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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!


Up North & Tim Horton’s

(Just for Fun, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

After a hard semester, it was time for a break. I changed into my only pair of civies and left USCGA for the Hartford Airport. I spent nine hours in between layovers- not how I wanted to begin my winter leave. But, as the plane dipped under the clouds and revealed the glowing streets of Detroit, all the stress that came with 4/c fall semester disappeared. For only the second time since SWAB Summer, I got to see my parents and head back home. There, I was greeted by a rowdy black furball- otherwise known as my poodle, Oskey. And got to climb under the covers of my bed that (finally) weren’t dark blue. I built some signs in the comfort of our pole barn, rode my bike down the pothole filled back roads, ordered a hot chocolate from Tim Horton’s (Dunkin’s cooler cousin), watched the Red Wings play on the ice, ran a half marathon in northeast Ohio, and reconnected with friends, family, and former teachers. One of my favorite adventures was heading up north to our cabins in the Upper Peninsula. Although we nearly drove down an ORV trail on the way there, the northern snow and seclusion was breathtaking. However, I was most thankful for the opportunity to spend the holidays with my family. They gave me all the confidence and motivation I needed to keep on pushing myself to succeed. And trudge through calculus. My departure from DTW was tough and it wasn’t just because I had to wake up at 3AM to catch the flight. After a hug and a kiss goodbye, I was once again on my own. A difficult pill to swallow, especially after spending over half a month with those I missed the most. Yet, my mood brightened once I got to Baltimore for a layover. I started a mental countdown to spring break and got my priorities straight- my next challenge was waiting for me in Connecticut. And I was ready to conquer it.

Even if it means leaving everything behind once again.

Because every great start must begin with a bitter end.


Northern Comfort

(Just for Fun, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

Thanksgiving is one of the most celebrated holidays in the Midwest. As the holiday break begins, elementary schoolers bring home their hand-traced turkeys as mothers decorate their cornucopias. The weather is mild for a northern winter but signals the beginning of snow coat season. For sports fans, it serves as the prelude to the biggest rivalry game in college football: Michigan vs Ohio State. This day is a time for gathering, whether it be around a dinner table or a 65’’ flatscreen.

My fondest autumn memories come from the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit. As a child, I was amazed at the enormous balloons that were marched through the same roads mom took on her daily commute. To see over the huge crowds, dad sacrificed his shoulders for me and my twin sister. Then, when it was all over, we would hurry back to the warmth of our car and make the thirty-minute drive back home.

Leading up to the big night, mom prepared for the monsoon of aunts, uncles, and cousins coming for the annual feast. We bought enough pounds of turkey, cans of cranberry sauce, and sacks to potatoes to feed a pack of lions. My nana always took Thanksgiving as an opportunity to show off her baking skills. She would bake enough for everyone to have a whole pie to themselves! The delicious food was only a highlight of the true meaning behind the event- to spend time with everyone, even if it was just for one day of the year.

The big finale was watching the football game that Saturday. Annually, our Michigan Wolverines took on their biggest foes- the Ohio State Buckeyes. We suited up in maize and blue, invited our fellow super-fans over for a cookout, and sent up a prayer in our favor. Unfortunately, these wishes were usually left unanswered, and our college team’s performance would end up sending waves of disappointment throughout the mitten. Yet, if Thanksgiving taught me one thing, it’s that food and faith is all you need to bring people together. And cursing out the refs on tv is something that can only be enjoyed together as a family.

Happy Thanksgiving! And Go Blue!


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.



(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Joshua Orbe

After a tumultuous semester at the Academy, going home felt surreal. I hadn’t been home since the pandemic broke out in February. Nine months later, my long-awaited homecoming would soon be reality, and I couldn’t wait to see my family again. However, I knew that this year’s homecoming would not be like the last year. I wondered how much my country was changed by the pandemic.

