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Swab Summer: Humility, Commitment and Teamwork

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Jasmine Rodriguez

Swab Summer is not meant to be easy, whether you consider the incoming civilian students powering through their transition into the military or the cadre forging their leadership skills. I remember my Swab Summer vividly. I had proud moments, and I had moments of disappointment and doubt. So, too, did every other member of my class, but we made it through together.

As a prior-enlisted member, I was met with Swab Summer’s unique challenges compared to basic training at Cape May. Though the core values are the same, the mission and model are different. Humility, commitment, and complete reliance on teamwork are, perhaps, the main lessons of Swab Summer ‒ for both leaders and followers.

As a scholar who attended Marion Military Institute, I appreciated every minute and mile of preparation with my classmates. Any spare moment not spent bettering myself or others, mentally, physically, and spiritually, was time wasted.

Finally, as a 2012 participant of the Academy Introduction Mission program otherwise known as AIM, I reflect again on commitment and teamwork. I still remember when my arms were failing during a static hold of our water bottles, and my peer squared to face me. She held her arms out beneath my own and held mine up, simultaneously teaching me new facets of humility, self-sacrifice, and mental strength. The friendships I built through all my trainings are strong, and they support me personally and privately. This is not a journey one can complete alone. Each training program – be it AIM, Cape May basic training, Coast Guard Academy Scholars, or Swab Summer – is a necessary challenge designed to prepare a balanced, confident Coast Guard team.


We've Got Your Back

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Darden Purrington

Dear Class of 2022,

We’ve got your back.

As Day One approaches, I’m sure many of you are nervous. So was I…so am I.

I know I speak for my class, the great Class of 2020, when I say we are ready.

We are imperfect and human. We will make mistakes, just like our Swabs. We are dedicated to, and proud of, this institution and the Coast Guard that stands behind it. We have trained and waited two long years for this. Cadre Summer, the epitome of cadet training. We are learning, just like 2022, how to be officers in the World’s Best Coast Guard ‒ we are simply two years further down the road.

If there is one thing I want you to understand it is that 2020 is full of people. That may seem silly to many of you now, but come mid-July, you’ll have long forgotten. Every cadre will seem like a god or demon or some mythical creature who subsists on energy drinks and sleepless nights. We won’t seem like people. Some of us may seem like we don’t care about you, or worse, don’t like you. What you won’t see are the conversations with our roommates after you’ve gone to sleep about how we can get you through just another month, or another week, or another day of training. Because you are our swabs.

My class will run you, and drill you, and quiz you until you think there’s nothing left to give ‒ but give more. We will push you; some of you will cry, wake up exhausted, sit bolt upright at the drop of a needle in the middle of the night, and some of you will want to quit ‒ don’t. You have more in you and you are better than that. Stick with it. Give more.

You are our swabs and if one day you wake up and can’t do it for yourself anymore, do it for us. Do it for your shipmates, because they need you more than they will admit, perhaps more than even they know.

You wouldn’t be coming here if you didn’t belong here. We believe in you, all you have to do is prove us right.

Class of 2022, we’ve got your back.


(Choosing the Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Jasmine Rodriguez

I am 4/c Jasmine Rodriguez. My family followed my father’s Marine Corps career back and forth across the country to both coasts, which exposed me to a multitude of different cultures and lifestyles, all the while maintaining military standards and pride. My patriotism is founded in my parents’ examples of service to country and in my young memories of the impact of 9/11. Mixed with a love for the sea, I looked to service academies for an environment that would advance my education and my personal interests – the Coast Guard Academy was a perfect fit. After four applications, an enlistment in the Coast Guard, and a year preparing at Marion Military Institute through the Academy’s Scholars program, I finally made it. I have taken nearly every opportunity the Coast Guard Academy has to offer, and I want to share these amazing experiences with anyone even slightly considering a military academy. I love hearing others’ stories, and I love to write and share mine.

I strongly believe that there should be more enlisted members coming to the Academy – their experiences in Cape May and in the fleet better prepare them for the challenges of the school year and of the eventual challenges faced by our junior officers in connecting the wardroom to the chief’s mess. Last year, the Scholars program took more enlisted members than usual, but we lost some of our companions along the way. I believe if the Academy were advertised more accurately and efficiently to the enlisted corps that more members would be interested in taking on this great and rewarding challenge. I want to write to inspire, encourage, and persuade. I have attended almost every program CGA offers to civilians of all ages in an effort to network and make myself known. I spent thirteen years of my life wanting the Coast Guard Academy and five earning it. Now I’m here, and I want to share with as many people as possible exactly why it is the best service academy, the best school, and the best Coast Guard in the world.

Why Blogs?

