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cadet blogs

The Final Say

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link   All Posts
Glick Photo Recently, the Class of 2017 took the “missing man” picture. We lined up on the bleachers on the parade field and took the same picture that our class took on R-Day, but with gaps in the picture for those who are no longer cadets. I was standing out there in my spot, and thought—holy cow, I made it. In less than seven days, classes will end, and it will all be over. Indeed it will have just begun.

 

As my Academy experience comes to a close, I feel it is my duty to tell the readers what the Academy is really like. It is truly a wonderful place, but it is incredibly difficult. I hope that this final blog serves as an accurate picture of what the Academy is from a cadet’s perspective, and you can see my journey through my cadet blogs beginning in the fall of 2013.

 

Being a cadet is not easy. Let me be real and say that it is easier for some than others, but it is still hard for everyone in at least one way. Some people struggle with academics, weight, fitness, military programs, or maritime qualifications. Everyone is good at something, and we only succeed if we seek out and help each other with our talents. It is incredible that we all come from different parts of the country, with different races, ethnicity, gender, income brackets, etc. The Academy is the ultimate national conference, and we bring with us the joys and tragedies of America. I will say that it was easier for cadets who came from a wealthier background and a means to excellent high schools at first, but over time, that faded because the Academy helps only those who are willing to help themselves. The ultimate equalizer here regardless of who you are or where you came from is effort. Nobody here cares what you look like or sound like. They care about how well you work with a team and your performance.

 

Cadet life is fun. Cadet life is also hard. Five years ago I would not have believed anyone who told me that I would be pulling 20 hour days, but sometimes it is the only way to cut it here. You will be pushed to your physical, mental, and spiritual limits at the Academy, especially as a freshman and a sophomore. Having said that, at least a couple of those 20 hours will be spent having fun, laughing hysterically with your friends, either due to exhaustion or in disbelief. Please understand—it will be incredibly rosy when you are presented your appointment in high school in front of hundreds of people; it will be incredibly testing when you lay in your rack after a hard day of Swab Summer, alone and in the hot summer night. Your body will be hardened, and your heart will be made humble and open.

 

Which brings me to my next topic—cadet summers. Swab Summer will change you. Whether you are continuously falling behind, or if you are voted “super-swab”, you will be pushed to your limits. Swabs are allowed no contact with the outside world, sans one day for a few hours about halfway through the summer at the Mystic Flag Ceremony. You will learn the importance of teamwork, endurance, perseverance, strength, and fitness. You will jump off a high dive, climb 20 foot walls, and maybe lose weight. But through all this, you make friends for a lifetime.

 

During 3/c summer, you will spend half of your summer aboard the Eagle. This experience is also challenging, and while nobody will be yelling at you like during Swab Summer, you will have to work together as a team and sail a great distance. The next half of the summer will be spent chipping paint, riding in small boats, or helping navigate a major cutter. As a 19 year old, I was breaking in as a helmsman with the other 19 year old non-rates. The Coast Guard gives an incredible amount of responsibility to its most junior members, responsibilities that would only be given to more senior officers in the other services.

 

The next summer, I had a blast training the Class of 2019, learning about CG aviation; shooting and learning about Coast Guard small arms; and sailing around New England. I spent part of my summer in Europe studying about the Holocaust on an internship, and also learned basic ship handling and took my Deck Watch Officer exam. 2/c year was a blur traveling to so many different places and getting into the weeds of my major. I never thought I would sail to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, a world of wealth that I could have never imagined as a blue collar kid.

 

First class year flew by and kicked off with over a month on CGC Liberty, a patrol boat in Juneau, Alaska. I saw some of God's most beautiful creations in Alaska, and earned my in-port OOD qualification as well as a Quartermaster of the Watch qualification. I had a wonderful time with the crew and learned what patrol boat life is all about under the tutelage of two capable junior officers and an experienced chief petty officer. Leading Swab Summer was also an excellent leadership journey, and I was pushed to my limits overseeing the Academy's training program. It was a humbling experience, and I had a great time leading Swab Summer with folks who are now my closest friends. I had the privilege again serving on Regimental Staff in the spring, and had a blast with a awesome staff. I worked with a great group of guys on a capstone project to determine the cost and market value of a CGA education for a Coast Guard captain. I got to know, study with, and work with cadets from Mexico, the Republic of Georgia, the Marshall Islands, and Honduras.

 

I've spent the last week re-qualifying on the CG basic pistol course and earned my practical pistol qualification in anticipation of reporting in to my unit. I am excited to get out there and serve in the Coast Guard.

 

More about William.