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Bears, Badgers, and Bikes

(Athletics, Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

Phew! My last post of the semester- it has all gone by so fast! I decided to end with a bang by writing about my experience at US Collegiate Club Triathlon Nationals. After months of training for the event, myself and twelve others on the USCGA Tri Team made the trip down to Lake Lanier, GA. I was glad I had my teammates. I would have gotten lost in the Atlanta Airport’s corn-mazed terminals without their navigation skills!

After landing in ATL, we drove an hour north to our rental house in Dawsonville. The cottage, with four floors, a lakeside view, and exercise room, was a triathlete’s paradise. It was all made possible by our coach, LT Lukasik. She planned our itinerary with such intricacy that we hardly had to do any scheduling of our own. LT might be leaving the academy at the end of this semester, but she will always be one of my biggest role models. The ”road to nationals” was largely attributed to her hard work- none of this would have been possible without her.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to race in the mixed team relay (MTR) with three of my teammates. This unique event, which typically isn’t offered at races, involves four legs- a 300m swim, 5k bike, and 800m run. Each member of the team (two males, two females) completes the distance, competing against other squads for the quickest time. We placed 26th in a stacked field- beating 12 DI/II club teams. It was quite a success, but the real challenge was Saturday- the individual race.

Compared to sprint, the long-distance triathlon is its own beast. This event, dubbed the “Olympic”, exists because someone thought that it was a good idea to put a 1500m swim, 24.8mi bike, and 10k run together. If this wasn’t enough, the sheer number of universities competing in this event was insane. The whole Big 10 Conference, ACC, and several other big-name schools were represented. With over 50 racers, it seemed like the Wisconsin Badgers had brought at least half of their state’s population!

In fact, there were so many in the race that they had to split us into ten heats (five men, five women). I entered the water in heat one and felt like ______. Despite being kicked, punched, pulled, and everything between, I survived the 44.5 (degree)F dash. The bike and run that followed was killer, but the beautiful scenery of the resort made up for it. Well, sorta. My shins weren’t that impressed.

Nonetheless, my sore joints did not detract from the fun I had this weekend. Having the opportunity to compete at such a large-scale race this semester was hands down my favorite part of 4/c year. Despite being the only DIII squad at the race, we certainly held our own. No USCGA bears finished last- some of us set personal best times! And, most importantly, everybody finished (no broken bikes)! We celebrated with a team cookout, plenty of ping pong, and a little bit of (necessary) calculus II homework.

The race slate for the triathlon team this upcoming semester is as ambitious as ever. We have several conference events on the schedule along with a regional competition. If all goes to planned, we should be making our way back to nationals in exactly 365 days. It was great to experience the race once, but these bears are still hungry!

Until next year, Lake Lanier!


Spring in USA’s Cherry Capital

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Just for Fun, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

Anyone who knows me is well-aware that I am a *die-hard* Michigander. I was born and raised in the great mitten state and love every piece of it. From its patchworked cornfields to the crystal-clear waters of Lake Superior, Michigan is a place I miss dearly. So, when the “countdown to leave” finally reached zero, I knew exactly where I was headed for spring break. And I assure you, no second was put to waste.

Just hours after my physics midterm, I arrived back home from the DTW airport. Although it was the middle of the day, there was no “sunshine” signifying the beginning of spring break. Here in the north, spring break might as well just be another synonym for late winter. In fact, when I got home it was 20°F and the roads looked like they had been covered with a cigarette-ash flavored Slurpee from 7-11. To put it simply, the weather was far from ideal.

But it was home! I had a great week of break- my favorite part was simply spending a couple days not studying physics. However, there were quite a few other big highlights. My third day back, I explored Grand Traverse County- home to the TC Coast Guard Air Station and America’s Cherry Capital of the World! After enjoying (a bit too much) pie and fudge, it was time to go back to the southeast Mitten.

