Frequently Asked Questions
Note that the following questions and answers are based on the most commonly asked questions sent to the class lists. We've spent a lot of time filtering the questions, answers, opinions, and advice and hope you find the page useful. However, the Official CGA Parent and Cadet Handbooks for your class should be consulted first and foremost.
If you have still have questions, send them to your Listmaster. If you have comments, additions, or corrections for this FAQ page please contact the webmasters.
ANSWERS and DISCUSSION
It is a day for saying goodbye. And while it is definitely a day for saying "goodbye" it is also a day to let your son/daughter know that it is the beginning of a great adventure. It is important to convey that while you cannot see and talk to them during swab summer, you are out there supporting them with your thoughts and prayers.
Your son/daughter will be 'reporting-in'
and going through the Chase Hall 'arch' to a new life. You are there to
support him/her with your presence, nothing more. They will a bundle of
nerves, anxiety, and anticipation.
Take the time to visit the academy and the New London area if you haven't already
If its not on the list don't bring it. Translation: Don't even THINK about bringing it, no way, no how. DO NOT go there. If it's NOT on the What to Bring list DON'T bring it! Take the bare minimum on R-Day. US Postal Service does an amazing job delivering mail and packages.
That being said, it's best if your Swab brings nothing but the literal shirt on their back and nothing more than the items listed in the USCGA Student Guide - "What to Bring". Do not be tempted to pack anything extra. Your Cadet will have to lug his/her duffel bag/suitcase around and it will be heavy, especially when they are so tired and nervous. Keep it light. There is plenty of time to receive those items. Don't be tempted to send it all with them the first day. It will either stay in the attic in their trunk or they won't have time to use it. Don't pack something because they have never done without it before, trust me, they will do without it and survive.
OK, now that we've told you to bring the bare minimum, it's been suggested that a good small item to bring is throat lozenges (e.g., Fruit Breezers). A small bag can easily be part of the initial "sea bag" coming in, and a larger bag mailed. Last year, a large bag was sent to supply an entire company!
Don't pack items in a "good" suitcase - that suitcase may never be seen again.
Don't use huge pieces of luggage - your Swab will have to lug it ALL over Chase hall.
Some Swabs report with their things packed in an inexpensive backpack (hiking type). It can be much easier to carry a backpack for the day rather than a "suitcase".
Advice from a number of parents - all good
The best piece of advice we received for Reporting-In Day. The day is jam packed and cadets are sometimes nervous in the morning and skip breakfast; bring a snack for the ten minutes you have to say goodbye. (We had a juice box, yogurts two sandwiches and two power bars.)
Families should pick a place near the drill field to meet their Swab after the Swearing In ceremony. It can be a tree (such as 'fourth tree from the right as you face the flagpole") or whatever they like, but without a meeting spot, parents and Swabs may spend their entire allotment of time (that 10-15 minutes) looking for each other.
Extended family is welcome at R-Day
When you attend R-Day parents' events, BRING CASH! We were surprised that none of the parent association tables took credit cards. Bring LOTS of cash! There IS an ATM machine in the Base Exchange. The Parent's Associations that are selling their wares in Leamy do accept personal checks for payment.
On R-Day there is a table for the Parent's Association, you can also join the Alumni Association and the local chapter of the Parent's Association that is most appropriate for your locale. This can also be accomplished locally during the candidate get together's prior to reporting-in.
A very good suggestions is to send a care package a few days before R-Day - that way your Swab will have something immediately but they don't have to carry it. Or, if you can, drop it off at the CGA post office on R-day!
