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cadet blogs

Greetings from the USCG Fleet!

(Just for Fun, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Belanger Photo So, I have not written as blog since right before I graduated so I thought I would send in a quick little message. It has been quite a journey since graduation. Well, I got stationed in Kodiak, Alaska. It defiantly wasn’t my top choice due to the fact that I am a Florida boy, but while we were in port over the summer I got to explore the island and take in all of its beauty. I really enjoyed all of the hikes and fishing that I got to do over the three months I was in Kodiak. We left for dry dock in the middle of August and that is when my journey began. I arrived in Seattle at the end of August and from there I went on a temporary assigned duty (TAD) to the CGC Seneca out of Boston.

 

It was a great experience sailing back in the warmth of the Caribbean with a brief stop in Roatan, Honduras. Honestly, you think Honduras and immediately disregard it but it was one of the best islands that I have ever visited. It was friendly, reasonably priced, and beautiful. It is home to one of the largest reefs in the world and from most spots you can just walk into the water from the beach and swim to them.

 

After that tour wrapped up in the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to go back to the Academy and help out in the Nautical Science department on the training vessels that the cadets train on. I was there for two weeks working with the instructors and 2/c and it was a blast. Honestly, I was hesitant at first but it provided me with the opportunity to not only catch up with friends but also get better at thinking further ahead when driving a ship. I really owe a great deal of thanks to CDR Mike Turdo and his team in the Naut Sci department for accommodating me for those two weeks.

 

From there I travelled down to Charleston, South Carolina to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) to begin boarding officer school. I honestly have to say it was the best time I have had in the Coast Guard so far. This training provides boarding team members with the opportunity to learn more about Coast Guard and U.S. policy when conducting boardings in the high seas and in U.S. waters. We had liberty on the weekends to explore the area. It was great working with other classmates and enlisted members from different parts of the country and getting to know each and every one of them.

 

From there I flew back to Seattle where Munro was still dry dock for a short week and I was off again (TAD) to the CGC Legare. I honestly have to say that I enjoyed every moment on board. We conducted fishery patrols and I got to experience a .50 caliber shoot along with a MK-75 shoot (that’s the big gun on front of a 270’). We also got to conduct helicopter operations and a large number of small boat operations. It was truly rewarding. I got to finish a lot of my progress on board in regard to my underway deckwatch officer qualification. I also got to catch up with my classmates that were also on board.

 

You think this would end my adventure, but it doesn’t! At the beginning of January, I flew from the Legare on a MH-60 inbound for Myrtle Beach. After spending a day in Myrtle Beach I flew up to Norfolk, Virginia. My flight wasn’t scheduled until later in the week so it gave me a few days in Virginia, an area that has a large Coast Guard presence. I was able to catch up with a few friends, along with my academic advisor and professor from the Academy. I departed at 0300 on a Friday inbound for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where I met up with yet another 270’ from Virginia. As of right now I am currently underway on the CGC Forward with yet more classmates! We have had an exciting patrol so far and have had a busy schedule. My classmates on board are all studying for their boards (which is a test) for their deck watch officer letter. I am close to having mine as well so it has been great studying with them!

 

Since graduation I have travelled over 10,000 miles and have had the opportunity to meet up with tons of classmates all over the East Coast. It has been quite a trip so far, but I am ready to head back to my ship. Hopefully, that will happen soon—but in the life of a junior officer, you never know!

 

If you have any questions regarding the academy or life as a Coast Guard junior officer, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at Nathan.D.Belanger@uscg.mil!

 

More about Nathan.

 

Parting Words

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo So not to be too sad or morbid, but this may be my last Academy blog post. I guess we really should stifle the sniffles and see it for the jubilant occasion that it is: I AM GRADUATING. After 4.5 years of blood, sweat, tears, and hard work, countless friends, marching, and emails, I have to say that I am finally coming to the golden butter bar light at the end of this brick tunnel. I am sad to leave but entirely satisfied with the time and more importantly the relationships and accomplishments I will be packing up and taking with me. One of the first things to go will be the laptop that I am currently typing this blog on: the thing has a 50/50 chance of not deleting whatever document I am procrastinating my way through. But in addition to the struggling electronic systems, parade dress uniform items, and tattered bedding, I will be leaving behind the days of communal bathrooms, classroom naps, team sports, and wardroom food. I have become my own person through this crazy process and I have to say that I am still a work in progress but a lot sturdier than I was when I came in as a freshman, fragile and shiny and breakable emotionally (and physically?) but I have learned how to be mentally tough, and learned how to handle stress and even to lift a little in the gym. This experience was one in a million.

