A cautionary tale.

Discussion in 'Coast Guard Academy - USCGA' started by Heartkiller, Apr 17, 2010.

  1. Heartkiller

    Heartkiller New Member

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    I'd like to congratulate the class of 2014, you've chosen a rough life of service. A higher, more noble calling- The road less taken. As you'll often hear: "You are special and that's why you can't have a normal life."

    That said, my purpose here is simply to offer a warning from the perspective of a former cadet. USCGA is military, and the military is a bureaucracy. At one point during your cadet career "the man" is going to get you for something petty, and for some, the consequences will be huge.

    My story: I reported in to the class of 2013 on June 29, 2009. I loved Swab Summer. I adored the challenge. Just as any other cadet I am mentally and physically gifted. Swab Summer taught me how strong I am and how well I can apply those gifts. I learned to dedicate myself to a higher purpose and to put the team first. I did well during Swab Summer- I performed exceptionally well on my OER and was often congratulated by my divison officers. I wasn't a "Super Swab" but I did well.Then the Academy started.

    Swab Summer is the easiest part of cadet life. The challenges are laid clearly before you. Your company is under pressure and that helps mold you into a very effective and friendly team. The Academy is the opposite.

    The schoolwork didn't kill me. I took an AP saturated course load during highschool. The Academy didn't give me credit for them, but that was fine- I was able to retake classes to pad out my gpa. (At midterm I was carrying a 3.2 which is pretty good at USCGA) I often tutored some of my classmates in Chemistry, Calculus, and Nautical Science.

    The point I'm trying to make is that while my performance was nothing exceptional I certainly met the standard.

    As the semester wore on, I began to realize how unhappy the academy made me. The "bright future" offered to me began to seem dim and undesirable. I'm gifted with languages, not engineering. Unfortunately for me the academy is an engineering school- even government or business majors take huge amounts of calculus. I realized that the reason I chose military was because I believed I could apply my gifts to their fullest potential in service of my country, but the Coast Guard had no need for the gifts I most believed in. I decided that the path I was on was only going to lead me to an unfulfilled career I didn't want.

    I decided to finish the year and then leave on "sabbatical" which meant I could always return to USCGA within 3 years as a 3/c Cadet- I didn't want to write off a Coast Guard career entirely.

    On November 8, 2009 that changed for me.

    My English professor was teaching us about proper citations and we were required to write a midterm essay about media bias, worth 30% of our grade. I did so and used the recent corporation bailout as evidence. The point I made was that the total of the bailout was 170 Billion, and 165 Million of it was used to pay bonuses and that some new organizations were taking advantage of the magnitude of these numbers to provoke their followers to outrage (even though less than 1/1000 of the bailout went to bonuses)

    I believe those numbers are common knowledge to any informed citizen. My English professor disagreed. He called me to his office regarding the essay and said:

    (direct quote) "You can either admit you're a stupid fourth class and didn't know better, or I can open an honor investigation. Regardless, this constitutes plagiarism and I am giving you a zero on this assignment."

    I was speechless. Regardless of whether those numbers are common knowledge or not a citation error (about numbers!) is not plagiarism, and is not an honor offense. Honor offenses are the equivalent of a felony at the academy- while one won't get you disenrolled it's a huge blow to your career.

    I decided that because I was unhappy with USCGA and wanted to transfer to a different school, it would be better to leave before the semester ended so that I could protect my transcript from a failing grade and honor investigation.

    I spoke to my company officer and began the process of withdrawing. I planned to join USAFROTC as an Arabic Major. I specifically asked my company officer if anything from the academy would follow me and keep me out of USAFROTC. He (in no uncertain terms) told me it would not and that I'd only run into problems if I tried to rejoin USCGA. That played a huge role in my decision- I could follow my ambitions in an organization with better use for my skills with no consequences.

    On November 25, 2009 I officially resigned from the Coast Guard, returned my military ID and uniforms. I've spent the last semester at a local college getting back on my feet and padding out my GPA with gen. ed. courses.

    I interviewed with the ROTC detachment and they were very willing to accept me as long as I provided them with a DD785 (disenrollment from an officer training program). I requested this form from the Academy.

