Nearly all 50 states are represented among the Coast Guard Academy's Class of 2022, which started its military training on Monday, one of the hottest days of the year.
Fourteen Connecticut natives are among the incoming class. Local towns represented include Groton, East Lyme, New London, Norwich, Salem and Waterford. Women make up 40 percent of the class, and minorities make up a record 36 percent.
Colin Madaus, 17, of New London, didn't venture far. Madaus attended the Williams School, located across Route 32 from the academy, for high school, and recalled seeing cadets marching on the front lawn. Growing up in New London, he went to Coast Guard Band concerts, and saw cadets participating in local events and walking around the city.
"There's a lot of honor that goes into being a cadet," he said before getting his head shaved, a requirement for all incoming male students. "It'll grow back," he said.
To prepare for the physical demands of the academy, Madaus started doing pushups last fall when applying to colleges. Admittedly, he could do very few at the outset. Now, he's up to 300 in a day.
The Class of 2022 features the largest and most diverse group of international students. The 11 students hail from Belize, Cambodia, Iceland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Mexico, Palau, Panama, Rwanda and Ukraine.
Before 8 a.m., families, some of them sporting newly purchased Coast Guard Academy apparel, were seen snapping pictures and videos of their new cadets as they lined up by their assigned companies.
The family of Tarran Johnson IV, of Atlanta, showed up in force to see him off. He rounds out his family's military service, which included every branch but the Coast Guard until now. His family said he was eager to leave home and start his journey toward becoming a leader.
"The idea of rescuing and helping people, that's him," his grandmother, Audrey Davis, said.
"I think it's going to be good for him. He'll get to travel," his 13-year-old brother Donovan said.
The new students are known as "swabs," which originates from the phrase swabbing the deck, signifying their status as the newest among the academy's corps of cadets.
Over the course of the summer, they will undergo an indoctrination to military life. That began Monday with haircuts, uniform issue, weigh-in, drill practice and recitation of "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am," and the usual yelling from upperclassmen, known as the training cadre.
"When did we start doing sir sandwiches?" a male member of the cadre asked a cadet, who had responded "Sir, yes, sir."
"Our nation continues to rely on the Coast Guard at increasing levels, and these cadets are going to be part of the next generation of leadership to ensure our future readiness. Their transformation begins today," said Capt. Rick Wester, the new commandant of cadets, the academy's version of a dean of students.
Wester said the academy offered appointments to students from all 50 states with nearly all of them accepting. Forty-eight states and two U.S. territories, Guam and Puerto Rico, are represented among the 292 swabs expected to swear in Monday.
Swab John Overstreet, 18, has lived in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, the past two years, because his dad, a captain in the Coast Guard, is stationed nearby at Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen. He was there when Hurricane Maria hit the island last year.
"It showed a lot of the capability of the Coast Guard," Overstreet said. "They're what saved the island, in my opinion."
The class total is likely to change given some swabs may be unable or unwilling to endure the demanding pace of Swab Summer, and will drop out before classes begin later in the summer.
With humidity exceeding 70 percent during some parts of the day, Monday was one of the hottest first days for an incoming academy class in recent memory. The training cadre stressed to the swabs that they needed to stay hydrated throughout the day. Some swabs had to step out of formation just before the swearing-in ceremony due to the effects of the heat.
Of the 2,045 prospective cadets who finished their applications, 392 were offered appointments and 281 accepted. With the 11 international cadets, that brings the class total to 292.
Monday was a long time coming for Olivia Gonzalez, 18, of Waterford, who has long wanted to attend the academy. Her father, Jose Gonzalez, teaches English there, and her family sponsored two cadets, one of whom graduated this past May. The other is about to be a first-class cadet, or senior.
"I remember in middle school them going off to swab summer. I never thought this day would come so soon," said Gonzalez, dressed in blue gym shorts, a gray Coast Guard Academy T-shirt and long white socks.
It's nice to have their experience to fall back on, she said, noting she had texted one of them about the length of socks she needed.
Gonzalez's routine was different Monday morning, even before she arrived at the academy. Usually, she would scroll through Instagram and Facebook after waking up, but cadets have to delete their social media accounts during their first year at the academy. The swabs also had to turn over their cell phones at the start of the day. Gonzalez didn't mind.
"It allows me to be more focused," she said.
This article is written by Julia Bergman 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.