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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.



(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.


My Glee Trip

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

My favorite of all the clubs and activities I’m involved in at the Academy (29 last time I checked) is being a part of the Coast Guard Academy Glee Club.

Our group sings patriotic songs and sea shanties. We further separate into the Fairwinds and Idlers, the all-female and all-male groups. I have had so much fun being a part of glee. Besides really enjoying singing, I get to see and experience so many things. I get to travel and taste new foods. I get to interact with potential applicants and perform for Coast Guard and government officials all the time.

The best part of being in glee though, is the people. Our director, Robert Newton, has been with the group for 50 years. He is like a cool uncle/grandpa to me. When my mom came to visit me from the Philippines, he helped coordinate the surprise. It is people like him that make the Academy community great.

Over the weekend, I saw my first Bar Mitzvah, stood on a frozen lake, sang at a high school, went to Medieval Times for the first time, and had a really touching performance at a church.

There were more than a few veterans in the audience. When we left the church, one man stood outside and saluted us all. It felt surreal. I sometimes forget that I am a servant of my country. I hope that I can be worthy of my future responsibilities and of the respect of the people. I hope to honor the legacy of those who served before me and those who will after me.


Coming Back Ready

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Andrew Kerst

Hey guys! The whole corps just returned from a much-needed winter leave and is back and ready for the next semester. Now that I have a full semester at the Academy under my belt, I would like to reflect on my experience. Although the course load and military obligations as a 4/c were quite demanding, the bonds and relationships you have with your classmates make it worth it. It is tough to say that it is easy to interrupt your math homework to go clean the head but hearing about the amazing experiences of other cadets on Eagle and out in the fleet remind you why you are here.

As the first semester wrapped up with an intense week of finals, the corps departed on leave. For some, this meant long flights to faraway places like Alaska and Guam, and to others (like me) the trip was a simple car ride. Either way, spending time with family after being away for so long and getting away from the Academy is refreshing. Additionally, many people go on fun trips during this time. My family and I went to Puerto Rico and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. My brother and I surfed in clear warm water rather than the ice-cold waters of New England. It was a wonderful experience with my family and re-energized me for the next semester.

Although it is hard leaving your family and coming back to school, it is nice to see your friends again and get back into the swing of things. There are a lot of exciting things coming up including carry-on for 4/c, the 4/c formal, and spring sports. The corps is back and ready to succeed in another semester at the Academy.


Holiday Break

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

The last few weeks of the semester were stressful but exciting. I did not realize how fast the months flew by. My company mates and I had come a long way. 4/c year was almost over. I reactivated Facebook as soon as leave began. I saw all my friends and family were awaiting my return home.

I had been looking forward to going home and spending time with my family for so long. My mom paid me a surprise visit during Parent’s Weekend and it still brings me great joy thinking about it but I missed my dad and sister too; I hadn’t seen them in 6 months.

My flight was out of JFK. I had to commute by myself from the Academy to the city. My sponsor mom gave me very specific instructions on what to do, where to go, which train to take. Travelling alone was confusing and scary. I always followed my parents’ lead as a kid. Now, I was in control and it was terrifying. Thanks to my loved ones who guided me, I made it home safe. I had proven to my parents and to myself that I could handle myself even if I had to travel halfway around the world. I was no longer the boy that had trouble crossing the street.

Upon arrival, I was picked up by my dad. I saw my sister and mom, and also our new dog. Sadly, he was sick at this time and eventually passed away a few days after. When I exited the airport, I was greeted by the hot Philippine air. I had grown used to the colder temperatures in Connecticut. It was enough to give me a headache. I also had trouble readjusting to the food for a while but a few days later, I was back to normal, like I hadn’t even left. My beloved home didn’t change much. Physically, I saw improvements in the cleanliness of the cities, newer buildings, new roads, but it was still the country I loved. I rest easy in knowing that it will never change, and I look forward to the day when I return for good.

I visited my old school, the Philippine Military Academy a day after getting back. Two plebes lost their lives this year, and the Academy had been shaken. Drastic changes were put into effect. I chatted with my old squadmates and we exchanged stories of our academies. It is yet to be seen if the new changes put into effect at PMA are effective and sustainable. I only hope that the Academy can bounce back and that the culture changes so that no one is ever again lost to hazing.

After that we went back to our house in Bataan. I met with my old friends from high school. They were on break too. Our friendship just picked up where we left off. We watched a movie at a mall, ate, and went shopping, just like old times. It seemed like there was a giant reunion at the mall. I even ran into someone I used to like. It was weird.

After Bataan we went to finish off transferring stuff from our house in Cavite to our new quarters in Manila. I had many good memories in the old family home in Cavite it was weird seeing it bare of furniture.

Then, we flew south to Iligan to see all the aunts, uncles, and cousins. We did what we always do every year and had a big New Year Party. I appreciate my family more this time. We went to a beach this year too. Riding a banana boat is a painful but amazing experience. My arms, and legs hurt from trying to hang on to the boat and my face and belly hurt from laughing so hard.

When we got back form Iligan, it was almost time for me to go back to school. The night before my flight, my family and I had dinner with some of the former Filipino USCGA International Cadets. We compared our experiences and I listened to their stories and advice. I enjoyed learning about my predecessors and hope to bring back some of the lost traditions.

I cannot wait until next Christmas!


Rolling Home

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

I am excited to go back home to the Philippines. I miss my pets and my bed. I miss going to the mall with my friends and going on food runs. I miss the cluttered cities and wide open spaces of my province. I miss the sound of the insects at night, and the voice of the random karaoke singer singing his heart out in the middle of the night. I look forward to having Christmas back home. It is a spectacle unlike any other in the world. The whole country comes alive to make noise. No one is a stranger and we all share in th joy of the season. People honk car horns and almost every family in the country sets off fireworks.

I look forward to seeing my idol (dad), my first love (mom), and my best friend (sister). I look forward to seeing my friends and teachers. I imagine the roads and buildings and TV shows are all new, but home is home.

I plan to make a visit to my dad and my alma mater, the Philippine Military Academy. It holds a special place in our lives but it has had many issues lately. I want to know how my classmates are doing and I want to share my experiences as a cadet here at the Coast Guard Academy to hopefully improve their system and give them a different perspective and philosophy.