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Cool Project, Perfect Timing

(Academics, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo At the Academy, 1/c cadets are required to complete final senior projects called capstones. Each major has different requirements for capstones; however, all of them address operational Coast Guard issues. For example, one mechanical engineering capstone a few years ago designed a new rescue basket for Coast Guard Dolphin helicopters. After the presentation, headquarters adopted the design and it became the standard for the Coast Guard. On the humanities side, an advanced research project into Arctic policy last year provided the Coast Guard with tangible policy and operational consultation. As you can see, these projects carry some weight, so we take them very seriously.


My capstone is an advanced research project studying Mexico. Specifically, I am going to write a paper that discusses Chinese merchant vessels smuggling meth precursor chemicals into Mexico. So far, that’s all we have been given to scope the project. I have spent the last five weeks reading about the foundations of Latin America’s culture, politics, social arrangements, economics, and more. Once I understand the history of Mexico better, I will be able to discuss contemporary issues on a much more comprehensive level. My two partners and I are not writing a simple intelligence paper about the how and when the Chinese supply meth precursor chemicals; rather, we will discuss the why questions. Why can China infiltrate Mexican institutions so easily? Why are the cartels so violent? Why hasn’t the war on drugs worked? Ultimately, our paper will analyze the works we read and any data we collect. Then we will make conclusions and recommendations to headquarters. It is our hope that our research project will help to develop a feasible and effective policy for managing the meth trade in Mexico.


Last week, we were very fortunate to have ADM James Stavridis on board the Academy. He was the Commander of the U.S. Southern Command and he retired as NATO’s supreme allied commander. Now, he is Dean of the Fletcher School. ADM Stavridis visited to discuss modern security strategies in Latin and South America. He has written a book Called Partnership for the Americas, which focuses on Western Hemisphere security, so he’s an expert on that subject.


I had the honor of getting to meet ADM Stavridis with my partners, and we had a great discussion. ADM Stavridis was very pleased to hear that we were studying Mexico and security in the Western Hemisphere. He gave us a lot of advice and contacts for our project, and he told us a little bit about his studies of Mexico and Latin America. After that, I sat in on his corps-wide speech and I heard his full policy. It is basically a mix of force and soft power (cooperation and international actions) to assure that we protect people and eliminate poverty. Poverty is a driving force in the reason people resort to drugs and support the cartels, so his speech was very applicable to my project. It was perfect timing for him to have visited.


This blog highlights that cadets are doing major projects that have real-world affects. We don’t just strive to be nationally relevant; we are nationally relevant because cadets are taking on projects that play an integral part of the operational Coast Guard’s mission success. We are fortunate to be doing such meaningful work. If you have any questions about any of my blogs, feel free to ask me anything at 


More about Hunter.


Fast Times on Regimental Staff

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Hello and greetings! I hope this blog finds you well as the summer months start dwindling to a close and preparations begin for autumn. As I write this, I am back at the Coast Guard Academy preparing for my last fall semester as a member of the Corps of Cadets. Since I drove back up to the Academy a little over a week-and-a-half ago, I have participated in a whirlwind of activity.


I was selected in the spring to be a member of the fall Regimental Staff, the group of cadets that lead the corps in military activities during a given academic semester. As required by my position, I reported back to the Academy early to begin preparations for my term as Regimental Communications Officer. I am chiefly responsible for conveying any information that needs to be passed on to the corps as an entire body in a professional and timely manner. Along with the other members of the Regimental Staff, I helped establish a list of goals that we hope to achieve during the semester, and laid down the framework of how we will achieve them. Additionally, we took part in DISC training to understand more about our own personality and that of other members of the Regimental Staff.


When the corps reported back, the real work began. Beside the normal duties of attending meetings and taking the physical fitness exam, I was also responsible for formatting a Regimental Communications Plan and tasked with approving the evening announcements that were sent out to the corps. Couple that with the hot weather and the lack of air-conditioning in Chase Hall, and it’s not hard to see how the last week felt never-ending.


Despite the extra work and leadership challenges my position on the Regimental Staff will give me, I look forward to being a member of this excellent team. I relish the chance to develop further as a leader in preparation of being a Coast Guard ensign, and cannot wait to see what my future holds, both at the CGA and in the fleet.


If you have any questions about the Coast Guard Academy, or my experiences, I invite you to email me at I plan on blogging again very soon! Until next time, Semper Paratus and Go Bears!


More about James.


Summer in Three Parts

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Ellis Photo Hi everyone.

I just wanted to give you all an update on what I did during my final summer here at the Academy. My summer was broken into three parts: first was Inter-Collegiate Sailing Nationals, second was my time on an 87’ cutter, and third was an internship at the District One office in Boston, Massachusetts.


Sailing: Once again, the dinghy team qualified for both Women’s and Coed Sailing Nationals. We competed against teams from all across the country, including Yale, Stanford, and College of Charleston. I stayed and competed for Women’s Nationals, which was held at the end of May in Newport, Rhode Island. It was extremely windy, and with our light team, we did not do as well as we had hoped, finishing 11th in the country. I left for my 87’ cutter, based out of the Naval Station in Newport, after this event. The Coed Nationals were held the week after I left. The coed team placed 2nd out of the entire country, a huge accomplishment not only for the team that was there, but also for those who were already at their summer assignments. We are super excited about this finish and hope to do just as well, if not better, at Nationals next year!


