Nowadays, the “200 Week Journey” seems to double as a slogan at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. This phrase represents the amount of time cadets spend at the academy on their journey into the Coast Guard. There is something rhythmic to the cycle of civilians coming into the Corps of Cadets undergoing a life-changing transformation, then leaving as commissioned officers for the adventure of a lifetime.
Wedged between the hallmarked Commencement, the Academy’s graduation ceremony annually in May, and Day One, the first day of Swab Summer, it can be understandable to forget about the ongoing leadership skills actively being forged in cadets who are not a part of the polar ends of their academy experience.
However, as the Class of 2026 prepares to report aboard campus, the more senior Class of 2024 prepares to assume the responsibility of cadre, the direct supervisors for the incoming swabs. To prepare for such an arduous position, all of the second class – or junior year - cadets must first endure a crash course of their own from company commanders (CCs) who are attached to Training Center Cape May, Cape May, New Jersey.
“I am looking forward to being a part of the swabs’ first experience with the military,” said Cadet Second Class Grace Sickendick, a Marine Environmental Studies major and Waterfront Cadre. “My goal is to instill self-motivation in my swabs that will carry them through fourth class year.”
For Sickendick and the rest of her classmates, the title of cadre represents a pivotal point in their leadership development. For the first time they will be put into a position of authority over subordinates, responsible not only for their own actions, but for the people who they are tasked with instructing.
In just a short seven-week span, the cadre will teach all aspects integral to withstanding the rigors of the academy such as adequate military bearing, time management skills, physical fitness, and adherence to the Coast Guard Core Values to a class of over 300 people. Most of whom only graduated high school in the past month. This is where it becomes the CCs to ensure these cadets are ready to take on such a role.
Company commanders are the direct training supervisors for the scores of recruit companies who aspire to join the enlisted ranks of the Coast Guard. For years at a time, a CC’s primary job is to give experience, insight, and knowledge to the newest members of the service.
Chief Petty Officer Eric Perez, a company commander from Pembroke Pines, Fla., says he looks forward to the trip from Cape May up to New London.
“We play a vital role in bringing all aspects of the training experience together,” he explained. “As professional trainers we are entrusted with the most junior and vulnerable members of the service. I hope to make the cadets aware of the importance the training mission has on the service as well as the attributes and expectations required to properly use the authorized training techniques.”
For over 24-hours the cadets intensively train with the CCs as they are instructed in everything from giving motivational speeches to properly administering intensive training to swabs to correct their inevitable discrepancies.
Chief Petty Officer Tiffany Moore, another CC who participated in training this year’s cadre, explained that the recruit training program is designed to push people past their perceived limits. Though there is some overlap, the CCs purpose in training the cadets is a little different, as they hope to instill a sense of confidence in both their abilities as well as their shipmates to get the job done.
“As company commanders we strive to be absolute role models for the Coast Guard’s Core Values and the ideals of the Coast Guard Ethos,” said Perez. “We use the Company Commander Creed to guide our decisions and actions, specifically, ‘I will demonstrate by my own example the highest standards of personal conduct, morality, and professional skill.’”
The confidence the CCs embed into the cadets will serve as a guide to help navigate them through the uncharted waters they are about to embark upon.
“One of my biggest fears associated with taking this role on is being consistent,” Sickendick said, as she discussed how her role as Waterfront cadre may conflict with how the swabs perceive her. “The Waterfront [academy] and Chase Hall [boot camp] training environments are very different, and I want to remain consistent in my approach to training instead of being two separate people.”
Halfway through their time at the academy, the new cadre are now just days away from putting their experience to practice for the first time. They will instruct and inspire a new class of cadets who will, at first, be entirely dependent on their leadership skills.
“I want my swabs to do their job because they know it is their responsibility, not because someone is telling them to do it,” Sickendick said. “When I switched my mentality from just trying to get by to being the best I could, I saw much more growth in myself as a person.”
Members of the Class of 2026 reported for Day One, the first day of cadet basic training, or Swab Summer, June 27, 2022.