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cadet blogs

Swab Summer Etiquette

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Chang Photo To the incoming Class of 2021,

 

Congrats! This message will be starkly different from the one your cadre will give you, but either way we’re all super excited to meet you. Around this time of year, three years ago, I remember watching Swab Summer videos on YouTube and scouring the blogs for little tips and tricks for guidance. I’m not going to give anything away, because that would take the fun out of it, but here are the basics of what I guess you could call “Swab Summer etiquette.”

 

1. Share your food: Everyone’s hungry, and an extra bite can really make someone’s day. I remember my friends getting massive care packages loaded with candy, homemade cookies, and granola bars. You really bond with people over a snack and a chat.

 

2. Hygiene: Yes, it’s hard to be clean when you barely have time to brush your teeth, but please, shower. Figure out a system that works for you, because the one of the worst things about Swab Summer is the smell. Even a dab of hand sanitizer goes a long way.

 

3. Homesickness: It’s perfectly normal to be homesick, but I’m not going to sugarcoat this next part. You’re in the military now, and you need to suck it up. If you’re not used to being away from home, Swab Summer will probably amplify feelings of homesickness. Even after a year at prep school, I teared up a little when I got a letter from my mum. Regardless, you have larger things to focus on and sometimes pushing aside these feelings is necessary.

 

During Swab Summer, happiness is scarce and it’s easy to fall into a pit of discouragement. Oftentimes you’re not allowed to show any emotion, but that’s all a part of training to have a proper military bearing. However, when you reflect on your day, try to find at least one good thing you did. It doesn’t have to entail answering a question correctly or having a decent uniform, but maybe you helped your homesick shipmate or had a mini snack-party in your room. Finally, regardless of what light your cadre will see you in, your classmates will remember you the most vividly. I cannot stress enough the importance of helping each other and not being a jerk. People remember the most random things and we all have our bad moments, but don’t let that get in the way of being a decent person.

 

That’s all for now, good luck and see you in August!

 

Very respectfully,
1/c Olivia Chang

 

More about Olivia.

 

The Final Say

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
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.

 

Dear Class of 2021

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Friedman Photo First off, congratulations on receiving your appointment and on deciding to come to the Academy. As Swearing-In Day gets closer, the excitement of receiving your appointment has probably transformed into nerves for Swab Summer to come; so, here are my tips for your summer ahead.

 

Don’t try to find or get the Running Light ahead of time. Trust me; you will have plenty of time to learn it this summer and during 4/c year. Spend the time between now and Swearing-In Day with your family and friends.

 

Come in mentally and physically ready. I usually recommend that you are able to do 30 minutes of running, upper body, lower body, and abs. If you can hit that mark great, if not, don’t let it ruin the rest of the time you have left at home with stress. The more important thing is that you can push yourself and never quit. A large part of Swab Summer is learning how to deal with failure and high-stress situations. Come in knowing that you’re not perfect, you are going to fail and that is okay. Learn from it and move on.

 

Don’t take things personally; this goes with being mentally prepared. Nothing your cadre do will be personal. There needs to be a drastic transformation in a relatively short amount of time and this requires all discrepancies to be addressed immediately. We are simply trying to get the action up to standard. People who take corrections personally and let them fester usually have a rougher time during the summer than those who learn the lesson and move on.

 

Ask your friends and family to write to you and send care packages. Getting mail during Swab Summer is super motivating. When my parents sent me mail during my Swab Summer, they would write corny jokes on the card. It is something little but it helped me a lot. Also, tell your parents to send you food if they can. You will be given enough time to eat and as much food as you want, but, as a swab you’re constantly moving so you’re constantly hungry.

 

Females, practice putting your hair up in a bun. Don’t cut your hair within two weeks of Swab Summer to give you a chance to get used to dealing with it. Bring extra hair ties and hair gel. If you think hair ties disappear fast at home, you’ll be amazed at the rate they go missing during Swab Summer.