 

I guess I will leave some advice, sort of like what I left for the fourth class when I made it to the esteemed title of third class, but this is more for the second class, or the seniors looking into the kaleidoscope of their upcoming last semester. They all experience a beautiful tunnel vision that keeps all of reality from resembling anything more than brightly colored patterns in the eyes of anxious excited first class. I’ll start with a thank you: to all of my lacrosse teammates, Delta Company, and my Marine and Environmental Sciences people. I will never forget the kindness, motivation, and fun I found in spending the last four.5 years of my life with you in some capacity. I think that it is important to stay well rounded and I felt supported from every angle.

 

Okay, time for some advice:

 

  1. Smile. Don’t ever forget: no matter how rough school, drama, military, family, or friends seem, you can always take a breath, smile, and remember that life is all about perspective. You will have time, and the stuff will get done. Smiling is contagious and it actually will make you and other people feel better :)
  2. Go for it. Take every opportunity. Don’t sit on the sidelines of life. The things that we regret are those that we did not do. Be adventurous and go outside. Appreciate your ability to be in the wild, to be with friends, and with the world. Offer to help people, be adventurous – you never know what you will find.
  3. Connections are key – to next jobs, to finding fun things to do, to meeting new people and learning new things. It is important to network and to have a story about yourself that will capture all who are lucky enough to bump into you. Be unforgettable and don’t forget the people you meet. (As a side note, people really appreciate thank you cards.)
  4. Stay open minded. Remember that you are never going to have full control. Be able to stay on your toes and be adaptable. Change will happen and if you let it ruin your day it will, or it could make you stronger and better at what you do.

 

There is probably more to say but I write too much as it is. Being in the Coast Guard is cool and it teaches you a lot more than how to drive a boat.

 

More about Lucy.

 

Perseverant Cadet

(Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Taking a look at the past week, I thought it was important to share with you a time that has been harder for me to cope with than anything yet at this school. In the past few weeks I have learned what it means to be a leader amongst my shipmates, what it really means to be strong for shipmates and to support them through the roughest of waters.

 

It all started a week and a half ago when I went to a soccer game against Connecticut College to support my friends, called the Whale Cup. The game was introduced to the Corps of the Cadets with freshmen making whale noises into the microphone, and all were encouraged to attend the game wearing spirit gear. I donned my spirit T-shirt and a pair of black leggings, and headed down to the game. I sat with some friends and cheered the whole time, the game was highly attended and a lot of our senior leadership was in the stands.

 

The next day my company chief came to my room and informed me that I needed to go down with him to meet with the Assistant Commandant of Cadets. I found myself at the Commandant of Cadets conference table and there he sat in front of me due to the fact that I wore black leggings to the soccer game, and they had not been technically authorized for game attendance (they were allowed to be worn while working out). I was sentenced to two weeks of restriction and two marching tours and four work hours. All for wearing leggings. As a side note, I want you to know that I love being in the Coast Guard (see previous blogs) and I am super excited to graduate BUT this is not the end of my story.

 

Okay so I am restricted for two weeks, which means that I am not allowed to leave school at all or be out of uniform during the workday. Then I found out that my classmate Ricky Davies passed away this weekend. I had had every class with Ricky all through my time at the Academy, we were the same major and he was a dear friend. Dealing with this kind of tragedy was and is crazy for me. As an always very positive person, I have never really had to cope with such negativity and while I could come closer to the men’s soccer team to find comfort and support, the Academy never stops.

 

It actually hit me this week that being an officer or even being an adult in real life means that you can’t shut down once you are hit with even the worst news. Life doesn’t stop. In fact, the day after Ricky died, I had to help a teammate with a very serious issue, and after that, my company had an inspection that went poorly and we were punished for that further.

