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The Benefits of Trying a New Sport

(Athletics, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

At the the CGA, cadets have a very heavy academic course load (especially during 4/c year) in addition to our numerous military obligations. We also have to earn two sports credits each and every year. There are a variety of different ways to earn these credits, and these athletic opportunities vary in the amount of time commitment they require (from intercompany sports or ICs being on the low end of time commitment to varsity sports being on the higher end). Some cadets resume their sports from high school as they were recruited to continue that sport, while others pick up new sports and try to acquire new, different skills. The process of selecting a team begins during Swab Summer with sports practice every few days, which allows swabs to spend time with cadre that are members of their future teams, or to try a new one out before fully committing to the team when the school year rolls around.

Personally, I had been playing soccer almost since the day I could walk. Playing for clubs, travel teams, in middle school and high school, I did it all. Every day after school and every weekend for years and years I was committed to soccer. Although I loved the sport, I was a bit burnt out, and coming to the Academy, I knew that I wanted to start fresh and try something new. So, during Swab Summer, I went to the dance team’s sports practice. I really enjoyed spending time with the ladies on the team, and loved dancing and letting go of the stress of boot camp. I continued to be on the team through the first half of the school year during the fall season. When spring rolled around, I knew that I needed another sports credit, so I started going down to the boat house with one of my friends to check out rowing – a sport I had never tried before.

I downright love rowing. Even though the walk down to the boat house before practice and up to Chase Hall after practice is long and often very cold, the sport and team quickly grabbed a hold of my heart. There is something about being a member of a team where each individual must be so in sync with the others that it fosters a spirit of togetherness and teamwork that I have never felt on any other team I have been a part of before. Although being a member of a varsity sport takes on a life of its own, with extended practices on Tuesdays in addition to practice every day (including Saturday) and regattas on the weekends, it became a part of my schedule and actually made me more productive. My grades have increased since I have joined the crew team because I have used my limited time more wisely and have utilized the number of tutors we have on the team. Now, it is three years later, I am a captain of the team, and I cannot imagine my life without rowing.

I highly encourage people to join varsity sports, if their schedules allow. It provides a community of people that will rally around you when times get tough, and celebrate with you when things are going well. Also, do not be afraid to try something new – I am very glad that I did!

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

Ice, Ice Baby

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2019, Marine and Environmental Sciences) Permanent link
Deborah King

President’s Day weekend can only be described as one thing: awesome. I and eleven other cadets spent the weekend taking an American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) level one course. I took it in Gorham, New Hampshire with the Adventure Club.

The first day was in a classroom where we discussed case studies and different types of avalanches and scenarios. The second and third days were field days. On the second day, they took us to a trailhead and taught us how to use avalanche transceivers to find potential victims in the snow. They’d hide a transceiver in the snow and we’d work as a team to find it. We then hiked up the trail and made notes on the different types of snow.

The third day, we drove to Mt. Washington and Tuckerman’s Ravine trail. When we got to the ranger station, we went off trail into the backcountry. Here, we saw up close what avalanche terrain looked like and we practiced different ways of reading the snow to see if there was an avalanche danger. It was snowing the entire time and the view was absolutely stunning.

Looking back, this was by far one of the best experiences at the Academy. It was amazing how much of my Academy education translated over into avalanche science. One of the biggest examples was the use of teamwork during the search and rescue drills. By the end of the session, we were able to find the lost transceiver in less than three minutes, well below the expected time. Other aspects of Academy life transferred over such as making a detailed plan for hiking, risk assessment, and physical fitness.

The biggest thing I learned is that there is so much more to learn about snow. Growing up in Colorado and snowshoeing for the majority of my life, I thought I knew everything there was to know about it. What I found is that it is so much more complex then I previously thought and that in itself was very humbling. That being said, I want to know more about how to read the mountains. Speaking to some of the guides who have been skiing for decades, they said that there is always more to learn, but instead of being discouraged by that, they use it as motivation to keep working and improving their art.

In a few months, I will be going to the fleet and I will have much to learn. However, like with avalanche training, I will use it as a starting point for basic knowledge so that I can do my best in the fleet.

MORE ABOUT DEBORAH

Planning for Summer Assignments

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

As we embark upon a second semester of the school year, cadets often become starry-eyed, looking ahead toward their future summer assignments (and three week leave period before, in the middle of the two assignments or after). We are able to discuss our preferences for assignments over the summer with the training officers, and we are sent the accompanying packing list. When the summer assignments are finalized, we are encouraged to reach out to members of the crew on the cutter or at the station we are assigned to in order to be sure that there are no additional uniforms we may need. For example, if a cutter is undergoing a change of watch ceremony over the period of time that cadets will be aboard, they may need to bring a more formal uniform than what the original packing list calls for. It is also important to try to pack as light as possible, because most cadets will be on the move for the majority of their summer assignment, and it is always easier to travel with less. Each summer for cadets serves a specialized, important training purpose.

