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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.



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.


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.


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


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!


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


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!


Join Me on My 200-Week Adventure

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Jacob Cheeseman

Why do I want to be a cadet blogger? The answer is simple: I want to give back. Even though I am only a 3/c cadet, I want to inspire the next generation of cadets to come behind me. I remember reading through the blog posts when I had just started to be seriously interested in the Academy. Later, I turned to the blogs for advice before AIM and during the application process. Soon, the blogs gave me important motivational tips that I internalized before Swab Summer began. I want to share my cadet experience with others so they can learn from my mistakes and my successes. If I can inspire even one candidate to apply to the Academy, then I have been successful. But if I can inspire candidates to apply, come here, and succeed, then that would be even better.

I hope to share with you what is most important to me at the Academy. Obviously, I will discuss cadet life, including academics, military, and athletic training. In this program, I will be learning how to be a better cadet as I am writing! I also want to share the unique experiences that you can’t get anywhere else, such as meeting high ranking government officials, participating in historic ceremonies, etc. I want to show the human side of the Academy – having fun with my shipmates, growing in my Catholic faith, and becoming a better person! I hope that you can join me on my CGA adventure and learn with me as I progress through my 200-week journey to becoming a Coast Guard Officer – the ultimate goal and motivation for those who walk through the Chase Hall Archway on Day One!

Semper Paratus! Go Bears!


Everything's a Circle

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Malia Haskovec

Something that I hear a lot at the Academy is that the Coast Guard is one giant family. As the smallest branch of the Armed Forces, we must be able to adapt and do more with less. Therefore, in the fleet, there is a high chance you will run into someone that you already know. The same thing happens at the Academy. It is easy to make connections here from the Bears Day program, AIM, STEP, and other Admissions events. There may even be a fellow cadet from your same hometown. That’s one of the major reasons why I chose to come to the Academy – the small, genuine, family-like environment where everyone knows everyone. When researching the Academy, I remember reading cadet blogs on topics like Swab Summer, time management, and Academy clubs. Learning about the bloggers’ experiences through the written word solidified my intention to receive an appointment for the Class of 2021. Now I am a 4/c cadet in the same division as two of the bloggers who impacted my life so greatly. I no longer know them from their profile pictures on a computer screen. Now I know them as real people. It’s truly amazing to see how everything at the Coast Guard Academy comes full circle. My hope as a blogger is to inform prospective cadets about Academy life in hopes of completing many more circles.


High School AIM Experience

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
MegMarie Stanchi

Before I attended AIM, I had only visited the Coast Guard Academy in person once. Now, to some, that may be more than what they experienced, but my point is that the Academy was still such a foreign place to me. I think most people can agree that their first visit to the Academy was very confusing. You don’t know what to think or what to ask because it is all so different. Well, that is why I was nervous going in to AIM; I really wasn’t sure what I was walking in to. I had done my research on AIM and Swab Summer, so I knew what might happen, or what may be done, but I was really scared to see how I would respond to it all. Even though I knew it was only supposed to be a taste of Swab Summer, I wanted to see how I would react because that was going tell me if I could handle attending this school for four years.

So, I just did it. I powered through the week and took all that I could from it. AIM is a program that not everyone gets to attend before Swab Summer, so you must take it as an opportunity to learn and ask questions if you are selected. The AIM program might have changed a little bit, but for me, the first three to four days simulated Swab Summer, in a watered-down version. We saw a lot of the Academy, went to trainings, did some incentive training, cleaned our room, folded our clothes, recited indoc, and squared our meals. It wasn’t until the end that we got to talk to our cadre, and hear from them what being a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy was like. When they talked to us, I soaked it all in. My favorite part about AIM was being able to hear what real cadets struggled with at the Academy, what they learned, what activities they were involved in, and really, how they “survived” the Academy. Hearing them speak made it seem less scary and foreign. I realized that these cadets were people from different backgrounds and different regions of the U.S., and they had made it through. They finished Swab Summer, they completed two academic years, and they stood up in front of me and talked about situations they had been in and how they got through them. As corny as it sounds, I realized they were just people. People transitioning in that weird stage from teenager to young adult.

After hearing what the academics at the Academy was like, after seeing a bit of what Swab Summer demanded, and listening to personal experiences from cadets, something was quite clear to me. I had to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and give this place a try.


We've Got Your Back

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Darden Purrington

Dear Class of 2022,

We’ve got your back.

As Day One approaches, I’m sure many of you are nervous. So was I…so am I.

I know I speak for my class, the great Class of 2020, when I say we are ready.

We are imperfect and human. We will make mistakes, just like our Swabs. We are dedicated to, and proud of, this institution and the Coast Guard that stands behind it. We have trained and waited two long years for this. Cadre Summer, the epitome of cadet training. We are learning, just like 2022, how to be officers in the World’s Best Coast Guard ‒ we are simply two years further down the road.

If there is one thing I want you to understand it is that 2020 is full of people. That may seem silly to many of you now, but come mid-July, you’ll have long forgotten. Every cadre will seem like a god or demon or some mythical creature who subsists on energy drinks and sleepless nights. We won’t seem like people. Some of us may seem like we don’t care about you, or worse, don’t like you. What you won’t see are the conversations with our roommates after you’ve gone to sleep about how we can get you through just another month, or another week, or another day of training. Because you are our swabs.

My class will run you, and drill you, and quiz you until you think there’s nothing left to give ‒ but give more. We will push you; some of you will cry, wake up exhausted, sit bolt upright at the drop of a needle in the middle of the night, and some of you will want to quit ‒ don’t. You have more in you and you are better than that. Stick with it. Give more.

You are our swabs and if one day you wake up and can’t do it for yourself anymore, do it for us. Do it for your shipmates, because they need you more than they will admit, perhaps more than even they know.

You wouldn’t be coming here if you didn’t belong here. We believe in you, all you have to do is prove us right.

Class of 2022, we’ve got your back.

Semper Gumby

(Athletics, Choosing the Academy, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Taylor Rowles

As an applicant for Coast Guard Academy, I dissected, read, and reread the cadet blogs to gain insight into the lifestyle of a cadet. The past cadet bloggers truly made a difference in my interest in the Academy and helped me find my way to studying along the Thames. Now that I am a cadet, I would love to give back to those who are lost in the ongoing college decision process through blogging about my experiences thus far at the Academy.

Over the past year at the Academy I have learned to expect the unexpected because no one day is like the next. We are always adjusting to change much like an officer’s day-to-day lifestyle out in the fleet. Whether it is a pop-up uniform inspection or a drug boat causing us to diverge from coarse, I have learned that you must be “Semper Gumby” as a future officer in the Coast Guard. I would love the opportunity to voice our unique experience to those who one day wishes to serve next to us. As an avid participant in over ten clubs and women’s varsity track and field I will be able to give a wide range of information regarding what happens behind the gates of the USCGA.


Bits and Pieces

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Joshua Roh

It was about sophomore year in high school when I knew that the Academy was where I wanted to be. Coming from a landlocked state in the middle of the Midwest there weren’t all that many people who knew that there was a Coast Guard Academy let alone anything about it, so when I had questions about what I was trying to get myself into no one had any answers. So, naturally I had to turn to the internet and being the mildly obsessive person I am, I went through every single page of the Academy’s website. It took about a week to skim it all but I found the richest resource of information ever, the cadet blogs. To some it seemed like bits and pieces of scattered information and experiences, but having read everything else on the website, I was able to put some of these pieces together and eventually I had a rough idea of what life was like here. There, of course, was some verbiage, jargon, and references only a cadet would ever be able to understand and these added to the excitement of coming here. I looked forward to the day I would be able to understand these references too. These blogs gave me an extra drive to come here. I went to AIM my junior year and having a taste of the Academy and I was sure that this was what I wanted. Throughout the application process and after receiving my appointment I kept reading the blogs trying to find any new information and the more I found, the more excited I was to become a cadet.

