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The Last Stretch

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

Time at the Academy flies by, but also feels so slow. I don’t know why the days feel like forever but the weeks go fast. The last few months has been crazy with Billet Night , spring break, castle dance, and more. Here, I’ll summarize all the things you can look forward to when you’re a 1/c cadet (senior) at the Coast Guard Academy.

Billet Night

Billet Night is when all the senior cadets find out where they are going for their first job after graduation. In December we receive a list, and we upload our top picks online. Then in March, we all get together for a formal dinner, then we all gather in the auditorium for a presentation. They call up a handful of cadets at a time, and announce their billets while they are on stage. I didn’t go until the end, so I was nervous for most of the night. There was a lot of cheering, crying (happy tears), and celebrating for everyone. I have friends going to Hawaii, Florida, Guam, California, and more. I got Sector/Cyber Texas, which was my number one choice. Billet Night is super exciting because you get to celebrate all your classmates and your own accomplishments over the past three and a half years. We all struggled and triumphed together, and Billet Night is the culminating event that brings that all together. Even more excitingly, you get to start house hunting or apartment hunting, which has been a little stressful, but mostly fun. I definitely recommend getting a roommate because it is more fun that way. Also, you’ll save a lot of money and/or be able to afford a nicer place. No billet is a bad billet. Even if you end up somewhere you don’t want, it’s still an amazing opportunity. I wanted to be grateful no matter what billet I got. There are so many college kids who don’t have the opportunity to get a good job after school or get paid as much as a Coast Guard officer does. Some kids can’t afford college, and some kids around the world get the opportunity at a high school level education. Billet Night put in perspective how blessed I am and that I should be grateful of all my opportunities, friends, and classmates.

Spring Break

Spring break is self-explanatory. You get a week off from school in March, the week after Billet Night. I spent my week with some friends snowboarding in Vermont and New Hampshire. I have the Epic Pass, which for military is only $150 (usually $1000+ for civilians). I will do a separate post about the perks of going to the academy and being in the military.

Castle Dance

Originally, Castle Dance was created by 1/c cadets (seniors) to have their own event separate from the Academy. However, rumor has it that one year the cadets got too rowdy and Castle Dance was canceled. Eventually, Castle Dance was brought back under the condition that Academy faculty and leadership could oversee the planning of the event. This year, we were able to have our Castle Dance at the Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. It looks like the mansion in Great Gatsby. We all got dressed up in suits and dresses, had a DJ, drinks, and food. I’m not going to lie, this is probably one of the most fanciest events I’ve been at. The class leadership did a great job planning it, and it is something to look forward to as a senior.

Dining In

Dining In is another formal dinner where 1/c cadets dine with admirals, officers, and other VIPs. This dinner is a welcome into the Officer Corps. As a cadet, you usually have a formal dinner like this once or twice a year.

Graduation

Graduation is May 18th this year. Then, we get 30 days of leave to spend time with family, travel, and get settled into our new place. Then, we all report into our new jobs and get to work!

MORE ABOUT JACK

Secret Perks of Being a Cadet

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

Being in the military brings lots of perks. If you are thinking about joining a military service academy or ROTC, here are a few unexpected perks that might be thrown your way.

  1. Chipotle does a law enforcement discount, and technically, the Coast Guard is the only branch of the military with law enforcement authority. If you take 30 seconds to explain this to Chipotle, you can get 50% off your order.
  2. Luxury credit cards come with lots of perks, including free access to airport lounges with free drinks and food, complimentary flight upgrades, and more. However, these credit cards also come with a $100- $500 annual fee. For AMEX, the fees for these cards are waived for military members, meaning you can earn awesome points, hang out in airport lounges, and earn exclusive discounts without paying a fee.
  3. Access to websites like GOVX and other military discount stores. They provide cheap prices for a variety of products. Many brand name companies offer 20%-30% discounts on their products for military members, including Oakley and RayBan. You also earn access to the Coast Guard Exchange website, which does not charge tax on its products.
  4. Military discounts for cruises, vacation packages, and more. Self-explanatory.
  5. Lots of airlines allow military to check bags for free. Also, you’ll be upgraded to TSA precheck, making getting through security much faster and easier.

There are tons of other financial military perks for being in the military, but many of the best perks have nothing to do with money. For me, having a network of amazing friends and coworkers is the best part of attending a service academy. The skills, wisdom, and experiences you gain from being at a service academy or in the military are great too. Do your full research on all the benefits military members receive, as these are only the tip of the iceberg.

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What is Gangway?

