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The Last Stretch

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Jack Brunswick

Time at the Academy flies by, but also feels so slow. I don’t know why the days feel like forever but the weeks go fast. The last few months has been crazy with Billet Night , spring break, castle dance, and more. Here, I’ll summarize all the things you can look forward to when you’re a 1/c cadet (senior) at the Coast Guard Academy.

Billet Night

Billet Night is when all the senior cadets find out where they are going for their first job after graduation. In December we receive a list, and we upload our top picks online. Then in March, we all get together for a formal dinner, then we all gather in the auditorium for a presentation. They call up a handful of cadets at a time, and announce their billets while they are on stage. I didn’t go until the end, so I was nervous for most of the night. There was a lot of cheering, crying (happy tears), and celebrating for everyone. I have friends going to Hawaii, Florida, Guam, California, and more. I got Sector/Cyber Texas, which was my number one choice. Billet Night is super exciting because you get to celebrate all your classmates and your own accomplishments over the past three and a half years. We all struggled and triumphed together, and Billet Night is the culminating event that brings that all together. Even more excitingly, you get to start house hunting or apartment hunting, which has been a little stressful, but mostly fun. I definitely recommend getting a roommate because it is more fun that way. Also, you’ll save a lot of money and/or be able to afford a nicer place. No billet is a bad billet. Even if you end up somewhere you don’t want, it’s still an amazing opportunity. I wanted to be grateful no matter what billet I got. There are so many college kids who don’t have the opportunity to get a good job after school or get paid as much as a Coast Guard officer does. Some kids can’t afford college, and some kids around the world get the opportunity at a high school level education. Billet Night put in perspective how blessed I am and that I should be grateful of all my opportunities, friends, and classmates.

Spring Break

Spring break is self-explanatory. You get a week off from school in March, the week after Billet Night. I spent my week with some friends snowboarding in Vermont and New Hampshire. I have the Epic Pass, which for military is only $150 (usually $1000+ for civilians). I will do a separate post about the perks of going to the academy and being in the military.

Castle Dance

Originally, Castle Dance was created by 1/c cadets (seniors) to have their own event separate from the Academy. However, rumor has it that one year the cadets got too rowdy and Castle Dance was canceled. Eventually, Castle Dance was brought back under the condition that Academy faculty and leadership could oversee the planning of the event. This year, we were able to have our Castle Dance at the Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. It looks like the mansion in Great Gatsby. We all got dressed up in suits and dresses, had a DJ, drinks, and food. I’m not going to lie, this is probably one of the most fanciest events I’ve been at. The class leadership did a great job planning it, and it is something to look forward to as a senior.

Dining In

Dining In is another formal dinner where 1/c cadets dine with admirals, officers, and other VIPs. This dinner is a welcome into the Officer Corps. As a cadet, you usually have a formal dinner like this once or twice a year.

Graduation

Graduation is May 18th this year. Then, we get 30 days of leave to spend time with family, travel, and get settled into our new place. Then, we all report into our new jobs and get to work!

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Secret Perks of Being a Cadet

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Jack Brunswick

Being in the military brings lots of perks. If you are thinking about joining a military service academy or ROTC, here are a few unexpected perks that might be thrown your way.

  1. Chipotle does a law enforcement discount, and technically, the Coast Guard is the only branch of the military with law enforcement authority. If you take 30 seconds to explain this to Chipotle, you can get 50% off your order.
  2. Luxury credit cards come with lots of perks, including free access to airport lounges with free drinks and food, complimentary flight upgrades, and more. However, these credit cards also come with a $100- $500 annual fee. For AMEX, the fees for these cards are waived for military members, meaning you can earn awesome points, hang out in airport lounges, and earn exclusive discounts without paying a fee.
  3. Access to websites like GOVX and other military discount stores. They provide cheap prices for a variety of products. Many brand name companies offer 20%-30% discounts on their products for military members, including Oakley and RayBan. You also earn access to the Coast Guard Exchange website, which does not charge tax on its products.
  4. Military discounts for cruises, vacation packages, and more. Self-explanatory.
  5. Lots of airlines allow military to check bags for free. Also, you’ll be upgraded to TSA precheck, making getting through security much faster and easier.

