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What Will My Summer Assignment Be?

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

Soon, applications for what us 2/c cadets want to do for our upcoming 1/c summer training are due. The past few semesters I had my mind set on going to a sector once graduating the Academy. A sector is an on-land job dealing with prevention or response of search and rescue, environmental safety, port security, and more. Thus, for my 1/c summer I was looking to spend as much time as possible at a sector. Why grind at a cutter when I would likely not be using those qualifications at a sector once I graduate? However, when filling out my application for this summer’s training, I had a change of heart.

The application asks what kind of missions you would like to serve, what location preferences you have, and what platforms (big boat, little boat, sector, air station). I prefer warmer places even though I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I did live a lot of my later years in Sydney, Australia and Atlanta, Georgia, so maybe that’s why I prefer locations such as Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and Southern California. Maybe even Puerto Rico or Guam. I also love surfing, so anywhere with great swells would make a dream come true.

From learning from other Ensigns and understanding my personal preferences, I know if I do spend time on a boat, I want it to be a smaller platform. I firmly believe that a smaller unit means they are more close-knit, can be more like a family, and that time at work will be a lot more enjoyable. Being on a smaller boat also means more responsibility per person, which I like.

Looking at the summer assignment application, the options were to be at a cutter for 11 weeks, or to spend the summer split 50/50 between a cutter with a sector, academic internship, or special assignment. Academic internships were already selected for months prior, so those were out of the picture. Sectors, which I wanted, were honestly a wildcard. There was no description as to where the sectors that were hosting cadets were located, as well as what mission they were focused on. The special assignments looked a little more interesting, so I did some research.

My change of heart with ditching a sector summer was partially due to not having any real picture of where I would be sent or what I would be doing if I went to a sector, but also a change in attitude towards work. I spent a hot month on a cutter my 3/c summer, and I was treated like a member of the enlisted. I worked hard, every day. I was in port the entire time, but as a cadet, hearing about being underway didn’t sound fun. There were weeks without seeing land, being up from 2400-0400 to stand watch, and not being able to see family for months. In essence: I was afraid of work and underway life, especially on a medium endurance or high endurance cutter that goes out for 2-3 months.

I’ve realized through maturing as a cadet that work isn’t a bad thing. I was so focused on avoiding ‘work’ on a cutter that I was willing to rule out any other options by choosing the perceived easiest path- a sector. What I realize is that work should be aligned with what you enjoy, and although being at a sector is more predictable and arguably easier, it needs to be stimulating. I realized I would likely be bored spending weeks at a desk in a sector. Maybe not. But what I did know is that I would for sure have a lot more fun doing a special assignment, specifically MSRT and TACLET.

MSRT and TACLET are basically the law enforcement and special forces of the Coast Guard. The MSRT and TACLET West are both based in San Diego (great weather, and great surfing), and MSRT and TACLET East are in Virginia and Miami. I would be doing badass things with high quality professionals. This was the first time I became truly excited about 1/c summer. I took this excitement as a sign that this is something I want to do. My family comes from law enforcement background, and it has always fascinated me.

Once my memo requesting selection for the MSRT and TACLET special assignment is passed up the chain of command, I must wait as it goes to review by a board, and then receives a decision.

Even if I don’t get a tactical law-enforcement focused summer, I’m excited for what I’ll get to learn at a cutter or sector elsewhere. If Mr. Wells is reading this, please send me somewhere warm!

MORE ABOUT JACK

Staying Focused During ROM

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

When returning to the Academy during COVID times, we spend at least two weeks in a bubble and minimize contact with other cadets, faculty, and staff. So, what do we do to keep ourselves engaged and sane? Everyone is different, but here are some of the things I have been up to that make the time fly by!

Learning Spanish: I’ve made the commitment to learn Spanish this year in my free time. One of my life goals is to travel the world, and Spanish is one of the languages that makes the most sense to learn. It gives me access to communicate with the locals of about thirty other countries, giving me a better insight to their cultures. I use Duolingo and practice speaking whenever I can with friends who know Spanish already. It is ambitious, but my goal is to be decently fluent in Spanish by the end of the year.

