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CGAS Cadre Experience

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Pat Wheeler

After I completed the three-week long summer orientation for the Coast Guard Academy Scholars Program (CGAS) back in 2015, all I wanted to be was a CGAS cadre! My cadre were tough, but fair, and I looked up to them because of this. They drove us hard, pushing us to break through mental and physical barriers I never imagined I would be capable of overcoming. Each of them instilled discipline into us, which is vital for military service. Above all, they motivated us to feel pride in the U.S. Coast Guard, encouraging each cadet-candidate to be passionate about the missions and history of the “Long, Blue Line” of Coast Guardsmen that had gone before us. Upon completion of our “boot camp” experience, several of us made it our goal to one day become CGAS cadre. Now, three years later, we have accomplished that objective we set before ourselves.

The CGAS summer orientation experience is quite a bit different when you are on the other end of it (i.e., not the one getting yelled at, but the one doing the yelling). It’s absolutely a challenge shaping kids who have just graduated from high school into basically trained Coast Guardsmen and women. The training is also just as physically taxing on the cadre as it is on the trainees, the cadet-candidates. The biggest motivating factor that gives the cadre the extra energy they need each day is the genuine desire to prepare each of the trainees the best they can for prep school. We want the cadet-candidates to represent the Coast Guard in a professional manner at Marion Military Institute, Georgia Military College, and the Naval Academy Preparatory School. Each of the scholars is a direct reflection of the cadre who trained them, as well as the Coast Guard as a whole, so it is of the utmost importance to the cadre that each students has engrained into them the core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty. The training they receive over CGAS summer orientation will help each of them succeed at their respective preparatory schools, giving them the foundation and tools necessary for them to make it back to the Academy a year later for Swab Summer and, eventually, aid them in their four-year experience in New London, all the way through until commissioning as an ensign.

MORE ABOUT PAT

Summer in the Northwest

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Derek Silliman

So after a long wait for our summer assignments, my class finally got an email with a spreadsheet giving us the full list of where we are going for the summer. I am assigned to a cutter named Terrapin. I had no idea where the cutter was located so I looked it up and I found out it was in Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham is a small city just south of the Canada border. Terrapin is an 87-foot patrol boat docked at Station Bellingham with only one other patrol boat alongside it. It’s been awesome for me to see a part of the country I never saw before.

When I first flew into Seattle, I was immediately awestruck as the plane passed by the summit pyramid of Mount Rainier, and the reality hit me; I was not on the East Coast anymore. Following a recommendation from Anthony Bourdain, I sat down at Anthony’s Fish Bar at Seattle-Tacoma Airport as I waited for my final short flight to Bellingham. I had the best salmon fish tacos ever and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Cascade Mountains rising over the tarmac. I had two goals: the first was to learn about the duties and responsibilities of the crew on the patrol boat. The second was to immerse myself in the culture of the area, to eat the food, learn about the people, and get outside. Something I leaned watching Anthony Bourdain was that whether you travel to another part of the country, or the world, seek to live fully and immerse yourself wherever you are.

Bellingham is a great little city characterized by being a college town and home to a number of small breweries and a beautiful mountain lake. The way the hills just rise from the coastline here has allowed me to hike a number of small mountains with stunning views of Puget Sound, and there are a number of great coffee shops, one right on the water that I walked by along the trail that runs along Bellingham Bay.

I also took a few short trips to Seattle when my family came to visit. We toured the Museum of Pop Culture and a National Park Service Museum that offered a tour about the history of Seattle as the last point people would come to before sailing on to Alaska. West Seattle has a great beach with a view of the skyline downtown and a nice little ice cream parlor. To get away from the city, my dad and I toured the Boeing’s wide-body jet factory.

One really neat thing I did was take a trip into British Columbia. I spent a day in Vancouver, touring the Museum of Vancouver and the Maritime Museum, where I leaned about the history of the area, in dealing with immigrants and natives, and an expedition by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police through the Northwest Passage. The coolest thing in Vancouver was biking through Stanley Park, looking out onto the bay. Victoria had a beautiful set of buildings that looked like this little piece of Europe had been planted right on the West Coast. I toured the British Columbian Parliament and learned more about the history of the area through a visit to the Royal B.C. Museum. Beacon Hill Park offered a beautiful view of the Olympics, looking straight across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, back into Washington.

I have had the interesting privilege this summer of being the northernmost cadet in the lower 48 states, but it can be somewhat of a lonely existence where I have had to make my own fun. I did get two opportunities to catch up with classmates, first over dinner in Seattle, and later going hiking with classmates in the Olympics after meeting them in Port Angeles.

Being on the boat, we had an awesome patrol down in Oregon, where I saw the fullness of the pacific coastline and ran along the beaches to the outward point of Yaquina Head.

