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My AIM Cadre Experience

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link   All Posts
Dante Roberts

Left. Left. Left, right. Right on left. My heart raced as the cadence was called out down the steps of Dimick Auditorium. It was the first week of Academy Introduction Mission, otherwise known as AIM. Little did the AIMsters know that they would meet their cadre in this manner. The back doors of the auditorium opened and, one by one, AIM cadre began to filter down the aisles on both sides. Every head must have been on a swivel in the building. That was the first discrepancy: failure to keep eyes in the boat. All 49 cadre looked like a foreboding storm to those high school AIMsters. Our right hands snapped up as we swore our cadre oath for the first time. It all seemed so real now. About face! We marched out of the room and immediately back to Chase Hall. This is where the cadre experience began.

Whiskey 2 cadre looked out the window as Whiskey 1 and Whiskey 2 AIMsters arrived to meet the platoon commanders just outside the steps of Chase Hall. We took the classic cadre photo with our clipboards to display our motivational quotes. The radio on my hip was blaring with radio checks from medical and battalion staff. We were all pacing back and forth. How do we yell at these kids? How do we get them to listen? All these questions were going through our heads. Suddenly, Whiskey 2 platoon ran up the stairs to the wing area and it was almost like instinct kicked in. “Square!” “Square!” “Eyes in the boat!” “Stop looking around!” “Is this funny to you?!” “Center of the p-way!” “Hit the bulkhead!” Within a matter of seconds, we were cadre. And within a few moments, they had already complied with our orders. One by one, each cadre introduced themselves to the AIMsters and relayed relevant information for the week. “Eyes!” Snap! “Fix it! My name is 2/c Roberts, but you will refer to me as Mr. Roberts, sir! Is that understood, Whiskey 2?” “Yes, sir!” “For the remainder of the week, you will no longer refer to yourself with pronouns. Words like I, me, my, we, and our no longer exist. You are a team now, you are an AIMster!” It was almost like our Swab Summer instincts from two years ago were in full gear. The first order of business was to make the platoon stow their civilian clothes and change into the AIM uniform of the day. By the first hour, the AIMsters had changed into uniform, learned to greet and square, and begun to march.

Their real first test was dinner formation. Here they are expected to greet, know indoctrination, form up with the correct division, and keep their eyes in the boat. Formations can be the most stressful for the AIMsters because of these standards and expectations. At meals, the AIMsters were expected to square their food just like the swabs. As one of two division officers at the table, I used this time to foster personal development rather than ask for jokes or stories. I realized that the AIMsters appreciated that as they were not only able to ask Academy-specific questions, but also ones about civilian colleges and high school.

By the end of the week, each participant stated that they were grateful that they were able to learn about leadership and perseverance, as well as what they might want to do for the rest of their lives. This is when I realized what cadre summer was all about. As a 4/c and 3/c, cadets are expected to lead themselves. By 2/c and 1/c year, cadets transition to leading others. This transition into a 2/c cadre truly made me realize that I was influencing and inspiring others.

A crucial part to AIM outside of Chase Hall was the engineering competition. This year was a first for the engineering program. Previous years, such as when I attended AIM in 2015, AIMsters constructed a custom robotic boat that then carried out the different missions of the Coast Guard. This year, however, the AIMsters had to construct various projects that reflected the Academy majors and represented different missions. Thanks to this concept, I felt like I was able to truly promote my major – Marine Environmental Sciences, abbreviated as MES – and actually answer questions. One of the projects was a buoy that could generate electricity by running a magnet through a coil of wire. Each buoy could be tested in the tank in the Naval Architecture lab. Every group of AIMsters was successful in generating a current. It was rewarding for every cadre to answer questions applicable to their major. The next task was drone-related. As National Security cutters begin to utilize drone technology, it is important to understand the concepts that go into the acquisition. The AIMsters had to successfully fly drones through an obstacle course. By doing so, they unlocked “keys” which could be used to decipher a secret message. This exercise also tied in to the new Cyber Systems major. The last exercise was to build a directional antenna that would then be used to locate a transmitter. Every group was successful in locating the “fox” that cadre hid around campus. In summary, our AIMsters were able to get a taste of all the Academy majors and witness different Coast Guard missions.

Another exciting component to the AIM program was the opportunity to see actual assets in the Coast Guard, as well as discuss the training elements at the Academy. Participants were able to see the 44-foot Leadership yachts, go aboard the training boats, see the MES research vessel, and view ship bridge simulators in Yeaton Hall. They were also blessed with the opportunity to go aboard USCGC Albacore, an 87-foot patrol boat station at the Academy. The asset tours blew away all the AIMsters, especially those that needed to find some form of motivation from the program. The last week of AIM, they were able to see an MH-60 helicopter land on the lower field, as well as observe a search and rescue demonstration on the Thames River. Overall, AIM provided participants and cadre with the opportunity to see what there is to offer at the Academy and in the fleet.

If I could do cadre summer all over again, I would. It taught me more about myself, my classmates, and how to lead those I am responsible for. The skills I learned as a cadre are already directly correlating to 2/c year. I feel empowered to speak up in my division and have already begun to mentor the 3/c and 4/c. It is rewarding to see where I was as a 4/c and 3/c, and where I am now. As AIM cadre, I was able to lead and inspire students from around the country who have the potential to become future cadets and officers. Even if they choose not to attend a service academy, many of them stated that they learned personal life skills that they wanted to take back home. As AIM cadre, we not only inspire future cadets, but the future generation of the United States. All it takes is one AIMster from each region to spread the skills they learned once they get back home. That, at least, is the hope that we have as cadre. If past AIM participants are reading this, I hope that you have begun to influence people at school and in your community. Take the skills that you learned at THE United States Coast Guard Academy and use them in YOUR life.

MORE ABOUT DANTE