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Fastest Four Years I’ve Ever Experienced

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Corcoran Photo 0600: Wake up and splash some cold water on my face.
0620: Morning formation.
0625: Breakfast; try to make conversation with my division despite my exhaustion.
0645: Retreat back to my room; look at the calendar for my to-do list for the day.

 

…but wait, is that calendar correct? Is it really April 15th already? Where has the time gone?! There is still so much to do, but there is also so much to look forward to.

 

I honestly cannot believe there are now less than two weeks left of school and 33 days until the Class of 2016 graduates from this fine institution and will be heading out into the fleet. Seriously, I am in utter disbelief how fast the time has flown the past four years. However, I am also beyond ready to begin a new chapter of my life aboard the USCGC Hamilton, a national security cutter located in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

I am blessed to be heading to Charleston with one of my best friends, Jay Power. However, I cannot help but feel saddened that I will be separated from some of my other best friends. I truly believe that the Coast Guard Academy fosters deep friendships that will last a lifetime. I basically consider all of my best friends I have made here family. Don’t get me wrong, everyone here is a family. We have all been through so much together. From reporting in together as civilians who had no idea what they were doing, to surviving seven weeks of Swab Summer, getting through a strenuous work and passing boards 4/c year, creating and unveiling our class crest, sailing on the USCGC Barque Eagle, being introduced to the fleet, wearing our rec gear to numerous trips to Chili’s, Olive Garden and other liberty bus locations, making it through 100th week, indoctrinating the Class of 2018 as cadre, sailing around New England on $1 million yachts, getting civilian clothes privileges, starting to take command positions, going to Ring Dance and receiving our class rings, being introduced to the fleet as future junior officers, leading the corps through regimental reviews with our swords, attending Castle Dance at Rosecliff Mansion, dining in, enjoying billet night, and so many more memories, it’s hard not to become a family.

 

Looking back at my time here at the Academy, sure there are plenty of things I would do differently, but I would not want to go through it again with any other people. I am so thankful for everyone who has lent a helping hand to me, made me laugh, and showed me the way. I never thought that I would make it until the end of this extremely challenging, but rewarding, 200-week program, but somehow I did! (Knock on wood.)

 

I am so excited to continue learning out in the fleet and start my career, but of course I am also very nervous. However, I will continue to take life as it comes, one day at a time, and I am hoping I will have a long rewarding career – whether that be in the Coast Guard or civilian sector.

 

If there is one piece of advice I can give to those of you still in the Academy or about to join the best Corps of Cadets in the nation, it is to never take any experience you have here for granted. Sure, bracing up isn’t fun and no one wants to clean heads and passageways in their free time, but I urge you to make the best of every situation you’re put in. It’s amazing how much better your experiences will be if you look at the positive side of things and never take situations too seriously. Remember, whatever happens to you, the world keeps turning and time goes on. You will be okay and you will make it through the day.

 

More about Samantha.

 

Looking Back on It All

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Belanger Photo Wow! It has been a really, really long time since I have written a blog. So, time to play a little catch-up! This summer, I had the opportunity to sail aboard the mighty Eagle. The experience was quite different being on board as a 1/c versus a 3/c. As a 1/c, you have much more responsibility and have more difficult watches to stand. I have to say that I had an experience that I will never forget. My summer took me to amazing places including the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Key West. By far, my favorite stop on the trip was the Bahamas. My classmates and I had the opportunity to rent out a house for the night and were able to have a cookout, walk pretty much across the street to the beach, and overall get to bond and become closer friends. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything else this summer. The second phase of Eagle (the Eagle summer training cycle is divided into two sections to incorporate the entire sophomore class), I had the opportunity to be the Cadet in Charge of the phase. This meant that besides working on my own qualifications, I was responsible for the overall success of the phase. It was a rewarding, yet extremely difficult phase. I not only got to practice my leadership skills with the 3/c but I got to work on my peer-to-peer leadership skills as well. I cannot move on from this topic before thanking the crew, Chiefs Mess, and the Wardroom for all of the valuable lessons I learned while on board. Under the leadership of CAPT Pulver and CAPT Meilstrup, and with multiple course corrections with the help of LCDR Rozzi-Ochs, LT Crowley, BOSN3 Greenlee, ENG3 Clark, LTJG Bruce and BMCS Rosati, I believe that I became a better leader overall.

