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Billet Night Reflection

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Katherine Doty

Thursday, March 4th was a momentous day for many members of the Class of 2021. Billet Night, as it is commonly referred to, is the night where first class cadets discover where they will be stationed for the next 2-3 years. For the Class of 2021, the options included Deck Watch Officer or Engineering Officer in Training aboard cutters, Student Aviator at Naval Flight School, Marine Inspector at a sector or other marine safety unit, or Watchstander at the Cyber Security Operations Center.

The night began with a lovely dinner in the cadet wardroom. We then headed to the Leamy Hall Auditorium for the presentation of billets. The entire auditorium felt like a step into a different world because there was so much excitement and rejoicing. As everyone can attest, the past year has been difficult in many ways. This was an opportunity for the Class of 2021 to take a break from all of the stress and get excited for the next chapter of our lives.

Since Billet Night, we have been busy talking with our new units, apartment hunting, and working to finish our last semester of college strong. Because we will be scattered from our classmates very soon, everyone is doing their best to enjoy the last few weeks with our friends.

May 19th, here we come!!!

MORE ABOUT KATHERINE

The Suspense of Waiting for Billet Night

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Felicia Lombardi

Billet Night is one of the most highly anticipated events of firstie year, as it is the night when seniors find out where they will be assigned for their Ensign tour. I look forward to watching Billet Night every year because it is exciting and inspiring to see your friends, teammates, and mentors begin planning for the next phase of their lives. Although now that it is time for my Billet Night, the experience of waiting is completely different and full of all sorts of emotions.

Billet Night always happens on the Thursday before spring break, about halfway through your last semester at the Academy. For most of the year Billet Night has felt like nothing more than a distant thought because we have been so busy with capstone, command, and classes among other firstie obligations. However, now that it lies weeks away, the thought that we are graduating in only a few short months has become very real. I feel excited and ready to start the next chapter of my life, but I also can’t help but feel uncertain about what is to come. Where will I be? Who will be there with me? Will it be everything I have imagined? Where will my friends be? How do I live on my own? There are a lot of unanswered questions that I can’t even begin to process until Billet Night happens.

After a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic, I am really looking forward to finding some grounding. Although as we wait, rather than perseverating on what is to come, I have been trying my best to make the most of the time I have left here. This includes watching movies with my friends, late night trips to the cadet bookstore to buy some Ben and Jerry’s, playing badminton on the weekends, and prioritizing people and experiences ahead of planning for the future. This sounds a little counterintuitive if you think about it too hard, but the truth is, there is no point in stressing about the unknown that lies ahead when there is so much to be grateful for in the present. Billet Night will come, and it will be great, but I think I will enjoy it more if I have lots of fun memories building up to it.

MORE ABOUT FELICIA

Oh How Time Flies!

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

It seemed like it was just yesterday when I was telling my mother on Day One that no, I cannot make it through the Academy. That was exactly 1,300 days ago. I am so incredibly blessed to have gone through these past 3.5 years- couldn’t have done it without all the great people I met along the way.

The other day the Class of 2021 submitted their billets! It’s an exciting and nerve-wrecking time hitting the submit button. I turned to my roommate and we were smiling ear-to-ear. It’s one step closer to Billet NIght and another step closer to graduation.

Since COVID-19, many of us can say this is not the 1/c (“senior”) year we expected. No ring dance, no winter formal, no sports, etc. Thankfully, our class has worked as a team to come up with creative and fun socially-distanced events. To replace the lack of a ring dance, our class council held a ring dipping ceremony in Crowne Park. We all were able to dip our shiny new class rings in the water from the seven seas. It was a great event to replace a much-anticipated ring dance.

Unfortunately, for our last semester here at CGA, COVID-19 cases have increased along with restrictions. We have our fingers crossed that Billet Night will be somewhat normal and that we can walk across the stage in a few short months. The Class of 2021 has gone through a lot these past 1,300 days but we remain together during this pandemic. I am forever grateful for each friend I’ve made along the way and cannot wait to see where the Coast Guard takes us.

MORE ABOUT STEPHANIE

Bittersweet Returns

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Juliana Lehnerova

The fall semester was our first semester back at the Academy since the pandemic, and the first time since March that I got to see some of my friends. While it was great to be with the corps again, it was very different from what I was used to. We couldn’t all eat dinner together anymore, or sit next to one another in class, and any gathering had its masks and restrictions and social distancing. It was certainly something to get used to, and I felt that I was losing many of the things I loved about the Academy.

