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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.

MORE ABOUT JOSH

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.

MORE INFORMATON ABOUT COLE

Excited for Summer, Extra-Curricular Activities

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

Happy spring everyone!! It is finally beginning to feel like spring around here. Outdoor Track and Field season is in full swing, and the days seem to get warmer as time goes on. There is an exciting energy in the air as well, as 1/c cadets count down the days to the long awaited graduation.

This summer is proving to be a gauntlet of its own right, as I prepare for a position on Battalion Staff. I applied back in December of 2020, and upon receiving a role, have been steadily producing work in preparation for the 2021 summer training period. I am beyond excited for what this summer holds for each trainee and cadet alike.

The second half of my summer will be spent on a tiny buoy tender out of Rockland, Maine. I cannot wait to find myself secluded in a small New England town for my 21st birthday. I plan on finding the best lighthouses, best lobster and clam shacks, and exploring national parks. I have heard nothing but good things about Maine in the summer, and I look forward to the time away from New London. It will surely be a different experience from being a 3/c on a gigantic National Security Cutter. I think I will fit right into the ATON life, and bond with the smaller crew once I report in. I’ll admit, I am counting down the days ‘til Rockland!

Ring dance is right around the corner, and the USAA Career Starter loan is just within reach. Things are starting to look up around here, and I am extremely excited to begin the final year of my Academy journey.

MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH

A Look at the Semester

(Academics, Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Monty Rickey

The spring weather has finally arrived! This semester has been chaotic, to say the least. This year has definetly been challenging with school, a long winter, of course the pandemic, and constantly changing schedules. I am in Golf Company but moved to a Hotel triple for a month or two. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the semester, because I got to know two people I had not previously known and living in a triple is always fun. I also ended up getting contact traced for COVID and ended up in Munro for two weeks. Luckily, my friend that tested positive, my Munro roommate, and I all ended up healthy. I was moving during online school, so it was not too hard to keep up with everything. Although Hotel was nice, a few days ago, I moved back to Golf and it great to be home.

Other than moving multiple times in the last few months, school has also been crazy. I love being an ORCA major and am in a lot of major specific classes, compared to 4/c year. I think my favorite class is Mathematical Statistics because I specifically love the probability and statistics aspect of math. Next semester, I want to take an independent study and dive deeper into probability theory, so I am excited about that. We also take programming classes, specifically in Python, and learn about R Studio in terms of statistics, which is awesome. What I love about the ORCA major is that it gives us the opportunity to learn about several types and aspects of math that I didn’t know about. It also opens my eyes to how much math is in the world around us and truly integrated into everything we do.

Now that it is spring, the women’s water polo season has started. Because of COVID, though, we are not playing games or tournaments, like we would during a normal season. I love playing water polo because I’ve never done it before, and the team is awesome. I swam in high school, but water polo is so different, and I love learning about it.

A few days ago, the 4/c took their Boards, which is a cumulative oral test of all Coast Guard indoctrination knowledge they have been studying since Swab Summer. It was awesome to see all of them do exceptionally well and transition into becoming 3/c this summer and next year. I am excited to see the 4/c as 3/c and so see my class as 2/c. After watching Billet Night, I am so hyped to see my class grow throughout the next two years!

MORE ABOUT MONTY

She Kills Monsters

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Teegan Cordova

Last semester, a friend texted me, no context, “Do you want to be an evil cheerleader?” Of course, I said yes. It turns out she was talking about the spring play. This year, the Drama Club put on She Kills Monsters, a 2011 play by Qui Nguyen about a girl who loses her family in a car crash and starts playing Dungeons and Dragons to connect with memories of her sister. It’s a sweet story about love and acceptance, and our leads absolutely knocked it out of the park.

For theater at the Academy, there’s usually a fall play, entirely cadet-run, and a spring musical, put together by a fantastic team of people including Academy/Alumni Center staff and New London community members. Last February I was in the chorus for the musical, and I can honestly say it was the most fun I had that semester. Both productions count as a sports credit.

This year, because of COVID, there was no spring musical. The play happened the last weekend of February and was streamed online in addition to having a live, socially distanced audience in Leamy Hall. Even though we had to adapt to be COVID-safe, it was absolutely worth it all to hear that people like it.

