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Being a Woman in the Coast Guard

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Culp Photo You may have heard the exciting news – the Academy just admitted the highest percentage of women to the Class of 2020 than has any other service academy in history! I’m very proud of this accomplishment, and it did get me thinking about a question I’ve been asked a few times. “What is it like to be a female Coast Guardsman, and a woman in the U.S. military?” When I am approached with such a topic, I already have my answer ready to go. Being a woman in the Coast Guard is an awful lot like…well, being any sort of person in the Coast Guard.


Statistically, one may debate that fact. The vast majority of the Coast Guard is comprised of men, both on the officer and enlisted sides of the house. We’re looking at a force that is only about 10-15% female. The Academy has mostly male cadets, as women make up about 35-40% of the corps (again, worth noting that this is the highest percentage of all the service academies!). Less than 10% of Coast Guard pilots are female; at my air station this summer, I only met five female pilots (and at least one other was on maternity leave). So, if you are hooked on numbers, it should be a vastly different experience being female as opposed to male; there seems to be so few of us around! That’s just the thing, though. It is not about numbers. It is not just about the ratio of women to men when you board an aircraft or a cutter. It is not just about how many women are in your academic major, your company, or your clubs.


The factor that defines the experience a woman has in the military is how she is treated by her fellow service members, be they superiors or subordinates. And here, at the Academy and in the Coast Guard, as a woman in the military, you are treated as a person. You are treated as a leader in your own right, with your own abilities, struggles, skills, faults, positive personality traits, and bad habits. You are held to a high standard of moral responsibility and behavior, just like your male counterparts, and you are respected and appreciated according to how you treat other people and the quality of your work. Regardless of whether you are male or female, your value to the service stems from simply how you carry yourself and show that you care about this service and the people whose lives you are impacting every day. That is what makes the Coast Guard an amazing organization.


I love seeing how the number of women at the Academy is growing simply because the Coast Guard is a wonderful service, and being a Coastguardsman is an invaluable opportunity. Not a “female Coastguardsman,” no stipulations or extra expectations or preconceived notions about females in the military. Just a plain and simple “Coastguardsman” – the greatest thing you can be.


More about Abby.


Prep Week and 2/c Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Hosley Photo Here I am almost in the middle of my second class summer and I truly cannot believe it! In less than five days the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2020 will report in to be trained by us, the great Class of 2018. It’s hard to imagine that 318 families have entrusted us with the health and well-being of their children, but rest assured (parents if you’re reading this), we are ready. We have studied for this, we have trained for this, we have prepared for this, and most importantly we have gone through this ourselves. Everything these swabs will learn about the military will initially come from us and our training. We are all phenomenally excited to try out our different leadership styles, work as a team, and to help 2020 to succeed during Swab Summer and the rest of their Coast Guard careers.


At the beginning of the summer, I spent a week learning how to maneuver the 64-foot training vessels called T-boats to and from the pier, as well as down the Thames River and under the Gold Star Bridge. While T-boats training was a blast, a much-needed three weeks of leave (vacation time) followed suit and I spent much of that time with family and friends relaxing and feeling like a normal teenager for the first time in a while. When I got back, I completed the cyber/range week of the summer training program where I learned about cyber security and got to shoot the Sig 40 pistols down in the gun range. Shooting is definitely not easy, but with great instruction and hard-set determination I was able to score a 138 qualifying as sharp shooter the first time I took the pistol test! Now, as our preparation week comes to an end, I can feel the excitement building. Our days have been packed to the brim with trainings, ceremony rehearsals, and preparing the swabs’ summer rooms. Each night we stay up late making each swab’s rack and folding their clothes into their drawers and I can’t help but to think of how drastically their lives are about to change… good luck 2020, you’re about to make the best decisions of your lives when you raise your right hand and say “I do.”


More about Cece.


Spring Track and Field

(Athletics, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Burchill Photo The Academy isn't just all academics and military, thletics plays a big part! I run track and cross country and love my teammates and the sport. From hanging out at meets, to working hard alongside one another everyday, I wouldn't trade these people for the world. They really help you get through the tough times.

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Five Flights Later…

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo Time flies when you’re having fun, and in my case, there actually was flying involved! My classmates and I just finished first phase of our last year of summer training, during which I was at Air Station Clearwater, Florida. First class summer is special because out of the four, you get the most influence in crafting a summer schedule that is pertinent to your career goals and interests. For me, that means I had the air station assignment, as I am putting in for flight school in the fall, and am now in New Hampshire for an academic internship with the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. You’ll hear more about the latter as I get further into the assignment; but for now, let me tell you all about playing on helicopters for five weeks! (I mean, calmly observing from a safe distance. They knew better than to let me get too close to expensive equipment.) I got to ride along on two C-130 flights and three H-60 flights, and got qualified to stand the Operations Duty Officer (ODO) watch. The helicopters were a blast; nothing beats flying with the door open and seeing the world beneath you. But then again, getting time actually flying the C-130 was incredible… there are definitely positives to both fixed-wing and rotary! The ODO watch involved me receiving calls for search and rescue cases from the sector and district, and helping manage the general operational picture for the daily activity of the air station. It’s a great way to actually help out the air station and give the pilots a small break from their busy schedules.


So both the flying and the watches were good experiences; but, the highlight for me was definitely meeting all the wonderful people at the air station. The aviation community is full of people who truly care about each other, and who love being pilots for the Coast Guard. I learned so much from hearing about each of their experiences and unique backgrounds, and found some individuals whose values and career paths aligned precisely with my own. Some showed me what it means to be a skilled and highly proficient pilot; some demonstrated to me what it means to take care of others and watch out for their well-being; some displayed the positive attitude and sense of humor necessary to make it through challenging assignments; still others helped me understand what goes into an aviation career from start to finish, including families and graduate school. It was such an invaluable experience; definitely one of the best I have had since reporting in. I’m all the more grateful to have spent time with the Clearwater crew, because amazingly, this fall will mark the start of my journey into the aviation community when I start preparing my flight school application! And let me tell you, spending five weeks at air station Clearwater has given me so much motivation to try my hardest and get into Coast Guard aviation. Praise God for first phase; stay tuned to hear about second phase in a few weeks!


More about Abby.


Looking Back at January

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Burchill Photo Returning from winter leave is hard but it's the start of a new semester. From new roommates to new sports, second semester is a breath of fresh air. Here is a little snap shot of what the Academy looks like in the cold month of January!

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