Use US Postal Service Flat Rate Priority Mail envelopes and boxes or UPS, FedEx, etc. Use the following official (2008 Parent Handbook) cadet address:
where _ _ _ _ = box number (incoming cadets usually receive this number before arriving at the Academy)
where Zip+4 '81YY' can be mapped to the ranges shown below
Send food! That is something they can really appreciate. They get three meals a day, but are always hungry for many reasons, stress, heat, activity, and homesickness. Send their favorite food item from your home pantry. Pack it in a reusable or plastic container that will fit on a shelf or in a small cabinet. Send the things they loved to snack on when they were sitting around the house. Nothing perishable. Any remembrances of home are appreciated. Remember Halloween and Valentine's Day, especially. Add special treats. This is a place you can really splurge. And send them often. Send enough to share. Food goes fast there. When someone gets a care package from home with food in it, everyone gathers around for handouts. So, think of roommates and classmates when you put a care package together. Food care packages are a welcomed gift and those who get them are very popular! Your SWAB will eventually tell you what to send more of and or what to send less of.
Tupperware (zip lock baggies are good too) - maximum dimensions - the 'food drawer' is 6in by 17in by 20in and so the container needs to be smaller (12in by 12in by 6in, according to 2006 and 2007 Running Light). After the initial Tupperware, use shoe boxes, flat rate USPS boxes or other disposable or recyclable containers for 'care package' delivery. The cadets have such limited space that they don't need extra Tupperware!
No. Resist the temptation to call their Cadre, Commanders, Teachers, and Coaches. It simply puts your cadet in an awkward position and makes it tougher for them to gain independence. Resist the urge to write to your cadet and tell them how lonely it is without them. Keep all correspondence and communication upbeat and positive. Many of them are fighting the urge to call and or leave because of homesickness and exhaustion.
That being said, things do change toward the end of and after Swab summer. You will likely be able to talk to your cadet at some point as they head to or from Eagle during the summer. Your Swab will be given 'phone time' after the Mystic Flag Ceremony. It is very good to know that there is a time in the not distant future (after R-Day) to look forward to hearing your Swab's voice - sometimes keeping our "eyes on the prize" helps.
Swabs are (very) restricted from using their cell phones during Swab summer. However, it is probably wise to set up a cell plan that will allow them to call when they are given that opportunity. When they are not allowed to use their cell phone it is locked away in their trunk.
Responses from a number of parents - all excellent.
Yes. And you may receive letters from them! Some will write, others won't. They have time set aside for this, but some Cadets are either too exhausted to spend that time writing, do not have anything to say, or are simply not letter writers. Do not be disappointed if you do not get a lot of correspondence. For some, Swab Summer is tough. It is exhausting and frustrating. You may get some unusual letters. Some may be reflective, melancholic, frustrated, angry, or hysterical. Do not put a lot of credence in them. Try not to dwell or harp on their letter and don't respond immediately or with too much sympathy. By the time you get the next one, this phase has passed and they are on to another one. Take their words with a grain of salt. Let time pass. Their sentiments will too. Continue to write positive words of inspiration. Resist the urge to question them about their feelings and delve into too much analytic rhetoric.
WRITE.WRITE.WRITE. and tell all your relatives to write. Both my husband and I wrote every day.The best thing I did was follow someone's advice and send her pre-addressed, stamped envelopes with a small blank note paper. The envelope was blue; we knew immediately if we had a letter from our cadet.
Our best advice was to have pre-addressed postcards and labels with our cadets address on them at graduation parties (your Swab will have their address before they report in). That way friends and family had an easy way to send our cadet a note. I know that unless we had provided these - many people wouldn't have written.
No news is good news - write daily; expect a reply monthly (maybe).
We received two postcards from our cadet, and they were the ones I made up in advance with fill-in-the-blanks and checkbox answers.
Your Swab will not have email access until very late in the summer, just before the academic year starts.
Send your Swab a letter/questionnaire with questions like:
"The food here is a) better than at home (don't check this answer) b) not bad c) better than at school d) going to kill me - send more.
We tried to write a brief note every day and incorporated things like a countdown to Eagle, Countdown to end of swab summer; occasional comic strip; news articles from the local press (they have to be conversant on 3 items of news or current events at meals), etc. We sent anything to make sure that he never went a day without mail - it was a way to silently support his hard work.
Much has been asked and answered on the subject of cell phones. While we can't endorse a specific wireless service vendor, Verizon seems to be the most highly recommended in terms of good coverage, especially in the area of the academy. Verizon (and others) gives a military discount. Having the same plan at home and at the Academy can save a lot of money.
