Brothers: 144 HK$, Cuban cigars: 80 HK$. Looking like a boss: Priceless.

DINING: All I remember eating in Hong Kong is nachos and dim sum. I don’t think the Chinese government allows for the import of fresh fruits and vegetables.

NIGHT LIFE: Three words…Lan Kwai Fong.

BEST MEMORIES: Obviously my favorite memories are from sitting in class lectures, engaging the other students on how the Coase Theory can be applied to Hayek’s view of decentralized planning, reading The Federalist, and studying every night, but the following are some other memories I have from outside the classroom: Ladies market/night, 3 a.m. dim sum, King Robert the Cruel, late night stroll on The Peak, “My Man! Frank Lucas,” Tram Party, working late at the office, the 118th floor of the International Commerce Center, Bus 91, my new favorite gemstone Topaz, and of course all the Lang Loi’s.

Oh and I almost forgot about the Fun Fact: My name in Cantonese is Lang Zai.

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Bye Bye Wisdom Teeth

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! I am writing this blog from a rack in the sick ward at the Coast Guard Academy Clinic.

A little background: approximately eight hours ago I had surgery to remove all four of my wisdom teeth. The military is extremely proactive about extracting wisdom teeth, and just about every cadet ends up having them yanked. I was told last month that I would likely not receive a commission if I did not have them removed. The thought of possibly graduating from this institution with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree made me sick to my stomach. I was not about to jeopardize my chance to become an officer in the world’s finest coast guard. So I scheduled the surgery.

The surgery itself went smoothly. I received a general anesthetic so it was just like taking a nap, and I love naps. So that was bueno. I was then transported to the Coast Guard Academy clinic for care. The local anesthesia wore off by the time I got back to school, so the pain started hitting me. They also had a problem stopping the bleeding, so I was going through gauze pads like a fiend. And in order to stop the bleeding I had to bite down on the gauze pad over the wound. This was fairly painful, and I’m not afraid to admit I cried a little…alright I cried a lot. But, then they brought me Percocet, and it made me feel all better :)

While in my room this afternoon, all they had for me to eat was a bowl of cottage cheese (I hate cottage cheese). In addition, the channel buttons on the television in my room are broken, and nobody knows where the remote control is, so I had to watch golf all day (I hate golf). Thankfully I have wonderful shipmates like fellow blogger, 2/c White, who brought me my laptop and some homework to pass the time.

I’m currently eating dinner; for dinner this evening the clinic was serving cottage cheese, apple sauce, and purple yogurt, with a side of red jell-o. It’s delicious, so I’m going to go…have a wonderful night.

Fun Fact: I don’t have any wisdom teeth.

More about Bo.

Hong Kong Babiee

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! For those of you who have become regular readers of my blog page, you may recall that in my last blog entry I discussed an interview for a summer internship. At the time I wrote that blog I had serious reservations with regard to my performance. Well, it turns out I actually had an awesome interview. I was selected for an internship in Hong Kong this summer (my second overall choice), reinforcing my belief, once again, that I’m the man.

Pending my application to the program itself, which is not affiliated with the Coast Guard Academy, I will be spending my July in Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong I will be staying at the prestigious Hong Kong University. I will take classes in political economy and advanced America studies (I don’t even know what that means!), I will interact with some of the brightest minds of my generation, and I will provide them the opportunity to interact with me.

The point of this internship is strictly to develop my professional and academic aptitude, and ipso facto, my aptitude as a future Coast Guard officer. I do think, however, that I will be able to have some fun without compromising my professional development. I have been messaging the former Miss Teen Idaho runner-up over the past week. She is currently in Hong Kong on a foreign exchange program, and she tells me that it is awesome there and I will love it. She is going to give me a list of restaurants and fun places to visit while I’m there, this way I don’t have to buy a Frommer’s. She loves it there so much, she has decided to transfer to HKU. She also said that she may be in Hong Kong in July, and that we should, get together, but I think she meant to say, “study.” Either way, I’m sure I’ll have a swell time with her.

Fun fact: I have my own theme song called, “The Bohdon Wowtschuk Song.”

More about Bo.

The Interview

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello Shipmates! The United States Coast Guard Academy provides us cadets with incredible opportunities to grow and develop as leaders. As a cadet who is always looking for ways to improve myself, I try to take full advantage of all the Academy has to offer. This past semester I applied for a summer internship and a leadership position within my company. Both these highly sought after opportunities required a formal interview, and this blog is about my interview experiences.

