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Every year at the Coast Guard Academy hundreds of new cadets, or swabs, cross the threshold into a new life as members of the United States Coast Guard. This annual occurrence may seem standard and routine, but for each swab, the experience is fraught with soaring highs and soul-searching lows. This life is not for everyone.
For four years, cadets take on a full technical college curriculum, stringent physical fitness standards, community service requirements and a disciplined military lifestyle, all with the purpose of preparing them to become leaders in the U.S. Coast Guard. The demands of the academy are tough and the expectations high.
The point of induction into this new life is known as Reporting-In Day, or R-Day. The new cadets report to their command cadre, comprised of second class cadets who will introduce the swabs to their new lives at the academy.
"Each swab was carefully chosen to attend the academy because he or she enriches the Corps of Cadets and has the potential to succeed and thrive in this demanding environment,” said Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz, Coast Guard Academy superintendent. “The road to becoming a commissioned officer is not easy or quick, but it is fulfilling and rewarding.”
Among the 235 swabs expected to become the Class of 2017 is Tavis Taylor from Horn Lake, Miss.
Taylor has been a cadet in the junior ROTC program at Horn Lake High School for the past four years and is looking forward to becoming a Coast Guard Academy cadet.
“I never in my wildest dreams believed I would get this opportunity,” said Taylor, referring to the very selective admissions process at the academy.
Joining Taylor and the other swabs on R-Day will be Erin Reynolds of Tampa, Fla.
Reynolds played varsity softball at Tampa Catholic High School. She declined a full-ride scholarship to play NCAA Division I softball in order to accept her appointment to the academy.
Reynolds will play softball for the Coast Guard Academy Bears, and upon graduation, plans to attend flight training to become a Jayhawk rescue helicopter pilot.
For other incoming cadets, the desire to serve is something that runs in the family.
“It’s about serving our country,” said Luke Sniatkowski, a graduate of Verona High School in New Jersey. “My father’s uncle was in the Coast Guard during Vietnam and my grandfather served in the Army during the Korean War.”
Sniatkowski began planning his application to the Coast Guard Academy during his sophomore year in high school, taking on an engineering-oriented class schedule while balancing varsity sports and leadership opportunities.
The Coast Guard Academy attracts a diverse group of patriotic, young people. Students from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and regions make up the Corps of Cadets.
This year, 28 percent of the incoming swabs are from underrepresented minority groups and 36 percent of the Class of 2017 are women. There will also be eight international students this year, from the countries of Georgia, Honduras, the Marshall Islands, and for the first time, Mexico.
Best of luck to all the swabs and don’t forget to keep your “eyes in the boat!”