Written by David M. Santos, communications director at U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
On the morning of June 25, hundreds of people from all over the country are at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., checking event schedules and looking over base maps. There is a tension in the air and a few anxious looks, which is to be expected. It’s reporting-in day and the lives of 248 young men and women are about to change – dramatically.
The day marks the start of a 200-week program designed to educate, train and physically prepare young men and women to be leaders of the nation’s smallest armed service. Incoming cadets, referred to as swabs, begin their time here with a intensive training program called Swab Summer.
They will be taught general military skills and learn more about the service while getting a healthy dose of seamanship training and physical conditioning in a program designed to develop self-discipline, military bearing and esprit de corps. In the coming months they will begin classes in a challenging academic environment, be introduced to various other aspects of life at a military academy and transition into the corps of cadets.
Addressing graduates at the institution about a month earlier, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said, “You will don many hats as you leave this Academy, because it means a lot to be a member of the Coast Guard. You are rescuers, protectors, first responders, law enforcers, teachers, public servants,” Napolitano said, “In this ever-changing world, the only certainty is that you will be called on to carry out many missions around the globe.”
As the day continues the swabs receive haircuts, uniforms and begin to march in formation under the watchful eyes of an ever present training cadre of upper-class cadets. After the swabs recite the oath of office together as a group on the Washington Parade Field, they are given a few moments to say goodbye to family and friends before the training program begins in earnest.
The Class of 2016 is made up of approximately 36 percent women and 35 percent underrepresented minorities, the highest percentages of both groups in Academy history. They are also one of the most geographically diverse classes with students representing 49 different states and international students from Rwanda, Maldives, Lithuania and Sri Lanka. “I am very impressed with the caliber of student entering with the Class of 2016,” said Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, academy superintendent. “These young men and women represent bright promise for the future. They have extraordinary potential and we are excited about the journey ahead.”