In order to get selected for a Humanities internship, cadets are required to have an interview with the internship selection board (which is made up of five members of the Humanities faculty). The internship I desired was probably the most sought after internship in the entire major. There are three spots available for a cadet to go to Prague, Hong Kong, or Crete for a month and take classes in politics, international policy, and economics. Obviously, I was interested in this internship because of the incredible learning opportunity presented, and not the free month-long trip to a foreign country where I will meet other college kids from around the world. As an engineer, I based my merit for receiving this internship on my vast experience with the Model United Nations Club and my deep interest in foreign policy and politics (which is actually true). I really wanted the internship, and I spent weeks writing my application essay and attaining letters of recommendations from various staff members. I thought I had a decent shot, but I knew it all depended on my interview. This was the first real interview I ever had in my life, and I was pretty nervous.

After spending 15 minutes looking for the interview room (it had been changed but I was unaware of this), I was sitting awkwardly at a table across from the five person selection board. I was prepared for most of the questions they asked me, however, there were a couple that were, for lack of a better term, ‘merciless.’

Merciless Question #1: “You cite your participation in Model United Nations at providing you with the tools and experience to succeed in this internship. Correct me if not mistaken, but isn’t the MUN team in Sweden right now at a conference? Why aren’t you with them?” My fists clenched as he asked the question. To provide you with a little background, I was actually extremely bitter that I wasn’t invited to go on the trip, not that I would have gone, but I would have like to be invited seeing as how I am the third most experienced member on the team, but I digress. “I actually wasn’t invited,” I responded through a fake smile, “I believe they had a quota of two guys and two girls they had to fill, so I wasn’t able to attend.” It sounded believable, probably not true. I doubt they bought it.

Merciless Question #2: “I see your military ranking is fairly low in your class, would you care to comment on that?” This question really ticked me off because I had no real explanation. A little background: I have a cumulative military score of about 81/100…and 80/100 is, “exceeds expectation,” I have never been restricted, never been in any serious trouble, and yet I am 147th out of 246 militarily in my class. It doesn’t make sense to me either. Why do I need to explain myself when according to the rules I “exceed expectations?” I went back and forth with the questioner for a solid five minutes before he accepted my answer of, “I really have no good answer for that.”

It’s been almost a month now and I have yet to receive my acceptance email. I am sure it will come any day now, but if it doesn’t, I can always go underway on a cutter for 12 straight weeks!

Fun Fact: I have never seen the movie Forrest Gump.

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A Funny Story

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Bohdon Wowtschuk Hello shipmates! Get ready, because you are about to read my first official Cadet Blog. I am going to tell you a funny story from a few weeks ago.

It was about three or four weeks ago, and I was walking back to my room from my last afternoon class. As I turned the corner to enter my room, I was taken a back at what I saw. The room’s carpet was soaking wet. “What the heck happened?” I shouted at my roommate who was sitting at his desk checking on his lousy fantasy football team. “We are taking on water, shipmate,” he replied. I walked into my room to get a closer look and realized that the entire back half of the room is under a quarter inch of water. I stepped on a section of damp red carpet and brown water seeped out like a sponge around my black boot. “This is disgusting,” I exclaimed to my roommate who was busy looking up a new wide receiver to add from free agency. “Yeah I know, apparently the radiator broke. I emailed in work order, so it should be any day now before they come to clean it up.”

It was two more days until the civilian contractors came to secure the leaking pipe. During these two days, a putrid stench began to emanate from the wet carpet. Every day after class, I would go to my room only to walk into a wall of what I can only describe as a mix of urine and wet dog smell. Unfortunately, the contractors did not bother to dry the carpet, so we were forced to air dry our room for the next four days. The stench stuck around for another week.

Well, that’s it, right? Not exactly. About a week and a half later the radiator started leaking again. It wasn’t as much water, but the stench returned in full force. This time we didn’t even bother to file the work order. Thankfully in a couple days the water dried up, and the stench dissipated.

I am not mad about the radiator leaking, I thought it was amusing. At the Academy, you learn to find humor in everything. Some annexes in Chase Hall are fairly old, and it is understandable for things to break. Luckily, Chase Hall is currently under renovation.