I wanted to be able to help others in similar situations so I decided that the first chance I got I would join the Blog Club so that I could add my thoughts and experience to the program that had helped me so much. I’m excited to start my 200-week journey here and I hope share my experience with you all. If you ever have any questions feel free to email me at; I will be happy to answer them and will try to respond quickly.



(Choosing the Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Jasmine Rodriguez

I am 4/c Jasmine Rodriguez. My family followed my father’s Marine Corps career back and forth across the country to both coasts, which exposed me to a multitude of different cultures and lifestyles, all the while maintaining military standards and pride. My patriotism is founded in my parents’ examples of service to country and in my young memories of the impact of 9/11. Mixed with a love for the sea, I looked to service academies for an environment that would advance my education and my personal interests – the Coast Guard Academy was a perfect fit. After four applications, an enlistment in the Coast Guard, and a year preparing at Marion Military Institute through the Academy’s Scholars program, I finally made it. I have taken nearly every opportunity the Coast Guard Academy has to offer, and I want to share these amazing experiences with anyone even slightly considering a military academy. I love hearing others’ stories, and I love to write and share mine.

I strongly believe that there should be more enlisted members coming to the Academy – their experiences in Cape May and in the fleet better prepare them for the challenges of the school year and of the eventual challenges faced by our junior officers in connecting the wardroom to the chief’s mess. Last year, the Scholars program took more enlisted members than usual, but we lost some of our companions along the way. I believe if the Academy were advertised more accurately and efficiently to the enlisted corps that more members would be interested in taking on this great and rewarding challenge. I want to write to inspire, encourage, and persuade. I have attended almost every program CGA offers to civilians of all ages in an effort to network and make myself known. I spent thirteen years of my life wanting the Coast Guard Academy and five earning it. Now I’m here, and I want to share with as many people as possible exactly why it is the best service academy, the best school, and the best Coast Guard in the world.

Find a Group

(Athletics, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Alexis Laskowski

Hey everyone! This year has started off quick. We are now getting to midterms…CRAZINESS. This school year has already been full of activities, school work, and sports. I just wanted to share how important finding a group that you connect with is. For me, that is the men’s rowing team.

When I came to the Academy, I didn’t know what sport I wanted to play. Previously, I played softball for about 10 years of my life, but I did not want to do that anymore. Over Swab Summer I got a concussion from paying intercompany softball, ironically. Going into the school year, my doctor did not want me to play any sports with balls. Luckily enough, the rowing team needed a coxswain and I needed a sport.

Now I have been on the team for a little over a year and I couldn’t be any happier. From planning races, to school work, all the way to just traveling together, I have had a blast with the guys! The team is like a new family to me. If I need anything, I can go to any one of the guys on the team, and they will be there. Last year, if I needed help with school work, anything militarily, or just life advice, there was someone on the team I could ask. Now, I am trying to do the same thing, helping the 4/c on the team. I am excited for what the rest of the season will be like, and my next three years on the team will be like.

One of my number one pieces of advice about coming to the Academy is to find a group of people you can relate to. Find people that you can go to and use their support.


Trying New Things

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Will Landry

So far, almost everything at the Academy seems new. I am constantly learning and there is always a new challenge to face. It is important to take advantage of the new opportunities you are offered because you never know how they might help you. I have never written a blog before, so when I saw the opportunity to be a part of the Blog Club I decided to try it out. I'm not sure what I will write about, but I will most likely begin with writing about my experience as a fourth class and possibly some of the things I learned in the summer. Like I said, I am constantly learning new things so there will probably always be something to write about. I hope that by writing blogs I will be able to provide helpful information for those who might be interested in applying to the Academy or maybe just people who want to see what it is like.


Doing Something Different

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Jacqueline Jones

Unlike a lot of my classmates, the decision to come to the Academy was tough for me. I had applied to about 15 colleges and I narrowed it down to two. One was a small private school in Baltimore, Maryland, only about an hour away from home. The other was the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, which is about six hours away. To my friends, the decision seemed easy; they expected me to go to the school near home. However, I wanted to do something different and try something new. I wanted to experience life and help others while doing it, and the Coast Guard Academy has not let me down yet.

I decided to become a cadet with the help of mentors, my Admissions Officer, and the cadet blogs. As a senior in high school with a decision to make, I became an avid reader of the cadet blogs. It was interesting to read how cadets felt about the Academy, their struggles, their likes and dislikes, and their many adventures as a cadet.

I am beginning my sophomore year at the Academy, and I can tell you that freshman year was hard and Swab Summer was even harder, but I do not regret my decision to come to the Academy and I cannot wait to tell you guys about the people I have met and the experiences I have had. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Thank you for reading!


Why Blogs?

(Choosing the Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Katherine Doty

The Cadet Blog program was very influential in my decision to both apply to the Coast Guard Academy, and my decision to accept my appointment. Because very few people from my high school have ever attended a service academy, I had little exposure to the Coast Guard or service academies in general. Through the Cadet Blog program, I gained insight into how cadets felt about their experience here and life at the Academy.

That being said, I love it here so far! Yes, Swab Summer was challenging, but I learned so much about myself and how important teamwork is. Nothing over Swab Summer was impossible; rather, you just needed to put in 100% effort 100% of the time. I fell short and failed many times, but I learned how to overcome my failures and grow as both a person and a leader. The transition from Swab Summer to the academic year has been interesting, to say the least. I have enjoyed my classes so far and have gotten used to the workload. I know that there will be many challenges in the future, but they will shape me into a better leader and ultimately an officer in the United States Coast Guard. With my friends by my side, and a positive attitude, I am confident that fourth class year will be amazing!

As always, feel free to email me and GO BEARS!!


Homework, Food, Study…Now Blogging?

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Stephanie Burckhard

In the midst of the chaos of memorizing meals to cramming for that Chemistry test, it’s hard to find time to sit down and write. Why am I sitting here and writing? Well, it was actually because of these blogs that I wanted to write. I remember reading the blogs on the CGA website and was trying to absorb everything I could about school life here and of course, Swab Summer. I’ve never blogged before, but I’m hoping to give my readers some insight into what life is like here at the Academy.

It was freshman year of high school and I knew that I wanted to serve my country. I began looking into ROTC and a family friend suggested the Coast Guard Academy. After going to Bears Day in 2015, I realized that the people at the Academy were just like me – strong in the desire to serve our country and save those in need. I see this every day at the Academy through the leadership of the upper-class and from the stories of the instructors. I hope this blog will help answer any questions and possibly give some good advice. Email me with any questions at


AIM is a Taste of Swab Summer

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

When I was a junior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I mean, I was taught from a young age that I should aspire to go to college, but I had no idea what size or where in the country or what majors should be offered or anything about what I wanted that college to be like. I had a few family members in the military, though, and, although they were all in different branches, they always raved about the Coast Guard – a service that I had never even heard of at the time. Naturally, I started looking into it and realized there was an Academy program that summer, so I applied just to give it a shot and see if all the good things everyone was telling me about were true.

