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Winter Leave and Returning to the CGA

(Just for Fun, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020, Mathematics) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

Winter leave, Mid-year Administrative Processing (MAP) week, and the first day of the new semester are officially over and the academic year is back in swing. Over winter leave, I went home and saw my younger sister and parents, caught up with friends from high school, and spent a lot time at the American Airlines Center in Dallas watching the Dallas Stars play, which is probably one of the things I miss most about home. The day after Christmas my family traveled to Florida (about two hours south of Tampa) to visit my grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins from both my mom and dad’s sides. We celebrated Christmas again, my grandpa’s 85th birthday, competed in a 5-mile run, and rung in 2019. I also spent days on the beach soaking in the sun knowing soon I would be back here in Connecticut where you can’t leave Chase Hall with anything less than long sleeves, hats, gloves, and boots. When we returned to Dallas, we bought my mom a new car, celebrated her birthday, and took down all of our house decorations from Christmas. Leaving home is always hard, but I knew I’d be home with half of second semester under my belt in just two short months.

During MAP week I had to change rooms and roommates, take the Physical Fitness Exam, ensure my schedule was correct for the semester, purchase books, and prepare my room for inspection. When the week was finally over my friends and I attended the CGA hockey game at Connecticut College and enjoyed some food off base. The first couple days of school have been long, but eventually you get back in the swing of it all. Luckily, this weekend is already Martin Luther King Day which means we will not have class on Monday. I am meeting my aunt and uncle in New York City to see a musical and spend time together. This will be the third time my aunt and uncle have made this trip on MLK Weekend, it is our annual tradition and is a great way to relieve some of the back-to-school stress.

This semester I am enrolled in five core classes: Principles of Electronic Communication Systems, Mathematical Statistics, Probability Models, Criminal Justice, and Differential Equations. In addition, I am taking a Conversational Spanish class that meets once a week to continue to improve my fluency. I am looking forward to this semester and my final summer at the Academy.

MORE ABOUT FRANCESCA

There’s Something About a Road Trip

(Just for Fun, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Jasmine Rodriguez

It starts off with a few glances at the clock, and nowadays a second glance at the estimated time of arrival on the GPS gauging speed limits, distances, and traffic. It starts with a list of the things you brought to pass the time: once, it was Phonics Blasters, books, drawing pads, and the atlas. Now, it’s downloaded movies, match-three phone games, an old hand-held Gameboy, a couple of books (more sarcastic and cynical than the ones you used to read), and snacks snuck in or granted from the front seat.

An hour in, you’re adjusting position to trade your foot cramp for a leg cramp. Two hours in, the smell of dog is ripe and the bladder is begging to be emptied a little too early. Three hours in, one book and five puzzle-game lives down, the smell of dog becomes homely and cozy. The dog smells like love and radiates warmth on your cold feet. The desert view is a little less boring, especially when you pass the occasional casino resort or sketchy rest stop. The sky is the most painful, bland blue ever recorded in history. The pop music has been switched to the ever-lasting drawl and twang of country singers pulling on the older passengers’ heartstrings. The always-just-a-little-too-loud sibling conversations and quibbles turn into silence, graced either by sleep or books or electronics. Unattainable, beautiful cars glide past, made to stand out even more when surrounded by dust-covered minivans and scratched trucks toting huge RV’s. Every now and then, the bumps on the road become a singing competition with good-old manufactured staccato. “Aa-aa-aah-a-a-a-a-aaah-ah-ah.” A bored glance around the vehicle, a thought about eating from boredom, relieved by sleeping for five minutes at a time before the bumps in the road smack your head rudely against the frame of the door. Time passes slower the closer you get. First hour, flash, second hour, buzz, third hour, hum, fourth hour? Are we still in the fourth hour? Barely brushing the fifth hour at the second rest stop, and the sixth hour, it might as well have taken six hours on its own.

Can we have more food? Why can’t I sleep? Every position hurts. Suffering together because misery loves company, and family sticks together. The billboards become more frequent to denote civilization along the highway and then fade out of existence again. Boxes of color dot the brown environment, and then they’re gone once more. Even though you haven’t been to Taco Bell in years, a Quesarito and a Baja Blast slushy start to sound like ambrosia for the fake hunger of boredom. Your mind wanders off for who-knows-how-long, was it an hour? Two? Just two minutes? Better daydream again…the clouds are great inspiration for this, when they’re available in the sky. Sometimes the only cloud is the jet trail interrupting the wide, blue plain. The white noise of the road becomes strangely quiet as the city slows the drive, and then it fades loudly into the background again as you leave the city. An hour and a half left? Man, where does the time go! But how long will that remaining ninety minutes really take?