I have loved horses since I was little and joined Equestrian Club as soon as I got to the Academy. With many activities curtailed, I chose this time to become more serious about my riding - and to bring a few friends along for the ride. It was amazing to have the chance to share my passion with my friends and watch them fall in love with my sport. We started going out riding more often and developed deeper relationships with one another and with the animals we rode. After feeling that many things were “taken away” by the pandemic, it was a great consolation to still have a passion toward which I could direct my energy. It was a balm to the sense of loss and sometimes loneliness that came with the pandemic.

As the semester went on, I was able to discover more passions. I went along to horse shows with our club advisor and learned how to take photos of horses, especially in action. I fell in love with photography and looked forward to the weekends when I would be able to practice my new craft at the shows. Other cadets came with me. Together, we found creative ways to be together and pursue what we loved while staying safe. Moreover, going to events all over the area and seeing people of all ages enjoying themselves and persevering through the difficulties of the new post-COVID world was inspiring. It challenged us to be creative and intentional with the way we spend our time.

Despite the many challenges of the past semester, I am excited to come back for more. While I still reminisce over the things I lost, it is hard to be sad for long when there is so much that I have gained. I can’t wait to get my billet in March and see what the next chapter has in store for me!

MORE ABOUT JULIANA

The “Coffee” at the End of the Tunnel

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Eric Noble

Last Wednesday, I got the opportunity to catch up with my sponsor brothers and sponsor mom over at the Leamy Hall Student Center. This was long overdue because everyone had been very busy with academics and military. Our sponsor mom also had scheduling conflicts and we had to sort out and synchronize our schedules with hers. Finally, once we had everyone together, we sat down by the couches of the cafe. I was very excited to hear their stories after not being able to sit down like this together in-person for over months now.

While drinking our Starbucks coffee and blended beverages, we conversed about how excited we are for Thanksgiving leave and how tough this school year was due to online classes and the current COVID-19 pandemic. While socially distanced, we exchanged our goodbyes and wished everyone to finish the semester strong. I am happy to see all of them hanging in there and staying positive despite everything that is happening outside the walls of the Academy. We thank the staff of the Leamy Hall Student Center Café for being available for socially-distanced gatherings like these. We hope to spend more time here in the coming weeks as we close out the semester and transition to remote-learning after Thanksgiving.

MORE ABOUT ERIC

2020: Flying By the Seat of My Pants

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Felicia Lombardi

Words cannot describe how crazy this year has been for everyone. From a virtual spring semester and a scramble to salvage 1/c academic internships, to a never-before-seen standard operating procedure (SOP) onboard CGA this fall, the word unprecedented is overused and understated. If there is one thing that I have learned through it all, it is that the Coast Guard does not stop for anything, even a global pandemic. Instead, the Coast Guard keeps rolling with the punches and, in doing so, takes advantage of the opportunity to train cadets in the critical art of flying by the seat of your pants.

I was in line for Expedition Everest in Walt Disney World with my family and two other cadets when I got the email that we would not be returning for the remainder of the spring semester. I don’t think any of us understood at the time just how big this was going to get, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to spend some extra time with my family. At first it was fun telecommuting to class. I didn’t have to put a uniform on first thing in the morning, I could wear slippers to meals, and I could wear clothes that weren’t navy blue.

However, the novelty wore out pretty quickly. After about two weeks of virtual school, I missed my friends and teammates; I missed late night discussions about Nietzche and NYT v. Sullivan; I missed the treadmills and squat racks in the Billard Cardio Room; I missed the strong sense of purpose and duty that I wake up with every day at USCGA. We went from a couple weeks at home, to a couple more weeks, to the rest of the semester. Then my sister (now ENS Lombardi) lost the fun and festivities of Grad Week and I lost my summer internship. Overall things seemed pretty dim; we weren’t sure what was to come of the summer or the fall semester.

Thankfully, even when the Coast Guard is flying by the seat of its pants, it always lands on its feet. Our leadership team worked tirelessly to organize a return to campus so we could pack out our rooms. While two weeks without liberty is bound to elicit complaints, it allowed us to make the most of it—taking long walks, playing recreational sports, and spending way more time outside than we ever did before. While we were restricting our movement, we were ensured that we had a beneficial summer training opportunity by Cadet Training.