Before leaving, I spent Thanksgiving at my sponsor brother’s house in New Jersey. There, I reacquainted myself with Filipino food. After relaxing for a few days, Tito (uncle) was kind enough to drive me to New York.

Seeing GCT and the Empire State building again made me miss the old days. The wonder of being in the Big Apple never gets old to me. Tito dropped me off at JFK airport and 15 hours and five movies later, I was in Manila. I can’t describe how happy I was to be back home. My dad picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at a hotel for my quarantine while waiting for my COVID test results so I could be cleared for travel.

One difference that I noticed immediately was how seriously the Philippines was taking the pandemic. Everyone wore masks. Everyone wore face shields too. Every mall, store, and restaurant had separate contact tracing sheets that you had to sign in at before being granted entry. Alcohol stations for your hands and the bottoms of your shoes were everywhere. There were people enforcing social distancing. It was reassuring to see that my countrymen seemed to understand the dangers of the virus and had even somewhat adjusted to the new normal.

When I was cleared to go, my dad took me back to our home province of Bataan and I was reunited with my mom and sister. They introduced me to the new family pets, a fish named Edward and a black lab named Rocco. We also bought a couple of houses in my absence. We moved out of our old house in Cavite and transferred our stuff to Manila. My parents showed me the family house being built in Tagaytay, where I will one day live once I graduate from CGA. Besides that, our family went all over. We went Christmas shopping in a nearby province known for its cheap yet quality products. We spent a weekend on a remote island resort, having fun like the world was normal again. Also, I finally bought mom that karaoke machine I promised her. On Christmas day, we wore matching pajamas. For the New Year, we made a feast. All of us were stuffed, even the dog!

My vacation went by so fast. We did so much and I thank God for giving me the chance to go home. Saying goodbye was bittersweet. I am excited for the next time I get to go home but for now, I have a whole new semester and 2/c year to look forward to.


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.


USAFA Exchange Program Part 2

(Just for Fun, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Stephanie Burckhard

Greetings from foggy Colorado Springs!

It’s almost the end of November- can you believe it? I feel like my time here at USAFA has flown by. Recently, a few Coasties (myself included) decided to take on AM490. This is what everyone knows as the “Jump” program here. This program is not focused on the cadets “earning wings.” The focus is on instilling confidence and grit in every cadet that decides to stand in the door of that Twin Otter. Those five jumps might have been some of the scariest moments of my life, but I have grown so much from the program. It’s an experience that I will never forget and forever cherish. My time here at USAFA is coming to an end- only 2 weeks left of school. I highly recommend applying for the Service Academy Exchange Program. I have learned so much from this semester that I intend to bring back to CGA. One example of this is the mural paintings on the walls of the dorms. I worked with my best friend on Regimental Staff back at CGA and she routed up a memo to have this implemented at CGA.

Greetings from near-frozen New London!

Spring Semester has already started up at USCGA and it’s weird to be back. I feel as though my time at USAFA has flown by. I decided it might be a good time to finish up writing about my SAEP before the schoolwork hits.

It was a whirlwind of jumping out of airplanes and taking a plethora of exams at the end of the fall semester. It’s an experience I will never forget and forever cherish. The memories and friends I made will last forever. And they somehow convinced me to consider aviation in the Coast Guard at the end of my Powered Flight course as well.

One of my fun adventures included climbing Mount Quandary, elevation of 14,265 feet, with some of my new friends. The views were amazing from the top. A 6-hour round trip hike but we made it back in time for dinner. These were some of the moments I cherished the most.

The end of the semester also meant that classes were beginning to wrap up and the brittle cold of the Springs was settling down upon the Academy. My friends and I bundled up and braced the cold for the “last” coffee run or the “last” dinner. It was difficult saying goodbye but I’m glad I got the chance to meet so many amazing people.

In the end, I highly recommend applying for the exchange program. It was rewarding, challenging, and thrilling. It definitely changed my perspective and has helped me grow and better develop my leadership style.