(Choosing the Academy, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Katherine Doty

The Cadet Blog program was very influential in my decision to both apply to the Coast Guard Academy, and my decision to accept my appointment. Because very few people from my high school have ever attended a service academy, I had little exposure to the Coast Guard or service academies in general. Through the Cadet Blog program, I gained insight into how cadets felt about their experience here and life at the Academy.

That being said, I love it here so far! Yes, Swab Summer was challenging, but I learned so much about myself and how important teamwork is. Nothing over Swab Summer was impossible; rather, you just needed to put in 100% effort 100% of the time. I fell short and failed many times, but I learned how to overcome my failures and grow as both a person and a leader. The transition from Swab Summer to the academic year has been interesting, to say the least. I have enjoyed my classes so far and have gotten used to the workload. I know that there will be many challenges in the future, but they will shape me into a better leader and ultimately an officer in the United States Coast Guard. With my friends by my side, and a positive attitude, I am confident that fourth class year will be amazing!

As always, feel free to email me and GO BEARS!!


Dear Class of 2021 Parent

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Francesca Farlow

June 26, 2017 will now always mark a special place in your heart. Maybe not quite like a birthday or anniversary, but when you see it on the calendar it will make you smile, at least for a second. It was the day your child made the biggest commitment thus far in their lives, and whether you realize it now or later, you made a commitment too, and you became part of the Coast Guard family. Swab Summer is tough, but your child will make it through and then fourth class year will be full of ups and downs, learning experiences, and most importantly lifelong bonds and memories. Before you know it, your swab turned third class cadet will be sitting here writing a letter to the Class of 2022 parents, wondering where their first year of college went and how their second summer is almost complete. Between now and then, there will be good days and bad days, days they are sure they will make it and days they are unsure how they made it this far. When I look back on my fourth class year, I struggle to remember the negative events, and although it may not seem like it, in a year your 3/c cadet will do the same. They will think back to Day One, killing a calculus test, a weekend full of adventures with friends in NYC, coming home for the first time, their first practice or game as a collegiate athlete, passing boards, and earning carry-on and everything else will fade away.

Fourth class year is hectic, even on a slow day. Bear (no pun intended) with your cadet as they figure out their schedule and when they have time to talk and when they can’t. If they say they need to write a paper, or they need to prep a uniform, they have a three hour practice, they need to wax their floor, or attend CAAP, I promise those are all things that need to be done, sometimes all in one day after attending a full day of classes. Just tell them to breathe and that when all those things are complete you will still be around. If they mention trying a new sport or joining a club, encourage them, even if you don’t know anything about it, because distractions from Academy life are key to survival. Also, encourage them to take adventures on long weekends; it will give them something to look forward to. Tell them to go to NYC or Boston, if nothing else it is worth it to be able to wear civilian clothes and feel like a person instead of a cadet, even if it is just for three days.

Finally, as a cadet there is only so much I can say about being the parent of a cadet, so my own parents would tell you that the Academy experience in general, and fourth class year in particular, is your child’s experience. Your son or daughter, prior to Day One, probably did not fail at much, so it will be difficult to listen to their struggles—and they will struggle, get knocked down, fail, be challenged and pushed—perhaps to points they did not know they had. Despite the temptation, allow them to tackle this challenge on their own terms. Support them on this journey, but always know that you cannot take the journey for them. Remind them to laugh—to never lose their sense of humor. Above all, be proud of the fact that your son or daughter has answered the call to service; raised their right hand and taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. Welcome to your new family as the parents of USCGA cadets.

Go Bears!


Advice for 2021 and 2022

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Darden Purrington

Wow. It’s been too long since I sat down and blogged. Life here really flies by.

Cadet for a Day season is upon us again! (This is a program that invites prospective cadets to tour the Academy with a cadet for an entire day in order to see what USCGA is like before coming here.) Seeing all these young men and women has made me think about how useful I found the blogs when I was in high school, which reminded me I should blog, which made me think of a few things I have to pass on to all ye prospective cadets.