Shortly after returning from Up North, my dad surprised me with NHL tickets- the Red Wings against the Wild at Little Caesars Arena. In their previous matching, the Wings had gotten absolutely toasted; however, they held their own and pushed the Wild into OT. Unfortunately for Hockeytown’s Pride and Glory, Minnesota was able to capture the victory. The game was nothing short of entertaining though- the fights were top notch, and it was Star Wars Night!

My last day was spent as a “normal” college student. I went to my twin sister’s school, Oakland University, for the day and was surprised at how relaxed student life was there. It seemed like I had all the time and freedom in the world compared to the constant deadlines and commitments here at the academy. Yet, it made me appreciate the discipline that USCGA has taught me. This place is like no other- you better be willing to work if you want to get in. Despite my fun weekend at Oakland University, I was glad to leave and get back to that Coast Guard grind. The end of the school year is in sight!

See ya in April for my Easter Special!


The Joy of Writing

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Just for Fun, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

In high school, my favorite class was English. It was the one place where I didn’t have to try to wrap my head around derivatives or struggle through stoichiometry. Language Arts was a place I could be free and finally use the creativity that had been suffocated from my heap of STEM-based courses. Each day, I looked forward to stepping into that room and starting our next project. Once I began typing, my fingers refused to stop.

My 9th/10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Stubbs, inspired me all throughout high school. I despised her as a freshman. Essays that were pristine in my eyes would be handed back with a smattering of red ink and corrections. It was frustrating seeing my work torn apart and made me consider giving up one of my biggest passions. However, I now realize that Mrs. Stubbs was critical for a reason- she cared. My teacher, who had a freshman of her own, would sacrifice countless hours to editing the 130 drafts she received each week. Looking back, I can’t believe she had time to sleep- maybe she stuck herself with an IV of caramel cappuccino instead.

This joy for writing culminated on Christmas Day, 2017. It was when I met my pride and joy. After a night of insomnia, I dashed out to join my sisters at the base of our over-decorated tree to open presents. The first gift that caught my eye looked innocent enough. It was innocently wrapped in plain blue paper and was the shape of a microwave. I carefully peeled back the paper to reveal more boring, drab gray. And my holiday dream came true- a brand-new typewriter emerged from the dark-blue paper.

I learned how to use it from my grandma, who took shorthand when she was my age. After lots of practice and dozens of unnecessary ink marks, I (sorta) got the hang of it. Drawing upon this newfound skill, I cleared out our basement storage closet and converted it into my writing domain. A cold, concrete-floored oblong room completed with a plywood table and fold-out chair. It was perfect. I spent many days and nights in my author’s domain, perfecting many works that would never see the light of day.

Here at the Academy, I still write on the side- albeit much less than I did at home. Between school and triathlon and other commitments, I make it a point to find time to write. Whether it be for a short time after class or straight before bed. The versatility of writing is what makes it unique- use it to report on a research topic, encourage someone to “take your side”, or to entertain. And that’s why I love writing so much, and I hope you do too (or at least try to)!

P.S. - I dare you to challenge me at a speed typing competition. The chances are you won’t win!

Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]! I’ll catch ya next month – hopefully after ol’ Punxsutawney sees his shadow!


Adventures with Triathlon

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

The endorphin-fueled thrill of an endurance race is what keeps me coming back for more. When I first learned about the Coast Guard Academy, I was thrilled to see that they had a triathlon team. My three favorite sports (swimming, biking, and running) could all be lumped into one big event! Through triathlon club, I met so many awesome people, got to go against some good competition, and pushed through dozens of tough workouts. My favorite race of the season was the TOUGHMAN Olympic Triathlon in Stony Point, New York.

After enjoying the Friday morning of Parents Weekend, a small group of us took a cadet van and headed to the race site. By the time we got to our hotel, the long-drive fatigue has begun to set in. So, we decided to make things simple and eat dinner at the restaurant across the street. Our exhaustion ended up being a blessing in disguise- the food next door was good. In fact, it was some of the best shrimp scampi I’ve ever had! After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to catch some Zs.