 

After a brief time at home for leave, I got to drive all 900 miles up I-95 to arrive at the Academy for my 1/c year! I still cannot believe that it is finally here. It seems like only yesterday that I was being “greeted” by, at the time 2/c, now LTJG Zaccano for the beginning of the Coast Guard Scholars Program. I still have many “fond” memories of the three weeks being indoctrinated into the Coast Guard. Now, I have finally made it to the top of the cadet totem pole! I can wear my civilian clothes out on liberty while I drive my own car around town. No more pestering upper-class to bring me to Walmart or the mall! (At least until we have a decent amount of snow. Trust me, no one wants to see a Florida boy drive in the snow…) The school year seems to almost be over, but there is still so much to look forward too! We have Castle Dance, Billet Night, Dining In, spring break (which means Hawaii for me this year), and of course graduation! I cannot wait! But at the same time, it has me feeling a little down as well.

 

Yes, of course I want to graduate and finally start my Coast Guard career, but the friends you make while at the Academy are lifelong friendships. Just think of every group of friends at the Academy and now compare it to the show Friends. Every group has their Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, and Joey…and we do everything together. We do homework together, eat meals together, play sports together, sit through trainings and corps-wides together, go on liberty together….we literally do everything together. My closest friends live about four doors down the hall, and another one is slightly farther. I am going to miss being able to walk down the hall and just sit around with those friends that I have bonded with so closely. When I found out I got into the Academy, one of my mentors told me that I would lose touch with people at home. He went on to say that those friendships I would form at the Academy wouldn’t compare to anything else. At the time, I thought he was crazy. But after four years now, I can’t believe how true that statement is. It isn’t sad just separating from my friends but separating from my mentors as well. Sure they are an email away, but how often can I go and knock on a CAPT’s door and just sit and talk about how things are going, or get into “creative” arguments with CDRs and LCDRs, ultimately losing but still being able to have a great time. I am even going to miss running into my past Spanish teachers and having to struggle through a brief conversation with them. (Dr. Waid y Dr. Rivera, lo siento. Me espanol es no bueno.) This has been the roughest, most stressful, and challenging time in my life so far but I think one of the most memorable experiences I will ever have. I have made great friends; I have found great mentors ranging from LTJGs to CAPTs. I have definitely had my ups and downs. No matter how much I complain about being here, whenever I am home for too long, I always want to come back. I miss my friends, mainly because they have become part of my family.

 

The next time you will hear from me, we might already have our billets, depends if I sit down again and have an inspiring thought. Just one thing I ask from everyone that reads this, keep a lookout for a four leaf clover, or maybe a lucky horseshoe, I could use the extra help on Billet Night!

 

Got a question? Email me Nathan.D.Belanger@uscga.edu!

 

More about Nathan.

 

Our Finest Hours

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Stowes Photo Last night was a uniquely special moment in Coast Guard history; the renowned Coast Guard movie The Guardian is no longer the only Coast Guard movie out there. Right here in New London, the entire Academy community, officer candidates, and many guests from the reserves and operational Coast Guard joined as one for a prescreening of The Finest Hours. The Finest Hours depicts the story of Bernie Webber’s daring rescue of 33 survivors aboard the tanker vessel SS Pendleton, which had split in two during a winter nor’easter.

 

After a family-style dinner and the logistical miracle busing all cadets and officer candidates to downtown New London, we sat as one Coast Guard packed into the Garde Arts Center. Before the film started, we had the pleasure of hearing our senators from Connecticut speak, and they made it clear that New London is a Coast Guard city. The Coast Guard and New London are linked by the many years that the Academy has overlooked the Thames River, and cadets have been making visits to New London on an every-weekend basis since the Academy was established here. The other point the senators stressed is that the Coast Guard museum will be built right here in the city. We are the only service without a museum, and it’s long overdue for us to have a place to display artifacts from our long and celebrated history as well as hail the heroic acts of our famed Coast Guardsmen and women. Bernie Webber’s story will be among those told in that museum.

 

Before the movie began, our famed 23rd Commandant Admiral Thad Allen took the stage. Admiral Allen reminded us that this movie is what our careers are all about – what are our finest hours going to be? We are going to be out on the water, flying, or coordinating response during the most severe weather and most difficult cases, and we must be prepared to respond under stress. Admiral Allen believes we are ready. He trusts us to be ready to weigh risk and reward, be leaders of character, and to do our duty to make sure that everyone makes it back while accomplishing the mission. This is a man that served during the response to Deep Water Horizon, Hurricane Katrina, and the attacks on 9/11. Admiral Allen understands the courage and dedication it takes to get the mission done, so I will be sure to keep his words close to my heart.