Class of 2021

  • It’s gonna be hard. It’s different as your support system is ripped out from under you, everything is new and exciting and kind of frightening and you can’t even look around. It’s worth it and it will get better. Swab Summer feels like an eternity but try to remember what a small portion of the Academy experience it is. You will wake up some mornings and want to leave. Don’t. You made it in and you’re tough enough to handle this place.
  • You may not see it but your cadre cares. You matter to them. They love their jobs passionately and training you is their job. They will not baby you and they will not make it easy, but they will be rooting for you even when it seems like they’re not. 2019 is full of some of the most awesome, dedicated people who cannot wait to make you all great shipmates.
  • Do your job. There will be mornings, even during the school year, that you’ll be so tired you won’t want to get out of bed or be able to remember how excited you were to get to come here. It sucks. Get up anyway, square your corners, do your job and do it with as much fake enthusiasm as you can. Fake it until you become it; I’ve found that if you do that, usually, by the end of breakfast, you feel eight million times better. If you can pretend you’re doing great, even when you feel awful, more likely than not some upperclassman will say or do something that makes you feel less like dirt. From personal experience, I can tell you that without fail, every time I am struggling and nothing seems to be going right, someone from my company does or says something – and it could be as small as greeting me by name in the passageway – that helps turn my day around. Make it easy for your shipmates to do this for you; do your job and fake it ‘til you become it.
  • Start getting ready physically for Swab Summer and have fun with your family and friends. I think particularly for those of us who do not live in New England, the last time you will ever get to spend a good amount of quality time with your friends and family is before you report in. Hang out with your friends, but also hang out with your family. I know it may not seem like the coolest thing to do, but especially if you have siblings at home, this is the last time you may ever get to spend a lot of time with them and likely the last few months you’ll ever live together. Go see a few movies together, go to the beach (when it gets warmer!), or an amusement park, or see a concert. Make some good memories and take some pictures while you’re doing so.

Class of 2022 (AIMsters)

  • Get to know your cadre. They’re scary. I was an AIMster too, trust me, I know. I was terrified of my AIM cadre, but it’s worth getting to know them and staying connected with them. This year, I was lucky enough to be in the same company I was in for AIM. Last semester, my division officer was my AIM division officer. I was fortunate that he remembered me because I didn’t make any effort to stay in contact with him or any of my other AIM cadre. I wish I had. They’re awesome people and they were rooting for me all the way. My fall division officer is easily one of best leaders I have ever had the pleasure of working for and he will be an amazing officer come May. I got lucky being in his division as well as being in Bravo for AIM and 4/c year because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to know the amazing firsties who were my AIM cadre. Don’t leave that to chance like I did, stay connected with them after AIM.

Anyway, hope you guys found something useful that you could take away from this post. As always, feel free to email me with any questions!

Very Respectfully,

4/c Darden Purrington


The Journey of Boards

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Kirsten Sharp

Biggest news to date: I passed boards during the week of February 17th! Now, if you understand what this statement means, then feel free to stop reading here. For those that do not understand, let us venture on a little journey together.

It all started on R-Day; the day my life changed forever. My shipmates of the Class of 2019 reported to the Academy on June 29, 2015 and immediately got screamed at. We ran around sweating for a few hours, saw our parents for five minutes, and then returned to the grind for the rest of the summer. (Side note: I never fully understood why they let us see our parents after a few hours of running around on that first date. It’s like dangling a piece of bacon in front of a newly “discovered” vegetarian. The only plausible reason it would serve is to weed out the people who want to go home right then and there… but still.) Anyway, one of the best parts of R-Day, and even Swab Summer as a whole, is a little something the cadre call “indoc.” Sounds fun, right? WRONG. For the life of me, I cannot do indoc. What the heck is this demon, you ask? Well, my friends, it is short for “indoctrination,” which is a big, fancy word for random facts about the Coast Guard that some higher-up person thought we should all know. Some of these things are downright insane – like the 250-word response that is proper to answer the question “what time is it?” or the one that talks about a “cow.” Needless to say, I found no point in learning indoc. I would literally rather push deck (do push-ups) for hours on end instead of knowing the length, beam, draft, and displacement of Healy.

This mentality worked over Swab Summer because we pushed deck all the time anyway. But, then the school year rolled around, midterms came, the second semester started, and there I was. Little 4/c Sharp in complete denial of all things indoc. Still. It hit me the day before my first board that this was, like, an actual thing. You see, in order to advance a rank (to go from 4/c to 3/c) everyone must pass boards. When our whole class passes boards, we can get social media back, so the stakes are fairly high. I really did not want to be the last one in my class to pass because I hate holding back my shipmates. But, there was only so much indoc I could cram into my head within a 24-hour period. So I studied. Hard. And, with the help of a few people, I somehow managed to get a 6/10. You need at least an 8, however. After that first board, I accepted the fact that I would probably pass last in my class. But I was not about to give up.

Over the course of the next week, I again did not study that much. I focused on my schoolwork until two days before my next exam – just to be clear, you can take one board per week until you end up passing, and the stakes get higher each week you do not pass. By the third time you do not pass, you get placed on restriction and have to take the board with your company’s guidon (2/c who is in charge of the 4/c of an individual company). I was getting nervous and really wanted to pass this time to avoid the stress of being possibly placed on restriction. Again, I learned the course of USCG history in about two hours thanks to a shipmate who quizzed me the night of my board.