The next day, my alarm woke me up at 4AM. We got to the race site early to get our packets and dropped bikes off at transition. All three events went smoothly. The open-water course was one of my favorites and I was able to start off in the lead pack. Although my bike wasn’t the best, a good kick at the end helped me close in on the top five. I dropped the hammer in the last three miles of the run and was able to podium!

However, my favorite part of TOUGHMAN wasn’t the medal I earned. The thing I loved most about TOUGHMAN was that I got to spend an awesome weekend with my friends, family, and coaches. After the race, we headed back to New London. On our way, we stopped at a nice, sit-down café in Mt. Kisco. Their long menu was enough to make a person drool, let alone a bunch of hungry triathletes. I got the turkey club with sweet potato fries and took part in the fourth, most important discipline- eating. The perfect finish to our short yet rewarding season.

Peace Out Fall Semester!


Fall Biking Adventures

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

Back home, I would ride my bike almost everywhere. My evenings were spent peddling down dusty backgrounds on my beloved green Giant. A bike that was infinitely times more reliable than my 2008 Ford Fusion beater. Although there were not many places to go, some of my favorite memories come from those relaxing bike rides. Here at the Academy, I have carried over my favorite hobby to manage the stress that comes with being a 4/c cadet. Here are some of my favorite spots around the Academy for a relaxing fall biking adventure!

#1 – Fire Street

Dubbed “Fire Rd.” by the triathlon team, this bike route feels like a roller coaster! It is a hilly eight-mile trek to get there, but that all pays off once you reach the cascading downhills of the street itself. By your return the Academy, your sore quads will remind you of this fire-y workout!

#2 – Holmberg Orchards

Directly across the Thames is a small town called Gales Ferry. There, I found Holmberg Orchards- a small farmers’ market and u-pick center with a variety of fresh produce. They sell Macintosh apples the size of softballs, the juiciest peaches, and fluffy apple cider donuts (but only on weekends!). This family-owned agribusiness is worth a visit, whether it be by two wheels, or four.

#3 – Misquamicut Beach

The beautiful scenery on the way to Misquamicut Beach makes the long ride from USCGA worth it. My sponsor family were the first ones to introduce me to the Rhode Island coastline and I just knew I had to go back! Although it is a little touristy, the roads are not crowded at all. The shaved ice cart at the beach has dozens of different flavors to choose from; Maui Wowie (papaya and dragon fruit) is my top pick! And, if you get a long, you can enjoy a movie at their beach-side drive-in theater. Dig out your helmet and cross the state border the bipedal way. Your quads may be sore, but the journey will be worth it!

So, get out there and explore the great outdoors! As the leaves turn crisp and the wind turns chilly, a New England winter is right around the corner. Head down the bike room and dust off your cruiser for an autumn ride. Happy Fall!


Focusing On My Final Memories

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

Hello readers! I write this on more of a bittersweet note. I have successfully completed my final cross country season, after eight years of running the sport. When I look back at those four seasons at the Academy, and consider everything that has happened, I smile fondly. I can remember trying to be recruited from high school, and my times did not quite make the cut. I still tried out for the team, and four years later I am team captain. I can confidently say that being team captain will always hold a special place in my heart, over any sort of command or leadership within the barracks. Fall in New England will always mean 6ks at Harkness Park, cider mill runs to Clyde’s, and long runs through orange, red, and yellow leaves. My mother came up to watch one of my final races, and it was heartwarming to hear her stories and traditions from running on the team almost 30 years ago. This sport has always meant more to me than anything, and I accredit it with getting me through some of the hardest times at the Academy. For whoever is reading this, and may be interested in the team, please consider it. This sport has given me some of my best friends here, and we are a family.

Although cross country season is over, there is still work to do with Track and Field! I am beyond excited to hit the ground running for the indoor season and wrap up my running career at the Academy before commissioning. It is absolutely insane to think this is the final stretch. Even looking back on some of my older blogs bring back many memories of times long past. My days at the Academy are numbered, as I am often reminded by the countdown I keep on my whiteboard. It has become a sort of well -known thing around here, seeing as I live in a very congested passageway. Apparently, some of the Company Officers have taken a liking to my countdown as well, and continuously talk about their excitement for graduation (184 days!).