There are tons of other financial military perks for being in the military, but many of the best perks have nothing to do with money. For me, having a network of amazing friends and coworkers is the best part of attending a service academy. The skills, wisdom, and experiences you gain from being at a service academy or in the military are great too. Do your full research on all the benefits military members receive, as these are only the tip of the iceberg.

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What is Gangway?

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Jack Brunswick

Gangway is a privilege that 1/c cadets earn during their last semester at the Academy, usually in April or May. This privilege allows 1/c cadets to leave campus whenever they would like, as long as they are not absent from military obligations. This includes morning formations, meals, trainings, and classes. Prior to earning gangway, 1/c cadets can only leave from the following times: Thursday 4pm-10pm, Friday 4pm-11:59pm, Saturday 10am- Sunday 10pm. The hours for underclass are different, as other bloggers have already likely explained how liberty for cadets works. So far, I haven’t really used my gangway. I feel like I’ve already built a routine over the year and don’t find it necessary to go out on a Monday or Tuesday. It is really nice to have the freedom to go surfing in Rhode Island or go golfing during the day when I want to. That’s a huge change I’ve seen in myself now versus when I was a highschooler- I used to be very sporadic with my activities, daily life, and goals. Now, I feel like I follow a strict routine (in a good way), work towards specific goals, and am efficient with my time. I believe although it has been difficult at times, the Academy has taught me to be more productive, efficient, and effective in the way I live my life. Now that I have a lot more freedom for these next two months, I value the time I have, what I do with it, and to make smart decisions. Without the discipline and difficult times of being at the Academy the past three years, I might be wasting my time instead by drinking, partying, watching TV, playing video games, or whatever it may be. The Academy teaches you to value your free time, because often it takes it from you and only gives you what is leftover.

Lessons to takeaway: take advantage of your free time! Do something productive like reading a book, working out, or achieving whatever goal you have. Also, something important to take away from this post is that I had no idea what gangway was or what liberty was prior to coming to the Academy. You don’t know what you don’t know. Take time to ask questions, schedule a tour with admissions, and ask more questions. A lot of high schoolers come to a service academy or ROTC and don’t realize what they are getting themselves into, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but more information is better than less.

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Bears, Badgers, and Bikes

(Athletics, Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

Phew! My last post of the semester- it has all gone by so fast! I decided to end with a bang by writing about my experience at US Collegiate Club Triathlon Nationals. After months of training for the event, myself and twelve others on the USCGA Tri Team made the trip down to Lake Lanier, GA. I was glad I had my teammates. I would have gotten lost in the Atlanta Airport’s corn-mazed terminals without their navigation skills!

After landing in ATL, we drove an hour north to our rental house in Dawsonville. The cottage, with four floors, a lakeside view, and exercise room, was a triathlete’s paradise. It was all made possible by our coach, LT Lukasik. She planned our itinerary with such intricacy that we hardly had to do any scheduling of our own. LT might be leaving the academy at the end of this semester, but she will always be one of my biggest role models. The ”road to nationals” was largely attributed to her hard work- none of this would have been possible without her.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to race in the mixed team relay (MTR) with three of my teammates. This unique event, which typically isn’t offered at races, involves four legs- a 300m swim, 5k bike, and 800m run. Each member of the team (two males, two females) completes the distance, competing against other squads for the quickest time. We placed 26th in a stacked field- beating 12 DI/II club teams. It was quite a success, but the real challenge was Saturday- the individual race.

Compared to sprint, the long-distance triathlon is its own beast. This event, dubbed the “Olympic”, exists because someone thought that it was a good idea to put a 1500m swim, 24.8mi bike, and 10k run together. If this wasn’t enough, the sheer number of universities competing in this event was insane. The whole Big 10 Conference, ACC, and several other big-name schools were represented. With over 50 racers, it seemed like the Wisconsin Badgers had brought at least half of their state’s population!

In fact, there were so many in the race that they had to split us into ten heats (five men, five women). I entered the water in heat one and felt like ______. Despite being kicked, punched, pulled, and everything between, I survived the 44.5 (degree)F dash. The bike and run that followed was killer, but the beautiful scenery of the resort made up for it. Well, sorta. My shins weren’t that impressed.