During the first summer, access to personal cell phones is extremely limited. Swabs may have access to their cell phones after the Mystic Flag Ceremony. They will likely have access to their phones on the way to and from Eagle. Note that it is not at all uncommon for cadets to find that their cell phone's battery is completely dead after retrieving them from the trunk room. Rather than arriving with and keeping their cell phone, it is better to mail the phone to your cadet (fully charged) about a week before the Mystic Flag Ceremony. It would also be a good thing to program important numbers on the phone before sending them off.
Each cadet will have an account at Navy Federal Credit Union. <http://www.navyfcu.org>. We suggest you drop by there on R-Day (located on the first floor of Johnson Hall below the exchange) and pick up some deposit slips. When your cadet tells you their account number it will be a simple matter to send money directly to the cadet's account saving precious time. Address (printed on slip):
Pay is split into two parts ('white card' and Navy Federal Account). Think of the Navy Federal Account as allowance. You still earn the stuff on the white card, but it can only be spent on uniforms and school stuff, no shopping for spring break or your significant other. You get $130 a month in your Navy Federal Account during the first year. At the end of your four years, you get any extra white card money you have not spent on uniforms or other issues. So it is good to be judicious with the 'white card'.
Once your cadet is sworn in, he/she is a member of the Coast Guard and has health care benefits as such. However, the Cadet Handbook specifically states that the Academy recommends that parents keep existing health care insurance until graduation from the Academy. Indeed, many CGA families do keep their Cadets on the parents' health insurance policy until graduation from the Academy, the primary reason being that if the Cadet leaves the Academy before graduation and Commissioning, their military medical coverage ceases, and that could mean that the student would then be uninsured for at least some period of time. Each family will need to decide for itself whether to keep their Cadet on another health policy based upon their own circumstances. If your insurance does allow you to carry your son/daughter on your policy (most do) by all means do so. If Cadets need non-emergency medical care when they are home on leave and decide to use their military medical coverage, they must either use a military treatment facility or receive authorization from the military health care provider before treatment to avoid paying the bill.
Many insurance companies allow an occasional driver such as a college student who is not home often to be carried on a policy without additional charge. Check with your particular company for details.
Good advice from a Mom - I can tell you this from experience. I had to put my daughter on an airplane with a 102 degree fever for Reporting In day! She felt bad. She had to report in sick to be accepted. They came and pulled her out of line and sent her straight to the infirmary. She was escorted to the swearing in ceremony and pictures and escorted back to the clinic. She survived. They take excellent care of their Cadets. Don't worry. The staff is there to see to it that Cadets get what they need and fulfill their duties. They are under a watchful eye. Their health is probably scrutinized more closely at the Academy than it is at home. It is easier to see a doctor at the Academy than it is in the civilian world. They may miss the security of 'Mom and chicken soup', but they get excellent medical care. Send them a get well card and a box of candy and they'll be happy.
Advice from Ray A. Chaney, LT, Clinic Administrator, USCG Academy
First, the cadets need to understand that they are in the military and that the military is responsible for taking care of their entire medical needs to maintain their fitness for duty. So, any treatment they receive that could have an impact on their fitness for duty needs to be placed in their medical record. Second, any treatment other than emergencies that could affect their fitness of duty needs to preauthorized and copies needs to be placed in their medical record. Third, because the cadets usually do not know what could affect their fitness for duty, it is strongly recommended that all treatment be cleared through medical other than emergencies. Fourth, even if the treatment does not have an immediately affect of fitness for duty, it could have an impact on readiness ( e.g. eye exams, Pap smear, HIV testing, DNA, dental examination etc… all of which should be made available to their medical records. We use dental records to identify remains and if there has been dental work done that we do not know about could delay and even possibly prevent you from getting your son or daughter remains for burial. Finally, some cadet thinks because they pay for or use their parents insurance that the government does not have a right to that information; that is not correct. Again, it would be hard for a cadet to know for sure what is or not needs to go into their military medical record, so they should check with medical to be sure.
