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The Final Blog

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Stephanie Burckhard

Well, the time has arrived. The great Class of 2021 (go odd years!) is heading out to the fleet in just a few days. It still hasn’t hit me yet that classes are done and it’s time to leave Connecticut. The classes of 2022, 2023, and 2024 have been slowly leaving Chase Hall to head out to the fleet or to home for a short summer vacation. It was weird saying goodbye to people I knew I wouldn’t see again for probably a few months or years.

I’m excited to announce that I received my top billet choice! I will be heading to USCGC Bertholf stationed in Alameda, CA as a Student Engineer.

These past few years at CGA have been something I wouldn’t trade the world for. Since Day One, I have made so many amazing friendships that I know will last me well into the fleet and beyond. There have been ups and downs and each time, I have grown as a stronger leader and person. I firmly believe I am a completely different person than when I entered those front gates on June 26, 2017.

The Academy is a challenging, demanding, and rigorous 4-year program. The biggest piece of advice I would leave with is to always cherish the good times. Those will be memories you will turn back on and smile about the most.

To those interested in applying to CGA, go take a visit or apply for AIM. It’s difficult to describe the family atmosphere in one blog and it was this atmosphere that drew me to pick CGA. If you can’t do either, feel free to reach out to any of the bloggers on this page!

MORE ABOUT STEPHANIE

Finding the Right Balance

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Banks Evans

Spending time with family over the holidays was such a much needed and relaxing break from the Academy even with the restrictions caused by COVID-19. Luckily, I was able to golf with friends and play a little tennis. My family also got a new puppy, so I took my dogs for more walks in the time being at home than ever to try to tire them out so they wouldn’t be so crazy in the house.

Unfortunately, the time came where I had to say goodbye to my friends and family and head back to the Academy. For some reason I had never felt so down to leave home and I think it’s because I knew we would have what’s called a restriction of movement (aka ROM) here and it keeps everyone from being near each other. It stunk for the first couple weeks to not hang out with friends but I knew it was for all the right reasons. On a different note, when cadets return from winter break, we usually have a week to get ready for the spring semester. I was totally fooled and realized school started 2 days after I got back! So, I jumped right into all these new classes and just had to put my head down to figure out how I was going to tackle each day of the week. When I see my new schedule I like to figure out how every hour of the day is going to be spent so I can try to have some kind of relaxation to end the day. One of the biggest stress relievers for me is to go on off-base runs because I can run by houses and see families and dogs and really just the world and it reminds myself of why I came to the Academy. It’s to give back for everything I’ve been given. Life here can get hectic and stressful, but finding things you enjoy and relying on your friends really does make the difference.

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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.

MORE INFORMATON ABOUT JUNNA

Lost and Found

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2024) Permanent link
Cole Fulton

Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere; and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.

A few hours ago, I was cleaning up my camera roll when I saw a screenshot of this quote. You know those Pinterest-like posts that have a cheesy background with a fortune cookie quote...yes, it was one of those. But the strangest part was that I had no recollection of saving it. As I stared at the quote for a while, confused at where it had come from, I began to realize how much it was tailored to my current situation.

I spent a lot of time digging deep to find my goals and ambitions for the future during quarantine (March-June), often coming up empty handed: this vacancy scared me. And, to make matters worse, life doesn't stop to let you figure things out. Before I knew it, summer was knocking on my door, practically dragging me out of the comforts of my home. Despite not knowing what my goals were, I had an idea of what I wanted them to be; and the best place to achieve those goals were at USCGA. But the Academy wasn't an option due to a medical disqualification. I began to feel helpless with nowhere to go. Though it's during times like these that you really find yourself... and that "finding" came in the form of a notification of my medical waiver being approved.

Those who say otherwise are bluffing (or are just extremely squared away). But what made it particularly difficult for me was finding that purpose, that reason to endure it all. With the rough waves of academic, athletic, and military obligations -- especially as a 4/c -- it can be easy to lose yourself in this vast sea. But just like I had discovered during quarantine, it's times when you feel lost that you truly find yourself. These hardships forced me to get out of my comfort zone and really apply myself. I began seriously prioritizing my schedule to account for homework, basketball, military responsibilities, and my personal well-being. I also began utilizing the connections here at the Academy by asking upperclassman for advice and talking to officers about their careers. Soon, I found myself enjoying each day more and more (yes, that includes those days with 0530 morning practices).

Blinking out of a trance, I realized I was still looking at my phone. It was a cheesy quote for sure, but a relatable one nonetheless. My thumb, hovering over the delete button, darted away and quickly resaved the image -- returning it to the labyrinth of my camera roll -- only to be rediscovered when needed the most.

