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A Reflection on Cadet Summers So Far

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021, Eagle) Permanent link
Annabella Farabaugh

It’s hard to believe that this will be my third summer as a cadet at the Academy! Swab Summer is the first summer you will experience. For me, it was unlike anything I had ever been through. Looking back on what is learned in those seven weeks (which simultaneously feels like they fly by and like they last an eternity) it’s clear how important it is. Swab Summer really does indoctrinate you into the military. Although there’s hardly any time to think about the growth or transformation you’re undergoing in between the push-ups, shower drills, and squaring, it’s easy to recognize in hindsight. My grandfather was in the military but other than that I had no connection to the military. It was a culture shock for me that involved learning a whole new language with a ridiculous number of acronyms. After the seven weeks, I developed military habits that I never thought I would – there are far too many pictures of me now in and out of uniform standing with my fingers joined in a natural curl! I notice dust on the floor and actually have a desire to sweep. I rarely carry things in my right hand since it must be free to salute while in uniform. One thing you hear frequently before swearing-in is that your parents won’t recognize you after Swab Summer – that you will come out a more mature and developed person. Although I certainly gained a lot of new military mannerisms and vernacular, I didn’t feel very internally changed. My parents agreed. That change didn’t begin to really happen until the next summer.

The summer between 4/c and 3/c year is different for everyone. Some cadets go to summer school, others go on cutters for 11 weeks, and most cadets spend five or six weeks on Eagle and five or six weeks at a small boat station. I spent five weeks on Eagle, traveling through the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean. Next, I spent six weeks at Station Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California. The summer was a wonderful break from New London. I’m from Georgia and hot summer weather is my favorite. I learned to surf, read tons of books, tanned, made friends, and was introduced to sailing and search and rescue response. Most importantly, though, this summer was a transition period. In 4/c year you are a follower and it is easy to not take ownership of your path or career because there are so many external motivators. This can sometimes lead you into bad situations. At the end of the past summer, I realized that I would be expected to lead 4/c in the next few months. I started to take more ownership of my own actions and became more intentional with the type of person I wanted to become. That was the most valuable part of the summer for me.

One thing you learn at the Academy is patience. There are so many moving parts that go into planning our summer training and we can’t expect to know our plans super early. We recently submitted our choices for which phases of Swab Summer, AIM, or CGAS cadre we wanted and are awaiting our assignments. I put in for Chase Hall Cadre Phase I and AIM because both of those training periods were the most impactful to me as a swab. Wherever I end up, I’m excited for another summer of growth and adventure!

MORE ABOUT ANNABELLA

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

Hoping for Eagle this Summer

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021, Eagle) Permanent link
Jasmine Rodriguez

I am passionate about returning to CGC Eagle this summer. I greatly enjoyed the whole experience both during Swab Summer and 3/c summer. The cadets I looked up to most were the 2/c I met on Eagle, and I hope to both model their leadership style and develop my own. Being cadre would give me a chance to see all the incoming swabs and practice various leadership techniques as the division changes every week. It also provides an environment where I can work on mentoring and active listening, as well as enabling others to act through the rigorous responsibilities of all cadets aboard. Eagle gives the swabs a different kind of challenging training environment, one that allows them to take charge and manage themselves a little more than during the rest of the summer. The incoming 4/c have a chance to demonstrate their personality, values, and ability in a different perspective from that of Chase Hall.

For similar reasons, even though I wanted to put Eagle down for all three of my choices, I had to include Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) as well. I wanted to select the cadre sections that had the biggest impact on me when I was trying to earn a spot at the Academy. I still remember my AIM cadre’s names, even though I attended in 2012. I want to have a similar impression on incoming or prospective cadets, and I want that chance to help them decide if the Academy is truly the right decision for them, outside of the intense Chase Hall environment. Many people can make it through sounding off and push-ups, but once they are out of that environment and able to reflect, they can make better decisions about whether or not this is the correct life choice for them. I want to be there for that reflection because I love the Academy and I worked through almost every program offered over the course of four years to earn my appointment. I want to help ensure the cadets coming in truly want to be here and understand what the Academy will ask of them, and I hope to do that through the platform that most influenced me: Eagle.

MORE ABOUT JASMINE

Summer Assignments Let Cadets Thrive

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020, Eagle) Permanent link
Pat Wheeler

Although the Coast Guard Academy is full of plenty of excitement and opportunities for growth, the absolute best part of the cadet experience are the summer assignments. Each summer, cadets have the chance to get away from the daily grind of academics and see what it’s like in the fleet for three months. Everyone begins with their first summer at the Academy as incoming 4/c cadets (freshman), known as Swab Summer. This seven-week-long indoctrination period acts as the cadets’ version of boot camp. There is plenty of information and other articles out there about Swab Summer, so I won’t spend too much time discussing it, just know that each summer afterwards gets progressively better!