By the way, the cadets are informed of this while they are here - not sure why some forget when they leave the campus.
Encourage your cadet to come physically prepared. One of the best suggestions might be to run - and especially try to run hills; the academy is 'one big hill' and Swabs run between activities all summer. If you have only run on a flat track and think you are in great shape the hills can pose a problem. The following was passed along by one of our Listmasters, "Cadets have been sent home for failing the PFE by even one point. One of the saddest things I ever did was to write a letter of consolation following a cadet's dismissal last summer. I NEVER want to have to do that again. He just didn't discipline himself to get into top physical shape ahead of time, he knew it, and he paid the price. There is no 'just getting by' at the Academy. It is, for sure, the road less traveled."
Go to a dentist ASAP and deal with wisdom teeth NOW.
Your cadet is considered an adult and information about his/her grades, performance, health issues, individual leave schedules, etc. will not be disseminated via the Academy staff. This information should come directly from your cadet. You are free to contact the Academy staff if, after speaking with your son/daughter, you have concerns about the way things are going.
Your cadet has been used to receiving help from family, friends, teachers, and clergy while at home. When they arrive at the Academy, there may be a sense of alienation or loss. Remind them that there are people there who they can go to for help. There are clergy of all faiths available at all times . The Chaplain's Office telephone number is listed in the Guide for Parents and Cadets that you receive before R-day and on the Academy web site. You may contact the Chaplain's Office if you have concerns. The Chaplain's Office will contact your Cadet. The Chaplain's Office interviews each Cadet, individually, after Swab Summer as part of their job. Any concerns that the Cadet has are addressed during that meeting and more sessions are scheduled if they think it is necessary.
Teachers and counselors (and counselors at the clinic) are there to help direct and guide them. If they are in athletics, tell them to talk to their Coach. Also, they can talk to upper classmen at certain times. They can always search out CGA Scholarship graduates. As soon as they have a Sponsor Family, they can call on them. And finally they can talk to their roommate and other 4th class Cadets. The main thing is they need not keep their fears in. They are not alone. They need to know that there are plenty of people they can confide in and go to for support. It is OK to feel nervous, anxious, and homesick, but it is not OK to suffer in silence. And they don't have to. The best all-inclusive list of support contacts and program descriptions can be found here.
The cadets meet with the coordinator of the sponsor program during swab summer. Cadets have the option of signing up to have a sponsor family assigned to them. Cadets who ask for sponsor families are assigned based the distance between the cadet's home town and the Academy; cadets whose home towns are the furthest away get assigned first and then it works back geographically towards New England. There is a 'meet-the-sponsor-family day' at the beginning of the semester. Cadets fill out a survey to get 'attached' to a compatible sponsor family; the survey asks about certain preferences (e.g., kids-w/o kids, pets-w/o pets, religion, etc.) The sponsor family offers a place for the cadet to crash off campus when they have liberty or leave. They can also be available for rides to the airport, etc. Check here for the best official information.
You will be able to visit when you receive word that Swab Summer is over. Generally, you are first able visit with them at the Mystic Flag Ceremony (see below). This may indeed be the first time you be able to see your Cadet after R-Day during Swab Summer. They will be very fresh, meaning; on guard, thin, exhausted, weepy, excited, scared, talkative, quiet, time conscious, independent, clingy, homesick, angry, frustrated, hyper, etc. They may be some of the above, none of the above, or all of the above. Be prepared for change. Go with the flow. Savor the moment, and do your crying on the way home.
During the fourth week (approximately) of Swab Summer the Companies at the Academy, and not on Eagle, travel to nearby Mystic Seaport, a national maritime museum in Mystic, CT. for presentation of the class flag to the Swabs. Parents and friends are encouraged to attend this event as it is the 1st time an official opportunity exists to meet your favorite swabs since the date of Reporting-In! You may observe the Ceremony, which is quite impressive, and visit with your cadet for several hours afterwards. Admission to Mystic Seaport is free for cadet families that day. Call the Cadet Watch Office ((860) 444-8294) to confirm the schedule. More information is usually forthcoming on the 4th class email list as things firm up.