Working out: It is cold in New London, but Roland and Billard are open to get some work in. With the basketball season in the air due to COVID, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to live the SPAR life (Semper Paratus, Always Ready), so I’ve been going to lift weights and shoot hoops in my off periods. Having our full NEWMAC season taken away and only hopes for a few games to finish out in the spring, it has taught me to be grateful to be healthy and able to play basketball. I go to practices with a new gratitude, focus, and maturity.

Netflix: TV is a vice of mine, and I try not to spend too much time passively scrolling on social media or watching TV. However, I have been grinding through several great series, including Cobra Kai, Down to Earth, and Narcos. I’ve also grinded my way through lots of movies. When stuck inside all day, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

Preparing for Summer: Our applications for summer assignments are due soon. I have friends who already know they are going to Hawaii for academic internships, and others are staying in New London to run Swab Summer as Battalion Staff. Find out what I’m applying for in my next blog post!

MORE ABOUT JACK

It’s Been a Wild Journey

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

Hello readers, and Happy New Year! I wish everyone a healthy and happy 2021. It sure has been a wild journey looking back to my first day of Academy life in 2018, and I never would have thought it would be like this. COVID-19 has certainly impacted every single aspect of life in the barracks, and it has been encouraging to see how people get creative and come together in new ways. Microsoft Teams has become everyone’s new best friend as virtual classes start up.

With my third spring semester underway, I can’t help but get excited for 1/c year. I almost can’t believe how fast the time has flown by, and although it may feel like the days never end, looking back has proven a blur. Watching my friends go for command positions within the Corps is inspiring and indicative of this growing passion to lead and develop as leaders.

With that in mind, I have my sights on this summer and the upcoming training period. This is always an exciting time of the year, as it feels like the spring is a gateway to the summer. As far as activities go this semester, all things impacted by COVID-19, I will continue to sing for Glee and run with the Track and Field teams. COVID-19 certainly puts a twist on everything this semester, but I am confident that with increased testing and medical capacities, things will progress and operate as smoothly as possible.

One thing I have focused on this past semester, in particular, is creative writing. I found a sort of comfort in writing poetry while quarantining at home this past year and wanted to find a way to incorporate that passion into my Academy life. I am a member of the Creative Writing Club, and my academic advisor introduced me to the Academy literary magazine id est. As Chief Editor of the 2020-21 edition, I have been working diligently to cultivate creative writing from the Corps and create a safe haven for art to be expressed at the Academy. This will certainly be a main focus of mine this semester, along with my continued efforts with running and singing at the Academy.

As always, please reach out if you have any questions about Academy life. I am excited for the Class of 2025 to start their Academy journeys and am more than willing to help. My email is [email protected].

MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH

2/c Summer Experience and Quarantine

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Ali Kneiblher

My 2/c summer exceeded my expectations. It was different than in years past due to COVID-19, but I still had a great time and learned a lot. The highlight of my summer was being cadre. It brought me closer to my classmates both within and outside of my company. I learned a lot about myself as a leader. I was a Chase Hall phase 2 cadre. The days were long, and it was a lot of work, but it was rewarding to see the swabs transition to 4/c cadets and know that I had a lasting impact on them. I have never sweat so much in my life. I realized that my cadre were not exaggerating when they said that they got less sleep than we did as swabs. I can say that I definitely felt more tired as a cadre than I did as a swab.

The other two highlights from my summer were coastal sail and t-boats. T-boats was a good exposure to hands-on ship driving and I am excited to do more with t-boats this upcoming school year. Coastal sail was an absolute blast. Coastal sail was the last part of my summer training and it was a great way to end it. It taught me a lot about sailing and showed how fun sailing can be. I enjoyed anchoring and getting to do swim calls. My group was fortunate because both days we had coastal sail the weather was perfect for sailing.

Coming back to the Academy for summer training was difficult for me at first. I enjoyed the time I got to be at home and spend with my family during quarantine. Adjusting from in-person classes at the Academy to virtual classes at home was difficult at first, but I got into a routine and was able to be successful. During my time back at home, I started to learn bass guitar, which is something I have wanted to do for years. I also ended up getting a new cat while I was at home so I grateful to be there for that.

