Skip Navigation Links

Cadet Blogs

Third Class Summer Station Search and Rescue Case

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Isabel Jimenez

My experience at Station South Portland this summer was life changing. Not only did I meet some of the amazing, enlisted members who are at the core of the Coast Guard, but I also learned what it means to be part of this organization. I will never forget what it was like going on a Search and Rescue mission summer of 2021 and contributing to the life-saving mission of the Coast Guard.

One evening, us cadets, and the crew were preparing to go underway on a “Sunset cruise” in honor of a Boatswain’s Mate being transferred this summer, but as we were boarding the 47-foot Motor Lifeboat, the radio crackled to life and called for Coast Guard stations to be on the lookout for a Kayaker in the local area. Moments later, the Watch office called and confirmed that the Kayaker was in Station South Portland’s area of responsibility, and the lighthearted mood turned serious as we motored out of the boathouse.

As we surged out of the harbor that evening, the waves were between 4-6 feet, and as we crossed a strip of reef, the waves swelled up and became choppier. Water splashed against the metal of the hull spraying sea water all over the open bridge where the crew was clustered holding tight against the bucking of the boat. At the same time, the wind blew into our faces sending the droplets of water all over our mustangs, orange heavy weather body suits we wore to protect ourselves from the cold and the water. We cut through one wave, then rocked down the next; some waves were gentle swells while others towered next to the boat. One moment we rode up a wave and then the next moment we smacked back down sending shock waves through the metal of the boat and threatening to loosen our grip from the now wet metal railings we clung to dearly. Water sprayed, and soaked us, leaving salt crystals on our faces as we braced for each impending wave. At the same time, the intense rocking made some crew members nauseous and one of them descended the ladder to the bridge to hang over the side of the boat and vomit. After a particularly tooth-jarring wave, one of the crew members went below deck and retrieved the heavy-weather belts that we strapped on and clipped into the rings scattered throughout the boat.

Thoughts raced through my head this entire time. Up until this moment, I had not truly realized what the oath of service meant until I was clinging to wet railings barreling through rough seas on a SAR (Search and Rescue) case. I realized how real the Coast Guard’s mission really is, witnessing Coast Guardsmen run through movements that they trained years for to save lives of people caught in the jaws of the unpredictable seas.

After receiving more information from the watch office back at station, one of the Boatswain’s Mates hollered over the deafening winds and rumbling motor, “We are looking for a white guy, wearing a white shirt and life jacket in a blue kayak. Keep your eyes peeled as we get closer to his last known position.” We signaled that we understood and began scanning the expansive waves before us for anything that might resemble the description given. It was difficult as the sun was beginning to set, and the waves remained wild and choppy. We scanned the water in different directions, eye briskly scanning our surroundings finding nothing so far.

Then, the other Boatswain’s Mate slowed the boat down to quiet the motor because we were being connected to the individual in the kayak’s phone number to help in the rescue effort. The kayaker was miraculously able to hold onto his phone while battling harsh waves and able to get enough cell service to call the dispatcher who then transferred the call to the Coast Guard. The kayaker said that we had shot right past him, and that he was at 3 o’clock from the boat. The driver whipped the boat around and headed in that direction and finally after 45 minutes of battling through waves, he yelled, “I have a visual!”

Some distance from us was the blue kayak with the individual frantically paddling for control of his kayak among the large waves as we shot towards him. At this moment, 2 crew members descended from the bridge, and while being violently flung around, made their way to the recess of the boat, positioning themselves to retrieve the guy from the water. We approached the kayaker and among the undulating waves, the two crew members reached out to the kayaker’s trembling paddle, grasping the tip, and pulled him towards the boat. They then grasped the individual tightly and pulled him into the vessel accidentally bumping the kayaker’s head on the boat to bring him on safely. At that moment, the guy bear-hugged the crew member who had brought him onboard and started sobbing into his arms as he was finally out of the water, safe from the surging waves.

We moved quickly after that, one of the cadets going into the boat to grab blankets and pillows for the guy while the crew members moved him to the survivor’s compartment where they checked his vitals and monitored him for shock. Also, another crew member, the other cadet and I retrieved the paddle and the kayak from the churning water securing everything onboard the vessel. Afterwards, we met up with a smaller vessel with Maine Marine patrol headed to the EMS on shore and transferred the kayaker.