On the boat, I had a great time working with the deck department, but my big accomplishment for the summer was getting my in-port officer of the day qualification. It was something I learned a lot from, but never want to have to do that again because it took me three attempts to get that qualification. I got as much knowledge from the crew as I could and realized the importance of reviewing manuals and documents to verify the information I had was correct. I learned a lot from the captain as well; from his experience at his first unit, how he went about leading the crew, and his challenges to motivate them. It got me excited to get out into the fleet in a permanent capacity next year, but it reminded me that I cannot anticipate every challenge. We had a lot of conversations about various leadership principles and how to apply them as a young officer.

Overall, I almost feel as if I could call Bellingham home, maybe one day I will, or another city in the Northwest. A piece of me really does not want to depart Bellingham, but I know my few weeks of leave will give me some much needed time to relax before returning for the fall semester.

Derek. Silliman@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT DEREK

From AIMster to AIM Cadre

 Permanent link
Bruna Pavan

When I attended AIM in 2013, I found the six-day experience to be eye-opening and challenging. I was not very familiar with the function of service academies at the time so I was not sure what to expect, but surely I was not let down. Naturally, after leaving the Academy and heading home, I was left with more questions than answers in regard to what type of college experience would be a fit for me. Nonetheless, I departed with a sense of pride in myself and a newfound respect for the members of the United States Coast Guard.

Returning to the AIM program a second time around as cadre was another enlightening experience, and not because I wasn’t the one lost this time. After two years at this institution, I realized that this would be the first interaction many of the high school students would have with Coast Guard members. I had upheld high expectations for myself and my fellow cadre to ensure the prospective cadets who have been placed in my care have a basic and fair understanding of both the academic and physical rigors cadets face here. Also, as my own AIM cadre instilled in me, the necessary values and character traits demanded of cadets and Coast Guard officers: honor, respect, and devotion to duty. One of my favorite parts of the program was being able to share the wealth of traditions, opportunities, and experiences that we have here at the CGA; this, along with teaching the AIMsters about notable Coast Guard heroes, renewed my sense of pride in service as both a cadet and an American. I enjoyed being able to test my leadership abilities and challenge the AIMsters because the most rewarding part of my role as cadre was to see them progress from individuals to a well-functioning group, overcoming struggles and using teamwork, all in only six days.

In addition to leading AIMsters, I learned so much about leading and working alongside my peers. The group of AIM cadre from Whiskey 1 platoon (all of us are in Alfa Company during the school year) are absolutely fabulous people whom I have grown so much closer with after struggling and triumphing together as a unit for three weeks. Learning about their experiences during their time here at the Academy was humbling, and made me even more grateful to be able to be surrounded by such great people every day.

As I’ve told my own AIMsters, if you do not get accepted into CGA your first (or second, or third) time applying, do not be discouraged. If you truly believe this is where you belong, do not ever give up and keep working toward it. I promise you will be so glad you did.

MORE ABOUT BRUNA

On the Road to Success

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Dante Roberts

The cadet blog program is an excellent opportunity to provide past, current, and future cadets with a relevant viewpoint of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Cadets are represented from every state and from different countries, so it could benefit a future applicant to look into the life of somebody from their state.

In my case, I am one of the few people that represents Nevada; therefore, it might be advantageous for someone from this state or region of the country to see how I travel back home or how I became accustomed to being further away from home than others. After coming for the AIM program in July 2015, I followed cadet blogs whenever I could. I wanted to learn what it was like to be a cadet at such a prestigious academy. Not only did I come for AIM, but I came for the Genesis Invitational in November 2015 at which time I was offered my appointment in person by Admiral Rendon and Captain McKenna. At this event, the four of us that had received our appointments seemed to be an inspiration to those interested in applying. After this, I continued following blogs and was inspired by what cadets were doing in the fleet during the summer, in the classroom, and on the field. Now, I am one of those cadets that can influence the next generation of future officers.

I hope people can read my blog entries and become motivated and inspired to join the Long Blue Line on the road to success.

MORE ABOUT DANTE

First Phase of Firstie Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Jill Friedman

During firstie summer, cadets are expected to act as junior officers; it is considered our ‘job interview’ and last chance to figure out where we want to go when we graduate in one short academic year. I was able to spend the first half of my summer training on the USCGC Ida Lewis, a 175’ buoy tender. This was a different experience than most of my classmates because there is no wardroom on a 175’ with the only officer being a warrant officer as the CO. While this is not what I was expecting to get for my firstie summer, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I worked for the Operations Petty Officer and the Executive Petty Officer. At the Academy, we are surrounded by officers so being able to work with senior enlisted gave me a different perspective and a lot of past Coast Guard wisdom to learn from.

