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cadet blogs

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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More about Rachel.


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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More about Rachel.


Prepare to be Unprepared

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Kimura Photo Swab Summer is something everyone forgets the bad from and remembers the good. When I prepared for the infamous Swab summer, I had the worst in mind coming from CGAS. The phrase “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best” does not even do justice to the training swabs go through. No matter the preparation, the simple tasks of Swab Summer often throw wrenches into visions swabs have going into it.


Take my summer for example; I went in physically fit; doing push-ups, rowers, flutter kicks, running, and all the other good stuff. But the day after my company got medically cleared and took the PFE, we went on a run in formation and I took a wrong step that sprained my ankle. Not thinking anything of it, I kept going. I was percolating and sprinting with my company for the rest of the morning. I kept this up until I felt a pop and pain seared throughout my ankle to the point of tears. I never could have prepared for the two nights I spent in the ward because the tear in my ligament caused my foot to swell and bruise like a balloon. Neither could I have prepared for the week following, when I tried to make up for my injury’s hindrance by moving as fast or faster than my shipmates doing change remedials, memorizing extra indoc, and putting the extra effort to show an injury would not stop me.


The summer will bring events one cannot prepare for in advance, whether an injury, family problems, personal revelations, or even culture shock. The best thing to do is go through it with an open mind, 100 percent effort because cadre can see right through those trying to just get by, and the company of your shipmates.


More about Amy.


Swab Summer: Ultimately About Teamwork

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Mills Photo To the Class of 2020,


I am already so proud of your accomplishments and perseverance to receive an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy, especially my cadet candidates from last summer. This summer, you are going to embark on the most challenging and rewarding journey of your life to date. Let me assure you, it will be worth it. Swab Summer is meant to test your emotional, physical and mental strength. You won’t be great at everything, and there are some things you may find easy. Make sure to share your strengths with your shipmates and allow your shipmates to share their strengths with you. Swab Summer is ultimately about teamwork; you don’t have to do it alone and you shouldn’t. If you haven’t been practicing push-ups, sit-ups and running, please start now. It will only make the transition to Swab Summer easier. Also, if you are not from a hot and humid climate, be prepared for the Connecticut summers because they can be blistering on some days. Take each day a meal at a time and realize that it is only seven weeks of the four years of training. Just try your best and help your shipmates when you can. Most importantly, there will be at least one person that struggles a lot during these seven weeks. Help that person who is struggling because you are only as strong as the weakest link in your company. Have fun! You are going to meet your best friends in life and make some good memories. Good luck 2020!!!


More about Sydney.


USCGC Liberty WPB-1334

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Glick Photo 1/c summer has already begun. Change of Watch marked the beginning of the cadet summer training period, and my classmates and I were frocked as 1/c cadets before graduation. This was a huge milestone for me and for our class. It’s crazy to think that we’re college seniors and 75% of the Academy experience is now in our rearview mirror. It has flown by but at the same time it feels like it’s been a lifetime.


I quickly packed out my room and moved all of my stuff down to Regimental Row, where summer staffers and company commanders will be living. It was a monumental task—so much trash was thrown away by the Corps of Cadets that an extra dumpster was rented for the week of pack out!


After an 18-hour flight to Juneau, Alaska, I reported aboard USCGC Liberty, a 110-foot patrol boat. The crew has been very welcoming, and I am doing my best to learn everything I can from the ship’s Executive Officer, a CGA 2013 graduate. This week has flown by! From my observations over the past week, it is evident that the crew is tight-knit, the unit has a healthy operational tempo, and the crew is willing and able to help newly reported-aboard personnel. I have begun breaking in as in-port Officer of the Deck and Quartermaster of the Watch, and the crew has helped me qualify for these watches. I believe that at the current pace and so long as I keep up my work ethic, these qualifications are realistic and attainable. I honestly had no idea what to expect—good crew, bad crew, good leadership, or poor leadership. But, the crew is great, and the command cadre has been willing to help me understand what I need to in order to get ready for ensign life. I hope to learn much from the Executive Officer’s dealings with personnel, technical knowledge on piloting and navigation, and his ability to keep morale high while also balancing mission effectiveness.


