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cadet blogs

Amazing Summer Experiences

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2013) Permanent link   All Posts
 Stephen Nolan There can be no doubt that the academic year at the United States Coast Guard Academy is a rigorous one; there is no pretending that this institution doesn’t attempt to force far more knowledge into our poor little heads than we have the capacity for, and yet despite all the learning that goes on during the year, the truest growth in knowledge happens over the summer when cadets are far way from their books and studies. Whether they are on the bridge of a ship, climbing the rigging, inspecting container ships, working at an internship, or even climbing a glacier, the varied summer experiences of cadets help shape their leadership styles.

This summer, while my swabs were on Eagle and my voice was recuperating, I had a chance to drive down to Sector New York and spend a week getting to know what life is like at a sector. I spent my week boarding container ships more than a thousand feet long, conducting inspections of power plants that abut the water of the harbor, working out with the MSST New York and observing the hectic atmosphere of the Communications Room of one of the biggest sectors in the country. The Marine Safety program, as it’s called, is relatively new having only come into existence last summer, and it was founded out of a desire to allow cadets to experience a different aspect of the Coast Guard that they are not typically exposed to while at the Academy.

Most of the class of 2012 also made their way to the sea this summer. While most cadets got assigned to Coast Guard cutters scattered around the country, a few had a slightly different experience. As 1/c Christine Roselli relates:

I was on the Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Kojima, underway for 24 days straight as we made the transit from Honolulu, Hawaii to New York. I was able to participate in Boat Ops, Search and Rescue drills, and experience a total cultural immersion with the Japanese Coast Guard Academy cadets. The experience was unforgettable and I still keep in contact with many of the friends I formed on board.

This exchange program offered five Coast Guard Academy cadets the chance to forge new relationships with our counterparts in the Japanese Coast Guard, and to get a chance to experience how different countries handle the multitude of problems that inevitably arise in the maritime domain, which always seem to fall to the Coast Guard.

By far though, one of the most exhilarating summers had by a cadet, happened hundreds of miles away from any ocean, up in the mountains of Alaska. There, on the Matanuska Glacier, 1/c Ryan Flanagan and 1/c Sarah Colmenero spent 23 days hiking over ninety miles over the glacial terrain with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). They were joined by three instructors, including LT Chis Bruno (’02), as well as nine midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy. 1/c Colmenero recalls that over the course of the trek, LT Bruno was “provid[ing] us with a direct application of NOLS’ leadership philosophy to situations in our future line of work as officers in the Coast Guard.”

Not only were they expected to follow the instructors and learn from observing them, they were given the invaluable experience of leading the expedition for themselves for an entire day. They were tasked with “setting goals for the group, reading the terrain, constantly monitoring the safety of the group… and making decisions of how to best overcome various obstacles which arose from severe conditions and unexpected natural blockades.”

These skills are directly transferable to the duties and responsibilities of an officer in the Coast Guard who, among other things, are charged with the safety and well being of the crew, maintaining the integrity of the vessel and ensuring the successful completion of the mission at hand. All in all, 1/c Colmenero believes that this past summer was “the most valuable and powerful training experience I have ever received at the CGA.”

Cadets are naturally curious creatures, who love to experience new and exciting things. Given the chance to be underway or in a classroom, it’s no doubt which choice the typical cadet would make. We’re destined to spend our careers in the fleet, taking the lessons and mistakes that we have learned here, and applying them directly to making a difference to our future units, our service and our nation. As such, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that the most valuable lessons we learn, are often taught to us during the summer months, when we’re getting a chance to test-drive our careers. Remember if you have any questions; please feel free to email me at

Semper P.
4/c Stephen Nolan

(Note: This article was originally written and printed in an extended form in the USCGA’s Alumni Magazine, The Bulletin)

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