I didn’t act before coming to the Academy. I was involved with theater behind-the-scenes as part of the band for my high school’s musicals, but previous experience isn’t needed to be a part of Drama Club. If you’ve ever wanted to try out acting, it’s an awesome opportunity! For this production, we also had a 4/c student director, and she was amazing both for theatrical insight and managing logistics. You don’t have to be on stage to get involved with theater; you can direct or be a part of the tech/makeup team. One of the things I like best about the Academy is that, as such a small school, it’s possible to walk onto a lot of teams and activities. Theater is no exception!

MORE INFORMATON ABOUT TEEGAN

Mock Trial

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Teegan Cordova

I joined the mock trial team this semester. The Coast Guard has many opportunities for grad school after the Academy, including law school, which is a possibility I’ve recently begun to consider. What is less well-known are the ways to prepare for grad school as a cadet or to explore what interests you might want to pursue in further education. Mock trial is a fantastic opportunity to help solidify your future goals.

Since this was my first year, I participated as a witness. This semester, the team is ten people: six lawyers, three witnesses, and one alternate. The lawyers are divided into two teams, the defense and prosecution. Each side prepares a case based on a packet and the help of coaches. Our coach, LT Fritz, is a new instructor at the Academy this year. He began his career as a lawyer with the Marines but went to flight school to become a helicopter pilot. He then commissioned into the Coast Guard as a pilot and eventually returned to the law. He has a wealth of knowledge in both aviation and litigation. I hope that, as a government major, I have the opportunity to take one of his classes in the future.

Ordinarily, the team starts practicing at the start of the fall semester. This year, because of complications related to COVID, we began in January, so we elected not to participate in competition because of logistical and time constraints. In a normal year, the Academy team travels to Yale University to compete, giving participating cadets the chance to get off-base and network with like-minded college students. A handful of our team had participated in mock trial or moot court competitions in high school, but experience is not a requirement to join. I walked onto the team with no clue what I was doing and still had a blast. If you’re interested, I would highly recommend seeking out the club at the activities fair at the Academy.

MORE INFORMATON ABOUT TEEGAN

Bittersweet Returns

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

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

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

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

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

MORE ABOUT JULIANA

Cadet Music

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Teegan Cordova

I’ve played guitar since I was eight, so music has always been an influential part of my life. My sophomore year of high school, I joined the jazz band, and to this day, the people I’ve met through music are some of my best friends. When I received an appointment to the Academy in 2019, I worried that I would have to give up playing in a college jazz band to pursue a career in the Coast Guard. Thankfully, that has not been the case.

The Academy jazz band is directed by Mr. Frenkel, a fantastic warrant officer who also works with the Windjammers drum and bugle corps. Band helped me survive 4/c year. A few low-key hours of playing music every week was a relief from military training and academics, and it gave me a steadfast community of friends and mentors.

During the fall 2020 semester, after an initial quarantine and with continued surveillance testing, the corps was able to meet in-person for socially distanced activities. Jazz band moved from the basement room we used to share with the Coast Guard Band to Leamy ballroom, allowing for sufficient spacing between cadets to prevent virus transmission (and giving us access to the disco ball). Although 3/c year is generally less stressful than 4/c year because there are fewer military obligations, the changes necessitated by COVID created an uncertain environment, and I found the same solace in band last semester that I did fresh out of Swab Summer. We were even able to record about 20 minutes of Christmas songs that I could send to my grandparents in Colorado. Having just a touch of something so normal made all the difference.

In addition to the jazz band, the Academy has a concert band (that plays with Connecticut College across the street in non-COVID times), several vocal ensembles, a recently minted orchestra club, and the Windjammers marching band (and dance team!). If you like music but don’t want to be part of a structured group, there’s an annual talent show, and you can route a special request through your company officer to keep almost any instrument in your room--both my roommate and I have a guitar, and I know of at least two cellos in our company. Even if music isn’t your jam, I would highly recommend that you get involved with an extracurricular at the Academy. There are so many ways to find likeminded people and keep doing the things you love.

MORE INFORMATON ABOUT TEEGAN