The motif of this week has really come back to the core tenants of the Commanding Officer’s command philosophy—family, mission, and ethos. If I could sum up the advice given to me by the Commanding Officer, it would probably be mission first, people always. Even though it is our duty to carry out the mission aboard the cutter, taking time for personal development and family is equally important. Keeping this in mind, morale and mission do not necessarily need to compete for time and attention. There is no reason why the mission can’t be fun.


As for the plethora of junior officer advice given to me over the past week, some things stand out. There is a divide between having no backbone and arrogance. It is important to keep a good workspace, maintain professionalism, and set the example, but also to show your human side, especially on a smaller platform with a tighter-knit crew. For me, the biggest takeaway so far has been when I know an answer, be confident, and project it. When I have no idea, or I have less than 75% certain, it is ok as a junior officer to just say, “I don’t know, can you show me?” It seems this is the key to success for maintaining the balance between arrogance and spinelessness. The Commanding Officer, or the senior most officer of the ship, is a familiar face. During my 3/c summer, he was the operations officer aboard the medium endurance cutter I was on. One thing that I observed two summers ago and what I am observing now is that the CO on this cutter is, above all, decisive. He is able to make decisions on the fly and sometimes with insufficient information, but he sticks to his decisions and is confident in his directives. This too, I am quickly finding out, is why our country pays Coast Guard officers.


During the past week on the cutter, I initially had feelings of regret or that I had made a mistake by not doing 11 weeks attached to this boat. However, despite the valuable experience at this unit, I am not directly responsible for any personnel. I’m glad that I opted to spend the second half of my summer on Regimental Staff because although I may have less underway time, those experiences and problem solving opportunities will also prepare me for junior officer life.


In other news, next month, I’m running another half marathon and taking a road trip with my dad over leave. I’m running another race in July with ENS Engelhardt, so that should be fun, too. I can’t wait for Swab Summer to kick off!


More about William.


I'm Halfway There

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Auzenbergs Photo I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…time truly does fly. Between spring break, Easter weekend, 3/c Formal, 2/c Ring Dance, volunteering at the Child Development Center (daycare where many faculty members bring their kids during the day), and going on field trips for my major classes in Marine and Environmental Sciences, I found myself away from the Academy most weekends of this final quarter, and many weekdays, too. Now, with the Class of 2018 having earned our first 2/c privilege of “shorts” every Saturday night, I don’t even have to be back from Saturday afternoon until Sunday night, and I took full advantage of that already!


Speaking of being a 2/c, this past week has been full of new uniform issues for Swab Summer; rooming lists coming out for 100th Week and then for the rest of the summer here; duty schedules floating around on email for the summer; and trying to squeeze in plans for vacations on leave and off weekends between duty and training weeks. I cannot believe the time is already here for us to earn civilian clothes privileges, shorts, and train the incoming Class of 2020 as cadre. I will be taking a back seat in the typical Chase Hall training, as I will be a waterfront cadre, but that just means I will be one of the members of the group teaching the swabs the basic skills of sailing down on the Thames River at Jacob’s Rock. I am so excited for this job, and cannot wait to spend those three weeks of summer on the docks!


A few more parts of 2/c summer I am excited for are Coastal Sail and Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP). The Coastal Sail program is an opportunity for six groups of cadets to head out on 40 foot sailboats and travel through the Cape and the islands for two weeks. CATP is held at an air station in Mobile, Alabama or Elizabeth City, North Carolina and there we learn the basics of flying helicopters and perform search and rescue missions off the Gulf Coast. There are so many other great weeks planned for us this summer, and I can’t wait to get started with this milestone of our time here at the Academy! Two years went by so quickly, and now, looking back at the first half of my time here, I am more positive than ever that this is exactly where I should be.


More about Gabrielle.