Fun Fact: My favorite band is Tool

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Future Shock

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz Hello readers! Now that we’re well into November up here in Connecticut, traveling home for Thanksgiving has started to seem more and more appealing. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned enough before in previous entries, I’m hardly a fan of mid-semester projects or the cooling temperatures that accompany fall’s transition into winter here in New London. A few days at home sounds like an outstanding relief.

This year is especially taxing. With Billet Night happening in March, for us seniors these next few weeks are our last chance to work hard and raise our class ranks enough to be competitive for our “dream billet.” As a result, for the most part these past few weeks have mostly just consisted of working hard in class and trying to avoid doing anything silly enough on liberty that would warrant a disenrollment – and with 398 pages of Cadet Regulations to be followed, that can actually be quite challenging at times.

So, due to the bleakness of life here at the Academy at the moment, I would like to instead focus this entry on what prospective cadets are probably going through right now. I remember my senior year of high school; November represented a big push for getting college applications completed. Some of you may have already experienced the elation of getting your first acceptance letter to a college. Others may still be working away at applications. To help you out, here’s a few pointers I threw together for finishing your USCGA application and preparing for your first year here.

More about Mark.

Caught in the Middle

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz Greetings everyone. Since my last entry, it feels like I’ve been swarmed by a million different military and academic obligations. Although that’s what I’ve come to expect from the Academy, the intensity is definitely picking up as the school year rolls forward. I’ve always considered the in-between months of the fall semester to be the dreariest – whereas in August and September you’re still fresh from summer leave and in December you’re still drifting through the post-Thanksgiving bliss, October and November represent a bleak period of progressively chillier weather, midterm exams, and dull repetitive days. It’s the time when schedules become routine, when the novelty of a new school year has worn off, and the joyful facial expressions of a Corps fresh from another summer have changed into the furrowed brows of students deep in concentration. It’s times like these that make you look forward to upcoming events all the more.

Fortunately, there are several things on the horizon that brighten things up a bit. At the end of the month, for example, I will be traveling down to Washington, D.C. to run the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon in conjunction with the Academy’s Running Club. Oddly enough, although I ran the Marathon last year as well, I’m actually finding myself more apprehensive this year – probably because I know how much pain to expect this time around.

For something a bit closer on the radar, this weekend is Parent’s Weekend here at the Academy. For this event, parents have the chance to come to the Academy and sit in on classes, tour Chase Hall, and spend a good bit of liberty with their cadet. As you might imagine, Parent’s Weekend is pretty fun – at least for the first couple years. For myself, the only reason I’m looking forward to Parent’s Weekend this year is because it offers me another chance to travel home. After three consecutive Parent’s Weekend’s, I think even my mom and dad are starting to get a little sick of this place.

Finally, of course, Halloween is also approaching. Here at the Academy, we take Halloween pretty seriously. In the two weeks before the holiday, we’re allowed to begin adorning our rooms with creepy décor. On the night itself, we all dress in costumes and have a Halloween themed dinner in the wardroom, before heading over to far side of campus to Trick-or-Treat at the Admiral’s house and the houses of the other members of the Academy Command Staff.

More about Mark.

One More Time Around…

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz Greetings all! I apologize that it’s been so long since my last entry, but in the past few months I’ve been busy with summer training, enjoying a few weeks of leave, and reintegrating myself back into the Academy lifestyle for my final year at USCGA. Now that we’re a couple weeks into the fall semester and things have settled down a bit, allow me to catch you up on some of the experiences I’ve had in the past few months.

My summer got off to a pretty slow start. I served here at the Academy as Echo Summer Executive Officer (XO) from the beginning of May until mid-June. While the title may sound flashy, it consisted mainly of making sure the barracks weren’t messy (or, if you prefer, “assessing the material condition of Chase Hall”), organizing transportation for the limited number of cadets still on base, and standing duty. I can’t say it was a very exciting experience. However, I did get the chance to work directly with my Company Officer and Chief on trainings and logistics matters, which is a professional experience many of my classmates did not have this summer. Having a car on base and a good amount of liberty was not bad, either.

