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cadet blogs

USCG: An Amazing Organization

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Eshleman Photo Dear Family of 2021 Swab,

 

So right now you’re probably a combination of anxious and extremely proud of your son or daughter for their decision to join the Class of 2021 at the United States Coast Guard Academy. You saw them off on “Day One” as they began this new chapter of their lives, and maybe you’ll even get a letter or two this summer speaking of their Swab Summer experience. While Swab Summer has its trials and its ups and downs, know that they are going into an amazing organization. The Coast Guard has truly transformed me as a person throughout the past three years. The people are phenomenal, and the best part is that it truly feels like a family. With the connections one makes inside and outside of the service, he or she will get a wide variety of opportunities within your four years at the Academy and beyond. Currently, I am stationed on the West Coast. Coming out here I knew so many familiar faces – alumni, fellow cadets, and other Coast Guard men and women I have met and worked with in the past. The leadership advice and guidance they have given me as I transition into my final year at the CGA is helping me to realize what I want to do when I graduate and consider potential career opportunities.

 

Your son or daughter is going to need your support throughout this summer and their freshman (4/c) year. The transition can be difficult, but trust me when I say they could not have set themselves up for a better future. Help them to see the big picture and appreciate the opportunity they have earned. Hopefully this letter helps to ease any anxiety of saying goodbye to your child, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

 

Very Respectfully,
1/c Hannah Eshleman
Hannah.M.Eshleman@uscga.edu

 

More about Hannah.

 

Dear Families of New Swabs

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Opas Photo Dear Families of New Swabs,

 

Looking back at the singular year I’ve been in the Coast Guard, I realize how fulfilling it has been. But that sense of fulfillment did not come without an initiation period. As swabs, just like our enlisted and officer brethren in the fleet, we must break into Academy life. We must go through trials and tribulations alongside our classmates for these seven brief weeks so that we learn to take care of ourselves AND lean on each other during times of stress. To you, the summer without your swab may feel immeasurably long. To your swab, this summer will feel like an eternity. It will not be without tears, bruises, scrapes, or sacrifices; and certainly not without a profuse amount of sweating.

 

But know this. Your swab is in good hands. If not their more-than-capable company chiefs and officers, or their cadre, but their classmates. Your swabs are making some of the BEST friendships they have ever made, and will ever make in their lives. The men and women your swab stood shoulder to shoulder with on Washington Parade Field will be your sons and daughters’ family. They will buoy them up at 2 a.m. when they have to write a 1,000-word paper due the next day, they will run alongside them to make sure they pass the PFE every semester, and they will give your swab that integral piece of motivation when they hit the point in the summer where they feel they cannot take one step further.

 

I still remember running across Washington Parade Field in the last ten minutes I had to say goodbye to my family last summer. I recall the tears blurring my vision. But I also remember the pride I saw in my parents’ faces. The swabs may have already come to grips with the fact they won’t be home often anymore. If they haven’t, they will in time. Let them. It’s not that you’re losing a child, but rather that they’re becoming a part of something bigger than themselves. They’re ripping themselves from their comfort zones, devoting themselves to a higher calling, and doing some seriously amazing things in the process. You should be incredibly proud of them; they’re growing up a lot faster than their high school peers.

 

When you see your swab this summer, and believe me, you will, make sure to give him or her a hug‒ the cadre tend not to budget time in the swabbies’ schedules for them to bond and simply be human. Don’t pester your swab for stories, he or she will tell them in good time. Make sure to send swabbie snacks during the summer, and send letters‒even if it’s just to tell them what the weather’s like back home. Letters and packages make the roughest days just a bit better. But don’t necessarily expect a response immediately or frequently. It depends on the person, but with very little time to themselves, every swab budgets their time differently.

 

Take comfort in the knowledge that every swab is learning valuable life lessons. Be proud of them, be supportive of them, and be accepting of the new adults they’re becoming.

 

Cheers,
Former Swab Opas

 

More about Leah.

 

A Full Firstie Summer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Holland Photo Hey everyone!

 

It's been awhile, but firstie summer is jam-packed with more than I ever thought it could be. I spent the first few weeks in Guantanamo Bay and then on USCGC Forward doing a patrol in the Caribbean. We did helo operations, small boat OPS, and while I was in GTMO I helped transport detainees and drugs. The summer so far has been a very broad view of USCG operations and I have become much better because of it.

 

Currently, I am the Battalion AIM Officer and am assisting with Swab Summer before the AIMsters arrive. As a member of battalion staff, you have to oversee the cadre and assist in any way possible, including being an expert in whichever field you are in. This summer's battalion staff is a great team, and I am looking forward to the next month of Swab Summer and AIM. Both programs are hard to get into and equally tough while you are a trainee; however, if you really want it, you will make it through. Best of luck to all of you.

 

Very Respectfully,
1/c Taylor Holland
Battalion AIM Officer

 

More about Taylor.

 

Becoming a Junior Officer

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2018) Permanent link
Holland Photo Hey everyone,

 

It's been a long time since I posted one of these, but I had the time to do so today. As a firstie in the fleet, you get treated a lot like a junior officer, which is critical to your development at the Academy because once this next school year is up, you're an ensign. (That's a scary thought.) I'm currently aboard USCGC Forward on patrol, and it is incredible. The summers are when you realize that everything you work toward at the Academy is worth it, and is very real and close. I'm not 100% sure what I want to do when I graduate, but there are no bad billets in the Coast Guard. (No other service can say that.)

 

For those of you considering joining the Coast Guard, I think that the Coast Guard can best be equated to a family. We are a small service and because of that you gain a reputation among your peers very quickly. In other services, it is easy to get lost in the crowd; however, in the Coast Guard you will know someone at nearly every single unit. It's definitely an incentive to stay on top of your stuff and to always treat others how you would like to be treated. The next part of this summer, I will be the Battalion AIM Officer. I'll be in charge of the Coast Guard's program that educates high school seniors as to what it is we do here at the Academy. I'm very excited to get the opportunity to assist the Class of 2019 in the training and mentoring of future members of the class of 2022. My little sister also reports to the Academy this summer, which will be a lot of fun (for me). I'll update later but, until then, everyone be safe and make good decisions.

 

More about Taylor.

 

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.