I know these final months will fly by, and I am trying my hardest to keep focused, get work done, and focus on my memories here while they still last. I don’t anticipate writing another blog before Thanksgiving and Christmas, so in the meantime, Happy Holidays, and good luck to all those applying early action! Please reach out if you have any questions!!


Bye-bye Boss! The End of an Era

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Joshua Orbe

The last few weeks of the school year were full of emotion. It was a time of anxiety, relief, celebration and triumph for those graduating. It was time to say goodbye, pass the torch, and accept and commit to new responsibilities.

It is hard to believe that I am nearing the halfway point of my time as a cadet! I vividly remember all the nerves and excitement I felt on the days leading up to swab summer. Two years went by so fast, and now, I am a second class cadet. I heard that this summer, things are about to get interesting. But before that, the corps got to go away on a well-deserved break. One of my first and closest friends from the Academy brought me home to Maryland. I also paid my sponsor brother, who has been with me on this journey since day one, a visit to New Jersey. Lastly, my beloved mentor, a graduating Filipino international cadet, invited me to join him in Denver for one last adventure together here in the States.

I had meant to visit my roommate’s home for more than a year, but a global pandemic complicated those plans out of nowhere. When I arrived after a long but fun road trip, I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome. My roommate’s family took me in as one of their own and made me feel at home. I had a great time, and I could see how they had raised such a great son. From the trips, family traditions, great food, and even their adorable doggo, their family will forever hold a special place in my heart. I only hope to return the favor one day and be their tour guide around the Philippines.

I was sad when I had to leave, but I still have two more years here, and my roommate and I agreed to room together again! After Maryland, I took the train to my sponsor brother’s house in New Jersey. They are like my second family. We did not stay long and hit the road not soon after. We were going to attend an after-graduation party for our Filipino upperclassmen. After hundreds of songs and taking the wrong exits more than a few times, we made it to our sponsor mom’s house just in time to see our “boss” go up on stage with President Biden.

A few hours later, the party was in full swing. Our sponsor family made us a banquet of all my favorite meals from home. Many people came, Boss’s roommate from Puerto Rico and his family, my sponsor father’s family, and officers from the Philippine Coast Guard, some of them my future bosses.

I went back to New Jersey, and I went on the next part of my journey: Denver! It was my first time being West. What immediately struck me was the picturesque landscapes, soaring peaks, and vast grasslands. I stayed with my mentor/sponsor brother, whom we call Boss and his mom. The first thing we did was watch a John Williams tribute in Red Rocks Amphitheater. Those were some of the most breathtaking views I had seen. Our party then went hiking/picture taking at the hotel where they shot “The Shining.” The next evening was for the boys. Game 2 of the Denver Nuggets vs. Portland Trail Blazers playoff series was on in town. Boss and I had fun. I could finally check watching an NBA game off my bucket list. The next stop on our list was Mount Rushmore. Getting there involved a long drive. My job was to keep Boss entertained and awake. We played music the entire time when we had service. The drive up to South Dakota was beautiful but staring at endless seas of grass proved to be a challenge. At least we saw the occasional tumbleweed.

From there, we paid a visit to one of our sister schools, the U.S. Air Force Academy. What immediately struck me was the size of the campus. The campus sits in a valley with mountain peaks surrounding it. It is a massive campus with around 18,000 acres of space. The buildings were modern and futuristic looking even.

We finished our trip at an amusement park. It was a fun day from start to finish. I almost got held up at the gate. Thankfully, I was able to buy a ticket by the time it was my turn in line. It was hot that day, but Boss and I thought it would be good to wear our matching Space Force hoodies. It was worth it in the end; we were able to take some great pictures. We also saw a fistfight happen a few feet from us. Thankfully, people broke it up before any got seriously hurt.

Looking back on the three weeks of summer, I could say that I spent my time wisely. I spent it with my best friends, my second family here. I look forward to more fun times and a happy reunion with my seniors who graduated before me.


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.