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Midnight Cadre Musings

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link   All Posts
 Stephen Nolan “Charlie Company: Ears!”

“OPEN”

Every single conversation I have with my swabs starts this way. It lets me know that they are actively listening to what I am saying, and it lets me know that they aren’t zoning out on me. More and more though, I feel as though my shipmates should be saying that to me. I need them to verify that I’m not zoning out, or that I’m actively listening, because never in my life have I been as utterly exhausted as I am right now.

I’m not hallucinating: I remember my own Swab Summer quite vividly, I remember those late nights working to chip away at the seemingly endless stack of homework in the depths of third class year, I remember late nights out on liberty, and double four to eight watches underway, and yet I can say with absolute certainty, that I have never been this tired. The lack of sleep, coupled with the sheer amount of yelling that has to be done, along with trying to make sure that 38 shell shocked swabs are dressed in the right uniform, in the right place, at the right time quickly wears down even the most resolute individuals. It does not help that they have us outnumbered three to one, so corrections happen constantly. There are times where I see a swab do something incorrectly; they round a corner, they fail to greet one of my classmates, or they take their eyes out of the boat, and I want nothing more than to ignore it and let them go on their merry way, but I know that I cannot do that. I have to correct their behavior because the Academy and ultimately the Coast Guard as a whole, has trusted us with the seemingly insurmountable task of training these civilians into being functioning men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

I’m standing night watch now; I’m sitting at my OOD podium, monitoring the hallways from where I sit, and go on a round once an hour to ensure the swabs are staying in their racks and getting their much needed sleep. While standing this watch, I feel almost like a prison guard, making sure no one is escaping the watchful eye of the cadre. Standing this watch also gives me a lot of time to think: it’s a tremendous amount of power we are given in this situation: we tell the swabs when it’s time to eat, when to hit the head, when to shower, when and where to go, we tell them to drop to the deck to do rowers or planks, we control so much of their lives, and we’re only two years older than them. It’s easy to get lost in the moment, but stepping back, it’s truly awe inspiring how much sheer trust the command staff has in us to perform our duties.

It’s funny how much being a cadre changes a person; I’ve noticed it more in my shipmates than in myself. I don’t know what it was, but when we put on those red aiguillettes four days ago, we suddenly became a much bigger part of the system. Somehow we seem more invested in it. Part of it may be derived from being caught up in the moment, but certainly a portion of can be ascribed to a desire to instill in the next odd number class the same training we received and by sheer force of will make them an even better class than we ourselves are. It’s almost as if we have developed a bit of paternal pride for them: granted, most parents don’t show their love through physical remediation, yelling, and military trainings, but the overarching mixed feelings of pride, concern and nurturing are there, even if they’re muffled by the militaristic necessities of the Academy.

I realize now that I’m beginning to ramble; blame it on the sleep deprivation if you must. I think I’m going to end this entry here, before I go on too much farther and bore you to tears. I will just conclude that in just the past four days that I’ve had to work with the Charlie swabs, I think I’ve learned almost as much from them about my leadership abilities, as they’ve learned from me about squaring and sounding off. As always, please feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have.

Semper P.
2/c Stephen Nolan
Stephen.T.Nolan@uscga.edu

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