Now that summer training has ended, I am happy that we were able to come back to the Academy to complete summer training. The summers here at the Academy are definitely something to look forward to and help motivate me to keep going. This summer brought me closer to my classmates and helped me gain a lot of new experiences and insight. This summer taught me a lot about being adaptable. Due to COVID restrictions, we had to remain flexible and adapt to be able to complete summer training in a safe manner following the proper guidelines. I am looking forward to the school year and seeing how I can utilize the lessons I learned this summer to be a better leader.

MORE ABOUT ALI

The Pepper Spray Test

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

I was on the fence about if I should do it or not; but I figured most of my classmates were doing it this summer. I wanted it over with.

The Pepper Spray Test. As a Coast Guard officer, you must do it at some point to be a part of the boarding officer teams or security detail. Otherwise, you are somewhat limited in what missions you can do. I was stationed on Cutter Vigilant in Port Canaveral, Florida where two cadets at the station, two enlisted, and myself were going to get pepper sprayed. It was decided a few weeks back that five of us were to take the test in the last week of the cadets being there.

It was the evening before the test, and the brief was in a few minutes, so I headed over to the station. The enlisted were explaining to the five of us how to use the pepper spray, how it would feel, and what we were supposed to do. Just seeing the can of spray made me nervous. They told us we needed a caretaker to walk us around after we got sprayed and that they recommended “no- tears” baby soap to clean off your face and eyes afterwards. We then were asked to pick an order. I had heard from upper class cadets to not go first because the potency in the pepper spray is greater. However, I also did not want to see the suffering of everyone else before I was up- it would just make the anticipation worse. I ended up getting second, which is what I wanted.

I woke up the next morning with so much dread. It was an hour before we were supposed to meet outside on the patch of grass. I realized I didn’t have any of the things we needed that they told us from the brief. Luckily, the non-rates I had been working with all summer had brought me 3-4 different bottles of soap and they were all willing to be my caretaker for the day. It was a relief, but my heart was still racing in anticipation of the pain I was about to endure.

We were now all sitting at the picnic table, being briefed one last time. Then, the first guy is called up. I was thankful it was an enlisted guy- I figured he would take it like a champ and give me some confidence. I was so wrong.

He gets sprayed- a lot more than I anticipated. They caked on the spray for what seemed like five seconds. He opens his eyes and immediately begins swearing and screaming at the top of his lungs. He was not handling it well, but he begins to stumble through the procedures of the test. He shouts to alert his imaginary partner that he has been sprayed but needs help, all while fighting off an opponent and protecting his weapon. The simulated enemy was a huge enlisted guy with an arm pad. It was difficult to watch, but after a minute it was over, and I was up next.

I stepped to the middle of the grass with my eyes closed. I was nervous, just like the beginning of a championship game. I hear the can sizzle as the spray hits my face for what felt like forever. Finally, the sound from the can stops and I open my eyes. I scream, “I’ve been sprayed, OC! I’ve been sprayed!” as we were instructed to do. My eyes didn’t want to stay open though, and I immediately felt the pain. My heart pounded faster, and I could feel the adrenaline numbing the pain. I turn to the simulated enemy, protecting my weapon and holding him off with my other hand. My eyes were clamping shut, so I started blinking as fast as I could to see the bad guy in short flashes. Darkness, a blur of figures and green. And more darkness! The pad came at the side of my face. Hard. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground. I bounced back on my feet but couldn’t find the enemy. Darkness. Blur. Darkness. Blur. I circled and quickly spotted him coming in for an attack. I dodged him sideways and kept tracking him. After what felt like an eternity, the instructor yelled the last task of the test. "Draw your weapon!" I unholstered my gun and screamed at the padded enemy to get on the ground. I was raging with anger and pain. He wasn’t complying so I screamed aggressively and shoved the gun in his face. The enemy was the only thing standing between my burning eyes and an ice-cold bucket of water to dunk my head in. He laid down for me to handcuff and arrest him. The test was over. The adrenaline stopped. The pain began to multiply, I couldn’t stand it. I raised my hands above my head so the instructor could unhook my tactical belt. He fiddled at it and I couldn’t bear the pain any longer. There was relief just ten feet away in the ice water bucket, but my belt was stuck. My eyes, face and arms were burning. Finally, it unclipped and I held my eyes open with my fingers, looking for the bucket. I sprinted to it and dunked my burning face into the cool water. The pain was so unbearable that I couldn’t breath and began hyperventilating. This made it nearly impossible to get any relief as I was nearly sucking in water. After a few dunks, I was walked to the shower to use my baby soap. I started running because the Florida summer sun burned- I needed more water and soap. Now.