Before the individual left however, he said something like, “You guys genuinely saved my life. If you had not been there, I might not have made it out alive.” We went into rough seas with one purpose in mind, rescuing this individual who got swept out to sea, getting to him before the elements did. From this crazy experience, I learned that despite the many times I have been told that the Coast Guard is a life-saving service, or despite the many times people have expressed pride for the many humbling deeds of the Coast Guard, this SAR case made it real for me. The Coast Guard saves lives, other vessels, protects the environment, and trade. People live for this -- being a Coastie is for life. Whether members of this service serve 4 or 5 years and decide that they have served their time, or they decide to make a life-long career out of it, people I have talked to say they would do it all again in a heartbeat. That is the power of the camaraderie of the Coast Guard, the power of their mission.

Shout out to all the enlisted members at Station South Portland! This summer was a valuable training experience and one of the most memorable summer experiences of my life! To all, Fair Winds and Following Seas (cheesy, sorry 😊)!


Creative Outlets

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Cole Fulton

It’s important for everyone to have a creative outlet – a way in which to express oneself through another medium. For some, this is athletics: the artistic maneuvers of flipping through the air or shooting a basketball. For others, this can be music: the playing of instruments or the writing of original songs.

I myself have spent considerable time seeking out this creative outlet – trying everything from cooking to kendama (a Japanese skill toy) – until arbitrarily stumbling upon photography. Now, four years later, I’ve found that my journey with photography has taught me technical proficiencies, different perspectives, and other valuable lessons applicable to all aspects of my life. While this may sound corny or repetitive, I feel that it’s important for others to understand photography at its essence so that they may see the benefits of creative outlets in their own lives. Because, unlike the commonly held belief, photography goes far beyond just taking a photograph.

The camera I first started with was none other than the camera on my iPhone 5. Now compared to other smartphone cameras at this time, my 14-year-old self was fascinated by the phone’s capabilities. I was able to shoot telephoto shots, as well as make minor corrections through apple’s digital editing software. I would spend hours setting up mini photoshoots with my friends – and when they got tired of it – with my dog. However, as I continued to exclusively use my phone for photography, I began to notice some limitations. My pictures were half the quality of other professional shots I’d see on Instagram; moreover, certain photographs that require longer exposures were not possible due to the iPhone’s fixed shutter speed. Knowing I needed a better camera to improve my photographs, I began researching my options. And, after nearly 2 months of contemplating, I finally decided on my next camera.

The Nikon D3300. This DSLR camera was the first “real” camera I had ever received. Unlike an iPhone, DSLR’s have a much broader range of capabilities… and certainly are not the shape of a smartphone. The kit that came with my camera included a 24-50 mm lens, filters, an external flash, and many other photography trinkets. My first time using the camera was a nightmare. All my photos came out either overexposed, are grainer than a sandy beach. But, overtime, I eventually learned the ins and outs of this magnificent tools and was able to produce “post-worthy” content. This camera became my most prized possession for the next 3 years until I realized it had its limitations. The D3300 could not perform as well under lowlight conditions and the autofocus was very outdated. In need of a new camera body, I scoured the internet for my next soulmate until eventually finding a match on amazon’s Black Friday sale.

The Nikon Z6: sleek in its design and boundless in its abilities (not really true but it was certainly an upgrade). While my bank account didn’t agree, this was by far the best purchase I’d ever made. I was now able to take quality astrophotography shots and shoot detailed photographs in lowlight conditions. In addition to the camera body, I’d also purchased a 70-200 mm lens and a 50mm lens for wildlife and portraits shots respectively. After using this camera for about 4 months now, I feel like I am close to mastering it; though, only time will tell. I plan on using this camera for the duration of my time at the academy until eventually moving on to a different Mirrorless camera.

