U.S. Coast Guard welcomes class of 2022

NEW LONDON -- Monday marked day one for the class of 2022 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

“Today is an exhilarating day here at The Coast Guard Academy,” said Captain Rick Wester, Commandant of Cadets. “These new swabs (incoming freshmen), they’re going to be part of our next generation of leadership to ensure The Coast Guard’s readiness, and their training begins right now.”

Jack Brandt, Battalion Commander, and a current student, said he also remembers his first day like it was yesterday.

“It was exciting, it was a rush, it was a really crazy day,” said Brandt. “Really, it is all about your work ethic.”

Monday was filled with various activities meant to kick-start the future cadet’s training, which lasts seven weeks, and is meant to prepare them for their future in New London. The class of 2022 is made up of roughly 290 students, 36 percent of whom are underrepresented minorities, 40 percent are women, and 11 are international students.

“I decided that I really wanted to push myself, so I came over to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy,” said Matthew Cho, a new student who hails from Southern California. “I hope to become a better version of myself for one, and I hope to learn as much as possible.”

Incoming freshmen, or as the Coast Guard calls them, swabs, had to check in, go through training, and of course, undergo the traditional buzzed haircut.

“I’m going to have to get used to this for the next seven weeks,” said Cho as he laughed at his reflection in the mirror.

Family members were invited to attend Monday’s drop-off, which was an especially emotional day for parents.

“Pride, excitement, can’t believe the day is here,” said Joella Grube, who came with her husband from Pennsylvania to drop off their son. “All the years of preparation, and just him wanting to get here, it is, it’s here, it’s the day that we’ve been waiting for.”

For Sondra Willis, of upstate New York, who is now an empty nester with two kids off in college, she was relieved to know her son had found a place that he could call his second home.

“I am just so happy that he has found somewhere where he is happy and feels like he belongs,” said Willis.

Fellow peers attended the many activities planned for the day, and say there are simple tricks to getting through the academy.

“Work hard, and follow directions,” said Brandt.

And while advice from a peer is helpful, there is nothing quite like a mother’s words of wisdom.

“I told him to take 5 minutes a day to decide what was the most important thing to do, and just do it, and the rest will fall into place,” said Willis.

“Take it one day at a time, do what you can, do the best that you can, and you’ll get through it, and were supporting you and we are loving you,” said Grube.