Nonetheless, my sore joints did not detract from the fun I had this weekend. Having the opportunity to compete at such a large-scale race this semester was hands down my favorite part of 4/c year. Despite being the only DIII squad at the race, we certainly held our own. No USCGA bears finished last- some of us set personal best times! And, most importantly, everybody finished (no broken bikes)! We celebrated with a team cookout, plenty of ping pong, and a little bit of (necessary) calculus II homework.

The race slate for the triathlon team this upcoming semester is as ambitious as ever. We have several conference events on the schedule along with a regional competition. If all goes to planned, we should be making our way back to nationals in exactly 365 days. It was great to experience the race once, but these bears are still hungry!

Until next year, Lake Lanier!

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Spring in USA’s Cherry Capital

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Just for Fun, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

Anyone who knows me is well-aware that I am a *die-hard* Michigander. I was born and raised in the great mitten state and love every piece of it. From its patchworked cornfields to the crystal-clear waters of Lake Superior, Michigan is a place I miss dearly. So, when the “countdown to leave” finally reached zero, I knew exactly where I was headed for spring break. And I assure you, no second was put to waste.

Just hours after my physics midterm, I arrived back home from the DTW airport. Although it was the middle of the day, there was no “sunshine” signifying the beginning of spring break. Here in the north, spring break might as well just be another synonym for late winter. In fact, when I got home it was 20°F and the roads looked like they had been covered with a cigarette-ash flavored Slurpee from 7-11. To put it simply, the weather was far from ideal.

But it was home! I had a great week of break- my favorite part was simply spending a couple days not studying physics. However, there were quite a few other big highlights. My third day back, I explored Grand Traverse County- home to the TC Coast Guard Air Station and America’s Cherry Capital of the World! After enjoying (a bit too much) pie and fudge, it was time to go back to the southeast Mitten.

Shortly after returning from Up North, my dad surprised me with NHL tickets- the Red Wings against the Wild at Little Caesars Arena. In their previous matching, the Wings had gotten absolutely toasted; however, they held their own and pushed the Wild into OT. Unfortunately for Hockeytown’s Pride and Glory, Minnesota was able to capture the victory. The game was nothing short of entertaining though- the fights were top notch, and it was Star Wars Night!

My last day was spent as a “normal” college student. I went to my twin sister’s school, Oakland University, for the day and was surprised at how relaxed student life was there. It seemed like I had all the time and freedom in the world compared to the constant deadlines and commitments here at the academy. Yet, it made me appreciate the discipline that USCGA has taught me. This place is like no other- you better be willing to work if you want to get in. Despite my fun weekend at Oakland University, I was glad to leave and get back to that Coast Guard grind. The end of the school year is in sight!

See ya in April for my Easter Special!

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The Joy of Writing

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Just for Fun, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

In high school, my favorite class was English. It was the one place where I didn’t have to try to wrap my head around derivatives or struggle through stoichiometry. Language Arts was a place I could be free and finally use the creativity that had been suffocated from my heap of STEM-based courses. Each day, I looked forward to stepping into that room and starting our next project. Once I began typing, my fingers refused to stop.

My 9th/10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Stubbs, inspired me all throughout high school. I despised her as a freshman. Essays that were pristine in my eyes would be handed back with a smattering of red ink and corrections. It was frustrating seeing my work torn apart and made me consider giving up one of my biggest passions. However, I now realize that Mrs. Stubbs was critical for a reason- she cared. My teacher, who had a freshman of her own, would sacrifice countless hours to editing the 130 drafts she received each week. Looking back, I can’t believe she had time to sleep- maybe she stuck herself with an IV of caramel cappuccino instead.

This joy for writing culminated on Christmas Day, 2017. It was when I met my pride and joy. After a night of insomnia, I dashed out to join my sisters at the base of our over-decorated tree to open presents. The first gift that caught my eye looked innocent enough. It was innocently wrapped in plain blue paper and was the shape of a microwave. I carefully peeled back the paper to reveal more boring, drab gray. And my holiday dream came true- a brand-new typewriter emerged from the dark-blue paper.

I learned how to use it from my grandma, who took shorthand when she was my age. After lots of practice and dozens of unnecessary ink marks, I (sorta) got the hang of it. Drawing upon this newfound skill, I cleared out our basement storage closet and converted it into my writing domain. A cold, concrete-floored oblong room completed with a plywood table and fold-out chair. It was perfect. I spent many days and nights in my author’s domain, perfecting many works that would never see the light of day.