After my reign as XO, I waved a hearty goodbye to New London in mid-June and traveled about as far away as possible within the continental U.S. For the next five weeks, I spent my time in Bellingham, Washington on the 87’ patrol boat USCG Sea Lion. Bellingham is a small town tucked in the very top corner of the West Coast, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. Unlike the previous part of my summer, my time on the Sea Lion was much more eventful. I had the opportunity to go on several patrols, observe multiple boardings, participate in anchoring and mooring evolutions with the crew, learn about the mechanical systems aboard the cutter (including the hydraulics and fire main system), attend fisheries trainings, and even achieve a Crew Member of the Watch qualification. Everyone on board was very welcoming and helpful. Although the Sea Lion had an all-enlisted crew (often 87s will have a LTJG as CO), I still felt as though the experience was highly beneficial to my professional development as an officer. I spent a lot of time on the bridge, working the radar and updating logs, as well as practicing contact avoidance while learning from the qualified members of the crew. All in all, my only gripe about my time on the Sea Lion was that I didn’t get to stay there long enough.

I can’t say I was too upset to depart, however, because after I left the Sea Lion I had three weeks of leave to do whatever I wanted. During leave, I traveled to Honduras for a week on a volunteer trip with my friend and fellow cadet blogger 1/c George Glock, and then spent the rest of the time catching up with friends in Maryland and visiting my sister down in Florida.

The only bad part of leave, as usual, was coming back to the Academy afterward. However, now that I’ve been back several weeks I’ve realized it really does get better every year. Being a 1/c especially is very nice. In addition to having all the 2/c privileges (being able to wear civilian clothes on liberty and shorts every weekend), we also have Thursday night liberty and are allowed to keep cars on base. It’s also a little better knowing this is the last time I’ll be coming back here after the summer. Just one more time around, I keep telling myself. It’s only eight short months until I can finally leave here and see what the real Coast Guard is all about. And frankly, while things are good right now, I also feel like it can’t come soon enough.

More about Mark.

Everything I Wish I’d Been Told

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz Greetings once again! It’s nearing the end of March up here in New London, but you wouldn’t guess that by looking outside. Just earlier this week, I awoke to see the roof of the clinic outside my window dusted with a fluffy inch or two of snowfall. This comes right after the sub-30° temperatures which have been scourging our campus for the past week. I’m now starting to notice that there is a direct relationship between the chilliness of Connecticut temperatures and how far south I want to be on my first billet. Florida, for example, is sounding pretty good right about now.

While we’re all pretty cold up here, the change in climate is hitting me particularly hard. Two weeks ago I spent a week in sunny Fort Benning, Georgia, competing in the NRA Pistol National Championships. It was a fun time with the team and a great way to end the season. The week before that was spring break, where I traveled to Honduras with several of my classmates on a volunteer trip in conjunction with an organization called Students Helping Honduras. Though it was my first service trip, I’m hoping it won’t be the last. I speak for the whole group when I say we all had a truly memorable experience.

After so much traveling, it does feel a little good to get back to the Academy and jump back into the swing of things. This week our liaison with Admissions requested that we write a blog entry about what life was like in the months before we came to the Academy. I’d actually been reflecting a bit on this even before we were asked to write about it.

Every time I think of the spring before I reported to the Academy, I can’t help but think of author Tim O’Brien, who, after being drafted into Vietnam, claimed he passed the time before shipping out simply “playing golf and worrying.” When it comes to golf I usually find myself hitting patches of dirt farther than the ball itself; however, I did work at a country club in high school and spent a lot of time at a golf course, cleaning golf carts and picking up driving range balls in an enormous steel behemoth we simply called “The Picker.” Mostly, though, I just passed the time doing the same thing as Tim O’Brien: worrying.

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New Horizons

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz It’s late January at the Academy, which means the first couple weeks of classes have passed and the academic semester is just starting to lock into its groove. Though I just returned from winter leave earlier this month, I can already tell this is going to be one of my most demanding semesters at the Academy.

Late last year, I received my assignment as Echo Company’s Executive Officer (XO) for this summer. Essentially, this means that during the first several weeks of the summer, I will be responsible for carrying out the company’s duties and responsibilities while the upcoming 2/c are undergoing their training. This also means there will be a lot of work this semester to prepare for the summer, which includes dealing with the planning, logistics, and room assignments. While it’s definitely a bit of a workload, I’ve heard from 1/c cadets who filled similar positions last year that it is a pretty rewarding experience.

In addition, this semester promises to be academically challenging, as well. Those in the MES major have never had the easiest schedule, and this year in particular there seems to be a glaring lack of free periods in my day. It’s especially tough because my roommate is a Management major, whose “homework” always seems to involve watching Youtube videos.

I’ve also got several other ventures going on this semester, including preparing to take on the role of Tide Rips Yearbook Editor next year, as well as attending a community service trip to Honduras over Spring Break.