My summer ended up being all over the place. I spent two weeks onboard the Barque Eagle with all firsties where we spent the days talking professional development and practicing our conning skills, and we spent the nights watching romance movies off a projector in the Gorch Fock II berthing. After Eagle, I returned to CGA and telecommuted to a virtual internship with the Washington International Diplomatic Academy. While this wasn’t the internship I had planned on, it ended up being very informative and helped me cement my desire to work for the foreign service after the Coast Guard. After four weeks of class, I went to Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven, CT where I worked in Response Ashore. I was only there for two weeks but met lots of great mentors and role models while being exposed to a whole aspect of the Coast Guard that I knew little about before.

While this pandemic brought many ups and downs with an everchanging course of action, I still had a great summer training experience thanks to the fact that the Coast Guard always perseveres!

MORE ABOUT FELICIA

Career Goals

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

Just shy of a year away from graduation. Only a few months away from putting in our billet list. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do when I stepped foot on CGA nearly three years ago. It was not until I went to USAFA that I began to consider aviation as a career path. It was exhilarating flying the T-53A with several officers in the USAF. I heard great stories and high recommendations to consider aviation. Several mentors at CGA have encouraged me to look at the cutterman lifestyle as well. Currently, I am hoping to go underway my first tour then apply for flight school if I am still interested. If not, I hope to stay on the Law Enforcement side. This next year there will be plenty of time to visit and talk with my friends who are graduating this year about their ENS tour.

The Academy offers several opportunities for cadets to hear about career opportunities through Operations Spotlights (OPS Spotlight). Some that we had this semester included hearing from several Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs) in which they highlighted how important their role is in the fleet. OPS Spotlights are good opportunities for cadets to ask questions and listen to sea stories.

During cadre summer, for one week you are sent to a unit out in the fleet. The following one-week programs were offered for the Class of 2021 last summer:

  • Cadet Aviation Training Program (CATP)
  • Marine Safety Training Program (MSTP)
  • Naval Engineering Training Program (NETP)
  • Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT)

I opted for MSTP at Sector Boston. During this week, I ran into a few Ensigns that I knew from my 4/c year! They talked with us about their position at the Sector. We were also able to get a tour of Sector Boston and CGC Spencer. Some days, we were able to tag along on inspections since we were mostly there to see the Prevention side of the CG.

There is no rush to making a “dream sheet” or planning a set career path anytime soon. This is what 1/c summer is for- to help cadets decide when the time arrives.

I am excited to see where my career path will take me in a few years!

As always, reach out if you have any questions! My email is [email protected]

MORE ABOUT STEPHANIE

Why Civil Engineering?

(Academics, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Stephanie Burckhard

I originally entered the Academy determined to be a Mechanical Engineer. During my first semester at CGA is when I made my switch to Civil Engineering (CE). I had yet to take “Statics”- the class that most people use to consider what engineering major they want. My decision was based on two main factors; the “Majors Presentations” that all 4/c are required to attend and upperclass cadets. During those presentations, I found the Civil Engineering experiment to be suited to more of my interests. In Windjammers, one of the lead 1/c in drumline was also a Civil Engineer. I spoke with him often about why he picked the major and if he would recommend it. He highly recommended it and the one point he made that still holds true is the support you’ll get from the faculty. The CE Department is fantastic- they are very engaged in the curriculum and are always happy to help. They keep an upbeat attitude about CE and are excellent resources not only for homework help but for Coast Guard related questions as well.

I spent hours in the Civil Lounge this past semester working on homework and it was so nice to have the faculty next door ready to answer any questions. Not only is the faculty great, but also the cadets in the major. There are 20 CE cadets in the Class of 2021. It’s a great group and we work great as a team. Another point about CE is the CAPSTONE opportunities for 1/c. Most of these CAPSTONE projects involve direct work with the Coast Guard which some majors don’t have the same connection. I love how applicable CE is to the fleet and it feels as though CE cadets are making a real impact with these CAPSTONEs.

In the end, I highly recommend Civil Engineering. If you have any questions or concerns, send me an email at [email protected]

MORE ABOUT STEPHANIE