When I arrived in Connecticut to participate in AIM, I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, I was given next to zero time to think about this, as the cadre immediately took charge and told us exactly what to do, what to wear, when to eat, etc. See, AIM is a taste of Swab Summer, the seven-week program you embark on to begin your USCGA experience upon admission… sort of like boot camp. In the week-long AIM program, the first few days were very physically intense: we ran everywhere, did push-ups, learned indoc (random facts about the Coast Guard), and tried to absorb as much information as possible. It truly was a culture shock. The last couple of days are more relaxed, as the focus is switched to more engineering-focused events, such as building a floating boat out of nominal materials.

Overall, the AIM experience was eye-opening. Looking back on it as a current 2/c cadet (junior), I can honestly say that I learned a lot, and getting that first taste of the Academy was very rewarding to me. It helped me decide that the Coast Guard is what I want to do with my life – not because of all of the push-ups and running around, and not even because of the friends I made from my AIM company that I still remain in contact with today, but because of the ability to experience the infectious culture of people helping people that our service is committed to.


Summer Ocean Racing and Washington Adventures

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Amy Chamberlin

Offshore sailors have the option to apply for a seven-week intense summer ocean racing (SOR) program during Phase I of the summer. I chose to apply after learning about all the leadership opportunities that are associated with the program. My onboard collateral duty was commissary! The big events that we participated in were SUNY Maritime Safety at Sea Seminar; a trip to Annapolis; the Maryland to Newport race, and Block Island Race Week. In the beginning of the program, everyone wasn’t very close, but when the program ended, no one wanted to leave. This is similar to the fleet because the Coast Guard is a family and is looking out for you.

After SOR, I went to United States Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment for four weeks to work alongside the enlisted in Ilwaco, Washington. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before going this summer. Not only was the station well set up and responsive to many cases, but the environment surrounding Cape D was incredible. Another cadet was at the station with me, and we went hiking (in the Ape Caves of Mount St. Helens!), shopping, and exploring around the neighboring towns. Sector Columbia River hosted multiple cadets in the area and offered us a tour of the sector, USCGC Fur and USCGC Alert. We also got to fly in a helicopter one of the last days we were at the station. One of my most memorable experiences, but not my favorite, was getting pepper sprayed. I never want to go through that pain again…

After my time at Station Cape Disappointment, I went on three weeks of leave, which included spending time with my family and high school friends, flying back out to the west coast to visit my uncles, and going to Boston!

All in all, this summer was the best summer I have ever had. The academic year at the Coast Guard Academy is very intense and stressful, but the summer training programs make everything worth it!

If you have any questions about the summer, or Academy life, please feel free to email me at Have a great day!


The First Full Month

(Athletics, Just for Fun, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

September started off with a long weekend for Labor Day (yay!). I took the train to Washington D.C. to spend some time with my grandparents. We toured the Capitol building and all the big monuments and memorials as well as Arlington National Cemetery. It was a great way to spend the first long weekend of my 3/c year. Upon returning to school on Monday, I felt as though I never left and began preparing for the short, but busy, week ahead. We had a uniform inspection, an unexpected power outage due to a storm, and our first regimental drill of the season.

The next two weekends, I played a couple of rugby matches, one against the University of New Haven and one against the University of Vermont. On the 18th after morning the colors, there was a small service honoring the 70th birthday of the Air Force that I attended. Before I knew it Parents’ Weekend had arrived. I had a non-traditional Parents’ Weekend this year. It overlapped with my dad’s 30th reunion at West Point so I could join my family in New York for that instead of them coming to visit me here.

The temperature is finally dropping and fall is officially here! Go Bears!


Rolling on the River

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

The academic year is rolling along here on the Thames in New London and I could not be more excited to be a third class cadet. It was great to return to the Academy from leave and see my friends and teammates, some of whom I had not seen in over three months. Last time my class walked the halls together we wore green shields on our uniforms and bore no stripe on our shoulder boards. Now we have returned wearing red shields and having earned a single diagonal stripe. This year will bring so many new adventures, new lessons, new friends, and perhaps most importantly the privilege to look at my food again. Third class year is a transition out of followership and into role-modeling. For my class, we will be setting an example for fourth class, holding ourselves accountable, and finishing out our core classes.

At the end of fourth class year, cadets are shuffled and moved to new companies where they will remain for the duration of the next three years. I was an Alfa fourth class and was placed in Charlie for the next three. I am interested to learn about Charlie’s role in the corps and what I can do to be a part of it as a third class. I am also eager to help fourth class get through this year because although it is tough, it is worth it, but that can be difficult to see while you’re experiencing it.

I am also excited to start taking major-specific classes and really begin to understand the Operations Research major. This semester I am taking two math classes, a computer language class, American Government, Rescue Swimming, Organizational Behavior and Leadership, and Spanish. I am really looking forward to the computer language and math classes. Outside of class I am part of the women’s rugby team this season as well as Cadets Against Sexual Assault, Spectrum Council and Women’s Leadership Council.

Go 3/c year and Go Bears!


More Opportunities Than Time

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Delaney Swift

Hey y’all! I’m Delaney Swift, a third class cadet here at the good old CGA. I was born and raised in Portales, New Mexico – a little rural land-locked farm and ranch town. Coming to Connecticut has been a bit of a shock to the system for me. I traded soil, sun, big skies, and the high plains for beautiful trees and a river in my back yard. That definitely has its perks! Though my heart will always be in New Mexico, it doesn’t have a whole lot of coast to guard.

I have two younger brothers, Jack and Noah, who (despite always being up to no good) are pretty much my best friends. I’m a very family-centric person, which I thought would be a challenge for me in coming to the Academy, but it turns out that my family just got bigger – it now includes a whole bunch of cadets! As a fourth class, my main hobbies were keeping my eyes in the boat, bussing around campus, and squaring my corners, but really, the highlights of my day are all the extracurricular activities offered here. As a third class, life has gotten so much better; I now spend my time working in the major I love, seeing my friends at Glee, theater, and ballroom dance, and looking out for 4/c! Growing up in a small town meant that things to do were always hard to come by, but there’s never a dull moment at the Academy – there’s always shenanigans of some sort afoot, just like home! You can never tell what the future will bring at this school – you’ll literally have more opportunities than you have time for. One thing I can tell, though, is that my final two years here are going to be the adventure of a lifetime. If you ever have any questions, or just want to talk to a cadet, shoot me an email at


Going Home

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Delaney Swift

When going home, I always rediscover my sense of heart and adventure. It’s only on the plane, taking off from wherever I ended up, that I really feel like I can blend my roots and my current positions. It’s always so funny to me because I am alone on these flights, but I feel closer to my friends and family in these moments, two worlds that have rarely collided. Trying to explain the place that shaped me, the people that comprise my soul, is always impossible, but really deeply satisfying to try to do. There are so many different parts of telling people who you are, or where you’re from, which is for me one and the same. How can I explain, while on the ground in New London, what the wind sounds like as it echoes through 1,000 miles unimpeded, 6 miles of it straight skyward. You can get scientific, and say that it creates resonant frequencies that surround everything you are when you drive out into the middle of nowhere to listen, or you can get historic, and tell people that the people, ancestral or just stubborn, that eked and etched out their existence in the hard caliche, called it la llorona, Spanish for “the weeping woman,” or just sang with it and prayed for their crops, but it doesn’t surmise all the things that it means. How do I tell octogenarians, who spent their entire lives within 20 miles of the small-town hospital we were both born in, what sitting on the masts of Eagle watching whales as the sun rises feels like? I can’t describe the space of New Mexico, and I can’t put the blending of all the experiences and cultures and people into a definition, unless I’m a mile high, staring down on all that our country is. Can anyone?