There’s something about a road trip. Dreaded, but romantic. Long, but brief. Simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable, crammed together for too long to be neutral but not long enough with the people you adore, or are at least supposed to. A family truce is in place. We have to live with each other in this prison-cell sized space for these consecutive hours ─ no arguments from the past, no irritations or raised voices, nothing that could distract the driver whose hands contain our very lives. God help us all if someone cuts him off. The driver is the heart and soul of the vehicle, and we are just the cells in the body. A conversation here and there about mundane things or plans for arrival passes some more seconds. Some more shifting, more silence, more nothing out the window. The kind of sleep that isn’t deep enough to feel good, but is just enough for you to leave a wet spot on the cushy thing wrapped around your seatbelt to keep it from slicing your neck. The kind of sleep that leaves a bad taste in your mouth and tingling little pricks under the skin of your arms.

There’s just something about a road trip. The journey, the destination, the return. The character-building. Patience, tolerance, how to sleep anywhere, how to sit and think quietly for hours, flexibility, resourcefulness, the discipline to hold your bladder ─ things every good person should know and perfect.

There’s something about a road trip, just something I hate, and something I love, something I wouldn’t trade faster travel for. Give me family, friends, a dog, a car, a tank full of gas. Let’s go.

MORE ABOUT JASMINE

Yet Another Winter Leave Has Come and Gone

(Just for Fun, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

Winter leave is always a great time for cadets to get away from the Academy, travel or stay at home, and just regroup. It is an amazing opportunity for us to come back fresh and ready to conquer another semester. As we all know, it is important to take some time away from work in order to gain a new perspective.

How much time we get over leave always depends on how far apart the winter holidays are from each other, and how many finals you have. I am somebody who cannot stay in one place for more than a few days without getting bored, so I love to travel as much as possible over leave.

This year we had about three weeks and I made the most out of those days by flying all over the country to visit my friends and family. I started off in my hometown in Pennsylvania, then flew out to our family’s horse ranch in Arizona. From Arizona, I flew out to the state of Washington to visit one of my friends who left the Academy when we were 4/c. She is actually enlisted and living a great life, so it was wonderful to be able to see her! Next, I flew down to Georgia to visit my grandparents, and then finished my journey in Florida to visit a friend that graduated last year and is having an excellent first tour as an ensign.

Sometimes people ask me how I am able to pull off so much traveling, and the answer is pretty simple. As cadets, we get a limited amount of time off every year. I save up money throughout the year by doing little things like only ordering food once every week or every few weeks, using the same Christmas decorations in my room since 4/c year instead of buying new ones each year, and being all-around frugal. This way, I can travel a bunch and be sure to make my rounds when we have leave!

MORE ABOUT KIRSTEN

Reflections on the Summer Past

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Anthony Turner

Let me set the scene for you. If I were to say that you and seven of your classmates were given a million dollar yacht for a week, you would think I was crazy. What if I told you that you were to sail the coast of New England and immerse yourselves in the local cultures of each port. The only catch is that you have to have fun.

On a more serious note, the Coastal Sail Training Program (CSTP) will most likely be the highlight of your 2/c summer. The program requires a lot of work, but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Not only do you learn how to sail, but you also gain a lot of leadership experience. Often the hardest thing is peer leadership. The program is designed to be challenging in certain aspects, but your safety officer and friends aboard the yacht will be there to support you. The beauty of the program is that it doesn’t demand that you become an expert sailor or a world-renowned leader, only that you learn more about yourself.

On the flip side, there are plenty of good things that arise from the program. It’s an excellent opportunity to get to know people in your class. The best way to get to know someone is to live on a 44 foot boat with them and see how they cook. Speaking of food, the cuisine up in Cape Cod and Newport, Rhode Island was outstanding. While in Hyannis, Massachusetts, all the coastal sail boats went to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbeque buffet and the food was AMAZING.

The ports that you are going to visit are Stonington, Connecticut; Newport and Block Island, Rhode Island; and Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Hyannis and Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. The majority of the ports are in Massachusetts, but each one is vastly different from the next. There are plenty of museums to visit so you can learn about the history of each port, in addition to seeing the different kinds of architecture there.

