It has been a little over one month since I wrote last, and have many things taken place since then. The second two-thirds of March and the first half of April have been a whirlwind of activity—so much so that I think I may have to break this into two blogs, one for the end of March and one for the beginning of April.
I’ve had “Write Blog” on my to-do list since the first week of April, but since I’ve been so busy (as you’ll see), I haven’t had a chance to write (please see my disclaimer at the end of this blog). I finally made my way over to the library where I can get some peace and quiet. So, here I am, settled down in a comfy chair, about to attempt to share with you what has happened for me over the past 30+ days here at the Academy.
Are you ready?
One Saturday toward the end of March, five other cadets, five Connecticut College (“Conn”) students, and I headed to Falkner’s Island (in Long Island Sound—you can see it on Google Maps) to assist the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in a field day of cleaning and preparing the island for the summer. We, the members of the USCGA and Conn Sustainability Clubs, have a partnership with the FWS, and this year the three groups have collaborated in a project to protect the Rosette Tern (you may remember my mentioning a beach clean up back in January). Falkner Island is a popular summering spot for the terns. FWS sends field hands to study and observe the terns during the summer, so we were prepping the island for both the birds’ and the humans’ summer stays. We cut away brush, picked up debris that Hurricane Irene (September) had deposited on the island, and restored the observation blinds. At lunchtime, we had the opportunity to climb to the top of the lighthouse on the island. Not only was this a lighthouse that I had used as an aid to navigation during my Fundamentals of Navigation practical lab, but also the Falkner Island Light is the second oldest lighthouse in Connecticut and is serviced by the Coast Guard.
On Friday, 23 March, the Academy hosted a day-long event called the Ethics Forum. Classes are cancelled for the day so that cadets can attend the various sessions in which military officers and other professionals present on what it means to be ethical. Having strong and upright morals and ethics ties in with the Coast Guard’s core value of respect. The day is designed to challenge cadets to examine their values and engage in discussion on how to be an ethical, morally sound officer in the military. While I do admit that I could not always follow the speakers’ arguments, the Ethics Forum was certainly a privilege and an opportunity certainly unique to the Academy. Now that I know how the Ethics Forum works, I hope that in future years I can be more active in the discussion sessions.
Eclipse Week (Let’s see how many section titles I can get to start with the letter E!)
Another special opportunity at the Academy is Eclipse Week, a week during which cadets review the Academy’s history of diversity and the importance of diversity in leadership today. I sat in on a panel discussion by Academy professors; they discussed the need for revamping course curriculum to diversify both course content—to include the study of minority groups’ contribution to society—and the manner in which professors teach and present the course information.
I must say, March was packed with great events designed to challenge cadets’ way of thinking and leadership philosophies.
Esprit de Corps
March 17 was the date of the 4/c Formal Dinner and Ball. This was a great night of fancy dinning, dancing, and, most importantly, seeing for the first time the class crest for the class of 2015! Oddly enough, I don’t really have much to say about the formal. It was like very similar to the winter formal last December, but this event was only for 4/c cadets. I guess I could stress the importance of the class crest, but I will say that it’s hard to properly put into words how I exactly feel about the crest. This is the crest that will go on our class rings and will be the symbol for our class after we have left the Academy. Our crest has now joined the ranks of other class crests on the wall of the ballroom in Leamy Hall. It was a great bonding moment for the class (or at least that’s how I felt) when we first saw the crest. This was something that brought our class together as a unit and this marked our recognition as another year to join the Corps of Cadets (both that of the present and those of the past). Sound kind of cheesy? What I am trying to get at is that I am proud to continue the traditions of the Coast Guard Academy. I’ve never really thought of it like this until writing this blog, but I would say that our crest could be a symbol of our class’s commitment to those traditions.