The people who will become closest to you in the Academy, and in all of life, are the people who don’t necessarily understand but don’t need to. My mom told me once that the reason she loves my dad so much is because he doesn’t understand why she thinks the way she does, but he loves all of her thoughts anyway. I may never understand how exhilarating it is to play pranks with my friends at a civilian engineering school, how cool it is run my own DJ business, what it’s like to compete in Northern Virginia school systems, how it feels to be part of a swimming family on the shores of Lake Michigan, or what Chicago feels like at Christmas, but I can’t help but to picture the lifetimes that crafted the people I love the most. The people who are worth going back home for, and the people who give you courage to leave it again, are the people who love all the places and faces that you describe imperfectly to them because you are the product of those things, and they love you. I’m so glad that, for all the hardship the Academy has given me, it’s added to who I am. It’s given me experiences that one day I will describe to someone else who can’t understand, and it’s given me people to share everything we are (and everything we will be) with. It’s given me the metaphorical chance to look down from a mile high on home, on who I am, and to get to be there as others do the same.


3/c Summer: Three Weeks of Leave

(Just for Fun, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Anthony Turner

It’s been a while everyone so let me break down my leave experience for 3/c summer. By far it was a great way to end my summer in preparation for the school year. It was three weeks of continuous action. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

The first few days were hectic. I had driving school my first few days, then on the first Monday of leave, my summer took off. My friends and I planned a trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was convenient that my friend lives right in the area. We were there from Monday afternoon until Thursday morning.

Tuesday was the day we took over Busch gardens; it was a blast. We also managed to get into the park for free. That’s a wonderful thing about the Academy; it serves as a gateway to make lifelong memories with your friends, at an affordable price. After going on all the roller coasters, we threw a mini dance party at the end. It was a great end to the day.

Wednesday was a much-needed relaxing day. We walked along the Virginia Beach boardwalk and then just hung out at a local mall. Another reward of going to the Academy is that you can reflect on moments like this and truly appreciate how close you can get to others. And when you have an opportunity to relax after a nonstop 11-week summer, it’s amazing.

Thursday was a long day. I drove from the beach back to D.C. then I linked up with my high school friends in the city. We spent the whole day hiking on Theodore Roosevelt Island, and just explored the Georgetown neighborhood. It was so nice to be able to fully reconnect with my homies. Keep in mind, this was the first few days of leave.

Besides hanging out with friends, I attended three different concerts during my remaining two weeks of leave. To all my new age hip-hop fans, I saw Logic, J. Cole, Playboi Carti, and Joey Bada$$. The whole atmosphere of each concert was just phenomenal. Yes, I was lucky to see most of my favorite artists in such a short time span.

While leave seems like a time to kick back and have a whole lot of stupid fun, it is also about the business. My parents made me finish driving school. I know it’s funny, I’m a 3/c now and still do not have my license. Stuff happens, ok?

Summer leave is such a good time to go out and just have a large amount of fun. There is no better feeling than hanging out with your friends under the beating sun. Even after 4/c year and the 11-week 3/c summer training period, those three weeks of leave will seem like a blessing, so enjoy every second of it. Until next time, I’m out!


An Amazing 3/c Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020, Eagle) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

This summer was one for the books. The day after I finished my spring finals, I boarded USCGC Eagle for a five-week cruise with about 140 of my classmates. We started just down the street in downtown New London and had port calls in Hamilton, Bermuda; Port Canaveral, Florida; and Norfolk, Virginia. During the cruise, cadets stood watches and got qualified for Helm and Lookout and Auxiliary Engineer and after daily trainings we took a test to become Basic Damage Control qualified. Eagle was a unique experience that I will never forget and that I can share with all Academy graduates. I learned so much about being underway, but more importantly I grew closer to my classmates.

In Norfolk, I left the Eagle for a six-week stint at Coast Guard Station Fort Lauderdale with one other cadet. There I learned to stand communications watches from non-rates and petty officers and in about two weeks’ time I sat for a board and earned a qualification for Communications Watchstanding. This enabled me to be put in the watchstanding rotation thus enabling them to use their skills to participate in maintenance and trainings. In the process, I got real experience manning radios and interacting with Sector. I also completed the bulk of the boat crew member PQS and enjoyed time underway with the crew conducting helicopter operations and patrols. In the last few days at Station Fort Lauderdale (STAFTL), I had the opportunity to be pepper sprayed. Although it was not the highlight of my summer, I am glad to have completed it at an early stage in my Coast Guard career. With the help of STAFTL command, I had the opportunity to take part in a helicopter flight from Coast Guard Air Station Miami and participate in a dive boat inspection at Coast Guard Station Lake Worth. Both experiences allowed me to see possible career paths come graduation. My time at STAFTL was special because the command and crew took time to train me and to help me understand their missions.

After leaving Florida, I headed home to Dallas for three weeks of summer leave. I drove to Chattanooga with my younger sister to watch her play in nationals, visited my cousins in Colorado, and spent time with my family and friends at home. I will carry my experiences and lessons from Eagle and STAFTL for the rest of my career. I could not have asked for a better summer or better people to meet and work with. The Coast Guard is truly amazing.


Alpha Lambda Delta

(Academics, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Amy Chamberlin

On Tuesday 24OCT2017, fifty members of the Class of 2020 were inducted into the Academy’s chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD). To be an inductee, a cadet has to have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5. It was an extraordinary night, with Lieutenant Melissa K. McCafferty (a former blogger) as the keynote speaker. Her words of wisdom about striving to put others before yourself, working hard toward your dreams, and staying humble throughout your journey touched everyone. Dr. Alina Zapalska, the advisor of ALD, commented that there were more inductees in the Class of 2020 than usual, which she was very excited about. Being a part of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society is just the beginning of a great academic career at the Coast Guard Academy. As LT McCafferty told the inductees and special guests, there are scholarship opportunities for high-standing cadets, such as the Fulbright Scholarship, Truman Scholarship, and Rhodes Scholarship. LT McCafferty was awarded the Truman Scholarship in 2011, and is currently on the Board of Directors for the Truman Scholars Association. My favorite part of the night was when all of the inductees got their certificate and stood reciting the pledge of the Alpha Lambda Delta society with a “flame of knowledge” (a lit candlestick)!

If you have any questions about Alpha Lambda Delta or anything regarding cadet life, please email me at


Dear Class of 2021 Parent

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

June 26, 2017 will now always mark a special place in your heart. Maybe not quite like a birthday or anniversary, but when you see it on the calendar it will make you smile, at least for a second. It was the day your child made the biggest commitment thus far in their lives, and whether you realize it now or later, you made a commitment too, and you became part of the Coast Guard family. Swab Summer is tough, but your child will make it through and then fourth class year will be full of ups and downs, learning experiences, and most importantly lifelong bonds and memories. Before you know it, your swab turned third class cadet will be sitting here writing a letter to the Class of 2022 parents, wondering where their first year of college went and how their second summer is almost complete. Between now and then, there will be good days and bad days, days they are sure they will make it and days they are unsure how they made it this far. When I look back on my fourth class year, I struggle to remember the negative events, and although it may not seem like it, in a year your 3/c cadet will do the same. They will think back to Day One, killing a calculus test, a weekend full of adventures with friends in NYC, coming home for the first time, their first practice or game as a collegiate athlete, passing boards, and earning carry-on and everything else will fade away.

