Well, my two weeks of serving as an Echo Company cadre have come and gone. The experience I have looked forward to since Swab Summer 2010 is over.
It began at around 1330 on Sunday, July 15. The off-going cadre section took the Swabs down to the Honor Wall and told them about why they chose the Coast Guard Academy. Once the swabs were waiting on the bulkhead, we made our entrance, kicking open a set of double doors and marching down the passageway in front of them. Then we introduced ourselves and spoke about our goals for the summer. This was all in the first minute of my cadre experience, but the pace didn’t let up for the following two weeks.
Day after day, we corrected deficiencies. Eyes not in the boat, failing to greet upper-class cadets, using personal pronouns…the list could go on forever. Sometimes the correction was simply verbal, albeit very loud. For more egregious mistakes, we used incentive training. Yelling at a swab might remind him or her to fix these problems, but push-ups typically serve as a better motivator.
A full day as a swab is exhausting, but a full day as a cadre is even more so. We’re out of bed, showered, shaved, and in uniform before the swabs even wake up. Then after a day of leading morning calisthenics, performing incentive training, and running from place to place, we put them to bed and have long meetings where we discuss the day’s events and plan for the next day. By the time that is done, we’re lucky to get five hours of sleep.
Dealing with swabs in Chase Hall was only part of my job description, though. My main focus was teaching them how to sail down at Jacob’s Rock, the Coast Guard Academy’s waterfront sailing center. Day after day, my fellow waterfront cadre and I would discuss wind and weather, points of sail, upwind and downwind sailing, and a host of other topics. Following classroom instruction, we’d help them rig up dinghies, either 420s or FJs, and send them out to go sailing. Then we would mount up in our rigid-hulled inflatable boats and coach them out on the Thames River.
As a member of the Offshore Sailing team, I also participated in coaches’ time. During the summer, swabs are allotted time to visit coaches for the sports in which they have an interest. For the Offshore Team, we take them out on our Colgate 26 sailboats and give them a chance to sail something a bit bigger than the dinghies they’ve used during their waterfront sessions.
The waterfront cadre also organized and executed the Walk of Honor for the Class of 2016. The Walk of Honor is a nighttime stroll through Robert Crown Park. On the way, the swabs are introduced to the history of the Coast Guard, running into people like Alexander Hamilton and Ida Lewis. At the end, they wind up at the tomb of Hopley Yeaton, the first commissioned officer of the Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of the Coast Guard. At the tomb, they are welcomed into the Long Blue Line, the group of honorable men and women who have attended the Coast Guard Academy in the past. It is a powerful ceremony that often leaves a lasting impression on the swabs.
Now that my time as a cadre is over, I am looking forward to a week of learning about marine safety at Sector New York. The conclusion of the marine safety program will also be the conclusion of the summer. It’s hard to believe that another school year is already upon us.
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