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cadet blogs

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(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Culp Photo Today I was walking to lunch when I spotted an officer in the distance. I prepared to issue the proper formal greeting and salute…then found myself doing a hilarious little half-salute, half-overexcited wave thing as I exclaimed, “Hey, Commander! How’s it going?” Why the sudden adjustment of military customs? That particular commander happened to be one of the Academy’s sponsor parents, whose family I had visited several times! So, conflicting thoughts of “officer – salute now!” and “Hey, I know him!” resulted in a unique new gesture of acknowledgement. Maybe I can get that into our military etiquette book…

 

During Swab Summer, the incoming 4/c has the chance to fill out an application for a sponsor family. You are asked questions about where you are from, what activities you enjoy, how you feel about pets, etc. Each cadet is then matched with a family and gets the chance to have dinner with them over the summer. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for my own sponsor parents – there are truly no two more gracious and caring people! Plus, hanging out with their menagerie of creatures makes for a very good time indeed! It’s wonderful to be able to go over to a regular home and spend the night watching movies, eating delicious meals, bringing friends over, and doing homework somewhere that is NOT your Chase Hall room! These families are always there to provide support as we navigate the rough channels of Academy life. Sometimes I’ll come off of a tough week at school, frustrated and tired but then, I head over to my sponsors’ and get a chance to relax and refocus under their encouragement. It makes a world of difference at a challenging institution!

 

Each cadet has the choice to get a sponsor family officially assigned. What has never ceased to amaze me, however, is the willingness of every family to just pick up random cadets and adopt them as well. I experienced this with the aforementioned officer and his family – having met them at the Academy chapel, I wound up over at their house frequently enough that they had no choice but to call me their sponsor cadet. They perfectly exhibit the across-the-board generosity of all of the sponsors in the program. It seems like every family is thrilled to adopt more cadets than just those assigned to them! The corps is truly blessed to have such a strong support base during our four years here. If you are an incoming cadet, please strongly consider finding a sponsor, even if home is just a few hours away! You will not regret it – and your friends, who will undoubtedly wind up following you over to their home at some point, will be just as grateful!

 

More about Abby.

 

Success and Failure

(Athletics, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Cannon Photo As far as I can remember, I have enjoyed the game of baseball. I have been able to play since I was 5 years old, so my life has been molded in many ways by the game itself. I have had great days where I love the sport; while there have also been days when I wanted to quit right on the spot. In addition, I have played in pretty much every kind of terrain you can think of; from incredibly hot and humid (Georgia) days, to sheer cold temperatures where I couldn't feel my hands or my toes. I have learned many things from playing this game for so long and in so many different situations.

 

As a pitcher for the Coast Guard baseball team, I have quickly learned the reality of success and failure. Some days, I will have a great game and pitch for all nine innings without giving up hardly any hits. Conversely, I have given up three home runs in the same game and learned that failure is an equally important reality to face, if not more important. For almost 16 years, I have faced these similar cycles of success and failure, learning along the way that life is very comparable to the game of baseball. In life, we all can agree that we have failed at something before. Some more than others. I know that I have failed countless times myself. But instead of throwing in the towel, we all know that we must stand back up and roll with the punches. I could have easily given up on myself when I gave up those three home runs. But instead, this same game showed me that through failure, success can be found with tenacity and that bulldog fight.

 

More about Colton.

 

Pilot Shadow

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo This weekend, I went on my first helicopter ride. The Academy’s Pilot Shadow Program provides cadets with the opportunity to travel to Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod in Massachusetts to experience the life of a pilot for the weekend. Flight school is one of the many options we have upon graduation from the Academy and this program gives us an opportunity to see what life would be like if we choose that path. Though flight school is highly competitive, the Pilot Shadow Program is open to all cadets, on a first-come, first-served basis. I did it last year and had a great time so as soon as I heard that the sign-ups for this spring came out, I added my name and my friend’s names to the sheet.