During my 3/c (sophomore) summer, I spent five weeks aboard the Coast Guard’s tall ship, Eagle, and six weeks aboard the USCGC Sherman. While aboard Eagle, we sailed from New London, Connecticut to Bermuda. Along the way we had swim calls in the Bermuda Triangle, navigated on the open ocean by the stars, and experienced what it’s like to be a sailor in the truest form of the word. We spent a week in port in Bermuda where we enjoyed pink sand beaches and crystal-clear water. It was honestly the prettiest tropical destination I have ever been to, hands down. From there we sailed to Port Canaveral, Florida where we were able to see a rocket take off from the NASA space center and go to Disney World in Orlando, all within the span of a couple days. We finished off our tour on Eagle by pulling into Norfolk, Virginia and swapping-out crews with other cadets. From Norfolk, I flew across the country to Hawaii to report in to the Sherman. Fun fact, I was able to meet Bill Nye the Science Guy and take a picture with him as he was on my flight! Once in Hawaii, four other cadets and I had a week to enjoy the island of Honolulu before we would get underway on the cutter. While in Hawaii, I was able to reconnect with some old friends from my days at prep school (Marion Military Institute) and spend long days on the beaches with them, bodyboarding and basking in the sun. Some of us even visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial while we were there. I was also able to meet Dog the Bounty Hunter on a beach at one point (another photo opportunity)! As members of the Sherman’s crew, we performed an ALPAT (Alaska patrol), heading straight from Hawaii to the island of Kodiak. From Kodiak we visited other ports along the state, including Dutch Harbor, Nome, and Barrow. We performed several search and rescue missions during our six weeks, many of which involved fisherman stranded in the freezing waters of the Bering Sea. On several occasions we performed joint operations with the Air Force, bringing aboard several Pararescue specialists (PJs) to assist us in recovering lost sailors. We passed by glaciers and even saw some of the coast of Russia in our patrol. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

For my 2/c (junior) summer, I was a Coast Guard Academy Scholars (CGAS) cadre, meaning I was responsible for training the cadet candidates we send to prep school for a year before they report in to the Academy as a swab. Having been a graduate of the scholars program, I was very passionate about ensuring the 60-something candidates I was charged with training were adequately prepared for the academic and physical rigors of prep school. The vast majority of scholars completed the three-week indoctrination period, many passing this boot camp with flying colors. They were then divided amongst three separate prep schools: Marion Military Institute (my alma mater), Georgia Military College, and Naval Academy Prep School. I still keep in touch with many of my scholars to this day and look forward to seeing them report to the Academy for Swab Summer this coming June. The rest of my summer was spent participating in several other programs, including a week of range time where we learned firearms marksmanship, Coastal Sail which was a two-week evolution where we took 44-foot coastal sailing yachts up and down and all over New England learning traditional sailing skills and leadership, and a week-long internship I did with the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT) which is our elite counter-terrorism unit that is a part of the Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF) community. During this week with the MSRT, I was able to learn all about the mission-set of our DSF operators, when they would deploy to combat a pirate or terrorist threat, and was shown many of their weapons systems including fully automatic MK18 rifles and several sniper variants that their precision marksmen use.

I am currently putting in my dream sheet for my next summer assignment as a 1/c (senior). At the top of my list is an 11-week deployment to Bahrain. The Coast Guard has several assets in the Middle East used in support of the Navy’s 5th Fleet. This command is known as Patrol Forces South-West Asia (PATFORSWA). I am greatly interested in this summer assignment as I have a great passion for the law enforcement and defense-readiness missions of the Coast Guard. If I do end up getting accepted for this assignment, I will leave the Academy a week early and attend the three-week-long Pre-Deployment Training before shipping-off to the Middle East. If I don’t get accepted for this program, I hope to be assigned to a large white-hull cutter, either a National Security Cutter or a Medium Endurance Cutter or some sort. While aboard, I would seek to use my Boarding Team Member qualification to perform boardings in search of illegal narcotics and migrants.

As I mentioned before, the summers here at the Coast Guard Academy are what make it all worth it in the end. They allow cadets to gain a little perspective and refocus on why they joined the service in the first place. The Academy is an excellent place for cadets to learn and grow, but the fleet and the summer adventures is where students can truly thrive.