 

Enjoy the time you have between now and swearing in. I know anticipating the summer is stressful but try to relax and enjoy this time. The summer will come and go; it is only seven-weeks out of your 200-week experience at the Academy. Your cadre are there to help you become a basically trained military member and an effective 4/c cadet. Believe it or not, we want you to succeed and complete the summer. We were in your shoes not too long ago.

 

If you have any other questions please feel free to email me at Jill.M.Friedman@uscga.edu. I know most bloggers put this at the end of their entries, but we mean it. We volunteer to write these blogs because we remember how much they helped us when we were in your shoes so please do feel free to reach out, whether you’re in 2021 or not, we want to help you.

 

More about Jill.

 

Florida to Haiti

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo A little bit delayed, but… I got my billet, and I am going to flight school! I am still dumbfounded at this blessing, but I just cannot wait to see what the next couple of years in flight training has in store for me! Plus there are 12 other fantastic classmates of mine going, so it is going to be a wonderful community of students. Praise the Lord!

 

The whole thing was made even more exciting, though, by an experience that began less than 48 hours after I received my billet. I found myself boarding a plane to spend my spring break on a mission trip in Haiti with some awesome friends from the Academy. We travelled into a mountain village called Cap Rouge, and spent a week preparing the organization’s new missions house, helping the locals with their housework and gardening, immersing ourselves in the Haitian Creole culture, and learning to serve God in a completely new environment.

 

Going to Haiti changed my perspective on serving the Lord in incredible ways. I realized that my view of God’s purpose for the gifts and skills with which He has blessed me was a sort of tunnel vision; there are so many other ways that God could use me to serve Him. I wish every college senior could experience something like this, just to see what it means to be a disciple of God and where we fit in that equation.

 

I think of the end of the gospel of Matthew, where Jesus tasks the apostles with the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20) I absolutely cannot wait for the earthly career I will have in the military, and learning to be an aviator. But, that gospel task is my true career, and who knows how God will shape that one?

 

I am forever thankful for my time in Haiti…a future in service to the Lord is much, much wider than what I envisioned on stage with my first assignment in hand. It’s amazing to watch your understanding of God’s Kingdom expand in one short week.

 

More about Abby.

 

And the School Year Goes Rolling Along

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Purrington Photo The title works best if you imagine it being sung to the tune of the “The Army Song.” That’s what I’m doing anyway and it seems to be working for me!

 

This year has been nuts. I still get more sleep than I got in high school but on the flip side, I’m doing more with the time I’m awake than I used to. From running around and making an effort to do the stupid stuff well to sailing to glee to academics and to all the other little things – or perhaps big things – like duty, trainings, physical therapy, set design, and learning indoc, I can honestly say I don’t think I fit this much stuff into a day in high school on a regular basis. Sure, there were a few weeks here and there that were just as hectic, if not more so, but it they were not like that for months on end. They are here. But a lot of you probably already know that, particularly if you have read any of the blogs of the upperclassmen. Time is precious here.

 

And it flies. Holy cow, its October, October 12th at that. What is this madness?!?! Some people here really like the phrase “the days are long and the weeks are short,” but personally, I prefer, “the days are short and the weeks are short.” It just seems more fitting to me. Every morning I get up, do clocks, go to formation, go to breakfast, take out trash, go to class, go to clocks, go to formation, go to lunch, go to class, go to sailing, sometimes go to glee or another training or lecture, do homework, go to bed, repeat. By the time I remember to blink it’s time to go back to sleep again; kinda crazy when you think about it.

 

Speaking of time flying, I should go before it gets away from me and is an unfortunate hour of the morning.

 

As always, email me if you have any questions about our nation’s best service academy or if you just want to talk to a cadet and see what we’re like. We don’t bite unless provoked! ;)

 

Very Respectfully,
4/c Darden Purrington

 

More about Darden.