Then, that fateful night came about. I was signed up to go in the last timeslot, so I was sitting around and waiting in my SDB uniform for an hour before I got to take my board. Over that hour, I remember psyching myself out. Completely. For some reason, in my head, I told myself “Okay, Kirsten. This isn’t so big of a deal. What’s the worst that could happen? You don’t pass this board tonight, okay. You don’t pass board the next week, alright. Your class is waiting for you to pass boards so that they can get social media. You never end up passing boards, so your class has to square meals even as 3/c. All through 3/c year you take boards and never pass. You make it up to graduation, still squaring away everything, and everyone underneath you has to square too because nobody is there to give them direction because you didn’t pass boards. You are standing up there on graduation day accepting your diploma while still squaring. You will be squaring as an ensign, and they will have no choice but to kick you out of the Guard because who can run a ship while squaring. Nobody will be able to take you seriously. This is the beginning of the end. Right here, right now.”

Then they come for me. The person down in the watch office pipes: “The 4/c board indoctrination exam is secured” but that doesn’t stop anything. The ruthless freight train that is indoc is coming for me. Fast. And no matter how much I try to deny the sound of that whistle, the rumbling of the very ground under my feet, the train keeps on rollin’. I put my cover (uniform hat) on top of my head and try to cover my eyes because I don’t even know what to look at anymore. I go in there, say the mission while being inspected, and then the firstie starts asking me questions. I know the first few, somehow, someway. Then he asks me about a cutter. I went into the exam knowing that I did not know anything about ships or aircrafts, which is pretty much half of the Coast Guard. I ask to skip the question and come back later. Well, it becomes later, we circle back to the question, and he asks me the class of a High Endurance Cutter. I say “W…” (which is the beginning of the identification of the call sign), the firstie feels bad for me and informs me of this. My mind is blank. I am sweating like I just finished a marathon. I have nothing left in my brain. I stand there like an idiot. He is generous and gives me another hint: “His name is on a building on campus.” Again, dumb as can be, I respond “Yeaton.” Bear in mind that this makes absolutely no sense. It’s like being in France and someone asks you what you want to buy (in French of course), and you use the limited amount of knowledge you have of French language and respond whatever the French translation is of “unicorns poop special rainbows on the BBQ.” I had no idea what I was talking about. He takes mercy on me once more; “HE IS ON THE $10 BILL!” I yell back “LEAMY, ALRIGHT? LET’S MOVE ON!” I realize what I have done and finish “please, sir.”

That’s how my board ended. That was it. I thought there was no way on Earth that I passed. I mentally prepared myself to take the board again next week. And the next week. And until I become an ensign. Later that night, my guidon finds me and tells me that I passed with an 8, right on the nose. I literally fell onto the floor and screamed, at which point an upperclassman walked by me, shook her head, and said under her breath “typical Sharp on a Tuesday night.” I didn’t blame her, and just kept thinking “second time’s the charm.” No matter what rumors you hear about boards, everyone WILL pass them eventually. And it will not take you until you become an ensign to pass.


And Let the Games Begin! Again…

(Academics, Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Darden Purrington

Exactly nine weeks ago today, June 25, 2016, my parents and I arrived in New London, Connecticut, to the city that I would call home for the next four years. Swab Summer came and went in a whirlwind of yelling and commotion and now we are one week into the school year. And even though I am now part of the corps, that I am a “basically trained coast guardsman,” I feel no different.

Classes started this week and, just like high school, some are harder than others. Statics and Engineering Design is a pretty tough class, Leaders in U.S. History is practically a repeat of my AP U.S. History class (this is certainly not a bad thing since I loved my APUSH class, simply something I’ve noticed). While we are on the topic of things I’ve noticed, another thing I’ve observed is that life here at the CGA is very, very similar to high school (kinda backward right? Most people have told you differently, haven’t they?). My high school experience was very busy, 20+ hours a week on the water with my sailing team, rigorous academics with many AP classes, participation my school’s choir and a cappella group as well as my church’s choir, Girl Scouts (including earning my Gold Award), DEV Team, and working on the tech crew for my school’s theatre department and occasionally another theatre group outside my school. Do I say all this to make myself look good? No. I say all this because I read the cadet blogs all through high school and everybody said something to the effect of “it’s so much harder than high school ever was,” and I spent a good portion of my time worrying about how on earth I would ever survive in a place with even more demands on my time. I want to dismiss that thought for anybody who’s schedule was a jam packed as mine. In high school, I got up around 5:30 every morning, didn’t get home until after 7:30 every evening, and then did homework until at least 12 if not further into the night. Here at the Academy, I get up at 5:45 (Wooo! Sleeping in a bit!), I go to classes, some days I even have a free period where I can do homework, I go to sailing (which always ends at a set time), I eat (squaring my meals of course), then I either practice with the Glee Club for an hour or finish my homework and am in bed by 12 (unless there’s a Formal Room and Wing, then all bets for sleeping are off).

That was long and tangent-y so I’ll hop off here and let you continue with your day.

Very Respectfully,

4/c Darden Purrington

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