On a long collection of reasons why I decided to come to the Coast Guard Academy, finding myself was one of them...that's one item checked off my list.

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The Pepper Spray Test

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Jack Brunswick

I was on the fence about if I should do it or not; but I figured most of my classmates were doing it this summer. I wanted it over with.

The Pepper Spray Test. As a Coast Guard officer, you must do it at some point to be a part of the boarding officer teams or security detail. Otherwise, you are somewhat limited in what missions you can do. I was stationed on Cutter Vigilant in Port Canaveral, Florida where two cadets at the station, two enlisted, and myself were going to get pepper sprayed. It was decided a few weeks back that five of us were to take the test in the last week of the cadets being there.

It was the evening before the test, and the brief was in a few minutes, so I headed over to the station. The enlisted were explaining to the five of us how to use the pepper spray, how it would feel, and what we were supposed to do. Just seeing the can of spray made me nervous. They told us we needed a caretaker to walk us around after we got sprayed and that they recommended “no- tears” baby soap to clean off your face and eyes afterwards. We then were asked to pick an order. I had heard from upper class cadets to not go first because the potency in the pepper spray is greater. However, I also did not want to see the suffering of everyone else before I was up- it would just make the anticipation worse. I ended up getting second, which is what I wanted.

I woke up the next morning with so much dread. It was an hour before we were supposed to meet outside on the patch of grass. I realized I didn’t have any of the things we needed that they told us from the brief. Luckily, the non-rates I had been working with all summer had brought me 3-4 different bottles of soap and they were all willing to be my caretaker for the day. It was a relief, but my heart was still racing in anticipation of the pain I was about to endure.

We were now all sitting at the picnic table, being briefed one last time. Then, the first guy is called up. I was thankful it was an enlisted guy- I figured he would take it like a champ and give me some confidence. I was so wrong.

He gets sprayed- a lot more than I anticipated. They caked on the spray for what seemed like five seconds. He opens his eyes and immediately begins swearing and screaming at the top of his lungs. He was not handling it well, but he begins to stumble through the procedures of the test. He shouts to alert his imaginary partner that he has been sprayed but needs help, all while fighting off an opponent and protecting his weapon. The simulated enemy was a huge enlisted guy with an arm pad. It was difficult to watch, but after a minute it was over, and I was up next.

I stepped to the middle of the grass with my eyes closed. I was nervous, just like the beginning of a championship game. I hear the can sizzle as the spray hits my face for what felt like forever. Finally, the sound from the can stops and I open my eyes. I scream, “I’ve been sprayed, OC! I’ve been sprayed!” as we were instructed to do. My eyes didn’t want to stay open though, and I immediately felt the pain. My heart pounded faster, and I could feel the adrenaline numbing the pain. I turn to the simulated enemy, protecting my weapon and holding him off with my other hand. My eyes were clamping shut, so I started blinking as fast as I could to see the bad guy in short flashes. Darkness, a blur of figures and green. And more darkness! The pad came at the side of my face. Hard. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground. I bounced back on my feet but couldn’t find the enemy. Darkness. Blur. Darkness. Blur. I circled and quickly spotted him coming in for an attack. I dodged him sideways and kept tracking him. After what felt like an eternity, the instructor yelled the last task of the test. "Draw your weapon!" I unholstered my gun and screamed at the padded enemy to get on the ground. I was raging with anger and pain. He wasn’t complying so I screamed aggressively and shoved the gun in his face. The enemy was the only thing standing between my burning eyes and an ice-cold bucket of water to dunk my head in. He laid down for me to handcuff and arrest him. The test was over. The adrenaline stopped. The pain began to multiply, I couldn’t stand it. I raised my hands above my head so the instructor could unhook my tactical belt. He fiddled at it and I couldn’t bear the pain any longer. There was relief just ten feet away in the ice water bucket, but my belt was stuck. My eyes, face and arms were burning. Finally, it unclipped and I held my eyes open with my fingers, looking for the bucket. I sprinted to it and dunked my burning face into the cool water. The pain was so unbearable that I couldn’t breath and began hyperventilating. This made it nearly impossible to get any relief as I was nearly sucking in water. After a few dunks, I was walked to the shower to use my baby soap. I started running because the Florida summer sun burned- I needed more water and soap. Now.