Many parents ask if they should attend the 'Flag Ceremony' at Mystic if their cadet is away on the Eagle. It has been suggested that it might not be as meaningful without your cadet present. It's true; without your cadet there, it is very nice to see, sweet too, but just not very exciting without your very own cadet to cheer on!
Here is a swab’s day during the school year:
(PT) includes Bikes (stationary), Swimming (survival skills), Platoon Runs and Weights
Intensive/inspirational training, used as punishment - can occur at any time of day except for after dinner
Includes uniform maintenance, Indoc., Drill / Regimental Band, Honor Training (introduction to the honor concept at the Academy), HR Training (introduction to human relations), Social Training (introduction to proper courtesy and dining techniques)
Yes, there are a number of restrictions and you will certainly hear about many of them from your Swab, but some of the Swab restrictions/requirements are merely for the duration of swab summer. Yjey don't need the high socks beyond Swab summer ...flexibility with their "personal shelf", white boxers, etc. So don't go buying things for the year, when in fact, they really only need required socks, underwear, etc. to make it thru SWAB summer. More flexibility arrives in the Fall!
Cadets will be measured for and issued uniforms in the early weeks of their arrival. Many parts of the uniform are described by special names in the acronym section. Nonmilitary types may be unfamiliar with certain “engineering aspects” that assure their very neat look. So there are things like "shirt stays."
'Shirt stays' are devices designed to keep the shirt 'tucked in'. They come in several styles, the main styles being straight, Y, clip-on, and stirrup. Cadets are issued 'Y clip-on's' which they come to dislike - they are not at all comfortable (they will tell you stories...). The stirrup style is available from most military uniform supply stores and make a welcome gift. They will know you are thinking of them.
A good option is Hanes Classic - you can find them on-line; folks have found them at Target. Note that we are not endorsing a particular brand or supplier, but this was a solution for many who asked the question.
"Tube-socks" are needed - socks need to be rolled, folded, and stowed a certain way during the summer. Your cadet can throw them all away after the summer. Try to get really long ones. Cadre like ‘motivated’ socks (socks pulled up as high as they will go).
Alfa Company (Alligators):
Regimental Health and Well-Being
Parents of incoming cadets should sign up for the Message List as soon as possible in order to be more prepared for Reporting-In Day. The Message List provides an opportunity to receive answers to all the questions you may have and network with the other parents. Caution: Cadets do know about the Message List ; however, the list is intended for parents. Information shared on the list is confidential and is intended only for list members. Don't pass on information you learn from the Message List to your cadet. Think of it as privileged parent information!
It has been suggested by many that the incoming cadets establish a 'mastery of the clock' before reporting in. One's intellectual gifts will not "carry you" in the academy environment. A pattern of discipline in the 'less gifted academically' will be a real blessing in the academy environment. Of course, this sort of discipline can be learned but it is more easily learned before the academy when it's your choice than after when it's not. Personal sacrifice and discipline is a much tastier entree than a mandated dish!
Your cadet will through miraculous changes, from an independent civilian to a functioning member of a military team. Your cadet will do things s/he has never done before or even thought of doing before. S/he will meet different people with different points of view. S/he will have conflicts and learn how to solve them. S/he will make incredible lasting friendships.
Talk to your cadet-to-be before reporting in day. Talk about the challenges. Talk about the differences between regular college and military college. Remind him/her that it will be challenging, mentally and physically. They were accepted because Admissions believes they will succeed. They will hate it and they will love it.
How can I best prepare myself for the changes that will occur?
Remember the phrase "Semper Gumby" and take it to heart. It means Always Flexible!
You will undergo some of the same feelings your cadet has and you will change too. You will love it and you will hate it. You will miss them and you will not. It will be a roller coaster ride, especially for the first year. Hang in therel. Let them know that no matter what, they are loved. Let them know that no matter what they do, they are accepted. Allow them to grow at their own pace. Don't compare them to other Cadets. They are all there because they are worthy. Tell them that they will have some hard days and hit some rough spots, but you will be there to support them.