“Emilia at the door who we met in Act IV.” – Othello Rap by the Reduced Shakespeare Company
Emilia is a character from Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello. The 4/c literature class had a unique opportunity to see at Yale University a production of Othello, which we had read in literature class. The production, a black-box style, was extremely well played, and I was very impressed by the students who acted in it. Not only was it fun to take a road trip to New Haven on a Friday night, I also got a chance to see my friend, Patrice, from high school. We had a chance to chat and catch up, which was very enjoyable.
0231. A door opens, silently, and then closes. Only a small click of the latch. Two figures move swiftly down a darkened passageway (hall). The leading person peers cautiously around the corner; upon seeing no one, the two dart forward, rushing into the ladder well (stairwell), but being especially watchful not to let the doors slam. The two stop in front of another room. The leader knocks twice and then they enter without waiting for a reply. Even given the time of night, the lights of the interior are on and there are approximately ten others in the room.
0247. Others arrive. After a few minutes, all the individuals inside all exit and go off in different directions. They are silent, only speaking—and then only in a whisper—when they reach their destination: a clock on the wall. Hurrying to move a chair in place, one member of these small groups climbs up and removes the clock from the wall.
0402. The deed is done, and all the clocks have been taken to a designated passageway. There they are spread out like checkers. The doers of this mission have returned to their racks (beds) and are sleeping once again. In the morning, there will be no 4/c alarm clocks.
What am I talking about? That was a very dramatic description of the “spirit mission” that we, the 4/c members of Echo company, did a few weeks ago. We woke up in the early hours of the morning and went around Chase Hall (the barracks/dorm) to take down all the clocks in the hallways. In doing this, we created a situation that gave all the 4/c cadets a good reason for not “doing clocks” in the morning. “Doing clocks” = shouting how many minutes are remaining until formation and spewing (shouting) indoc (memorized information like upcoming meal menus and movies playing at the local theater).
This spirit mission—something the 4/c cadets can do to raise the morale of the corps and prove our ability to work as a team—also earned us a day of wardroom carry-on, or in other words, we got to look at our food and didn’t have to square our meals.
During the last week of March, I had the privilege of helping to film for an anti-bullying project sponsored by Academy cadets. The project involves creating a documentary about cadets’ experiences (past and present) with being bullied.
As I mentioned briefly in the previous section, I’ve been taking lots of pictures, and recently, I’ve found a new interest in filming, specifically film that could be used for some sort of documentary. Filming for this project probably spurred my excitement. In imitation of other documentaries, I filmed my friend, Josh, during his sailing practice so that what he is talking in the video, it’s not just an actionless shot of him talking to the camera. Naturally, I took a few pictures while I was down on the water (out on the coach’s boat).
It was a ton of fun to attend sailing practice! I attended a practice as a bean sprout (visiting prospective cadet) almost one year earlier to date—how cool!
Josh showed me around Jacob’s Rock (the sailing center) and talked to me about how he and the other team members got ready for practice. Then he headed out in his dinghy, I boarded the coach’s small boat, and we all headed out to the middle of the Thames River. The sun was out (but I didn’t get a sunburn; thank goodness!), and the temperature was very comfortable. I couldn’t have picked a better day to go down to sailing practice.
Well, that concludes March.
Now the “disclaimer” I promised at the beginning. I don’t want it to seem like I’m sugar coating my experiences here. I have definitely been blessed to have all these amazing opportunities, but they don’t come without a bit of a price. I definitely don’t get enough sleep, and there are some days that I don’t get all my work done. It seems like there is always something that I have to complete. While I do take breaks from time to time, there is always that nagging in the back of my mind that I have work to complete. Life here is certainly not the normal, cushy college life—but it shouldn’t be.
Nonetheless, this is the college track that I chose, and I do not regret my decision (how could I end on such a not-positive note?) to attend. I am proud to be here and plan to continue making the most of my cadet experience. As lot s of people here say, “Your experience is what you make it.” I stand by that; I’m going to do what I can to have the best Coast Guard Academy experience (as I already have begun to do).
Until I post my April blog, ciao!
More about Justin.