Overall, everything about this semester seems to be about looking forward, not just to everything that’s going on this semester, but also to the upcoming summer and all the challenges and experiences it holds. And, of course, looking forward to graduation, which comes ever closer as the calendar year changes once more.

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Post-Thanksgiving Blues

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz As I write this, I have to admit I’m feeling a little gloomy. Thanksgiving leave ended just last Sunday, thrusting us into what I consider the darkest part of the semester: the two and a half weeks between Thanksgiving leave and Christmas leave. It’s a time of bleak cloudy days, when the trees have given up all their leaves and the sun sets just minutes after classes end. It’s a time when end-of-semester projects start getting completed in a frantic rush and final exams loom just days away

But rather than getting depressed thinking about what lurks in the coming days, I’d rather reminisce about the good times I had at home in Maryland just last week. For the past two years, I’ve taken recruiting leave for Thanksgiving, which is an Academy Admissions program that 3/c, 2/c, and 1/c cadets with a high enough GPA can apply for. It allows for cadets to leave the Academy on the Friday prior to Thanksgiving (as opposed to the Tuesday before), under the requirement that the cadets must visit and recruit for the Academy at a certain number of high schools.

Though it may sound like a bit of work, it is a good deal because it allows for an extra four days of leave. I found visiting high schools was actually enjoyable. This year, I visited Middletown High School, the school I graduated from, and spoke with my old guidance counselor, which was a great way to both catch up and explain to her what the Academy is like. At another school near my house, I spoke with several interested students and distributed some pamphlets about the Academy.

While I actually had a pretty enjoyable time representing the Academy (despite the strange looks I got showing up at schools in the full Service Dress Bravo uniform), I must say the best part of Thanksgiving was after I was done recruiting. I had the rest of the week to catch up on all the episodes of Dexter I missed out on and see just how much whipped cream I could cram onto one slice of apple pie.

It is tough getting back into the Academy routine for a short, yet busy time, but Christmas leave is just weeks away.

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Getting In Stride

(Athletics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz Fall season is in full swing here in New London. The air is getting chillier by the day, the nights are coming sooner, and the trees all around campus and the nearby Connecticut College Arboretum have started dropping their blazing red-orange leaves like they’re actually on fire. And, of course, the fall sports season is also steaming full speed ahead.

As a member of both the Pistol and Cross Country teams, fall is a pretty busy time for me. Most days, during my free periods at 1500, I’ll head down to the shooting range in the basement of Chase Hall for Pistol practice. At the Academy, Pistol is one of the only sports that is co-ed and competes at a Division I level. We have matches against schools like Navy, West Point, and MIT. It is a competitive and mentally demanding sport, but also extremely rewarding.

After shooting for an hour or so, it is a quick jog to Cross Country practice where I usually run anywhere from six to eight miles. I have run Cross Country all three years at the Academy so far and I consider it one of the best ways to earn a sports credit here. The guys on the team are great, and it is refreshing to be able to run off campus during the day for a change of scenery.

Still, it can be taxing to participate in two sports simultaneously. Yet, the most taxing thing I’ll do this fall has actually yet to come about. This year, the annual Marine Corps Marathon will be on Sunday, October 31, in Washington, D.C., and, in conjunction with the Academy’s Running Club, I will be traveling down there to participate. It is my first marathon, and to say I am nervous is an understatement. But at the same time, I feel mentally and physically prepared for it.

Overall, with so many things happening these days, it is sometimes hard to just sit down and take it all in. Still, while I may feel drained at times, I can say in all honestly that one of the best things about the Academy is the plethora of opportunities that it offers to cadets. At least at the end of the day I can sit back and know I am taking advantage of as much as I can.

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Cold Times Ahead

(Academics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz It’s September here in New London. It’s a time when air is just starting to get that little chill in it that hints a brisk fall is just around the corner. Likewise, classes are in full swing and I’m starting to get that same little chill about the tests, quizzes, and projects that are in store this semester.

2/c year as a Marine Environmental Science major is slightly different than my other semesters have been. As a 4/c, I felt constantly loaded down with work. Performing the balancing act between a full schedule of classes, military obligations like maintaining an immaculate uniform and studying required knowledge (or indoc as we call it), as well as trying to get enough sleep, was quite taxing. I had to budget my time perfectly just to get everything done.