MORE ABOUT PAT

It Was the Summer of ‘18

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

This summer, I had the opportunity to experience many of the amazing things that the Coast Guard does on a daily basis. For the first five weeks of the summer training program I sailed on USCGC Eagle from New London, Connecticut to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Barbados; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and finally San Juan, Puerto Rico. Besides gaining valuable maritime knowledge by taking part in one of the most enriching traditions at the Coast Guard Academy, I was able to form genuine relationships with many of my classmates that I did not previously know. From late-night watch standing, to sail stations, to determining our latitude and longitude based on the relative position of the stars in the night sky, my classmates and I grew closer and began to truly form our identity as the Class of 2021!

The second part of my summer was spent at Station Port Canaveral in Florida. Another cadet and I were lucky enough to be assigned to Station Port Canaveral where we got to partake in the unique (and coolest, in my opinion) mission in the Coast Guard: rocket security. Along with search and rescue, law enforcement, and cruise ship and submarine escorts, we provided security for two SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches. We were able to tour the John F. Kennedy Space Center and interact with members of the Air Force and other commercial agencies, something that I had not previously been exposed to during my time at the Academy.

Summer 2018 was definitely a summer for the books. While it differs dramatically from what my counterparts at civilian colleges did during their summers, I don’t regret a single one of my experiences. This past summer energized me for an exciting year ahead, and I cannot wait to see what else 2018 has to offer!

MORE ABOUT KATHERINE

Eagle Cadre Reflection

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020, Eagle) Permanent link
Amy Chamberlin

Being a cadre on Eagle was an experience that I will remember for both the good and the challenging times. After I heard I would be Eagle cadre, I was worried that I would not have the same relationship that my classmates were gaining through being with the swabs for three weeks in Chase Hall. I quickly realized after getting back to school last week that I was wrong. I feel like the 4/c know the Eagle cadre just as well, if not more.

I thought the most challenging part of the summer was leading my peers. Our group of cadre was split up into a Cadet in Charge, Cadet Executive Officer, a Mast Captain assigned to each of the three masts, and finally division officers underneath the Mast Captains. Each division officer was in charge of 4 to 5 swabs, in addition to exchange cadets, JROTC, Sea Scouts, or Sea Cadets. Learning how to accept your shipmates’ ideas while still acting professional to your division was an important skill to have.

Since I did Summer Ocean Racing during my 3/c summer and did not spend 5 to 6 weeks aboard Eagle and I always knew that I wanted to have an opportunity to sail on America’s Tall Ship. One of the best parts of being an Eagle cadre was being able to get to know the crew. Going to school at the Academy and mostly interacting with officers, it was a different experience to be with a crew of almost all enlisted members. The crew was extremely proficient in their collaterals and specialties. Every cadre had a collateral, mine being the navigation brief into New London, Connecticut.

One of Eagle’s main missions is Public Affairs. The ship usually hosts a reception to different groups once pulling into a port. One of my favorite moments on Eagle was at the reception in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a beautiful night, and coincidently, it was the Coast Guard’s birthday ‒ August 4th! The sun was setting, and we had the large National Ensign flying. As we all heard the boatswain whistle sound off, we all came to attention ‒ cadets; crew; and junior, senior and flag officers. It was a moment of Coast Guard pride. We stood tall as the National Anthem played in the bankground.

If you have any questions about Eagle or Academy life, please email me at Amy.M.Chamberlin@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT AMY

The End of 4/c Year and the Start of 3/c Year

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

Fourth class year is officially over and I couldn’t have made it through without the great friends and support I have found here. We learned how to balance academics, athletics, and military obligations as soon as Swab Summer had ended. The school year is full of fun activities such as the 4/c formal and the talent show. I loved these types of events because I got to know more of my classmates during these functions. I switched between multiple sport teams but I eventually found my way to Windjammers, which is the Academy’s marching band. We travel constantly, from Canada to New York to Massachusetts.

As soon as finals week was over, half of the class of 2021 walked aboard Eagle as excitement and anticipation filled the air. After only a few hours, we were underway en route to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The first few days on Eagle included climbing, learning the lines, understanding the fire main system, and so much more. We were underway for about two weeks before we arrived at our first port. The other three ports we visited were Barbados, Santo Domingo, and San Juan. The phase change was in San Juan where Phase I bid adieu to Eagle. Some of my classmates from Phase I went to stations or cutters, but unlike them, some of us then went to summer school. Various classes are offered during the summer for cadets to catch up or get ahead.

I am looking forward to starting the new school year in August! It will be great meeting the Class of 2022 and the upper-class in my new company. If you have any questions, you can reach me at Stephanie.L.Burckhard@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT STEPHANIE

An Amazing 3/c Summer

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

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

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

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

MORE ABOUT FRANCESCA