 

Each weekend, there are four slots so that two cadets can fly with the fixed-wing crew and two can fly with the helicopter crew. The cadets fly one platform on Saturday and switch on Sunday. Last year, my friend, Katie and I decided to fly fixed-wing in the CASA-144 on Saturday and the helo on Sunday. We were really disappointed when the weather was too bad to fly on Sunday. For about a year, we have been anticipating the Coast Guard helicopter ride and we finally got one yesterday. The crew was really nice and helpful. They answered all the questions we had, let us take over communications on the radios, and even let us try the hovering controls with the door open. It was a great experience.

 

Today, we flew in the CASA-144, a fixed-wing plane. It was an interesting flight because some of the computer systems were down and one of the crew members had motion sickness. It was fascinating, though, to see how well the crew communicated with one another, overcame each challenge and still accomplished their mission.

 

I still haven’t decided what I want to do when I graduate but the Academy offers so many awesome chances to understand all of the options.

 

More about Sarah.

 

What’s Coming Up

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo Second semester is an exciting time for cadets. As the snow melts and days grow longer, things start to come together in Chase Hall. We find out what we will be doing for our summer training programs: 1/c are given their billets, 2/c get their class rings, 3/c prepare to become cadre, and 4/c earn carry-on. On April 6, we will switch to our short-sleeve uniforms. It is a sign that we are close to the end of the school year.

 

This winter has been long and cold, so it is especially exciting to hear about our summer assignments. Each year, cadets have 11 weeks of training and three weeks of leave. Whereas the other summers include only one or two five to seven week training experiences, 2/c summer is composed of several one to three week training experiences.

 

The first week of my summer training, I will be going through 100th week. This marks my class being halfway through our time as cadets. Chiefs come up to the Academy from Cape May to act as our cadre, remind us of Swab Summer and train us to become cadre. After that, I’ll have three weeks of leave to go home and see my family. The next weeks are comprised of T-boat training, Rules of the Road, range week (shooting), and air station training, each for one week; coastal sail on the other hand is two weeks. At the end of the summer, I will serve as cadre for the Class of 2019. I will have one week of prep and then three weeks on Eagle. I requested to be Eagle cadre because I want the swabs to enjoy their first time sailing on America’s tall ship. I loved Eagle over Swab Summer. It gave me an appreciation of all the sailors who have come before me and the history and culture of sailing. I am looking forward to teaching others what I’ve learned.

 

Throughout the summer, I plan to update my blog with stories from each of these training programs. As always, if you have any questions, please email me at Sarah.R.Ritchie@uscga.edu.

 

More about Sarah.

 

Service Academies Exchange Program

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2017) Permanent link
Ritchie Photo Each fall semester, the Coast Guard Academy participates in an exchange program with the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy and West Point. (The Merchant Marine Academy is not able to participate due to their trimester (as opposed to semester) program.) Officers at each academy negotiate how many cadets to exchange; it is usually two to five per academy. The opportunity to participate in this semester-long exchange program is provided to cadets going into their 2/c (junior) year. It involves an application process during which you provide your GPA, PFE score, military score, and a paragraph explaining why you’re interested in being on exchange. They look for people who are well-rounded and can represent the Academy well. The connections these students will make with other cadets and midshipmen could become vital in joint service operations in the future.

 

I have been interested in this exchange program since my first semester here. One of my 2/c was an Army cadet on exchange here at the Coast Guard Academy. In spring semester of 4/c year, I started talking to Coast Guard cadets who had gone on exchange in the fall, asking them what they thought of the program and what their experience was like. They all said it was a great opportunity to see something different, make new friends and enjoy a big-school environment for a little bit. They all said, “Apply if you can,” so when the application came out at the beginning of the semester, I did. I should also mention that I was talking to one of my best friends about it and we decided to both put Navy as our top pick. Since her family lives about 20 minutes away from the Naval Academy, I’d have a sponsor family.

 

About a month and a half later, the list was released. Originally, I got West Point but I was also first alternate for the Naval Academy. At the time, the Air Force Academy and West Point were each taking five cadets and the Naval Academy was only taking two. Just last week, I found out that they decided to exchange one more with Navy, and I got it! I am so excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to share more about this experience with you next semester!

 

More about Sarah.