When I said that you learn about yourself, this is an understatement. You not only see how you function in stressful situations, but also how you deal with people in that environment. For me, this revelation occurred when I was watch captain, which means that I oversaw the ship for the day. And the weather was awful: there were three to five foot waves; the wind was around 15 knots; and it was foggy, raining and cold. To top it off, we received a search and rescue case that day. Now let me ask you, how do you command seven of your peers in these conditions? During this, the safety officer is there, but simply sitting back to see your course of action. Situations like this really reveal the type of person you are as it did for me that day.

Altogether these experiences made the program. If I’m being honest, it was my favorite experience as a cadet. Nothing tops sailing New England in the summer, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.

Until next time!

MORE ABOUT ANTHONY

Lifelong FriendSHIPS Begin on Day One

(Choosing the Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Bruna Pavan

You don’t have to go through Swab Summer to understand that it is challenging. You can look up videos, newspaper articles, pictures (thanks Paul Duddy!) and interviews of all sorts that will describe how strenuous Swab Summer is, and a lot of blog posts are already written about individual experiences. Instead, I will tell you that the people you struggle and sweat with over those seven weeks become some of your closest friends. Not only do I have faith and trust in those in my Swab Summer company, but all of my classmates because we underwent the transformative experience that is Swab Summer and fourth class year together.

While I was driving my own car up from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to school (having a car here is a firstie-only privilege), I had plenty of time to reflect on how awesome the past three years were at the Academy and what amazing things are yet to come in the next eight months here. After eight hours of driving northbound, I made a stop in Charleston, South Carolina to visit one of my best friends and her family at their home. Hannah Waddell, a rugby-playing naval architecture and marine engineer, was one of my very first friends at the Academy as we were in the same Swab Summer company and have been my roommate for four of my six semesters here. Even though we kept in daily contact, it was great to finally see each other after eleven weeks apart.

Of course, I can’t mention Hannah without Kiera! Kiera Harrison is a Marine and Environmental Sciences major from Jackson, New Jersey. The three of us began our friendship on Day One of our 200-week long journey, and we have shared a tremendous amount of time together since between rugby, eating dinner together every night, spending every spring break at each other’s homes and long weekends exploring the East Coast. When my parents call, it’s always, “Hey, what are you up to?” followed by “How are Hannah and Kiera doing?”

The friendships you develop here make this place feel like home. Being surrounded by awesome people and being able to walk down the hall to see some of your best friends is one of my favorite aspects of this experience. They’ve seen me at my best, worst and everything in between and that is why this bond is so strong and true. Even though we study different things and are involved in a variety of activities, we can still depend on each other to work together just as we could over Swab Summer.

MORE ABOUT BRUNA

Summer in the Northwest

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Derek Silliman

So after a long wait for our summer assignments, my class finally got an email with a spreadsheet giving us the full list of where we are going for the summer. I am assigned to a cutter named Terrapin. I had no idea where the cutter was located so I looked it up and I found out it was in Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham is a small city just south of the Canada border. Terrapin is an 87-foot patrol boat docked at Station Bellingham with only one other patrol boat alongside it. It’s been awesome for me to see a part of the country I never saw before.

When I first flew into Seattle, I was immediately awestruck as the plane passed by the summit pyramid of Mount Rainier, and the reality hit me; I was not on the East Coast anymore. Following a recommendation from Anthony Bourdain, I sat down at Anthony’s Fish Bar at Seattle-Tacoma Airport as I waited for my final short flight to Bellingham. I had the best salmon fish tacos ever and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Cascade Mountains rising over the tarmac. I had two goals: the first was to learn about the duties and responsibilities of the crew on the patrol boat. The second was to immerse myself in the culture of the area, to eat the food, learn about the people, and get outside. Something I leaned watching Anthony Bourdain was that whether you travel to another part of the country, or the world, seek to live fully and immerse yourself wherever you are.

Bellingham is a great little city characterized by being a college town and home to a number of small breweries and a beautiful mountain lake. The way the hills just rise from the coastline here has allowed me to hike a number of small mountains with stunning views of Puget Sound, and there are a number of great coffee shops, one right on the water that I walked by along the trail that runs along Bellingham Bay.

I also took a few short trips to Seattle when my family came to visit. We toured the Museum of Pop Culture and a National Park Service Museum that offered a tour about the history of Seattle as the last point people would come to before sailing on to Alaska. West Seattle has a great beach with a view of the skyline downtown and a nice little ice cream parlor. To get away from the city, my dad and I toured the Boeing’s wide-body jet factory.