Here at the Academy, I still write on the side- albeit much less than I did at home. Between school and triathlon and other commitments, I make it a point to find time to write. Whether it be for a short time after class or straight before bed. The versatility of writing is what makes it unique- use it to report on a research topic, encourage someone to “take your side”, or to entertain. And that’s why I love writing so much, and I hope you do too (or at least try to)!

P.S. - I dare you to challenge me at a speed typing competition. The chances are you won’t win!

Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]! I’ll catch ya next month – hopefully after ol’ Punxsutawney sees his shadow!

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Billet Night Excitement

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Elizabeth Carter

I write today from the confines of my room, as a snowstorm closed base! Thankfully this means that there were no classes today, not even the virtual kind. Today has been a well-needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of a typical spring semester. The major difference this spring semester is (and you probably guessed it) billet night! The long-awaited night is less than a week away, and the excitement, anxiety, and energy is tangible within Chase Hall. We are also steadily working through midterms, in the form of tests, papers, presentations, and speeches. I can certainly feel the stress and pressure amounting, as the finish line is just within sight.

Even though it feels like a sprint towards the finish line, my personal running career has come to an end. I made the decision to not compete for Outdoor Track and Field, and really focus on my last few months with friends and academics. The decision was not an easy one to make, as this sport has carried me through the past four years at the Academy. My Mom and Dad both ran for the Coast Guard Academy Cross Country and Track and Field teams, so the conclusion of my career felt more meaningful than I had anticipated. I have truly dreamt of running for CGA since I was about eight years old, when I first visited the Academy with my parents for their class reunion, and ran a lap around the lower field track. My final race was a 5k at the Springfield Indoor Track Invite, and I burst into tears as soon as I crossed the finish line, simply overcome with emotion.

I have a feeling that many more emotional events are about to take place, not only for me, but for my friends and family as graduation steadily approaches. This journey has been challenging, and yet the most rewarding experience of my entire life. And this is just the beginning of it! Next Thursday I will know my new home, and start my own moving process, of which I am all too familiar. My childhood consisted of six moves, and seven houses, so this will be a walk in the park! I won’t get into the specifics of my billet list, as just the thought of it gets my heart racing. I simply know that wherever I go, I will be ecstatic, jumping for joy on that stage.

I plan on concluding my Blog Club journey with this post, and as I sign off for the last time, I hope that everyone who has followed my journey got a little something out of it. If I can be of any help in the future, please do not hesitate to reach out. As much as the Academy has challenged me, I love it for the people and experiences it has brought into my life. Good luck to the Class of 2026 and all those interested in joining the Corps!

MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH

Up North & Tim Horton’s

(Just for Fun, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

After a hard semester, it was time for a break. I changed into my only pair of civies and left USCGA for the Hartford Airport. I spent nine hours in between layovers- not how I wanted to begin my winter leave. But, as the plane dipped under the clouds and revealed the glowing streets of Detroit, all the stress that came with 4/c fall semester disappeared. For only the second time since SWAB Summer, I got to see my parents and head back home. There, I was greeted by a rowdy black furball- otherwise known as my poodle, Oskey. And got to climb under the covers of my bed that (finally) weren’t dark blue. I built some signs in the comfort of our pole barn, rode my bike down the pothole filled back roads, ordered a hot chocolate from Tim Horton’s (Dunkin’s cooler cousin), watched the Red Wings play on the ice, ran a half marathon in northeast Ohio, and reconnected with friends, family, and former teachers. One of my favorite adventures was heading up north to our cabins in the Upper Peninsula. Although we nearly drove down an ORV trail on the way there, the northern snow and seclusion was breathtaking. However, I was most thankful for the opportunity to spend the holidays with my family. They gave me all the confidence and motivation I needed to keep on pushing myself to succeed. And trudge through calculus. My departure from DTW was tough and it wasn’t just because I had to wake up at 3AM to catch the flight. After a hug and a kiss goodbye, I was once again on my own. A difficult pill to swallow, especially after spending over half a month with those I missed the most. Yet, my mood brightened once I got to Baltimore for a layover. I started a mental countdown to spring break and got my priorities straight- my next challenge was waiting for me in Connecticut. And I was ready to conquer it.

Even if it means leaving everything behind once again.

Because every great start must begin with a bitter end.

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