 

I hate to write such a negative blog (sorry again) but I just want you all to know that as much fun as I have here, it definitely takes a strong person, or a person who can learn to be strong to go through a place like this. The rewards are worth the effort, but none of it is easy. And it will never be the same for you as it is for someone else. Some people struggle with grades here, others with not being able to live like their friends at normal college, others with being so busy that you lose time for yourself. Just know that the friends you make and the lessons you learn are irreplaceable and that it really does challenge you to become bigger than yourself.

 

More about Lucy.

 

Back in New York!

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Daghir Photo Hello blog followers!

 

I am emailing you from Sector New York, in good old Staten Island, preparing to wrap up my last week of work for the summer. This whole week, I have been out with the New Jersey Police Department, surveying and assessing the coastline of Staten Island to plan boom strategy for potential oil spills that may occur in the waterways of the sector’s response area. This project is really important because the plans we have now were made about 15 years ago! It’s important that the plans are updated, and not only the actual content, but also the actual way that they can be accessed. When I am finished, the plans will be available on the internet in a user-friendly capacity that will be easy to reference for the people who may be responding to a spill or anyone curious about the plan.

 

I am probably going to go to a cutter first tour when I graduate in December, but I can see myself heading in the direction of sector doing the type of work I’ve done this summer. I am interested in possibly doing oil spill response in the Arctic!

 

I finally get to go on leave on Friday and will go with my family to the beach in Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Then I will be hiking the Appalachian Trail for two weeks! This summer has been incredible and tiring but I have learned so much about oil spill response and also I have met so many people who do it professionally. The interesting thing about Coast Guard sectors is that although they are not exactly the poster-image of the Coast Guard, in terms of what you picture right away, you would be surprised by all of the things that they actually do. Any aspect of the Coast Guard missions is fully supported and often managed by a sector, and it is cool to see that Coasties here are often involved in multiple projects both within and outside of their divisions.

 

I’m not sure if I will be able to write before I depart for leave, so I hope that everyone is having a good summer!

 

-Lucy

 

Lucy.M.Daghir@uscga.edu

 

More about Lucy.

 

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2016) Permanent link
Schroeder Photo I cannot believe it; the last week of my undergraduate studies is finally here. It is the last Monday, and on Wednesday we wrap up classes. Next week is finals and after that I have pre-graduation things to take care of, and in less than a month I will be packing out of Chase Hall and putting the Academy in my rear view mirror.

 

A lot has changed over the past four years; I have grown immensely as a person, a leader, a daughter, a sister and a friend and I have started to become someone I am proud of. On May 18th, I will graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Marine and Environmental Sciences, and receive a commission as an ensign in the world’s best Coast Guard.

 

With all of the stress that goes along with being a cadet at a service academy, dealing with all the academic and military and athletic obligations, I sometimes forget just how fortunate I am to be here and how excited I am to be a Coast Guard officer. My time here at the Academy has been memorable; I’ve made a ton of lifelong friends and have learned a lot. I didn’t believe everyone when they told me it would go by fast but it has. All my hard work has paid off and I must say it was worth it. On June 22nd, I report in to my first unit, the USCGC Mohawk in Key West, Florida. Not only do I get to live in Key West for the next two years, I also get the chance to travel the Caribbean, Central America and South America with my 270 foot cutter. I will be serving as Weapons Officer onboard and I can’t wait to meet the crew and get started on all the learning and responsibilities I will be undertaking.

 

As I am getting ready to leave the Academy I’ve done a lot of self reflection. Although the Academy can be very trying at times, it is important to remember that if you are given the opportunity to come to a military academy you are one of the few lucky American citizens. Over the past four years, I have had so many experiences my high school classmates could only dream of. I’ve sailed the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Alaska. I’ve spent my summers in South Florida, North Carolina, Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Alaska and Cape Cod. I’ve been a part of a nationally ranked college rugby team. I’ve made lifelong friends and received a top notch education. Throughout all this, I’ve kept in mind that the “light at the end of the tunnel” is graduation and becoming a Coast Guard officer. Now that the light is finally in sight, I can’t believe it. I’m nervous and excited, but I’m also extremely fortunate in that I’m graduating college debt free with a job lined up for at least the next five years. If you are thinking about coming to the Academy, just keep in mind that all the hard work and sacrifices you will put in over four years all pay off in the end.

 

More about Jade.