CGC Tiger Shark: After Women’s Nationals, I headed straight to my cutter, which wasn’t a far drive since the competition’s location was right next to my cutter. I spent two weeks aboard the CGC Tiger Shark in Newport, Rhode Island. While there, I got to see a few fisheries being boarded, as well as meet and spend time with the crew and learn about life aboard a Coast Guard cutter. I realized that I really like the small cutter atmosphere and I would love to go on a smaller cutter next year.


District One Internship: For the third part of my summer, I spent six weeks at an internship at the District One Office in Boston, Massachusetts. Here, I spent my time using the Geographic Information System (GIS), a spatial mapping program, to create oil response plans for the entire Hudson River. I spent half of my internship in Boston, while the other half was spent traveling down 100 miles of the Hudson River. While there, I presented my project to both the District One commander and the Atlantic Area commander, which was a really awesome experience. I learned a lot during my internship about oil spill response, the CG’s role in response and how the CG works with other agencies to achieve common goals.


Overall, I had a really productive summer. I learned a lot and got much accomplished. I’m so glad that the CG gave me some pretty awesome opportunities this summer.


More about Kayla.


Summer at Home

(Academics, Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Schroeder Photo One of the most coveted things while attending the Academy is to go home. The Academy, and its summers, can be very strenuous (but still fun) and often cadets do not have the chance to go home very much. Being from Montana, I get to go home only twice a year: during Christmas and summer leave periods, so I cherish every moment.


After spending the summer in Alaska, which was a lot cooler than I thought, it was nice to come home. Montana is more of a desert climate, so it can get above 100 degrees in the summer, yet down to the -40s in the winter. It has been a hot summer here, so as soon as I got home, I was able to spend time on the lake with my family. I also took a camping trip to Glacier National Park with my family, and of course have had the opportunity to see and hang out with all of my friends from home.


Although being home is nice, being at the Academy causes cadets to change and mature in a lot of ways because they are away from the comforts and securities that family can offer. Being at home is pretty eye-opening because it can show just how far you have come and how much you have matured compared to the “traditional” college student. The Academy simply gives you opportunities and experiences that other schools cannot, and makes you step out of your comfort zone quite often. So, although being home is enjoyable, I actually can’t wait to go back to school, see my friends, start the rugby season, and start my final year of school.


This fall is going to be busy. I’m taking some pretty difficult classes (organic chemistry, biochemistry…do I need say more?) and I am captain of the rugby team so I will have a lot on my plate. Even though it looks like it might be a tough semester, I’m still excited to go back to see all my friends because, at the Academy, friends are family and everyone creates a huge support network to help each other out. I think that is one of the biggest silver linings here – the lifelong friendships that you build. There really is nothing like it.


More about Jade.


Leading Ourselves, Leading Others

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Keeley Photo Happy Coast Guard Day! I am almost done with my 1/c summer and must say that I am surprised by how much I’ve learned about life in the fleet. My summer began on CGC Waesche, a 418’ cutter out of Alameda, California where I spent 10 days afloat for a proficiency cruise. This is just a trip for the cutter to ensure that its crew knows what they are doing and how to properly drive the ship before it goes out on a long patrol. From there, I attended a one-week leadership program called Rocky Mountain High, a Christian program consisting of hiking, camping, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting in Colorado! Finally, I made my way onto the 270’ CGC Tahoma where I am as I write this. The Tahoma is currently underway but I am not allowed to say where. I’ll just say that it has taken me to a place I have never been before and have greatly enjoyed.


It’s definitely been a busy summer bouncing from place to place. The main lessons I am taking away, however, are not simply what to expect on a Coast Guard cutter. Rather, I’ve learned many valuable lessons on how to enter the real world after hanging out with ensigns as they arrived at their new units. I was able to help many of them move into their apartments, get settled, and figure out how to check into their units. Many issues arose that I would have never thought to prepare for. I have seen everything from not being able to prove that you receive a paycheck from the Coast Guard, to checking into your apartment when your roommate hasn’t submitted their paperwork and has essentially locked you out, to regular insurance issues.


The Academy may prepare us to lead others but we also have to be ready to lead ourselves and to face stressful situations with courage and ease. My former shipmates all handled themselves very well when, if it were me, I would have been quite panicky. One ensign was told, on her way to her new apartment with her belongings in tow, that she wouldn’t be able to move in for another two months. She was forced to live in a hotel for 10 days, find a storage unit for her things, and then stay the rest of the time in her room on the cutter right up until it went underway. She had only about two days to move into her apartment when it was finally ready before having to leave for three months. Yet, she is doing fine now and has learned a lot from it. Things come up that are completely out of our control. As future officers and leaders, we just have to accept what happens, try our best to remedy the situation, and stay positive for everyone around us.


I never expected to take so much away from this summer. I can’t say I feel completely prepared for life after the Academy but am more aware of what to anticipate and now know to prepare for the uncontrollable. Finally, the last lesson I took away is pretty obvious but still ignored by many. That is to use your friends from the Academy. Everyone is going to have issues and those issues may seem like the world to them until they realize they have a support system of friends dealing with the same things. Many, if not all, of the new ensigns I was able to hang out with made it through their troubles with the help of their classmates and family. I love knowing that I will have a support net under me when I leave the Academy. Until then, we can all make the best of it this year!




More about Melissa.