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

Gangway is a privilege that 1/c cadets earn during their last semester at the Academy, usually in April or May. This privilege allows 1/c cadets to leave campus whenever they would like, as long as they are not absent from military obligations. This includes morning formations, meals, trainings, and classes. Prior to earning gangway, 1/c cadets can only leave from the following times: Thursday 4pm-10pm, Friday 4pm-11:59pm, Saturday 10am- Sunday 10pm. The hours for underclass are different, as other bloggers have already likely explained how liberty for cadets works. So far, I haven’t really used my gangway. I feel like I’ve already built a routine over the year and don’t find it necessary to go out on a Monday or Tuesday. It is really nice to have the freedom to go surfing in Rhode Island or go golfing during the day when I want to. That’s a huge change I’ve seen in myself now versus when I was a highschooler- I used to be very sporadic with my activities, daily life, and goals. Now, I feel like I follow a strict routine (in a good way), work towards specific goals, and am efficient with my time. I believe although it has been difficult at times, the Academy has taught me to be more productive, efficient, and effective in the way I live my life. Now that I have a lot more freedom for these next two months, I value the time I have, what I do with it, and to make smart decisions. Without the discipline and difficult times of being at the Academy the past three years, I might be wasting my time instead by drinking, partying, watching TV, playing video games, or whatever it may be. The Academy teaches you to value your free time, because often it takes it from you and only gives you what is leftover.

Lessons to takeaway: take advantage of your free time! Do something productive like reading a book, working out, or achieving whatever goal you have. Also, something important to take away from this post is that I had no idea what gangway was or what liberty was prior to coming to the Academy. You don’t know what you don’t know. Take time to ask questions, schedule a tour with admissions, and ask more questions. A lot of high schoolers come to a service academy or ROTC and don’t realize what they are getting themselves into, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but more information is better than less.

MORE ABOUT JACK

Billet Night Excitement

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Elizabeth Carter

I write today from the confines of my room, as a snowstorm closed base! Thankfully this means that there were no classes today, not even the virtual kind. Today has been a well-needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of a typical spring semester. The major difference this spring semester is (and you probably guessed it) billet night! The long-awaited night is less than a week away, and the excitement, anxiety, and energy is tangible within Chase Hall. We are also steadily working through midterms, in the form of tests, papers, presentations, and speeches. I can certainly feel the stress and pressure amounting, as the finish line is just within sight.

Even though it feels like a sprint towards the finish line, my personal running career has come to an end. I made the decision to not compete for Outdoor Track and Field, and really focus on my last few months with friends and academics. The decision was not an easy one to make, as this sport has carried me through the past four years at the Academy. My Mom and Dad both ran for the Coast Guard Academy Cross Country and Track and Field teams, so the conclusion of my career felt more meaningful than I had anticipated. I have truly dreamt of running for CGA since I was about eight years old, when I first visited the Academy with my parents for their class reunion, and ran a lap around the lower field track. My final race was a 5k at the Springfield Indoor Track Invite, and I burst into tears as soon as I crossed the finish line, simply overcome with emotion.

I have a feeling that many more emotional events are about to take place, not only for me, but for my friends and family as graduation steadily approaches. This journey has been challenging, and yet the most rewarding experience of my entire life. And this is just the beginning of it! Next Thursday I will know my new home, and start my own moving process, of which I am all too familiar. My childhood consisted of six moves, and seven houses, so this will be a walk in the park! I won’t get into the specifics of my billet list, as just the thought of it gets my heart racing. I simply know that wherever I go, I will be ecstatic, jumping for joy on that stage.

I plan on concluding my Blog Club journey with this post, and as I sign off for the last time, I hope that everyone who has followed my journey got a little something out of it. If I can be of any help in the future, please do not hesitate to reach out. As much as the Academy has challenged me, I love it for the people and experiences it has brought into my life. Good luck to the Class of 2026 and all those interested in joining the Corps!

MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH

Resilience Over Perfection

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mia Martinelli

As we are getting into the final weeks of classes and exams, it is nice to reflect on my Thanksgiving break. That was the first time I have been able to go home since S-day! It is crazy to think that I have been here for 6 months. I went home to a full house of my parents, my four older sisters, and their super cute pets. We played board games, went to yoga classes, walked on the bridge, watched movies, and baked and decorated cookies. It was so relaxing and rejuvenating. We laughed till our faces hurt. My oldest sister bought everyone matching Christmas pajamas that I am looking forward to wearing again soon. With all this great stuff over break, it feels difficult to be back at the Academy. But I definitely feel a newfound appreciation for traveling, oddly. I used to find it stressful to travel alone but last week I was nothing but relaxed and happy… even on my way back. I think that is coming from a place of confidence and independence that I have gained from being here the last half of a year.