The first summer at USCGA is labeled Swab Summer. This is marked by pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into a training program to transform the newly reported swab from a civilian to a military-ready person, which is a large task to complete in only eight weeks. I remember only having a week after my high school graduation to get ready to report to the USCGA, and almost everything after the start of Swab Summer was a complete blur. The cadre (2/c in charge of the Swab Summer training program) kept us busy every second of every day, from doing workouts to meals to sports to more workouts, and everything in between. Swabs also sail for one week aboard the USCGC Eagle toward the end of their summer. Most people survive Swab Summer by looking forward to the little things: having mail from home (since swabs do not have their cell phones for the entirety of the summer), inter-company sports (which continue into the school year for those who want to compete in this type of sport instead of a varsity sport), and vespers (optional, non-denominational ceremonies held on Wednesday evenings). Although it is often the toughest summer of a cadet’s life, it is also stereotypically considered the most rewarding. Over the course of the summer, many bonds are formed among swabs in the same company, because surviving such an ordeal often brings a strong sense of teamwork that carries into the school year.

The second summer for cadets is called 3/c summer. This summer consists of 11 weeks, and is often split into two phases, one of which typically involves being aboard USCGC Eagle. While underway, 3/c cadets are considered part of the enlisted workforce, and thus complete tasks such as mess cooking, navigation, and helmsman/lookout. This allows us to better relate to those that we will one day be leading out in the fleet. For the first phase of my 3/c summer, I was attached to the USCGC Cypress, a 225’ buoy tender stationed out of Pensacola, Florida for six weeks. The ship was in port and undergoing maintenance evolutions for the first four weeks, so I was able to break in as in-port Officer of the Day, and learn the importance of a ship’s ashore maintenance time. For the last two weeks of this first phase, we got underway with the crew and were able to patrol the Gulf of Mexico, tending buoys and searching for drug runners. I ended this phase in Galveston, and had a blast getting to know the crew during our time together. For the second phase of 3/c Summer, I was blessed enough to sail the USCGC Eagle from London, England to Madeira, Portugal to Hamilton, Bermuda to Norfolk, Virginia. Doing a transatlantic trip on a massive sailboat was one of the coolest experiences of my life. There truly is nothing like climbing out onto a yardarm to furl sail – we felt like pirates! We were even able to have a swim call in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and learned celestial navigation under the most beautiful, open night sky I have ever seen.

The third summer is called cadre summer, which marks the transformation from an underclassman to an upperclassman. With this change comes an acceptance of higher accountability and duties among the Corps of Cadets. As cadre, we are trusted with the training of incoming swabs – a huge responsibility. Over the course of the 11 weeks of cadre summer, cadets go through a variety of one or two week training sessions, including T-boats at the Academy, Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP) in Mobile, Alabama or Elizabeth City, North Carolina, range training at the Academy, and Coastal Sail – my personal favorite. Coastal Sail is a two-week training program in which we are assigned in groups of seven or eight other cadets along with a safety officer (a CG officer that works at Academy and has been trained in sailing), and are stationed on an L-44 sailboat. This group of people work and live within a 44 feet space while sailing around Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Another once-in-a-lifetime experience. Of course, cadre summer would not be complete without the cadre experience. 2/c cadets have the opportunity to put in for their preference of what type of cadre they would like to be; including Phase I (Chase Hall cadre for the first part of the summer), Phase II (Chase Hall cadre for the second part of the summer), waterfront (Chase Hall cadre that also train swabs in sailing down at the CGA’s beautiful Jacob’s Rock sailing facility – this allows swabs a break from their tough daily training routine), or Eagle cadre (sailing with swabs during their one week phases). Personally, I was Eagle cadre and the main mast captain, and sailed with the swabs all over Canada. I oversaw all of the divisions who worked on the largest, central mast aboard Eagle, and led the swabs and fellow 2/c cadets in evolutions that required the main mast. Yet again, a fantastic leadership experience that the Academy provided me with, albeit very difficult at times.

The last summer for cadets is called 1/c summer, during which cadets are considered to be part of the wardroom because they will be graduating and becoming junior officers in just a few short months. Again, this 11-week span of time is often broken into two phases, but cadets may also stay in one place for their whole summer. Cadets have the opportunity to be summer staff to help the cadre train swabs; be attached to a Coast Guard cutter, sector, or air station; or complete an internship. I was unfortunately injured and unable to go underway for my firstie summer, so I was attached to CG Sector New York on Staten Island for all 11 weeks. I worked in both prevention and response, and had the ability to spend a week in each of the different shops and divisions at the sector. I learned all about what the Coast Guard’s ashore units do, including managing pollution, conducting vessel inspections (for both domestic and internationally flagged vessels), and also spent time in the Command Center (which coordinates Coast Guard assets to best assist the public). This summer experience opened my eyes to all the different job opportunities for those who prefer to be ashore instead of in the afloat community. It allowed me to realize that our ashore units are very important, but I prefer being afloat.