Fourth class year is hectic, even on a slow day. Bear (no pun intended) with your cadet as they figure out their schedule and when they have time to talk and when they can’t. If they say they need to write a paper, or they need to prep a uniform, they have a three hour practice, they need to wax their floor, or attend CAAP, I promise those are all things that need to be done, sometimes all in one day after attending a full day of classes. Just tell them to breathe and that when all those things are complete you will still be around. If they mention trying a new sport or joining a club, encourage them, even if you don’t know anything about it, because distractions from Academy life are key to survival. Also, encourage them to take adventures on long weekends; it will give them something to look forward to. Tell them to go to NYC or Boston, if nothing else it is worth it to be able to wear civilian clothes and feel like a person instead of a cadet, even if it is just for three days.

Finally, as a cadet there is only so much I can say about being the parent of a cadet, so my own parents would tell you that the Academy experience in general, and fourth class year in particular, is your child’s experience. Your son or daughter, prior to Day One, probably did not fail at much, so it will be difficult to listen to their struggles—and they will struggle, get knocked down, fail, be challenged and pushed—perhaps to points they did not know they had. Despite the temptation, allow them to tackle this challenge on their own terms. Support them on this journey, but always know that you cannot take the journey for them. Remind them to laugh—to never lose their sense of humor. Above all, be proud of the fact that your son or daughter has answered the call to service; raised their right hand and taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Welcome to your new family as the parents of USCGA cadets.

Go Bears!


And the School Year Goes Rolling Along

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Darden Purrington

The title works best if you imagine it being sung to the tune of the “The Army Song.” That’s what I’m doing anyway and it seems to be working for me!

This year has been nuts. I still get more sleep than I got in high school but on the flip side, I’m doing more with the time I’m awake than I used to. From running around and making an effort to do the stupid stuff well to sailing to glee to academics and to all the other little things – or perhaps big things – like duty, trainings, physical therapy, set design, and learning indoc, I can honestly say I don’t think I fit this much stuff into a day in high school on a regular basis. Sure, there were a few weeks here and there that were just as hectic, if not more so, but it they were not like that for months on end. They are here. But a lot of you probably already know that, particularly if you have read any of the blogs of the upper-classmen. Time is precious here.

And it flies. Holy cow, its October, October 12th at that. What is this madness?!?! Some people here really like the phrase “the days are long and the weeks are short,” but personally, I prefer, “the days are short and the weeks are short.” It just seems more fitting to me. Every morning I get up, do clocks, go to formation, go to breakfast, take out trash, go to class, go to clocks, go to formation, go to lunch, go to class, go to sailing, sometimes go to glee or another training or lecture, do homework, go to bed, repeat. By the time I remember to blink it’s time to go back to sleep again; kinda crazy when you think about it.

Speaking of time flying, I should go before it gets away from me and is an unfortunate hour of the morning.

As always, email me if you have any questions about our nation’s best service academy or if you just want to talk to a cadet and see what we’re like. We don’t bite unless provoked! ;)

Very Respectfully,

4/c Darden Purrington


Advice for 2021 and 2022

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Darden Purrington

Wow. It’s been too long since I sat down and blogged. Life here really flies by.

Cadet for a Day season is upon us again! (This is a program that invites prospective cadets to tour the Academy with a cadet for an entire day in order to see what USCGA is like before coming here.) Seeing all these young men and women has made me think about how useful I found the blogs when I was in high school, which reminded me I should blog, which made me think of a few things I have to pass on to all ye prospective cadets.

Class of 2021

  • It’s gonna be hard. It’s different as your support system is ripped out from under you, everything is new and exciting and kind of frightening and you can’t even look around. It’s worth it and it will get better. Swab Summer feels like an eternity but try to remember what a small portion of the Academy experience it is. You will wake up some mornings and want to leave. Don’t. You made it in and you’re tough enough to handle this place.
  • You may not see it but your cadre cares. You matter to them. They love their jobs passionately and training you is their job. They will not baby you and they will not make it easy, but they will be rooting for you even when it seems like they’re not. 2019 is full of some of the most awesome, dedicated people who cannot wait to make you all great shipmates.
  • Do your job. There will be mornings, even during the school year, that you’ll be so tired you won’t want to get out of bed or be able to remember how excited you were to get to come here. It sucks. Get up anyway, square your corners, do your job and do it with as much fake enthusiasm as you can. Fake it until you become it; I’ve found that if you do that, usually, by the end of breakfast, you feel eight million times better. If you can pretend you’re doing great, even when you feel awful, more likely than not some upperclassman will say or do something that makes you feel less like dirt. From personal experience, I can tell you that without fail, every time I am struggling and nothing seems to be going right, someone from my company does or says something – and it could be as small as greeting me by name in the passageway – that helps turn my day around. Make it easy for your shipmates to do this for you; do your job and fake it ‘til you become it.
  • Start getting ready physically for Swab Summer and have fun with your family and friends. I think particularly for those of us who do not live in New England, the last time you will ever get to spend a good amount of quality time with your friends and family is before you report in. Hang out with your friends, but also hang out with your family. I know it may not seem like the coolest thing to do, but especially if you have siblings at home, this is the last time you may ever get to spend a lot of time with them and likely the last few months you’ll ever live together. Go see a few movies together, go to the beach (when it gets warmer!), or an amusement park, or see a concert. Make some good memories and take some pictures while you’re doing so.

Class of 2022 (AIMsters)

  • Get to know your cadre. They’re scary. I was an AIMster too, trust me, I know. I was terrified of my AIM cadre, but it’s worth getting to know them and staying connected with them. This year, I was lucky enough to be in the same company I was in for AIM. Last semester, my division officer was my AIM division officer. I was fortunate that he remembered me because I didn’t make any effort to stay in contact with him or any of my other AIM cadre. I wish I had. They’re awesome people and they were rooting for me all the way. My fall division officer is easily one of best leaders I have ever had the pleasure of working for and he will be an amazing officer come May. I got lucky being in his division as well as being in Bravo for AIM and 4/c year because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to know the amazing firsties who were my AIM cadre. Don’t leave that to chance like I did, stay connected with them after AIM.

Anyway, hope you guys found something useful that you could take away from this post. As always, feel free to email me with any questions!

Very Respectfully,

4/c Darden Purrington


Coast Guard Family

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Matthew Kim

You’ve probably heard of the phrase “Coast Guard Family” once or twice already. When I was applying in high school, I never truly understood it, perhaps because it just sounded a little too cheesy or simply because I was not part of it, yet.

Fast forward a couple months (past Swab Summer!) and here I am as a cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy. Surprisingly, this once cheesy phrase has slowly become a reality. The family-like environment is truly strange and magical. Being the small service the Coast Guard is, there are just about 1,000 cadets here, in comparison to the 4,000 at the other service academies. That being said, I see and talk to the same wonderful people at all our daily morning and afternoon formations, which have become an amazing routine – and I absolutely love it!

Cadets who were once strangers, instantly become like family members. These unique relationships help keep me accountable and in check with the high standards that I am to uphold, here at the Academy. These people motivate me and offer great advice, just as a “real” family would.

I’ve felt the same family-like experience outside of the Academy as well. Being from California, my chances of visiting home are slim because it is so far away. Thus, when we were awarded with our first long weekend since had Swab Summer ended, I had nowhere to go. Fortunately for me, however, many of whom I consider family members offered the hospitality of their homes for me to relax in after the grueling seven weeks. Through these great people, I have made incredible memories and have had the opportunities to visit NYC, Boston, Virginia, D.C., and the list goes on and on. I never imagined visiting Times Square or the Smithsonian museums, and, of course, these memories wouldn’t have been made possible without my Coast Guard family.