Along about midterm, things seem to shift and everyone becomes more comfortable with everything. Communications may slow and become more matter of fact. Confidence sets in and stability takes over. Acceptance is the order of the day. Be patient. Be strong. Be supportive. Be confident that they will succeed. Just be there to listen. Resist the urge to preach or advise. Just listen.
They sometimes just want a sounding board. They want to you to hear what they have to say so they can sort it out on their own. Be available. Parents are a cadet’s safe place to vent, so often you hear all the negative things. They will vent to you and then feel fine, leaving you holding their ‘garbage’. Let them vent. Just listen and be the safe haven. Chances are good that the next time you talk, your cadet will have a totally different outlook.
This is a very personal issue. To say the least, there is no one answer; heck, there are thousands of books written on the subject! There is a good CGA specific resource at th USCGA Girlfriends and Boyfriends Facebook Group; as the name of the group suggests, they try to be supportive. As always, cadets can talk to the others in their company, on their team, the chaplains, and other staff on this issue in order to form their own views.
Leave is earned by active duty members like vacation time, while Liberty is a privilege. Members must request leave from their Command. A leave balance is included on each month’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES). This balance shows how much time a member has available for use. There are several types of leave available to the active duty member.
Liberty, unlike leave, is not part of the “rights” of service personnel. Liberty is a privilege that is awarded to deserving individuals by their Supervisor or Commanding Officer. Liberty is granted in fairly short amounts of time and is not charged as leave. Usually regular liberty is granted from the end of the “work” day to the beginning of the next workday unless the member is in a duty status. Typically liberty has a maximum period of 72 hours.
That being said, cadet leave is a bit different. Cadets do not maintain a leave balance. That system (earning 2.5 days of leave a month) starts when they graduate and become Ensigns. Cadets are granted leave on the extended periods (summer, spring break, Christmas), but a running balance is not kept. Cadets do receive a Leave and Earnings Statement, which contains their financial info. Once they leave CGA it will also contain their leave info.
Not always. It is important to check first because Cadets sometimes have duty and/or athletics during these times. Do not schedule travel until you know for sure as you may disappointed when they cannot come home or visit because of prior commitments. Also, grades can affect their ability to have liberty. Sometimes infractions can cause restrictions. It is always best to check with them first. And remember, things change at a moment's notice, so be prepared to go with the flow.
Because your cadet's leave/vacation times are subject to change it is difficult to make concrete travel plans. You may reserve flights with airlines who offer a military discount without penalty for making changes. There are military discount rates depending on when you book the flight. If your cadet or you cannot afford to pay for the ticket when you book it, this gives you an opportunity to hold a reservation until the day of departure and pay for it then. In addition, if a cheaper fare becomes available before departure, you can change the ticket to that fare and not be committed to the military fare; however you will have to pay for the ticket at that time. Some of the best advice regarding setting up flights for leave and such is to let your Cadet make the reservations.
Vans also make runs to airports at the beginning and end of leave periods. Signup for the van is in Echo company. Email is sent out to Cadets regarding van availability and signup. Announcements regarding van availability and signup are also made in the wardroom. Cadets are responsible for signing up when they need a ride.
You can find these cases at a very reasonable price and in many sizes (from very small to very large) and finishes (oak, cherry, walnut..) at the Groton Sub Base Exchange. The only drawback is that you must have an active duty/reserve/cadet military ID card to purchase them (non-military parents can get onto the base, and the cadet may use their ID to purchase the case).
This list is based upon requests made by both male & female cadets shopping for necessities. There are many more businesses, but those listed carry many of the items/services that your cadet may need (or would really enjoy) and can't be found at the Exchange. Gift certificates for all of these businesses can be found on-line and elsewhere. If you find any other good local businesses that provide good (needed or enjoyed) services to cadets, let your List Master know and we'll add them to the list.
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This page last updated on: 26 March, 2011