Beyond the technical aspects I’ve developed through photography, I have established other skills to be grateful for. Photography has taught me to be confident in myself and my abilities. When working with a client – or while out in public – it is essential that you show you know what you’re doing. Any sense of doubt or insecurity will make others feel uneasy. So, in order to conduct successful photoshoots, it’s imperative that you remain calm and collected the entire time. This directly relates to the bearing that one must uphold as a military officer. In times of danger and distress, Coast Guard officers are expected to maintain a professional presence to guide others to safety. The maturity I’ve learned from photograph has certainly helped me in that aspect of my life.

Another important lesson photography has taught me is to not be afraid of putting yourself out there: you can only hide behind a camera for so long. When I first started getting into photography, I was very self-conscious of what others thought of my abilities. This scared me away from posting on social media or reaching out to other photographers. Overtime, I realized that I would get nowhere in this hobby by staying under my shell. So, I began forcing myself to be under the spotlight by submitting my works to competitions and generating a platform for myself. This allowed me to grow my credibility tremendously and provides another reason to continue this career. I’ve always been reluctant to unwarranted attention, I’m an introvert as some would say. However, photography has allowed me to break through these self-conscious barriers and appreciate my work for what it is, not how its perceived.

Photography is a very important aspect of my life for a multitude of reasons, though at essence, it can be described as my creative outlet. It is a way for me to develop, express, and reflect upon my qualities as a person. This passion has led me to do great things in my life and I can’t wait to see where it will take me in the future.

I hope this gave you a perspective into the essentiality of creative outlets and the motivation to discover your own.

Follow my new photography page: @FultonsFotos on IG.


Tell Us Your Life Story

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Cole Fulton

"Tell us your story." The words glared back at me as if they were looking into my soul.

I shut my laptop, laid back on my chair, and closed my eyes; though the words still lingered – engraved into my vision. Starting out new academic semesters is always an exciting time, though writing “about me” bios for certain classes reduces that excitement significantly. Some find it easy to blurb their entire life story into a measly 500-word essay… I’m definitely not one of those individuals. My mind initially raced with topics to write about but was quickly suppressed with sheer nothingness. I was lost for ideas.

I opened my eyes to find an overused ukulele meeting my gaze. Feelings of warmth and joy engendered from within me. Seeing the tarnished ukulele sitting in the corner of my room reminded me of my early childhood, growing up on the Island of Oahu.

The magnificent beaches, deep-blue waters, and exquisite aromas of fresh ahi poke immediately came to mind. Hawaii, a place so diverse yet so connected, was a place I called home for the first 13 years of my life. My family and I were cramped - yet content - residing in a small house in Mililani. Street fights and drug deals occurred frequently in my neighborhood, but I was too distracted with my Magic Tree House books and Pokémon cards to notice.

Still joyous from the memories of a nostalgic past, my eyes drifted away from the ukulele and locked onto a duffel bag hanging ominously from the corner of my locker. A shiver creeped down my spine. What was now empty and collecting dust had once carried my personal belongings 2,872 miles from the islands of Hawaii to the potato fields of Idaho.

The unforeseen move to Idaho introduced me to an abnormal foe: adversity. I struggled to adjust to this new environment, unwilling to plod down the unbeaten path that trailed off into the wild unknown. But, like most challenges that arise in my life, I decided I wouldn’t back down. Ignoring the warning signs that my anxious consciousness displayed before me, I trudged on, forcing myself to take part in community events and joining clubs that I was initially hesitant to. I continued my passion for basketball and assimilated into the athletic community. I perused my academic passions and continued to challenge myself in school. I had finally adapted to my new home.

The soft patter of rain against my window brought me back to reality. I sighed, content with the life I had created for myself; however, the brewing storm outside reminded me that I was no longer in Idaho. And like driving on most of the streets in my Washington neighborhood, I encountered yet another rut in the road.

I had my summer of senior year all planned out. Everything was in place according to my compulsive behavior. But, instead of partaking in a trip to Canada with my friends. I was stuck packing my cumbersome belongings. Instead of conducting an extensive research project at a local University, I was busy loading up a 26-foot U-Haul. And instead of playing basketball with a team I had become very close to, I was forced to memorize new plays for a team much different from my previous one. Moving again felt like déjà vu being forced down my throat... and it was getting hard to breathe.