All of these summer experiences are necessary to complete the 200-week journey that cadets embark upon when they report for Swab Summer. By continuing the training at the Coast Guard Academy, cadets become increasingly ready to enter the fleet upon graduating and commissioning because they have experienced a variety of the different missions that our branch of the military completes on a daily basis. I have been so blessed by each of my summer experiences, and genuinely feel that they developed me into a better future officer, and human being. I look forward to my next summer assignment, which will be my first tour as a commissioned officer in the world’s greatest Coast Guard!

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

Yet Another Winter Leave Has Come and Gone

(Just for Fun, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

Winter leave is always a great time for cadets to get away from the Academy, travel or stay at home, and just regroup. It is an amazing opportunity for us to come back fresh and ready to conquer another semester. As we all know, it is important to take some time away from work in order to gain a new perspective.

How much time we get over leave always depends on how far apart the winter holidays are from each other, and how many finals you have. I am somebody who cannot stay in one place for more than a few days without getting bored, so I love to travel as much as possible over leave.

This year we had about three weeks and I made the most out of those days by flying all over the country to visit my friends and family. I started off in my hometown in Pennsylvania, then flew out to our family’s horse ranch in Arizona. From Arizona, I flew out to the state of Washington to visit one of my friends who left the Academy when we were 4/c. She is actually enlisted and living a great life, so it was wonderful to be able to see her! Next, I flew down to Georgia to visit my grandparents, and then finished my journey in Florida to visit a friend that graduated last year and is having an excellent first tour as an ensign.

Sometimes people ask me how I am able to pull off so much traveling, and the answer is pretty simple. As cadets, we get a limited amount of time off every year. I save up money throughout the year by doing little things like only ordering food once every week or every few weeks, using the same Christmas decorations in my room since 4/c year instead of buying new ones each year, and being all-around frugal. This way, I can travel a bunch and be sure to make my rounds when we have leave!

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

The Fall Semester Frenzy

(Academics, Class of 2019, Engineering) Permanent link
Stephanie Burckhard

Well, it’s almost the end of the semester! There has been a lot of fun activities and events keeping up the spirit of the corps before the infamous “Dark Ages” set upon the Academy. We’ve had morale events ranging from costume contests to company dinners. And, we’ve also had our first snowfall! Sadly it did not result in a snow day. At this point in the year, the 4/c have found a “rhythm” to the school year and they have definitely improved their spirit missions (pranks) on the upper-class. It’s great watching 2022 grow and helping them get ready for the big indoctrination exam next semester: Boards. Compared to last year, academics are more difficult, but I enjoy the challenge they bring. At this point of the year, most of the 3/c have settled into a major yet there are still those few who are deciding if it’s the right major for them. Although at one point, I was torn between ORCA and Civil Engineering, I’m now confident that I will stay on the track of Civil Engineering. It’s crazy to think there’s only a few more classes left in the school year before finals!

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you have. I can be reached through email at [email protected].

MORE ABOUT STEPHANIE

Lifelong FriendSHIPS Begin on Day One

(Choosing the Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Bruna Pavan

You don’t have to go through Swab Summer to understand that it is challenging. You can look up videos, newspaper articles, pictures (thanks Paul Duddy!) and interviews of all sorts that will describe how strenuous Swab Summer is, and a lot of blog posts are already written about individual experiences. Instead, I will tell you that the people you struggle and sweat with over those seven weeks become some of your closest friends. Not only do I have faith and trust in those in my Swab Summer company, but all of my classmates because we underwent the transformative experience that is Swab Summer and fourth class year together.

While I was driving my own car up from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to school (having a car here is a firstie-only privilege), I had plenty of time to reflect on how awesome the past three years were at the Academy and what amazing things are yet to come in the next eight months here. After eight hours of driving northbound, I made a stop in Charleston, South Carolina to visit one of my best friends and her family at their home. Hannah Waddell, a rugby-playing naval architecture and marine engineer, was one of my very first friends at the Academy as we were in the same Swab Summer company and have been my roommate for four of my six semesters here. Even though we kept in daily contact, it was great to finally see each other after eleven weeks apart.

Of course, I can’t mention Hannah without Kiera! Kiera Harrison is a Marine and Environmental Sciences major from Jackson, New Jersey. The three of us began our friendship on Day One of our 200-week long journey, and we have shared a tremendous amount of time together since between rugby, eating dinner together every night, spending every spring break at each other’s homes and long weekends exploring the East Coast. When my parents call, it’s always, “Hey, what are you up to?” followed by “How are Hannah and Kiera doing?”

The friendships you develop here make this place feel like home. Being surrounded by awesome people and being able to walk down the hall to see some of your best friends is one of my favorite aspects of this experience. They’ve seen me at my best, worst and everything in between and that is why this bond is so strong and true. Even though we study different things and are involved in a variety of activities, we can still depend on each other to work together just as we could over Swab Summer.

MORE ABOUT BRUNA

CGAS Cadre Experience

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

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

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

MORE ABOUT PAT

Summer in the Northwest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derek. [email protected].

MORE ABOUT DEREK