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The Fourth-Class Boards Process

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2022) Permanent link   All Posts
Ryan Taylor

Hello all.

The Class of 2022 is at the peak of our first year at the Academy. Ever since we arrived at the Coast Guard Academy in July 2018, we have been studying the Running Light, a little blue book with 130 pages of Coast Guard indoctrination knowledge in what must be size 8 font. During the summer we studied every moment we had, and once the school year picked up we paused on Sunday evenings to take written indoctrination tests on one specific topic in the Running Light. Now, in late February through early April, we face the boards indoctrination exam. The oral exam consists of a uniform inspection, recitation of the mission of the Coast Guard Academy, and 10 questions – which often contain multiple parts – from any and all of the information in the Running Light. Although the exam itself only takes about 15 minutes, it is considered the summit of 4/c year.

Up to this point, we have been required to be “braced-up” at all times. This basically means walking in the center of the hallway with clenched fists, eyes straight ahead, and squaring all corners at 90 degrees when walking. Fourth class also march in formation to all classes and military trainings and are not allowed to talk to other 4/c in the hallway, at meals, or in formation. At meals, we continue to look straight ahead, sitting at attention while squaring the food up to our mouth. This constant military brace sets a firm foundation of the precision and professionalism that is necessary to navigate the next three years at the Academy.

The payoff for eight and a half months of being dutiful 4/c comes in late April. Once everyone in the class has passed the exam, we will be granted “carry-on,” marking the end of everything listed in the above paragraph. Talk to any upper-class and they will likely tell you that this is the best part of 4/c year. It comes as a surprise, usually disguised as a military training. Then, with the whole class gathered in the auditorium, the Regimental First Lieutenant grants the class the right to carry-on.

Amid 4/c year, it is easy to get stressed out and frustrated, questioning why we must uphold these duties and standards. If you take a step back, though, it is easy to see what a small price this is to pay for the privileges – to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy, to get a free college education, to be a part of the Academy and Coast Guard community, to serve our country, the list goes on – that we are afforded. Keeping in mind how fortunate one is to be here makes every bit of effort more than 100 percent worth it.

Have a happy spring everyone!