I could feel the strain of emotions pulsating through burning red cheeks, though I refused to admit it was there: refused to acknowledge the pain that had wriggled its way back into my life. But, in this moment I began to think. I thought long and hard about the experiences in my life: a lightbulb went off. Somewhere in the deep dark depths of my sorrow, this lightbulb shone down, luminating my shrouded conscious.

I became grateful for the diverse culture I had indulged into during my time in Hawaii: thankful for the values of family and good morals that I had created there. I was grateful for the adversity I faced, adjusting to new environments and experiencing the unknown. I was thankful for the relationships I’d built with the amazing people in each community: those who changed my mindset and taught me to not settle for the circumstances given to me, but to make the best of each opportunity. It helped me overcome the barriers of anxiety and self-consciousness that had created a turbulence in my mind.

And I was grateful for the opportunity to now apply these life-changing realizations to the next chapter of my life here at the academy.

I paused for a moment and grinned, thrilled to have finally thought of an idea. I sat up in my chair, opened my laptop, and began to type.


Changing Things Up this Semester

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Isabel Jimenez

Well, I must say, we are in the midst of an intense semester… Even though there is a pandemic going on, it is quite difficult at a military academy regardless of COVID-19. Since February, academics have picked up as well as the military duties & obligations. Some of these include more drill, more FRAWs, and more of what the military academy day used to look like…

In a normal year, each company must perform a Regimental Review which means marching on the Washington Parade Field in section. The firsties (seniors at the Academy), all have swords while the under-classmen carry rifles. In the past, I’ve heard there were Regimental Reviews every weekend (I’m not sure if that meant Friday or Saturday), but I know they practiced Friday mornings for drill. Our class does not quite know what that experience is like, but regardless we are adventuring new waters! Literally & figuratively.

As for me, I changed some things up. Last semester I played rugby, but this semester I wanted to try something new, so I joined Women’s Rowing/Crew. It’s a NCAA, Division 3 sport, which basically means it’s more of a time commitment than a club sport – but the people there definitely make it a great community. So, when I meant I spent more time adventuring new waters, I meant it in the literal sense because I’ve definitely had the opportunity to spend more time on Thames River (only to get splashed by the salty sea water when the water gets rough). The funny thing is, every time that I get splashed with waves, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m on the East Coast. Random side note: I’m from Wisconsin. This means that anytime I’ve interacted with a large body of water, it has been Lake Michigan – and Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake. Sometimes I get splashed with water (in the face of course), and I lick my lips only to realize it’s very salty!!! If you got splashed in the face in Wisconsin (from Lake Michigan of course), there is no salt because it’s a freshwater body. I don’t know, maybe it’s just a Midwest thing to have to keep reminding yourself in the East Coast and the water is saltier than not…

Anywho, April is our last month, so we just need to make it through our last four weeks of classes. They are definitely going to be quite difficult, but with perseverance and dedication (and God of course) – all things are possible. Oh! And for majors, I decided to switch my major to Cyber, but if you have any questions on the majors – I can definitely point you in the right direction if I can’t give you an adequate answer, we’re all here to help! But I’m going to wait a little, see how the major goes, and then write something of that sort in a blog. I definitely want to give a better perspective about what I learn about in the major – because I don’t know everything yet and there are a few things to learn. I’m discovering whole new adventures, and there is always something new to find!

Until next time, see you later my sea-going friends! Feel free to reach out to me at any time, [email protected].


My Winter Break and Looking Ahead

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Isabel Jimenez

Hello again! It’s officially February here now, but I figured I’d write about what happened with me these last few months. So last year, with COVID and everything, we were sent home for Thanksgiving and it was decided that we were to do the last several weeks of school virtually. It worked out well! And actually, I stayed with my Sponsor Family for Thanksgiving, (as my family was busy so we couldn’t be together for Thanksgiving this year), but I did have a chance to head home for Christmas.

It was so wonderful to be back! I live in the great state of Wisconsin, so it was a little bit of a journey, but it was definitely worth it. Being away from your family for several months (5 months to be exact) makes you really appreciate what you’ve missed. For example, I absolutely love cats. I know not everyone is a fan, but back home I would cuddle-up with my cats when I did my homework. I didn’t realize how much I missed that! I also got to see all of my family again – and that includes my four younger siblings and parents. And while it was absolutely great to see them all again, it also made me realize how fast they’re growing (and how much my brothers have become teenage boys).