Overall, I am happy with how my grades are turning out as I prepare for exams. Yes, the added challenge of the Academy makes classes harder than high school (in my experience), but I also feel even prouder of my work here. Initially it was difficult for me to not be disappointed in the grades that I was getting compared to my high school grades, but I realized that I am truly doing the best that I can. I have found it is much better for my mental health to measure my effort over the result. I think that this encourages me to work on resilience instead of perfection. See you in the new year!

MORE ABOUT MIA

Adventures with Triathlon

(Extracurricular and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mack Bucki

The endorphin-fueled thrill of an endurance race is what keeps me coming back for more. When I first learned about the Coast Guard Academy, I was thrilled to see that they had a triathlon team. My three favorite sports (swimming, biking, and running) could all be lumped into one big event! Through triathlon club, I met so many awesome people, got to go against some good competition, and pushed through dozens of tough workouts. My favorite race of the season was the TOUGHMAN Olympic Triathlon in Stony Point, New York.

After enjoying the Friday morning of Parents Weekend, a small group of us took a cadet van and headed to the race site. By the time we got to our hotel, the long-drive fatigue has begun to set in. So, we decided to make things simple and eat dinner at the restaurant across the street. Our exhaustion ended up being a blessing in disguise- the food next door was good. In fact, it was some of the best shrimp scampi I’ve ever had! After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to catch some Zs.

The next day, my alarm woke me up at 4AM. We got to the race site early to get our packets and dropped bikes off at transition. All three events went smoothly. The open-water course was one of my favorites and I was able to start off in the lead pack. Although my bike wasn’t the best, a good kick at the end helped me close in on the top five. I dropped the hammer in the last three miles of the run and was able to podium!

However, my favorite part of TOUGHMAN wasn’t the medal I earned. The thing I loved most about TOUGHMAN was that I got to spend an awesome weekend with my friends, family, and coaches. After the race, we headed back to New London. On our way, we stopped at a nice, sit-down café in Mt. Kisco. Their long menu was enough to make a person drool, let alone a bunch of hungry triathletes. I got the turkey club with sweet potato fries and took part in the fourth, most important discipline- eating. The perfect finish to our short yet rewarding season.

Peace Out Fall Semester!

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How to Get Into the U.S. Service Academies

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Erin Edwards

The semester is almost over and we have one more to go before 1/c Edwards joins the fleet. It has been jam-packed with a lot of activities, so far, but who better to share Admissions tips than a cadet who has been through it all? Here are a few application tips from 1/c Edwards!


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Return to School

(Academics, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2025) Permanent link
Mia Martinelli

Right now I am about four weeks into school and I’m still trying to find that smooth rhythm that everyone talks about! I have taken my first two exams and I have a few more just around the corner. The academics here are extremely different from my high school experience. There is a lot more responsibility and independence put on each cadet. I have already found planning and organization to be so important when it comes to school, military obligations, clubs, sports and councils!

I feel really excited to continue to meet and get to know cadets, professors, company officers/chiefs, etc. I signed up for a Coast Guard mentorship program, and foxtrot company also has its own mentorship initiative. I am hopeful that I can connect with people that I can continue to learn from and build relationships with.

I am practically counting down the days until Parents Weekend! My parents and two of my siblings are getting here on Friday. I am not entirely sure of the schedule, but I know I will be excused from lunch in the wardroom to eat with them on the lower field on Friday. I believe the swim team families are planning to meet up as well. Besides that, it will be nice to catch up and hangout with them off base.

Right after Parents Weekend, we start the first official swim team practice! I just can’t wait to get back in the water. I haven’t been competitively swimming normally for about 2 years now, because of a car accident and injury recovery, as well as restrictions due to the pandemic. It is so nice to have a new team and coach. We have been doing pre-season strength training 3 times a week, which I really enjoy.

This weekend was the first homecoming weekend. It is cool to see how this one place can bring together so many amazing people. My oldest sister (class of 2010) was here for her delayed homecoming and induction into the Hall of Fame for her achievements in Basketball. I couldn’t be prouder of her.

On Friday, the corps got a long, which basically means overnight liberty. Although there wasn’t really notice ahead of time, so like a lot of the 4/c, I didn’t really coordinate with anyone to take me anywhere, which means it has been a weekend of watching athletic teams, homework, and hanging out with friends. I don’t mind though, sometimes it is nice to just do nothing after a long week.

MORE ABOUT MIA