Make no mistake; this Coast Guard family also applies to the other side of the nation. My mother who works at Long Beach, California is constantly making new friends with the Coast Guardsmen stationed at Long Beach. When they mention that they are in the service, she mentions that I am currently a cadet at the Academy and, instantly, a stronger relationship is built. She calls me often saying she loves this Coast Guard family culture, a new idea within our family.

I am forever thankful for the family environment within the Coast Guard!


A New Adventure!

(Athletics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

My name is 4/c Francesca Farlow from Dallas, Texas! After completing Swab Summer, my shipmates and I became members of Alfa Company where we have continued to push through the beginning of 4/c year together.

I think the cadet blog program is a great opportunity for prospective cadets, parents, and friends to get a glimpse of what cadet life is really like. As a prospective cadet I was constantly checking the USCGA website for updated blogs; I loved them. In fact, I always wondered if I would have the opportunity to become a cadet blogger when I got to USCGA, and here I am. Other reasons I wanted to become a cadet blogger are that I love the Academy and I want to share my experiences here with anyone who is curious about attending. Finally, I have heard how tough life here can get and I hope that writing periodic blog entries will help remind me why I came to the Academy and encourage me to enjoy my time here as much as possible.

As a blogger, I hope to give insight on my involvement with the softball team and Cadet Activities Council. I also hope to share any general information I learn about the Coast Guard. Being from North Texas I did not know too much about the service before arriving on R-Day, and the more I learn, the more I love it. I am truly excited to be a cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy and cannot wait to share my experiences!

Feel free to email me at any time:


A Whole Semester

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

I can’t believe it has been a whole semester since the end of Swab Summer and now I sit anxiously waiting to start my second semester with new classes and new challenges. Now that my classmates and I have figured out how to be fourth class, we must start thinking about passing boards and becoming third class. We will also find out where our summer assignments will be and what company we will be moved to for the remainder of our cadet careers. This semester will bring a new set of challenges, but in the end rewards, and together as a class we will make it.

On a side note, being from Texas I have seen very little snow in my life and the first weekend back from winter leave we got almost 6 inches of snow and it was one of the craziest things I have ever experienced. The last time I had seen snow was when I visited the Academy as a senior in high school almost a year ago, and decided to make this place my home for the next four years. With first semester and Swab Summer behind me, I know I made the right choice. I really struggled to make a decision on where to attend college and after returning from winter leave and gearing up for second semester, I could not be happier with my decision.

Go Bears!


Hump Week

(Academics, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Anthony Turner

Midterms! This past week marks the halfway point of the first semester. Nine weeks of stress, lack of sleep, and late night group study sessions has finally ended, only to lead into another nine weeks of the exact same thing. These nine weeks have been a rough transition from high school. The ability to manage sports with classes, and military obligations, while keeping up your grades is a challenge. One thing that helped me get through the first part of this semester, would be the 4-5-2 class periods. These classes allowed me to effectively plan my obligations and assignments for the upcoming week, and while it may sound simple, it’s extremely helpful. When it comes to getting work done, you need to be able to find those small breaks that you have and use them effectively. Thus, you save so much more time at night, allowing you to do other activities such as going to bed early!

In terms of the grading process, the first part of the semester is almost completely homework. You won’t believe the amount of homework that you have. I remember my senior year, I had eight classes and I could get my homework done in a few hours. Now, I have 4 classes and depending on the number of military obligations I have, it can take all night. While it may sound rough, don’t worry it pays off in the end. I told my division head about my progress, and she advised me to push a little harder in the latter half of this semester, and I’ll have a gold star. Now, the latter half of this semester is going to be a little harder. The first half was plagued with homework, and now the latter half is plagued with exams. No worries though, it’s still going to be a good semester!

Until the next scheduled programming.


Anthony Turner


How Much This Place Has Changed Me

(Athletics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020, Engineering) Permanent link
Clara Beckert

Recently, the 4th class at the Academy, myself included, experienced an annual tradition called 101st night, where we become ‘swabs’ again for a few hours and it’s mainly compromised of a lot of yelling and a few push-ups. However, it was a sharp contrast to Swab Summer, when I felt like I drifted through the days terrified of everyone. This time I knew my cadre, and it was almost fun to get yelled at by them. As the school year continues, I realize how much this place has changed me. This time last year, I thought I had my entire life plan figured out, but after a tumultuous few months, I’ve changed my major, began a new sport, and found some new friends that I consider family at this point. I guess it’s all just part of the Academy experience though, discovering what you’re actually good at.

This fall, I started as a coxswain for the crew team, which if you’ve met me makes a lot of sense considering my size and love of being in charge. I’ve found it presents a unique set of challenges, as I never realized how difficult it truly was to be in charge of a boat with up to eight girls, and controlling everything that happens during a race. It’s a pretty good opportunity to develop some leadership skills that will come in handy in my future career.

I switched my major to Electrical Engineering fairly recently, figuring well, if I am going to be having a difficult next few years, may as well go for the major that I know will challenge and interest me in turn. So, in conclusion, the year is going pretty smoothly, just studying for boards and dreaming of carry-on at this point. And as always, if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email at


Thinking About How Far We Have Come

(Choosing the Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2020, Engineering) Permanent link
Amy Chamberlin

Hello future cadets! My name is Amy Chamberlin and I am from Wakefield, Rhode Island. I love to sail, hike, go on adventures, and hang out with my family and friends. I love dogs and have a Bichon Frise, named Alice. Attending a small college with engineering were two major focuses of mine. I knew that the Academy was right for me because I wanted to be challenged, close to home, and in a close-knit environment.

During the short time here at the Academy, I have learned much more about myself than I would have at any other school. Swab Summer was mentally and physically challenging for me, but when it was all over, I looked around at all of my shipmates, thinking about how far we all have come. The academic year has a very different “feel” to it, but in its own ways, it is still very demanding.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Have a great day!


Passing on the Influence

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Matthew Kim

The AIM program had just ended and I was on my way back home to California. This was the summer of 2015. I was absolutely hooked on the Academy. Although it was my first time visiting the Academy and, at that, only spending a week there, I still felt as though I could call it my home.

Once I got home, I did some exploring on the Coast Guard Academy website. I pressed on every tab and on every link. Eventually, I stumbled upon what I thought was the coolest thing on the website – cadet blogs. That’s when I read every blog by every blogger. From reading about what the 4/c cadets did to what the 1/c cadets did, I was excited. Everyone seemed to have a natural, honest view of the Academy and reading about what they have accomplished while in the Coast Guard was motivating. The most inspiring bloggers, though, were those who have started their 4/c year and have continuously updated their blogs throughout their Academy career. It was a strange feeling for me, the reader. Although I have never met the person, I felt as though I was growing with them. I was struggling with them as they described the tough environment at the Academy. I was in awe of them when they were describing what different experiences they had at Coast Guard sectors and on cutters over the summer. I had so much fun reading these blogs because they pushed me to work harder. They gave me hope that one day I would be able to attend one of America’s finest military institutions. That’s the kind of influence that I would like to pass on.

The cadet blogs have inspired me and now that I have made it to 4/c year, it is time for me to pass on that same inspiration to others across the nation. I hope that through my blogs, prospective cadets will be motivated to work their hardest and remain concentrated on one day becoming a cadet at the United States Coast Guard Academy.


