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2020: Flying By the Seat of My Pants

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link   All Posts
Felicia Lombardi

Words cannot describe how crazy this year has been for everyone. From a virtual spring semester and a scramble to salvage 1/c academic internships, to a never-before-seen standard operating procedure (SOP) onboard CGA this fall, the word unprecedented is overused and understated. If there is one thing that I have learned through it all, it is that the Coast Guard does not stop for anything, even a global pandemic. Instead, the Coast Guard keeps rolling with the punches and, in doing so, takes advantage of the opportunity to train cadets in the critical art of flying by the seat of your pants.

I was in line for Expedition Everest in Walt Disney World with my family and two other cadets when I got the email that we would not be returning for the remainder of the spring semester. I don’t think any of us understood at the time just how big this was going to get, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to spend some extra time with my family. At first it was fun telecommuting to class. I didn’t have to put a uniform on first thing in the morning, I could wear slippers to meals, and I could wear clothes that weren’t navy blue.

However, the novelty wore out pretty quickly. After about two weeks of virtual school, I missed my friends and teammates; I missed late night discussions about Nietzche and NYT v. Sullivan; I missed the treadmills and squat racks in the Billard Cardio Room; I missed the strong sense of purpose and duty that I wake up with every day at USCGA. We went from a couple weeks at home, to a couple more weeks, to the rest of the semester. Then my sister (now ENS Lombardi) lost the fun and festivities of Grad Week and I lost my summer internship. Overall things seemed pretty dim; we weren’t sure what was to come of the summer or the fall semester.

Thankfully, even when the Coast Guard is flying by the seat of its pants, it always lands on its feet. Our leadership team worked tirelessly to organize a return to campus so we could pack out our rooms. While two weeks without liberty is bound to elicit complaints, it allowed us to make the most of it—taking long walks, playing recreational sports, and spending way more time outside than we ever did before. While we were restricting our movement, we were ensured that we had a beneficial summer training opportunity by Cadet Training.

My summer ended up being all over the place. I spent two weeks onboard the Barque Eagle with all firsties where we spent the days talking professional development and practicing our conning skills, and we spent the nights watching romance movies off a projector in the Gorch Fock II berthing. After Eagle, I returned to CGA and telecommuted to a virtual internship with the Washington International Diplomatic Academy. While this wasn’t the internship I had planned on, it ended up being very informative and helped me cement my desire to work for the foreign service after the Coast Guard. After four weeks of class, I went to Sector Long Island Sound in New Haven, CT where I worked in Response Ashore. I was only there for two weeks but met lots of great mentors and role models while being exposed to a whole aspect of the Coast Guard that I knew little about before.

While this pandemic brought many ups and downs with an everchanging course of action, I still had a great summer training experience thanks to the fact that the Coast Guard always perseveres!