    It says:
    "Mr. *** (me) adapted poorly to military life. Mr. *** (me) was often immature and performed well below standards. Mr. *** faced an academic honor offense prior to his withdrawal. With significant maturity increase (he) could be considered for another military program"

    Signed,
    The same officer who said nothing from CGA would follow me into AFROTC.

    Moral of the story: Do not trust anyone at USCGA. You will be in trouble at some point, no matter how lightly or carefully you tread, it's just the nature of the program. 20% of you will leave, and if you have any hope of following a military career afterward request your DD785 IMMEDIATELY. USCGA likes to hurt former cadets because horror stories from cadets who left serve as an excellent deterrent from voluntary disenrollment.

    I have been treated unfairly twice, each of which has been extremely costly. The "Man" got me down. They'll get you too- all you can do is damage control.
     
  2. BR2011

    BR2011 USAFA Cadet

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    i'm sorry that your Academy experience didnt turn out how you wanted it but to me it sounds like your discharge description is on target. The Academy is hard a stressful for sake of being hard and stressful. mentally overcoming "the man" is what builds character and it seems you didnt allow yourself the time to figure that out.

    i know for a fact that honor is stressed a thousand times over and citations are mentioned in those trainings. I'm not saying that you purposely were dishonorable, but forgetful or ignorant mistakes can be a big deal ( for example, losing track of any classified material as an officer will all but end your career). Nevertheless, a mature individual would have taken their punishment and moved on, much like some of my classmates who are still here today that were charged with honor offenses their 4/c year. Its also interesting that you didnt mention your military performance when you say that you were meeting the standard.

    I hope your life turns out well but don't come on this forum and bash my Academy because you didnt give yourself a chance to understand what you could have gotten out of it.
     
  3. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    Heartkiller:

    Sounds like you had a rough go of it. Unfortunately all we know (or ever will know) is one side of the story. I always, always tell people that if they are in the right to 'stick with their guns'. There were many ways you could have attempted to rectify the situation beyond resigning including discussing the assignment with the academic dept head and academic advisors.

    I hope you learn everything you can from the situation and apply it to a succesful career from here. Obviously you can't change the past, but you can take the lessons. Remember, you learn how to be a leader from great leaders and how not to be a leader from those who aren't so great.

    Again, I'm sorry you had a setback such as this, but grow stronger from it and don't let "the man" get you down.
     
  4. trackandfield08

    trackandfield08 USCGA 2014

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    Heartkliller:

    I am sorry that you have had a rough experience at the Academy and that you feel the "man" let you down. I know you wrote this incredibly detailed post as a warning but please do not come onto a forum and give only one side of the story. I was in your class as well, but was medically discharged at the end of swab summer and given a deferral to come back with 2014 provided I meet several conditions.

    Now, I could say "the man" brought me down but there were faults on my part as well. However, if there is one thing I have learned from an extra year at home, its that no matter how big the mistake or disappointment was, you can learn from it and work twice as hard to achieve your dreams. I have had many surprises to following the conditions I need to meet to come back to the Academy but I look at it as a test of my conviction and commitment to going back to the Academy. You stated that the military is bureaucratic...well so is almost every other profession in life. The real challenge is how we deal with that bureaucracy.

    As for the honor offense, one of my cadre told my entire company of his honor offense his 4/c year, passed around the official report of the offense, and explained the punishment he was given. Now my cadre is doing very well at the Academy and has learned from his mistake. I wish you well in your endeavor to join AFROTC, especially in such a difficult major as Arabic.
     
  5. NavIss58

    NavIss58 Member

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    Heartkiller, your 'gifts' might be better appreciated somewhere else. The military is not 'service to the self', it's 'service to the country'. Until your gifts are offered to the service of others you may keep hitting the same wall.

    I'm sure your early childhood was full of honors and awards for your gifts and may people reminded you often of how gifted you are. The mistakes you made along the way were probably met with a hug and "everything will be alright".

    The military, and especially the Service Academies, and are full of gifted people, that's why they have been chosen.
     