Being pepper sprayed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I never wish to do it again but was glad I did it. It made me grow as a person and discover a part of me I’ve never been to before. The pepper spray qualification is an extreme but accurate summation of being at a service academy. It is type two fun- something you appreciate and enjoy after the fact. While doing it, the task may be challenging and tough, but you feel good about it afterwards. It takes you places you’ve never been before. You go past the comfort zone to grow and learn about yourself. That is so valuable, and I challenge you to do something that pushes you to a place you’ve never gone before. Whether that be skydiving, doing a public speech, or running a marathon. Hope you got a good laugh out of this and found it entertaining - because I’m not doing it again!

MORE ABOUT JACK

COVID-19

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Jacqueline Jones

While COVID-19 has taken away the second half of what is supposed to be the best semester of my academic career, it won’t stop me from being thankful for the time I got to spend at the Academy and for the friends I made. Freshman year I remember trying to figure out what was going on and trying to keep track of my time and obligations. Sophomore year I was happy not to be a freshman anymore, but struggled academically. Junior year was my favorite academically, as I began getting into more major- specific classes, and I began having more fun outside of the Academy. Senior year, I got my car and really began to explore my greater freedom. Unfortunately, I will not get to experience the coveted “gangway,” where seniors earn the right to leave whenever they do not have class or a military obligation.

I am glad to say this is my last semester at the Academy. I am disappointed that I couldn’t celebrate these last few weeks with my friends. I am saddened that I won’t have the graduation ceremony that I’ve thought about for five years. I am grateful to be spending these last few weeks with my family before reporting to my first assignment. I am excited and nervous to report to my unit out of Guam!

While this blog is all over the place, like my feelings at the moment (I write this from the air mattress I sleep on now that I’m back home as I procrastinate doing work for my online classes), I do have some advice to give for college-bound students. Before spring break, I didn’t know that I would not return to the Academy to see my best friends and enjoy the rest of senior year. Luckily, I went on spring break with a lot of people from school. My point is to have fun while you can, make memories, and make the most of all your time.

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Moving States and Online School

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Monty Rickey

Hey guys!

It has been a very hectic two weeks. My parents sold our house in Missouri and decided to move to Tennessee. At first, my spring break week didn’t conflict with the moving process, however since recent events with COVID-19, the CGA has now transitioned to online learning for the rest of the semester. As a result, I have been away from CGA for a little over two weeks. My brother and I helping my parents pack up everything and move from where I grew up to an unknown and new state was difficult, but fun. I am glad that I got to properly say goodbye to my hometown and childhood home, while also spending meaningful time with my family there. We moved into an apartment in Tennessee a few days ago, just before online school started this past Monday. The hardest thing about online school is staying focused and motivated, especially when you have the ability to schedule your own time and make your own day-to-day routine. I usually try to stick as close as possible to my CGA schedule and how I planned my days at the Academy.

There has been a lot of communication between cadets, teachers, and faculty in terms of due dates and assignments since we left on spring break. CGA is doing a great job with communicating information as it becomes available to them and ensuring the entire community and CGA family stays connected with each other. Almost all the resources to increase morale and well-being that are available on campus are still available virtually and remotely; this flexibility is awesome.

There are many things about the Academy that I miss. The biggest thing that I miss are all my friends. I miss playing water polo, although I wasn’t the best, the team brought lots of positive energy into my day. Sometimes people question their decision to attend the Academy, like I have written about before, but the lifelong friends and relationships you make at the Academy, as well as the memorable experiences, make all the hard times worth it. The people truly do make the Academy the place that it is, and a place that I want to be in day after day.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me at [email protected]. Stay safe and healthy!

MORE ABOUT MONTY

Corona!

(Academics, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Jane Alandydy

Due to the worldwide health concerns caused by COVID19, the Corps did not return to the Academy following spring break. After filling out countless accountability spreadsheets and reading an unending trail of emails, I was excited to be able to spend more time at home with my family. But it is very strange not going back to the Academy. As online classes begin, I have to learn how to manage my time all over again. It’s hard to stick to my routine when I can stay in my pajamas all day. But I’m not complaining 😊 Online classes are completely uncharted territory for me, but so far they are going well. They are very self-driven, so I rely on my organizational skills to keep track of all of my assignments.

So far classes are going well. I made a schedule for the week with the due dates for assignments and I’ve been able to get work done every day. I’m still doing a lot of schoolwork but instead of sitting through trainings in the mornings or going to lunch formation, I’m filling that time with hanging out with my sister or walking outside.

In the months that I’ve spent at the Academy, every day has felt so long. In one day, a cadet can get a ton of work done. Applying that same attitude of doing a lot every day, it’s been really fun to swap doing a lot of homework for doing tons of things I want to do. That being said, I’m still very excited to be able to go back and see all of my friends.

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