However, now that I’m a 2/c I actually feel as though the workload is quite a bit less. I’m only taking five classes this semester for a total of 17.5 credit hours. While that may sound like quite a load for any other college, it’s not bad at all compared to many of my classmates. There is no doubt, however, that my classes this year are much more difficult than in years past. As a 4/c taking classes like Chemistry and Leaders in U.S. History, you’re likely to come in with a least a rudimentary knowledge of the subjects at hand. But now? I can sit through an entire class of Ocean Dynamics and have no idea what how to make sense of what you were just told. I see some symbols go on the board, I hear a few things that my brain tells me are logical, and yet I still find myself walking out of class sometimes and asking “whoa – what just happened?” It’s the nature of the classes, really. The tests are more demanding. The textbooks feel more cryptic. I have the time to study, but the difficulty level is intimidating.

Paradoxically, having more time now actually means I need tighter time management skills, not more relaxed ones. I often find myself with the dilemma of whether I should read my textbooks or load up my Instant Queue on Netflix and see how many TV episodes I can squeeze in before class. Considering the subject of this entry, it’s probably pretty obvious which one usually wins out. Regardless, I’m still keeping ahead well enough, and if nothing else, I feel like I’ll come out of this semester with some real knowledge about stuff I’m actually interested in.

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Back In Blue

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz It was good while it lasted, but it is no more. Summer is over. The corps is back, Chase Hall has never needed air conditioning more, all the professors are busy handling out syllabi and detailing just what we’ve gotten ourselves into for this semester. Leave has come and gone all too fast.

Overall, from CATP back in May to my time as cadre over the month of July, I can say it was definitely both a fulfilling and a demanding summer. I always thought that going through something like Swab Summer or AIM was the hardest when you were the kid being yelled at. Little did I realize it’s actually just as hard going through it on the other side, when you’re doing more yelling, getting less sleep, and are given an unprecedented level of responsibility. Regardless, being cadre and going through 2/c summer really was a blast, with some truly great experiences like sailing around Long Island Sound in the Coastal Sail Training Program and traversing the mighty Thames on T-Boats. I can honestly say I feel like I’ve developed greatly as a leader and a cadet, and had a great time in the process.

With the summer behind me, I’m looking ahead to the new school year. As a 2/c Marine and Environmental Sciences major, I’m now taking many more major-specific classes, including Fish Biology and Ocean Dynamics. My schedule this semester is much better than previous years, with a couple more free periods and labs that seem like they’ll be quite interesting.

Probably the best part about being a 2/c, however, is the increase in privileges that came along with it. We now get “shorts” every weekend, meaning we do not have to spend Saturday nights at the Academy and don’t have to be back on Sunday until 1900. That’s in addition to Friday night liberty. The best privilege, however, is what we call “civies.” After two years of having to wear some sort of uniform every time we walk out the Academy gates, we’re now authorized to don whatever civilian attire we deem appropriate. It’s exciting, despite how mundane it may sound. That’s how it is at the Academy: it’s the little things that you have to learn to appreciate. Right now, there’s not much I can appreciate more than rolling out of the barracks in Levis and a death metal t-shirt, ready to enjoy the weekend before putting pen to paper all through the week.

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Summer Days

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz July is here at last. At the Academy, it’s a time of long summer days, all sorts of trainings, and, usually, falling asleep at night in pools of your own sweat (except for those lucky few living with the air conditioning in E-Annex). And, of course, summer training is in full swing.

I’ve already got to experience a lot more this summer than I’d ever thought I would. Back in May, I had the opportunity to go down to Aviation Training Center Mobile in Alabama for our Cadet Aviation Training Program. There, several of my classmates and I had the opportunity to fly in several Coast Guard aircraft, including HC-144s, Jayhawks, and Dolphins. After that, I participated in our Coastal Sail Training Program, where, working in a group with four other cadets and two safety officers, we spent two weeks sailing around various ports in Long Island Sound and the surrounding area. It was a really great time and let me get a hands-on feel for leadership and teamwork out there in an actual nautical environment.

R-Day, the infamous day when the new class of swabs first reports to the Academy, was last Monday. As a result, the Academy is now swarming with new faces, most of them fresh out of high school. It’s really loud with them yelling all the time, and a faintly pungent stench is beginning to creep up in certain places in Chase Hall. It’s all part of Swab Summer, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The beginning of AIM, however, is just around the corner. The first batch of AIMsters will report this Sunday. All the cadre have already spent a week in trainings and discussions preparing for how we’re going to act as cadre and how to react in certain situations. It’s an exciting time. For most of us, it’s the three weeks we’ve been most anticipating this summer. I’m a little anxious to see how things will turn out, but I’m sure it’ll be an intense and rewarding time both for myself and the AIMsters I’ll be leading. And with leave just three short weeks away, things are just looking up from here.