One really neat thing I did was take a trip into British Columbia. I spent a day in Vancouver, touring the Museum of Vancouver and the Maritime Museum, where I leaned about the history of the area, in dealing with immigrants and natives, and an expedition by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police through the Northwest Passage. The coolest thing in Vancouver was biking through Stanley Park, looking out onto the bay. Victoria had a beautiful set of buildings that looked like this little piece of Europe had been planted right on the West Coast. I toured the British Columbian Parliament and learned more about the history of the area through a visit to the Royal B.C. Museum. Beacon Hill Park offered a beautiful view of the Olympics, looking straight across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, back into Washington.

I have had the interesting privilege this summer of being the northernmost cadet in the lower 48 states, but it can be somewhat of a lonely existence where I have had to make my own fun. I did get two opportunities to catch up with classmates, first over dinner in Seattle, and later going hiking with classmates in the Olympics after meeting them in Port Angeles.

Being on the boat, we had an awesome patrol down in Oregon, where I saw the fullness of the pacific coastline and ran along the beaches to the outward point of Yaquina Head.

On the boat, I had a great time working with the deck department, but my big accomplishment for the summer was getting my in-port officer of the day qualification. It was something I learned a lot from, but never want to have to do that again because it took me three attempts to get that qualification. I got as much knowledge from the crew as I could and realized the importance of reviewing manuals and documents to verify the information I had was correct. I learned a lot from the captain as well; from his experience at his first unit, how he went about leading the crew, and his challenges to motivate them. It got me excited to get out into the fleet in a permanent capacity next year, but it reminded me that I cannot anticipate every challenge. We had a lot of conversations about various leadership principles and how to apply them as a young officer.

Overall, I almost feel as if I could call Bellingham home, maybe one day I will, or another city in the Northwest. A piece of me really does not want to depart Bellingham, but I know my few weeks of leave will give me some much needed time to relax before returning for the fall semester.

Derek. Silliman@uscga.edu.

MORE ABOUT DEREK

Summer Ocean Racing and Washington Adventures

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Amy Chamberlin

Offshore sailors have the option to apply for a seven-week intense summer ocean racing (SOR) program during Phase I of the summer. I chose to apply after learning about all the leadership opportunities that are associated with the program. My onboard collateral duty was commissary! The big events that we participated in were SUNY Maritime Safety at Sea Seminar; a trip to Annapolis; the Maryland to Newport race, and Block Island Race Week. In the beginning of the program, everyone wasn’t very close, but when the program ended, no one wanted to leave. This is similar to the fleet because the Coast Guard is a family and is looking out for you.

After SOR, I went to United States Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment for four weeks to work alongside the enlisted in Ilwaco, Washington. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before going this summer. Not only was the station well set up and responsive to many cases, but the environment surrounding Cape D was incredible. Another cadet was at the station with me, and we went hiking (in the Ape Caves of Mount St. Helens!), shopping, and exploring around the neighboring towns. Sector Columbia River hosted multiple cadets in the area and offered us a tour of the sector, USCGC Fur and USCGC Alert. We also got to fly in a helicopter one of the last days we were at the station. One of my most memorable experiences, but not my favorite, was getting pepper sprayed. I never want to go through that pain again…

After my time at Station Cape Disappointment, I went on three weeks of leave, which included spending time with my family and high school friends, flying back out to the west coast to visit my uncles, and going to Boston!

All in all, this summer was the best summer I have ever had. The academic year at the Coast Guard Academy is very intense and stressful, but the summer training programs make everything worth it!

If you have any questions about the summer, or Academy life, please feel free to email me at Amy.M.Chamberlin@uscga.edu. Have a great day!

MORE ABOUT AMY

The First Full Month

(Athletics, Just for Fun, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

September started off with a long weekend for Labor Day (yay!). I took the train to Washington D.C. to spend some time with my grandparents. We toured the Capitol building and all the big monuments and memorials as well as Arlington National Cemetery. It was a great way to spend the first long weekend of my 3/c year. Upon returning to school on Monday, I felt as though I never left and began preparing for the short, but busy, week ahead. We had a uniform inspection, an unexpected power outage due to a storm, and our first regimental drill of the season.

The next two weekends, I played a couple of rugby matches, one against the University of New Haven and one against the University of Vermont. On the 18th after morning the colors, there was a small service honoring the 70th birthday of the Air Force that I attended. Before I knew it Parents’ Weekend had arrived. I had a non-traditional Parents’ Weekend this year. It overlapped with my dad’s 30th reunion at West Point so I could join my family in New York for that instead of them coming to visit me here.

The temperature is finally dropping and fall is officially here! Go Bears!

MORE ABOUT FRANCESCA