The Biggest Adventure of My Life

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Clara Beckert

My parents have always referred to me as the brave one in the family, the one who was willing to move to a tiny country in South America for a year, and now I am the one who is attending a military academy. I, however, don’t feel I am brave; in my mind, I just was seeking an adventure and some way to make a positive difference in this world. That is what attending the Academy is about; it’s preparing me to someday make that difference. It’s not easy being here, by any means, and trust me that you have to want it. You need to find the motivation that helps you get through Swab Summer and the academics that come after.

That being said, I honestly love it here. While only having been here a few months, I truly feel that I have had so many amazing experiences, and it is my happiness being here that I want to convey through this blog.

I took a year off before coming here and spent it living in a small town in Uruguay as an exchange student. Taking that year off, I feel, truly helped me become ready for college and taught me how to fend for myself when I didn’t have anyone else to support me. It was also the greatest year of my life, and if you are interested in taking a gap/exchange year, I fully recommend it. Second to choosing to come here, spending a year in Uruguay was the best decision of my life.

Well, if you have any questions about the Academy, Swab Summer, or just my life in general, feel free to shoot me an email at and I will be glad to respond to you!


The Journey of Boards

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

Biggest news to date: I passed boards during the week of February 17th! Now, if you understand what this statement means, then feel free to stop reading here. For those that do not understand, let us venture on a little journey together.

It all started on R-Day; the day my life changed forever. My shipmates of the Class of 2019 reported to the Academy on June 29, 2015 and immediately got screamed at. We ran around sweating for a few hours, saw our parents for five minutes, and then returned to the grind for the rest of the summer. (Side note: I never fully understood why they let us see our parents after a few hours of running around on that first date. It’s like dangling a piece of bacon in front of a newly “discovered” vegetarian. The only plausible reason it would serve is to weed out the people who want to go home right then and there… but still.) Anyway, one of the best parts of R-Day, and even Swab Summer as a whole, is a little something the cadre call “indoc.” Sounds fun, right? WRONG. For the life of me, I cannot do indoc. What the heck is this demon, you ask? Well, my friends, it is short for “indoctrination,” which is a big, fancy word for random facts about the Coast Guard that some higher-up person thought we should all know. Some of these things are downright insane – like the 250-word response that is proper to answer the question “what time is it?” or the one that talks about a “cow.” Needless to say, I found no point in learning indoc. I would literally rather push deck (do push-ups) for hours on end instead of knowing the length, beam, draft, and displacement of Healy.

This mentality worked over Swab Summer because we pushed deck all the time anyway. But, then the school year rolled around, midterms came, the second semester started, and there I was. Little 4/c Sharp in complete denial of all things indoc. Still. It hit me the day before my first board that this was, like, an actual thing. You see, in order to advance a rank (to go from 4/c to 3/c) everyone must pass boards. When our whole class passes boards, we can get social media back, so the stakes are fairly high. I really did not want to be the last one in my class to pass because I hate holding back my shipmates. But, there was only so much indoc I could cram into my head within a 24-hour period. So I studied. Hard. And, with the help of a few people, I somehow managed to get a 6/10. You need at least an 8, however. After that first board, I accepted the fact that I would probably pass last in my class. But I was not about to give up.

Over the course of the next week, I again did not study that much. I focused on my schoolwork until two days before my next exam – just to be clear, you can take one board per week until you end up passing, and the stakes get higher each week you do not pass. By the third time you do not pass, you get placed on restriction and have to take the board with your company’s guidon (2/c who is in charge of the 4/c of an individual company). I was getting nervous and really wanted to pass this time to avoid the stress of being possibly placed on restriction. Again, I learned the course of USCG history in about two hours thanks to a shipmate who quizzed me the night of my board.

Then, that fateful night came about. I was signed up to go in the last timeslot, so I was sitting around and waiting in my SDB uniform for an hour before I got to take my board. Over that hour, I remember psyching myself out. Completely. For some reason, in my head, I told myself “Okay, Kirsten. This isn’t so big of a deal. What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t pass this board tonight, okay. You don’t pass board the next week, alright. Your class is waiting for you to pass boards so that they can get social media. You never end up passing boards, so your class has to square meals even as 3/c. All through 3/c year you take boards and never pass. You make it up to graduation, still squaring away everything, and everyone underneath you has to square too because nobody is there to give them direction because you didn’t pass boards. You are standing up there on graduation day accepting your diploma while still squaring. You will be squaring as an ensign, and they will have no choice but to kick you out of the Guard because who can run a ship while squaring. Nobody will be able to take you seriously. This is the beginning of the end. Right here, right now.”

Then they come for me. The person down in the watch office pipes: “The 4/c board indoctrination exam is secured” but that doesn’t stop anything. The ruthless freight train that is indoc is coming for me. Fast. And no matter how much I try to deny the sound of that whistle, the rumbling of the very ground under my feet, the train keeps on rollin’. I put my cover (uniform hat) on top of my head and try to cover my eyes because I don’t even know what to look at anymore. I go in there, say the mission while being inspected, and then the firstie starts asking me questions. I know the first few, somehow, someway. Then he asks me about a cutter. I went into the exam knowing that I did not know anything about ships or aircrafts, which is pretty much half of the Coast Guard. I ask to skip the question and come back later. Well, it becomes later, we circle back to the question, and he asks me the class of a High Endurance Cutter. I say “W…” (which is the beginning of the identification of the call sign), the firstie feels bad for me and informs me of this. My mind is blank. I am sweating like I just finished a marathon. I have nothing left in my brain. I stand there like an idiot. He is generous and gives me another hint: “His name is on a building on campus.” Again, dumb as can be, I respond “Yeaton.” Bear in mind that this makes absolutely no sense. It’s like being in France and someone asks you what you want to buy (in French of course), and you use the limited amount of knowledge you have of French language and respond whatever the French translation is of “unicorns poop special rainbows on the BBQ.” I had no idea what I was talking about. He takes mercy on me once more; “HE IS ON THE $10 BILL!” I yell back “LEAMY, ALRIGHT? LET’S MOVE ON!” I realize what I have done and finish “please, sir.”

That’s how my board ended. That was it. I thought there was no way on Earth that I passed. I mentally prepared myself to take the board again next week. And the next week. And until I become an ensign. Later that night, my guidon finds me and tells me that I passed with an 8, right on the nose. I literally fell onto the floor and screamed, at which point an upperclassman walked by me, shook her head, and said under her breath “typical Sharp on a Tuesday night.” I didn’t blame her, and just kept thinking “second time’s the charm.” No matter what rumors you hear about boards, everyone WILL pass them eventually. And it will not take you until you become an ensign to pass.


And Let the Games Begin! Again…

(Academics, Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Darden Purrington

Exactly nine weeks ago today, June 25, 2016, my parents and I arrived in New London, Connecticut, to the city that I would call home for the next four years. Swab Summer came and went in a whirlwind of yelling and commotion and now we are one week into the school year. And even though I am now part of the corps, that I am a “basically trained coast guardsman,” I feel no different.