  6. robin820

    robin820 Member

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    As I read your story I was taken aback at your pretentiousness.
    I think everyone knows that in order to be offered an appointment to any service academy you have to be in the top of your class, very athletic and a high- achiever, but most of the cadets I have met are humble about their achievements.
    It seems that you are not ready to take responsibility for your actions and are willing to place the blame everywhere but where it truly belongs and that is upon your shoulders. If you are going to pursue the career of an officer than you need to be ready to assume responsibility for not only your own actions, but those of your subordinates.
    I agree with the others that this forum is not a place to publicly air your grievances with the Coast Guard Academy.
    I do wish you luck at the USAFA and that you can find humility within yourself to help you reach your goals.
     
  7. YankeesFan

    YankeesFan Member

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    That's a statistic, and I feel the teacher is justified in classifying it as plagiarism; especially after a lesson on citations. Unless you came up with those numbers yourself in your head without referencing any research or material, you had to get the numbers somewhere.

    I don't know about the other portion of the story, since I was not there (and it really isn't my place to judge), but I wish you good luck in the future all the same.

    -Andrew
     
  8. disey3

    disey3 Member

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    Choices are made...some more difficult than others...May your choices in the future bring you peace & resolve...
     
  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I have found that many cadets who are disenrolled change their stories to more "acceptable" ones for their loved ones and friends. Oversimplification, deflection, not taking responsibility...I've seen it not only from CGA, but from other service academies as well.

    Needless to say, the people who make it, general don't need to formulate those excuses.
     
  10. mnolan

    mnolan Parent

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    Disenrolled

    It's virtually the same at civilian colleges as well...not just at the SA's....I've seen it many times. It's human nature to do so, particularly for 18-20 year olds who are probably encountering these situations for the first time.
     
  11. trackandfield08

    trackandfield08 USCGA 2014

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    LITS said:
    mnolan said:
    I agree with both of you. I will honestly say that when I first got home at the end of this past summer, I was one of those people. I was afraid to look passed my anger and embarrassment at being sent home to see that it wasn't entirely the medical clinic's fault but that I made mistakes as well. It took me awhile to force myself to look into a mirror and accept that I had failed, something that many people who are accepted to SAs and other top colleges are not used to doing. But then, after I had taken responsibility for my actions, I felt better about myself. I decided to use my misstep to make me stronger and I have increased my commitment and dedication tenfold to earn a second chance at my dream. I only hope that, with time, Heartkiller will come to the same conclusion. Anger does nothing but make you bitter and spiteful...anger is not worth the time nor the effort.
     
  12. mnolan

    mnolan Parent

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    Then from this you have learned a lesson that many, if not most, adults never do. :thumb:
    Good luck on wherever life takes you.....it's very often true that the journey is more important then the destination, and you seem to be preparing well for that journey!
     
  13. Heartkill3r

    Heartkill3r New Member

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    I'm sorry for the delay, finals are here and between school/work/my car I haven't been at my computer for a while.

    First- Thanks for all the responses and support, I apologize if anyone has found me spiteful or insulting. I don't bear any ill will towards the Coast Guard or the Academy itself, merely a justified indignation towards the members of its bureaucracy. I've come to believe that some cadets learn that morality and obedience are equivalent, so when they receive authority they translate this to "might is right" and create situations like my own.

    KP2001- Thanks, I believe I could have done more to fight the offense, but I honestly had no interest in pursuing a Coast Guard career. I wonder if it would have been worth it to defend my honor, but I also know that it was a losing battle. I know that I appear weak for choosing not to fight it, but I still believe that protecting my future was the most mature decision and I'd make the same choice if I had to do it again.


    BR2011 - I apologize that I presented myself as being here to bash "your" academy. That's not my intent, which I meant to show by titling my post"A Cautionary Tale". That said, I'll get back to you about my military performance. My CER is currently in the possession of the ROTC detachment I'm trying to join, but I think I scored in the low 60's with grades of "solid cadet" to "exceeds the standards"- I'll track it down and provide you with exact numbers. As I've said, nothing exceptional, but I certainly met the standard.

    I find it remarkably immature of you to assume that I'm not mature enough to handle the Academy. I'll scan a copy of my CER and highlight the little bit where my Company Commander stated that I "took responsibility" for my mistakes. As I've said, I left because I didn't want to be there, not because of the offense.

    I'm not certain I'd be proud to be part of an organization that if, as you claim USCGA does, intentionally provides you with a poor chain of command for you to overcome. I'd rather have competent superiors.

    Trackandfield- I'm sorry to hear about your struggle, but I appreciate your advice and wish you success this time around.

