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Twelve Long Months

(The Cadet Experience, Swab Summer, Class of 2025) Permanent link   All Posts
Mack Bucki

It was a muggy morning in the Midwest and time for yet another busy harvest season. I clocked into my shift at the local greenhouse while watching the cars whiz past on the neighboring highway. Instead of jamming out to my usual playlist, I decided to tune in AIM- the USCGA’s virtual summer program. As I set up irrigation tubes in the fields, I fell in love with the small New England service academy I had Googled on a whim. The Atlantic Ocean was seven hundred miles away, but I heard it calling my name.

A year later, I watched the sun set over the coastline I had dreamed about for months. It was the night before SWAB Summer and my last day of normal civilian life. On S-Day, the only thing on my mind was: what comes next? My parents dropped me off with my luggage and I entered a land of strangers. What followed was seven weeks of sore throats (from sounding off), burning shoulders (from static holds), achy backs (from standing at POA), and throbbing feet (from those dang leathers!). To say I surprised myself is an understatement. Back home, a t-shirt and jeans would be my UOD of choice, 1100 revelry was the standard, and “proper stowage” was a concept that was alien to me. However, my cadre quickly introduced me to my new normal. I turned in my civies in for a fresh set of study hour shirts and gym gear. I nearly fell out of my rack when a loud trumpet woke us up at 0530. I had my room SAR’d on multiple occasions for bringing my forgetfulness and clutter to Week 1. It was a culture shock for sure, but it was exactly what I needed.

As I reflect on my experiences here so far, I am reminded of my mom’s favorite saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” Each of us have our purpose in this world and discover what that purpose is in different ways. The Coast Guard Academy reeled me in like a Lake Erie perch on that hot summer day. My forehead was dripping with sweat, hands were caked with mud, and boots were dull as ever, but a spark ignited inside of me that shift. One that begs the individual whom it resides in to be Semper Paratus. Even if the moment you’re “always ready” for just happens to be twelve long months away.