Classes started this week and, just like high school, some are harder than others. Statics and Engineering Design is a pretty tough class, Leaders in U.S. History is practically a repeat of my AP U.S. History class (this is certainly not a bad thing since I loved my APUSH class, simply something I’ve noticed). While we are on the topic of things I’ve noticed, another thing I’ve observed is that life here at the CGA is very, very similar to high school (kinda backward right? Most people have told you differently, haven’t they?). My high school experience was very busy, 20+ hours a week on the water with my sailing team, rigorous academics with many AP classes, participation my school’s choir and a cappella group as well as my church’s choir, Girl Scouts (including earning my Gold Award), DEV Team, and working on the tech crew for my school’s theatre department and occasionally another theatre group outside my school. Do I say all this to make myself look good? No. I say all this because I read the cadet blogs all through high school and everybody said something to the effect of “it’s so much harder than high school ever was,” and I spent a good portion of my time worrying about how on earth I would ever survive in a place with even more demands on my time. I want to dismiss that thought for anybody who’s schedule was a jam packed as mine. In high school, I got up around 5:30 every morning, didn’t get home until after 7:30 every evening, and then did homework until at least 12 if not further into the night. Here at the Academy, I get up at 5:45 (Wooo! Sleeping in a bit!), I go to classes, some days I even have a free period where I can do homework, I go to sailing (which always ends at a set time), I eat (squaring my meals of course), then I either practice with the Glee Club for an hour or finish my homework and am in bed by 12 (unless there’s a Formal Room and Wing, then all bets for sleeping are off).

That was long and tangent-y so I’ll hop off here and let you continue with your day.

Very Respectfully,

4/c Darden Purrington

Feel free to email me at any time:


The Experiences of Real Swabs, Real Cadets, Real People

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
MegMarie Stanchi

I sit in my room anxiously thinking about reporting in to the Academy. I imagine the cadre yelling at me, my shipmates and I doing push-ups, what the food will taste like, and what uniform I will be wearing. My mind races. I am very much of an over thinker, and I rarely like to be surprised. And then it occurs to me. I YouTube “Swab Summer United States Coast Guard Academy” and am met with many videos from the previous summers. I extended this search by going online to the CGA’s website and read the cadet blogs. Real swabs, real cadets, real people. Real people who have done what I am about to do. Suddenly, the Academy doesn’t seem as scary.

This happened a lot. Whenever I felt nervous or scared, I tried to find new resources of people talking about their Academy experiences, which was often accomplished by reading more cadet blogs. Hearing cadets’ stories and struggles made me realize that I too could make it through the challenges of the Academy. This is what I hope to accomplish for others by being a cadet blogger.

It is truly overwhelming to think about what you are about to get yourself in to by accepting your appointment to the Academy. I hope to lessen those anxieties for prospective cadets by sharing my experiences. I want them to realize what I came to realize, that the Academy is filled with people who have been tested in so many ways. Many people have made mistakes, some have been sent home, but most are still here. No one is perfect. The challenges you face at the Academy are miniscule compared to the challenges you will face in the fleet and in life. Everyone grows and learns here, and among the challenges are the amazing and unique opportunities you can’t find anywhere else. I have already experienced so many positive and rare things in my few short weeks here. It takes a certain kind of person, but if I can do it, I believe you can, too.


On Taking Advice from Strange Cadets on the Internet

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Delaney Swift

Cadet blogs were my first experiences with the CGA, really. I can remember, before I had even decided to come to the Academy, my mom and I would read the cadet blogs. We had discovered the blogs, sitting innocuously on the left side of the CGA webpage, innocently enough. There was a picture of a smiling cadet and an intriguing tagline. It drew us in. Those cadets became the face of the Academy. When the pressure to decide on a college got pretty intense, I tried very hard to stick my head in the sand, and any conversation between my mom and I went about like this:

Mom: “So, where are you going to college?”

Me: “I don’t know. I think I’m joining the circus. Leave me to my existential dread.”

Mom: “You should read this cadet blog…and maybe go for a run.”


In a way, I think my life was pretty influenced by those blogs – and the advice of the bloggers. Swab Summer would’ve been vastly different had I not known what little I did about the Academy. This place pretty much runs on cadet advice, firstie to fourth class and all in between. More than anything though, the blogs gave my family and I the peace of mind that we needed; these were living, breathing cadets who lived and breathed their way through Swab Summer and turned out just fine.

Though my summer was rough, and switching from “swab mode” to “student mode” is confusing for most all fourth class, the advice of people who’ve been in our shoes gets us through. From tips and tricks on how to wear the uniform, to how to avoid getting in major trouble, upper class cadets run the show and run it well. They look out for us, and look out for each other, too. I know parents always told us not to listen to strangers on the internet (and that was actually excellent advice), but I’m glad that I did in the case of cadet blogs. It’s strange to think that I was taking cadets’ advice long before I ever met them – before I could’ve ever imagined that I would be living a few doors down from them – before I considered them siblings.

I wholeheartedly believe that the Corps of Cadets is a family. Sure, siblings squabble, but I have seen them come together and it’s a powerful force. Cadets can do anything when they put their heart into it, whether that be finding harmless loopholes in the wardroom rules or getting a struggling fourth class through a tough academic semester. Remarkably, their kindness isn’t reserved just for cadets – it extends to CGA families, to potential cadets, and to anyone they meet. We’re the Coast Guard, a family who makes it their mission to help where they’re needed most. Blogging might be the one small way in which I can lend a hand, like the advice prior blogs helped me. Even if I am just a cadet on the internet.

P.S. You can trust me. I’ve had a background check!


Continuing My Academic Journey

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Anthony Turner

Academy is right for you. It features entries from all types of cadets. By having each class provide entries into the blog, one can get a fairly well-rounded picture of life at the Academy. The blog also provides insight into life outside of the Academy, and into the mind of a cadet. While these experiences will differ for everyone, they can help an applicant figure out what might be in store for them.

That one such applicant was me. When I was applying to the Academy, I would read a blog entry nightly. Reading about the rigor of the academic year, the mental battle during Swab Summer, and the epic 3/c summer, I was even more excited to come here. Hopefully, I will be able to do the same for the future classes.

The Cadet Blog Club is much more than a small club. It’s the best way to recruit future cadets. I say this because, it’s always available and it’s from the cadets, to the prospective cadets. There is no other way to know about the Academy than to hear it from the people that are part of the program. Since each cadet has a different background, they can give a different insight into life at the USCGA. I want to provide a little more diversity to an already diverse program, and hopefully help a future cadet figure out that the Academy is a major gateway to success.


Amazing Things on the Horizon

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

Hey, audience. First of all, thanks for reading. My name is Kirsten Sharp, and I am from a tiny town in southern Pennsylvania. Like most cadets at the USCGA, I made good grades and just did well in high school altogether. I was Homecoming Queen, captain of the varsity girls’ soccer team, and president of lots of clubs, all while taking six AP classes my senior year. Needless to say, I have a weird ability to balance a million things at once. Also, I have done a lot of things in my old age of eighteen, but I have never blogged before, and I am thrilled at the opportunity to try something new.

More importantly, I love the USCGA. I decided to come here because of all of the amazing opportunities that have already begun to present themselves to me and my shipmates. From sailing Eagle this summer to meeting people from all walks of life, I am already learning so much about how to handle people and how to handle myself. I see the world opening up every day I wake up to that lovely reveille and prepare for my day. I see amazing things on the horizon for everyone here (and that is not just because my eyes are in the boat all the time). But, it is not enough for just me to see and feel this way anymore. I want to share these feelings with current cadets, parents of cadets, and prospective cadets. I want to remind cadets why they chose the Academy, reassure concerned parents of cadets who never hear from their kids, and encourage prospective cadets because we are truly living the dream. I think that I can accomplish all of this by blogging and expressing my innermost thoughts.