First Day of 'Swab Summer' Gives Coast Guard Cadets Something to Shout About

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Coast Guard Academy Class of 2022 participate in Day One, the start of Swab Summer and the beginning of their 200-week journey to becoming an officer at the Academy, July 2, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Diana Sherbs)
Coast Guard Academy Class of 2022 participate in Day One, the start of Swab Summer and the beginning of their 200-week journey to becoming an officer at the Academy, July 2, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Diana Sherbs)

NEW LONDON -- The 36 incoming cadets of the X-Ray 2 platoon stood against the walls of the hallway outside the barbershop just before 1 p.m. Monday, holding their Running Light books in front of their faces, right elbows parallel to the floor.

"Why are you tilting your head? Can you stop doing that?" a second-class cadet trainer -- meaning a third-year student -- yelled at one of the new students.

A female trainer shouted at another student for calling her 'sir.' Later, awaiting uniform measurements in Chase Hall, another student was reprimanded for calling a chief 'sir.'

The yelling drilled other principles into the students: Remember names. Square properly when walking around someone, in one motion with a pivot. Know where your eyes should or shouldn't be.

"It's basic indoctrination," First Class Cadet Christina Gonzalez said of the Running Light book, explaining that it teaches students about basic Coast Guard knowledge, rank structure and symbols.

Students studied throughout Day One of Swab Summer on Monday, which began early in the morning with registration and proceeded as swabs cycled through haircuts, retrieval of uniforms, weigh-ins and drill practice.

The day culminated in a swearing-in ceremony and 15 minutes for parents to say goodbye. Coast Guard Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. Bill Kelly said his goal is to see each of the 284 students who showed up for Day One graduate. That includes five international students, from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Rwanda, Mauritius and the Philippines.

"We will ensure you live, learn and grow in the safest and most inclusive environment possible," he told the students, who stood grouped in eight platoons -- two for each of four companies -- on Washington Parade Field.

Kelly told the cadet cadre training them, "You must set the example by always leading with honor, respect and devotion to duty. The core values are your North Star."

Earlier, K'Ann Sanchez watched her daughter Renae's platoon go through drill practice in the afternoon. She said they were in the first wave and arrived at 5:45 a.m. to get her daughter checked in.

"I'm very proud of her," said Sanchez, who came from Idaho. "I got a little teary when I saw her marching."

While Renae Sanchez's only relatives to serve in the military were her great-grandparents, East Lyme High School graduate Aidan Arsenault was inspired to join the Coast Guard by his father, Capt. Alan Arsenault, a 1988 Coast Guard Academy graduate who served for 26 years. He said his father showed him the values of honesty, humility and being on time.

Aidan Arsenault deactivated his social media accounts, as required, posting a message on Instagram Sunday night thanking everyone who helped him along the way and informing them how to keep in touch. Swabs had to turn in their cell phones; they can communicate with family through letters this summer.

Between his father and completing the one-week Academy Introduction Mission program last summer, Arsenault knew what he was getting into -- so much so that he was surprised he was allowed to look at his food while eating on Monday.

Alyssa Parker also went through the AIM program, along with completing the Coast Guard Academy Scholars program since graduating from Old Saybrook High School in 2018. She was inspired to join the Coast Guard by her dad's work as a Waterford police officer.

She is among the women who make up 40 percent of the Class of 2023, the same share as last year. Underrepresented minorities make up 35 percent of the incoming class, down 1 percentage point from a record last year.

Asked what the most difficult adjustment is for the incoming cadets, Kelly, the superintendent, responded, "putting their cell phones away" and laughed.

He said the new students were the best in their class and in sports and in music, and "now they're in an environment where they're being told that maybe they're not the best." But, he added, they "have the courage to be part of something bigger than themselves."

This article is written by Erica Moser from The Day, New London, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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