    NaviSS28 - I completely agree that military is service to your country, and that all service is necessary. However, I could try to serve my country in any capacity from an AST to a YN that would be absolutely crucial to daily operations, but doesn't interest me, and doesn't use the skills I have.

    I don't mean to say that my abilities are more necessary than any other role, I simply mean that I fail to see what's wrong with trying to serve my country the best way I can, in the best capacity I can.

    Regarding your attacks, making assumptions about my childhood doesn't strengthen your argument and I find that yours makes little sense. Please don't lower the tone of our discussion.

    Robins820 - I'm sorry I seem pretentious. I believe I said I was gifted, just like any other cadet, which to doesn't sound particularly pretentious to me. Unfortunately on the internet it's often difficult to adequately portray yourself, especially when you're about to receive criticism from people who are looking for reasons to give criticism. I guess it was immaturity on my part to proactively build myself up to deflect some of the coming criticism about my qualifications and performance. That said, I can't be certain how carefully you read my post because I'm applying to AFROTC, not USAFA. I don't mean to argue semantics, but I believe that if you find me pretentious then that's due to your own interpretation.

    YankeesFan- I agree, a citation should have been included. However, how exactly does "we neither lie, cheat, steal, nor attempt to deceive" become a matter of citations? I agree that attention to detail is crucial, but this simply comes down to a matter of opinion, and I honestly don't think the professor was in the right. I think we can agree to disagree on this matter, especially because the honor offense isn't really the main focus. I'm not here to whine about that.

    LITS- I respect your wisdom. I know that you've chosen not to believe me and I can't change that. However, in this instance you are incorrect. I'm "in the right" so I'll "stick to my guns".

    For those who keep saying that this isn't the appropriate place to "air my grievances" with the Coast Guard, I think you're wrong- this is a warning for future cadets. It would be silly to say that only positive things are allowed on this forum. I have a story that needs to be heard and it's my duty to tell it to whoever will listen.

    Also, as a further update, one of my swab summer cadre has been ordered, by that same company officer, not to write me a letter of recommendation. Can someone please explain how that's justified?

    V/r
     
  14. plmmar

    plmmar Member

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    Understandable emotions on all sides.
    Your story does not surprize me-
    As you have pointed out it does not always turn out as we would have hoped and dreamed. I'm sure there are a lot of stories like yours out there, that's reality. None of us hope to have that happen to us.
    It's a fair warning.

    Hope things work out for you.
     
  15. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    1. That the academy did not adapt its curriculum to fit your gifts is not a fault of the academy.

    2. You made a poor choice when you decided to apply to the USCGA, an engineering school, knowing that your language gifts were not going to be recognized or utilized to their fullest potential.

    3. Submitting yourself to the USCGA's rigorous regimental military educational system, without any interest in serving in the USCG again verifies your poor decision in choosing to accept a USCGA appointment.

    4. Bottom line: Your "cautionary tale" should be one of realizing that YOU made the wrong choice instead of spurrious red herring arguments about what you believe to be a failed honor/conduct system.

    :cool:
     
  16. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom Member

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    Heartkill3r - good luck to you in the future.

    Without getting into the specifics of your particular situation and taking sides either way - you do bring up some good points of caution.
    Occassionally, life at an academy can go wrong - very wrong. Cadets and Mids who have Honor boards are often left without any good counsel at all.
    You are all alone in your decision making and in hind sight - the decision you make might not be the best in your particular situation. Unlike being accused of a crime, if you are accused of an Honor violation you have no right to legal counsel or other counsel. No one will take your hand and say to you - talk to these people, they will guide you.

    All Cadets and Parents should know that if trouble rears it's ugly head - you can and should seek counsel. Do not try and go this alone. There are JAG offices at West Point, USNA and USAFA - probably at USCGA as well and their services are available to any Cadet or Mid who walks in and says - I want to speak with a lawyer.

    If you feel you are being wronged and you military record is tainted - your DD785; then you may want to seek legal counsel now and get it straightened out.
    Don't quit on yourself!
     
  17. longrun12

    longrun12 Member

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    Just_A_Mom:

    Finally someone gets the Heartkill3r point....A Cautionary Tale. I think the post is for future cadet to read an understand not for parents to judge him!
     

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