On Ida Lewis, I was able to break in Deck Watch Officer (DWO) and take on collaterals. As a DWO, your job on the bridge is to conn. Conning is giving commands to the helmsman to steer the ship. The DWO also provides directions to navigate the ship during complex evolutions. As break-in DWO, I was able to anchor the cutter, drive onto buoys during aids to navigation (ATON) details, conn through Newport in low visibility, and moor (dock) the cutter. Each of these evolutions uses a different method of steering and has different rules that need to be obeyed. It was a lot to adapt to but I was fortunate to be able to learn from seasoned crew members. Beyond the bridge, I was able to make route plans which determine the cutter’s time underway and what buoys are worked on during the patrol. This is a job typically done by the Operations Department Head so it was good exposure to a position I may have in the future. I also spent a few days working on the buoy deck, experiencing what life is like on the deck-plate level.

I learned a lot during first phase of firstie summer, and spending half my summer in Newport, Rhode Island wasn’t bad. For the second half of my summer I have an academic internship and I’m excited to see what that experience has in store for me. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Jill.M.Friedman@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT JILL

Firstie Summer 2018

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

Well, I am officially halfway through my firstie summer ‒ and that is quite surreal to say.

Unfortunately, due to my recent ACL reconstruction surgery and medical complications, I was told early on that I would be unable to be fit for sea this summer. Having been Eagle cadre, I have thankfully been able to complete all of my underway time already, but I was hoping to travel far away for my last summer at the Academy, as I joined the Coast Guard to get away from my small Pennsylvania hometown…but I was sent to Sector New York. On Staten Island. Two hours away from home.

Needless to say, I became less excited about my summer as it got closer.

I arrived to Sector New York with absolutely zero expectations. I knew that two of my classmates would be joining me for the first half, and I knew that we would be on land, but that was it. We met our POC, who graduated two years ago, got settled in, and it became quickly apparent that there was not much to do on Staten Island. And that the barracks had no Wi-Fi.

As time went by, and we were all moved into different departments every week (for example, containers, facilities, pollution, command center, vessel traffic and inspections), I became thankful for the new system of not needing to get qualified over the summer. Instead, I have been able to focus on being a sponge and keeping a detailed journal of the things I was learning about and all of the different roles and responsibilities that a sector has to offer the fleet. I formed real connections with my coworkers, instead of pestering them for signatures. And, most of all, I have been able to rule out being a prevention officer from my intended career path.

Not to mention, there are silver linings ‒ other than getting weekends off and occasional half days. I have been able to see my family a lot more than I have been able to in the last three years combined. I was even able to take my siblings to see “Wicked!” on Broadway. The people at Sector New York are also some of the nicest people I have ever met. From the first day I arrived, multiple people offered to have us over for dinner, or offered us directions for how to go on adventures and get off the island. And, I have been able to continue my physical therapy.

I think what I have learned most this summer is that your attitude is the only thing that you can control, and that attitudes are contagious. For that reason, it is much more productive for everyone if you have a positive attitude. After all, things that may seem disappointing at first can turn into amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

The End of 4/c Year and the Start of 3/c Year

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021, Eagle) Permanent link
Stephanie Burckhard

Fourth class year is officially over and I couldn’t have made it through without the great friends and support I have found here. We learned how to balance academics, athletics, and military obligations as soon as Swab Summer had ended. The school year is full of fun activities such as the 4/c formal and the talent show. I loved these types of events because I got to know more of my classmates during these functions. I switched between multiple sport teams but I eventually found my way to Windjammers, which is the Academy’s marching band. We travel constantly, from Canada to New York to Massachusetts.

As soon as finals week was over, half of the class of 2021 walked aboard Eagle as excitement and anticipation filled the air. After only a few hours, we were underway en route to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The first few days on Eagle included climbing, learning the lines, understanding the fire main system, and so much more. We were underway for about two weeks before we arrived at our first port. The other three ports we visited were Barbados, Santo Domingo, and San Juan. The phase change was in San Juan where Phase I bid adieu to Eagle. Some of my classmates from Phase I went to stations or cutters, but unlike them, some of us then went to summer school. Various classes are offered during the summer for cadets to catch up or get ahead.

I am looking forward to starting the new school year in August! It will be great meeting the Class of 2022 and the upper-class in my new company. If you have any questions, you can reach me at Stephanie.L.Burckhard@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT STEPHANIE

Words Lead to Adventure

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Alyssa Easley

I remember profusely reading through the cadet blogs when I was in high school. I wanted to know what daily life was like at the Academy as well as get any inside scoops and tips that could help me in both Swab Summer and during the academic year.

Choosing to come to a service academy is a big deal, and I believe that reading those blogs gave me enough insight to reaffirm that I was making the right decision! Reading peoples’ personal experiences at the Academy gave me the courage to take on everything that comes with being a cadet.

Writing is likely the most convenient way to get through to others, to express emotions, and recreate experiences. Not only that, but free-writing is one of those creative outlets that somehow manages to relieve the most stressful situations.

If, by writing, I can both do something I love and (most importantly) help someone possibly make a worthwhile and big decision, then so be it! Cadet blogging here I come! I’m ready to write about all the cool things that occur within this amazing corps!

MORE ABOUT ALYSSA