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AIMing for the Right Decision

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz It’s April now, which means classes are ending, final exams are beginning (ugh), and summer training is just around the corner. Just a few weeks ago I received my assignment as an AIM cadre this summer. For those unfamiliar, AIM (Academy Introductory Mission) is a summer Admissions program for rising high school seniors that simulates the trainings and intensity of Swab Summer over the course of a week in July. It serves as a way for prospective cadets to get a feel for what life will be like in the first few weeks at the Academy, when speaking in the third person and eating meals like a robot suddenly become the norm.

While I never went to AIM myself, I’ve heard only positive things about it from my classmates and would encourage anyone considering coming to the Academy to at least consider enrolling in AIM if they have the chance. The firsthand experience of it can be one of the best deciding factors in determining whether or not you really have the desire and drive necessary to overcome the challenges you will be presented with here at the Coast Guard Academy.

Some of these challenges I’ll be facing for the first time this summer, as this will be the first time several of my other shipmates and I will be responsible for overseeing the training, safety, and logistics of a large group of people. It will certainly be a tough leadership experience, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

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Mid-Terms and New Classes

(Academics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz It’s late February now, just about the middle of the spring semester here. As I write this, the ground is buried under a nice layer of snow; similarly, I’m buried under a hefty layer of homework. Not only are there mid-term exams to worry about, but it’s around this time that the due date for long-term projects starts approaching much quicker than I wish they would.

On the bright side, this is also the time of year when I get to register for next year’s classes. The Marine and Environmental Sciences major is unique in that you can pick two of three tracks to focus on during your first and second class year. The three tracks are the biological, physical, and chemical tracks. Each track features different classes, instructors, and labs and allows you to narrow in on your specific interests within the major. For example, the biology track allows you to take classes like Fisheries Biology and even take a trip to see organisms at a nearby aquarium. The physical track involves studies of ocean currents and weather, among other things, while the chemistry track involves such classes as Organic Chemistry.

Right now, I’m leaning toward joining the biology and physical tracks. Last semester I took Marine Biology and found the course to be quite interesting, especially with some of the dissections we performed in lab. Similarly, Meteorology, which I also took last semester, was also interesting and offered knowledge that would be extremely applicable as an officer in a seagoing service.

Overall however, while the work load can be demanding at times, I’m definitely satisfied in my major and any of the three tracks offer great opportunities to learn both in the classroom and hands-on.

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Dawn of a New Semester

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz It’s January now, which means winter leave has officially ended. I’ve said goodbye to my friends and family and the twinkling Christmas lights are just a memory. I’m back at the Academy, with the spring academic semester beginning next week.

It’s a pretty busy time around here. At the beginning of each semester, we change rooms, get new roommates, and change divisions. With new people to work with and new cadets leading the regiment, a new semester always means a few hiccups at first as everyone starts getting settled into their new positions.

As my third or fourth time coming back to the Academy after a long period of leave, I find it never really gets easier. It’s always a little tough to get back into the regime: waking up at 0600 and going to formation is a far cry from my daily schedule on leave, mostly consisting of waking up at noon and eating half a box of Eggo waffles. But whether I’m ready or not, the new semester is just days away, and I know the best thing now is to just buckle down and get ready.

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The Joys of Running

(Athletics, Class of 2012) Permanent link
Mark Zanowicz Now that it’s mid-November, when the sun sets an hour after classes end and the weather gets chillier day by day, I’m finding it’s getting more and more difficult to get out of the barracks and enjoy a nice run in the woods near the Academy. It hits especially hard for me because running, or, more specifically, cross country season, is probably my favorite part of fall semester.

I’m not going to say I’m a very good runner – I’m not. But regardless of ability level, the experience is like nothing else. There’s just nothing like strapping on your training shoes and throwing on your gym gear, then going out to join the cross country team on a run through the forest or the streets of New London for miles after mile. It’s a time when you can leave the worries and difficulties of cadet life behind; when you can enjoy the solace of the world around you or joke around to your teammates about the happenings of the day. It helps me on tough days like nothing else. Running: it seems so simple, but it really is something powerful.

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