Anywho, we’re back in school now. This semester I’m taking I2C (Intro to Computing), Physics, Introduction to Navigation, and Calculus. Definitely none of my specialties. But that doesn’t matter as that is apparently what I’m supposed to be learning this semester. 😊 Classes are in full-swing, and I’m better-balancing out my schedule. Last semester, I was really just trying to figure out what needed to get done and when – this semester I’ve got a plan. Nothing fancy, but I’m better with understanding my time with all the military obligations & everything.

Lastly, it has been a little challenging lately since most of everything has been restricted because of COVID. And while not everything is what one might expect, it’s a blessing to go to a wonderful school with such amazing people! If you have any questions or just want to talk about Academy life, definitely reach out to me!!!


Happy New Year Everyone!

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Swab Summer, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Grace Sickendick

I wanted to take advantage of our downtime over MAP week to recap my first semester at the CGA. Coming out of Swab Summer, it took a while to adjust to becoming a 4/c. Being told what to do and when to do it was soon replaced with having to be responsible with your own schedule, knowing what to do and when to do it. Although the stress from yelling had disappeared, the new stressor of having a new independence soon appeared.

The first week was very confusing. I remember still being stuck in the habit of “securing for sea” with my backpack straps, keeping my shoelaces tied and hidden, and referring to myself as “Swab Sickendick.” Not to mention afterwards being terrified when Reveille sounded in the morning and rushing to put on my white socks, only to find that I did not need to secure myself to the bulkhead and could instead head to the wardroom to get a cup of coffee. I have found the cup of coffee is much needed now. The best part of being out of Swab Summer was getting to finally talk to the people I had spent over a month with and still hardly knew anything about. “Swab Buelt” and “Swab O’Brien” soon became “Annie” and “Dana.” Swab huddles to figure out how best to make our rack became Friday night movie night. Back home I would meet someone and then learn to trust them, but here I learned to rely and trust people before I even got to know them.

Getting into a routine during the schoolyear took a while to get used to, especially switching from high school classes to college classes. This past semester I was enrolled in Calc I, Chem I, Fundamentals of Navigation, I2C (Intro to Computing), GSO (Gender and Sexual Orientation), Swim I and Principles of Fitness I. I found my Nav class very interesting and enjoyed learning, and my I2C class the most challenging (the professor was an incredible teacher, I am just really bad with computers; in fact I had to have my grandma teach me how to use Facebook). I recommend taking GSO if you are interested in lots of class discussion and don’t mind discussing some difficult topics.

On top of my classes, I played snare for Windjammers (the Academy drum corps) and am so glad I joined. I met a lot of really cool people, had an AMAZING section, played some fun music, and even got to travel with the football team to Kings Point to play at our only game. I am hoping to get involved with more clubs over this next semester and into 3/c year. CGA also held IC (Inter-Company) sports over the fall semester, which turned out to be a blast. I decided to play ping pong (shoutout to the Golf ping pong team, we took home 2nd place), and am hoping that there will be a spring season.

I left to go home the day before Thanksgiving, and I’ll be honest, it was difficult to come back. I enjoyed being home with family and friends, but realized I was starting to miss the people here more than the people at home.

Thank you for reading! Again, please email me with any questions you might have -- [email protected] -- Enjoy the New Year!


How I Spent Quarantine: Anime

(Just for Fun, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Junna Castel

Most of us entered into spring break last March confused and unsure of what school was going to look like when we returned—if we returned. Instead our spring got extended once, twice, and then school was cancelled outright. While it was difficult to adjust to the sudden shift away from being in-persona and interacting with friends, and it was difficult to motivate myself to keep up with the asynchronous online learning, being stuck in quarantine also offered something that I had not had previously: tons of time. While I spent a good chunk of the months between spring break and S-Day getting ready for the PFE, getting all my stuff packed and ducks in a row, I discovered a newfound passion: anime.