Being pepper sprayed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I never wish to do it again but was glad I did it. It made me grow as a person and discover a part of me I’ve never been to before. The pepper spray qualification is an extreme but accurate summation of being at a service academy. It is type two fun- something you appreciate and enjoy after the fact. While doing it, the task may be challenging and tough, but you feel good about it afterwards. It takes you places you’ve never been before. You go past the comfort zone to grow and learn about yourself. That is so valuable, and I challenge you to do something that pushes you to a place you’ve never gone before. Whether that be skydiving, doing a public speech, or running a marathon. Hope you got a good laugh out of this and found it entertaining - because I’m not doing it again!

MORE ABOUT JACK

Cutter Vigilant

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

Half of 3/c summer is spent on Eagle—the other half at either a Coast Guard Station, a cutter (boat), or summer school. We went to units all over the U.S., ranging from Florida to Alaska. Most 3/c cadets go to a Coast Guard Station, which is only enlisted members. As future officers, we wouldn’t be working at a station, so I requested for a cutter instead. Some of my other friends did the same, and they were based out of Seattle and sailed to Japan for a few weeks. They explored Tokyo and climbed Mount Fuji. My buddies were all over the map this summer, and it was cool seeing and hearing what they were up to.

After arriving back to the Academy from Eagle, I had a few days until my flight to my boat. I spent those days reflecting, recharging, and repacking my bags. I had a summer school friend drive me to the airport where I flew to Key West, Florida to meet Cutter Vigilant. Within five minutes of arriving, I was shown where to drop my bags and the non-rates took me out with them on liberty (a non-rate is a younger enlisted person who has yet to choose their specialty). We could be out in Key West until 7:00am, an hour before we were getting underway to leave port. The guys and I rented a six-man golf cart and drove it around the beaches and town.

The next morning, we were to get underway back to Port Canaveral, Florida. After meeting the crew and officers briefly, I was immediately thrown into the mix of sharing the workload with the non-rates. I was given the option to live and work with the deck or engineering department. I chose deck department as they are more involved with navigation and lookout. Additionally, I do not enjoy engineering stuff.

I logged a total of 1 day underway and then was in port for the rest of the summer. The in port life is opposite of being underway. The workday ended at 1:00pm., but the non-rates and I had to work extremely hard in 90-degree heat to sand, paint, and chip away rust every day. Underway work was easier but nonstop on a 24-hour rotation. While in port, the deck department had to make the boat look good not only for routine maintenance, but because there was a change of command ceremony to prepare for. It was fun work at first because all the guys were nice and inviting, but it was sweaty, gruesome, and endless. The work became dreadful at times, but I am nonetheless thankful for the experience to have met all them and understand what they do for a living.

In a few years I’ll be that officer telling them what to do, but not doing it myself. The non-rates were highly interested in the Academy and cadet life- they asked me tons of questions. I found it disturbing how little they knew about our lives of becoming officers, and cadets knowing little about non-rates. Being on a cutter really helped bridge that gap that I didn’t even realize existed, which will be useful when I am on a boat with them for months at a time. The Ensign the non-rates and I were under was also good to learn from. He was understanding, compassionate, and would do small things that made us appreciate him and work harder. An example is on every hot day he would bring us water coolers and buy Gatorades for everyone working. He was a great mentor throughout the summer and showed me how to do it right.

Summers are a great time to earn qualifications. Given I was in port, the options were limited versus being underway. My Ensign gave me the option to try to get guard duty and do drawings of the Cutter’s different systems or get my hands dirty living as a non-rate. I thought the hands on training would be more valuable than going through formal, theory-based training, which is why I decided to work with the non-rates each day. I made the right choice- they taught me more than any formal training would have. I also requested to attend the gun range training days the cutter was holding, but I was not allowed for whatever reason. However, I was able to do my OC pepper spray qualification. It is not mandatory in the Coast Guard, but if you want to be a part of boarding teams and the action, you have to do it at some point. They briefed us in the afternoon on how the test would go, and I was really nervous. The next morning, I woke up with so much dread. I did it and I’ve never felt a deeper pain in my life. As long as I don’t lose my qualification letter I will never have to do it again.