 

Bernie Webber’s finest hours were spent in the cold, dark waters off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts rescuing those men. Coincidentally, I did a presentation about Mr. Webber’s heroic rescue during my Swab Summer almost four years ago. I remember being moved by his courage to risk his life to save others out of a sense of duty. In particular, I could not believe he was able to say goodbye to his girlfriend before he went out. Now that I am a senior and on the cusp of gradation, the challenge to fulfill my duties under any circumstances carries very real weight. In a few short months, I will be the one answering the call. I have a family and a girlfriend who I would like to reassure that I will make it back when I go out. Thinking about their reactions if I said I might not make it back, I get a sense of what Bernie Webber must have felt when he set out. The Coast Guard is an all volunteer service, like our fellow armed services. That means no matter what our feelings or fears are before our missions, we go out, execute, and we bring our people home. Our challenge is executing the mission so that we, too, can go home at night. At the same time, I have the utmost respect for the families and spouses at home who wait for us to return. Their greatest challenge is often not knowing and fearing the worst. The stress on their emotions is hard to imagine, so after seeing The Finest Hours, I had a renewed appreciation for spouses and families of service members.

 

If I have kept your attention this long, then you should definitely go see The Finest Hours, and tell your friends about it, too! This movie captures the essence of not only the Coast Guard but also the armed services in general; we have volunteered to serve this country. I hope you enjoy the story of our service’s most daring rescue. Sit back and enjoy the show!

 

More about Hunter.

 

Holiday Sandwiched Mayhem

(Academics, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hi. It’s weird. Driving back to school this time, I did not really experience that stomach drop. At this point, my closest friends are those who walk the halls here at school. Thanksgiving was nice, and it was a chance for me to be completely off guard prior to the most strenuous week of the semester. Funny how that works. I have to say though, the break was nice. I went home to Maryland and was able to get some quality family time in. I was able to depart early for recruiting leave, which was nice. I got to leave the Academy on Friday instead of Tuesday! I went to four high schools but unfortunately the students in my county were already on break, so I met with some teachers. I also did an informational session at a library, which was attended by a variety of people, so I guess I did get some recruiting in.

 

School is about to be crazy in the coming four days. I have two papers and a poster due, and two tests. And then our military scores are also due in, plus we have to attend military trainings. Additionally, I have a take-home test due and another test on Monday. Soooooo, when I finally make it to finals week, I will be one happy camper.

 

OH! Last week, our “shopping list” came out for all firsties!! I cannot even begin to believe that I have made it to this point in my cadet career, but at the same time, it feels natural that we are all considering where we will be spending the next chapter of our Coast Guard lives. People are starting to get sentimental, which may seem premature but honestly I could not tell you where the month of November went!

 

I hope that you continue to follow my journey as it sure to stay interesting!

 

Fall Goes Flying By!

(Athletics, Just for Fun, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Engelhardt Photo Hello all! A lot has happened since my last blog, and as I write this blog winter appears to truly be descending on New London. However, this fall has truly been a blast; from times spent with friends, watching a successful football team, and getting to participate in some truly remarkable events, the first semester of my senior year at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has truly been enjoyable!

 

When you are an underclass at the Academy, you do not have the privilege of having a car on base. However, as a senior, your car privilege opens up opportunities to travel and get out and about on the weekends. I have taken full advantage of this, exploring new restaurants in nearby Mystic; getting a chance to tour the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island with my girlfriend; and visiting friends at the relatively close U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

 

While the extra privileges have been nice, as an avid sports fan it is always great to see the Bears do well. Our men’s soccer team made the NCAA tournament last year, and our women’s volleyball team is always a force to be reckoned with in the NEWMAC, our athletic conference. Our football team, largely due to weight restrictions that limit the players’ size, always seems to lose the close games. However, this season has been a different one, and we have a great team that is exceeding expectations. It is especially nice to see my classmates on the team end their playing careers on such a high note.

 

Lastly, as a member of Regimental Staff, I have gotten the pleasure to interact with high-ranking officers and speakers when they come to visit the Academy. My most notable experience was escorting the head of the Norwegian Coast Guard during a Regimental Review held in honor of the recently completed Arctic Forum. Revealing my Norwegian heritage to him and getting invited to visit his house (an offer I hope he won’t forget) was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my cadet career.

 

As Thanksgiving approaches and schoolwork intensifies, I apologize that I am unable to write more about what has been a truly remarkable semester. If you have any questions about my stories here or my Coast Guard Academy experiences these past three- plus years, I invite you to email me at James.D.Engelhardt@uscga.edu. Thanks for the read. Until next time, Semper Paratus and Go Bears!

 

More about James.