I never really considered myself a fan of the Japanese art style, and especially not the whiny, high pitched character tropes that many girl characters fall into. I discovered that there was actually so much more than my narrow view of what anime was. While bringing this up might insight controversy, I believe that watching Avatar: the Last Airbender set me onto this never-ending journey through the anime world. I fell in love with the art’s ability to make any wish or desire come to life like the fireball from avatar, or the multielement battles of team avatar versus either earth benders, or fire benders, or even water benders. Avatar showed me how complex, and 3-dimensional stories crafted within the anime universe could be. I found deep plot lines with plot twists, and unclear, suspenseful, rising action that enthralled me during the especially dead moments of quarantine.

Following my –very- quick digestion of Avatar the Last Airbender, I took it upon myself to watch as many anime series before my departure to New London, Connecticut and the start of Swab Summer. My schedule during the weeks leading up to S-Day looked like this: wake up, workout, watch anime, eat-of course, watch anime, workout, watch anime and sleep. This schedule shows you how obsessive I became with my newfound hobby, but also shows how expansive the anime world is and how it has an inexhaustible amount of content to fill your time with. During those days, I was swept into watching Attack on Titan, Legend of Korra, Haikyuu, Yuri on Ice, Naruto, Dr. Stone, and a couple movies such as A Silent Voice, and Your Name. My personal favorites up to this point are Attack and Titan, Avatar the Last Airbender, and A Silent Voice. Since my frantic anime consumption in the March to June period, I have since dialed back, and taken to a more moderate, and control pace of watching new anime shows. That’s my one warning, anime is a black hole that sucks you into its rich culture, and plethora of shows, leaving you breathless and wondering where the time has gone. I don’t regret any bit of it.

As a new “weeb,” please let me know if there are shows that I need to watch! I can’t wait to become part of such an expansive community which I stumbled into during quarantine.


Finding Your Rhythm

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Cheyenne Waters

What’s up, CGA Community? So, I started 4/c year about a month ago. I love being a 4/c. Seriously, it is such a relief from being a swab. You are actually a person again. Also, I was a terrible swab, so it’s nice not to be terrible. To all you perspective 2021 swabs, if your cadre say that it would be better to do swab summer for a whole year than 4/c year, that is a lie (at least in my opinion).

I wanted to talk a bit about rhythms. The first part of 4/c year is about finding your rhythm. You will stumble around a little, but eventually you will get the flow of things. My great piece of advice is to focus on becoming a better person and not focus on becoming the best person. This might be hard for the Ultra-competitive types. However, it will be more beneficial in the long run if you focus on developing healthy habitats. The Academy is here to help you become an officer. The goal is to be an upstanding and mature Coast Guard Ensign. The goal is not to be the BEST cadet EVER. This doesn’t mean you can’t do well. It just means that you must focus on doing YOUR best instead of the best. This also means that you must work on developing healthy habits and rhythm. While staying up until 3 and drinking a lot of energy may get that essay done, it is not a long-term plan. Sometimes you do just have to stay up to finish an assignment, but it is not best to make a habit of it.

SEMPER GUMBY. Those are words I didn’t truly appreciate until I started the school year. You would think being in a military academy would be all about strict schedules, but it is actually about being flexible. Things change really fact here. Now since this blog is about rhythms. I would like to contrast rhythm and schedule. You should get into the rhythm of working out every day, but you won’t be able to have a strict time in which you do it. Things happen. You need to have a healthy rhythm and habits and a basic schedule, but you also need to be ready for anything. Which is kind of exciting.

My last piece of advice is to get involved. Try new things. The great thing about college is your extracurricular activities can be things you enjoy not just things to put on your resume. Also, join the Offshore Sailing Team!!!! (No experience needed).

Now it’s time for a funny swab summer mess-up :)

So, I was the last person of our company to come down the stairs. I see two platoons forming up. I hop in the first one. The swab next to me says 20. So, I say (very confident) 21, sir. Then I hear, “WATERS, what are you doing?” I had tried to join golf. I run back to Delta while the whole platoon including myself is trying very hard not to laugh. I was successful, but unfortunately many of my shipmates were not. One of my roommates got dropped for laughing.