I dictated how my summer went. I was positive in interacting with everyone on the boat and the difficult work we had to do. It could have easily gone the other way with negativity and complaints. I decided to take advantage of my month at the boat to learn as much as I could, but also enjoy it as much as possible.

Check out some of my other posts, and most importantly- Stay Vigilant.

MORE ABOUT JACK

The Dark Ages

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Elizabeth Carter

Greetings from the dark ages! As the skies turn their lovely perpetual grey, New England has progressively gotten colder since the last time I wrote for the blog. We call these winter months the dark ages, and my family likes to joke that February of all months is the darker ages. These days, the Academy is known for being a downer, yet I am here to shed some light on these dreary winter months.

This year I decided to switch things up a bit. This time last year I was singing and dancing in preparation for the Spring Musical, 9 to 5. I made a big decision this time around and decided to pursue Indoor Track and Field instead! After some reflection, and an amazing Cross Country season, I realized I wanted to continue my training. I could not be happier with my decision. I have bonded with the team more so now than ever. Track meets take up most weekends, and lengthy practices provide a great outlet for stress relief after a long day of school. Now more than ever, with the cold weather and longer nights, my friends and teammates have made a difference with just being able to stay afloat at the Academy.

Some of my newer activities include some clubs I have been recently taking more part in. This past semester I became CASA qualified, meaning I am a member of the Cadets Against Sexual Harassment club, and I am qualified to take reports and speak confidentially with my shipmates for whatever the situation may be. In addition, I am writing for the Creative Writing Club, constantly taking my inspiration to paper to share with my shipmates. As a sophomore, I have taken a different approach to the Academy, having one year under my belt. I wanted to branch out as well as I could, while still having time for homework and school.

I like to think that the Academy offers many great opportunities to become a part of the community. I am still a member of the Glee Club and the Fairwinds, and we travel quite often to bring the music of the Academy to the local community. Going beyond the local community, this Spring Break we are traveling to Florida! I am super excited to represent not only the Academy but also the entire Coast Guard with my voice as we travel the great sunshine state. For all my Florida readers, keep an ear out for tales sung of the ocean and its lore!

As always, I am most easily reached at my email: [email protected].

MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH

Finals Week

(Academics, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Ryan Taylor

Ask most cadets at the Academy and they will tell you that finals week is the best week of the semester. While it might not be expected, it’s the case nonetheless. Three things that make finals week better than the average school week are buffet meals, liberty, and looking forward to leave or summer assignments.

During finals week, the daily schedule changes a bit. Morning formation is later than normal, and afternoon formation is nonexistent. This means sleeping a bit which is always welcome. Additionally, all of the meals during the day are served buffet-style, so cadets have more choice in whether or not to go to the wardroom to eat, as well as what they eat. These meals are a great time to sit with friends and talk, but it is all too easy to spend an hour or more just sitting and talking!

The only commitments over finals week are final exams themselves. There are two testing periods each day, from 0750 to 1110 and from 1215 to 1540. Most cadets have anywhere from 2 to 4 finals, but it is not uncommon to hear of someone with none at all. Each day during the week, cadets have liberty after their finals until 1800. This is a great time to go out to dinner, do some shopping, or go see a movie if you can fit it in around studying. Additionally, overnight liberty is granted to cadets who do not have a final the next day, allowing for additional relaxation and rejuvenation for upcoming finals.

Probably the best part of the week is looking forward to what is to come. During finals week in December, this means winter leave. After the fall semester, everyone is looking forward to heading home and spending the holidays with family and friends. Come finals week in spring, though, the corps will be buzzing about the upcoming summer. Fleet experience for rising third and first class, cadre summer for second class, and commencement for soon-to-be ensigns.

While the week can certainly be a bit stressful given exams, the varied schedule and light at the end of the tunnel help cadets stay focused and finish the semester strong. The feeling of walking out of your final exam of the semester can’t be beat!

Thank you everyone for reading; have a great January!

MORE ABOUT RYAN