Article - Swab Summer, And The Livin' Isn't So Easy


10-Year Member
Jun 9, 2006
Got this from the New London Day.

Swab Summer, And The Livin' Isn't So Easy
At Coast Guard Academy, Class of 2012 is just starting to shape up
By Jennifer Grogan Published on 7/1/2008


New London - Nicole Black stood at attention, holding a small, navy-blue book in front of her face.

Cadet Second Class Kristyn Grier asked her what she was studying in the Running Light, the book about the Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

”The position of attention, ma'am,” said Black, 17, of Stafford, Va.

”What is the position of attention?” Grier asked.

Black paused.

”You've been studying all day! What is the position of attention?”

”Swab Black is drawing a blank,” Black said.

”Drawing a blank! Drawing a blank! What if I'm driving a boat and I draw a blank? Is that acceptable?” Grier yelled.

”No, ma'am,” Black said with tears in her eyes.

Grier moved down the line and quizzed another “swab” on the mission of the academy.

It was nearing the end of Reporting-In Day on Monday - the traditional start of Swab Summer at the academy - and the hours of in-your-face tactics were taking a toll on the newest members of the academy.

The swabs had been yelled at and ordered around from the moment they stepped off the bus that morning in front of their new home, Chase Hall.

”Move your feet fast!”

”Don't run!”

”Stop looking around!” senior cadets instructed as 37 members of Golf Company lined up in front of the barracks.

”From now on, you are a direct representation of your family, the Coast Guard Academy, the military and the United States of America,” Second-class cadet Melissa Martinelli told the group. “You will conduct yourself accordingly.”

They could no longer say “I” or “me.” They would refer to themselves by the title “swab” and their last name.

They could no longer dress in civilian clothes. They turned those in, along with their cell phones and iPods. They would wear academy-issued uniforms.

They could no longer do what they wanted, when they wanted. They would ask permission.

”The next seven weeks will change your life,” Second-class cadet Zac Bonheim told Golf Company. “You will grow up. You will mature. My classmates and I will make sure of it.”

The group learned how to “sound off,” with the first person in line calling out “01” up to the last, “37.” One mistake meant they had to start over.

They learned the formal way to greet cadets and officers, and they were expected to remember their leaders' names immediately.

”What about the executive officer? You aren't going to greet the XO?” First-class cadet Colleen Denny yelled as a swab passed First-class cadet Ali Shafovaloff in silence.

”Swab Elliott can't remember her name, ma'am,” said Jasmine Elliott, 19, of Belize.

”It's not that hard,” Denny said. “It's only four syllables.”

Elliott mispronounced “Shafovaloff” and walked away.

Denny and Shafovaloff smiled. The swabs were trying to remember so much that few could recall Shafovaloff's name, and even fewer could pronounce it correctly.

”When they're screaming in your face, it's like, 'Oh man, what did I get myself into?' “ said Alexander Stewart, 18, of Duluth, Minn. “But I've been yelled at before. They're nice people, I'm sure. Deep down inside they must be nice people.”

Swab Summer is an intense, seven-week training program designed to transform civilian students into military recruits.

”We take away everything they had and give them a new identity, or a modified one, so they will do well in the military,” said Denny, the Golf Company commander. “The swabs are responding like most do: total shock and complete confusion.”

They may be swabs at the academy, but the 293 members of the class are a select group; about 2,800 students applied to the academy for the 2012 class. Women make up 27 percent of the class, a 3 percent decrease from last year. Thirteen percent of the new swabs are minorities, a 5 percent decrease.

Swabs were hustled around the academy on the first day to fill out paperwork, pick up uniforms, get haircuts and practice marching. Parents wandered around the grounds, hoping to get a glimpse of their children and the new life they will be leading.

At the end of the day, the Class of 2012 marched onto Washington Parade Field, raised their right hands and swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.

”It's intense, but it'll be rewarding,” said J. Matthew Hurtt, 18, of Old Lyme. “The prestige that goes with graduating from here follows you long after you graduate. I've always wanted to go to a service academy, to be challenged, to stand out.”

There were tearful goodbyes with family members before the swabs were ordered inside to continue training.

Jacob Conrad, 18, of Acton, Mass., wants to fly rescue helicopters in the Coast Guard. He said the first day at the academy was what he expected, but with “a lot more screaming.”

”If this is the way to earn the right to save lives,” Conrad said, “I'm willing to go through four years of this to earn that right.”
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That photo is a good subject for a 'Caption This!' thread.

Coming out of the head, I can only imagine what's going on there. :redface:
I respectfully ask the OP and the moderators of this forum to delete this picture before this
thread goes any further.

I realize this picture was posted for all to see however, in this context it is making fun of this cadet. R-Day is hard and emotional for many kids and their parents.
It is childish and disrespectful to be making fun of these kids and what they are experiencing.
I would not want the mother or father of this cadet to see this picture in this context.

We are fortunate that the technology is available for parents and families to see pictures of our kids - I don't think the Academies or the cadets and their families intend for them to be spread around the internet to be made fun of.
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"It is childish and disrespectful to be making fun of these kids and what they are experiencing."

Bullcrackers !

A year (if not at end of swab summer) from now this swab will be laughing himself about his first day experience.
In the words of the immortal Sgt. Hulka, "lighten up, Franc(e)s. This appeared in a very respectable newspaper which covers the Academy on a virtual daily basis. It was not intended to be a joke despite the smiley face. I wanted to show admiration for the kid who is facing this kind of "abuse" despite being small in stature. It also reminded me of myself at about the same age. :redface:
Last summer I was perusing the random photos published on the USMAPS website of cadet candidates enduring CCBT. One of the photos showed a bald-headed kid wearing birth control goggles. The photo was a close-up and it looked like the cc's face was a billboard for pain and suffering. After studying the photo for a while I finally realized the subject was my son! I barely recognized him. And there he was, albeit unidentified, for the online world to see captured in an instant of hell.

We look at that photo and laugh. My son says it wasn't funny at the time, but now it makes him laugh. In fact, it is so telling that the photo now adorns the wall of the USMAPS cafeteria!

Bottom line: the kid lived through the moment recorded by the photographer and has the Army Strong attitude to show for it! :thumb:
Hello, everyone...

I don't think Boss meant any disrespect toward the poor kid. Still, to ensure no misundertstandings persist, I have added the article from which he took the photo. We hope the correct context will resolve any remaining uncertainties.

Trust me when I say this: that kid will look back someday and LHAO at that picture. I know because I did it to several pictures that I turned up in looking less than ready for the cover of GQ. :biggrin::redface:

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled thread. :thumb:
But now you have completely changed the entire context of the original post.

It wasn't the article to which I was objecting but the picture and the context of the comment - I will admit can be construed in different tones.

I certainly don't expect Bossf51 to be making fun of a swab - but the comment with just the photo was troubling. While we can look at the picture and understand an uninformed visitor or relative may not.
Plebe summer at all the academies can be a really tough time. I am not sure that while our kids sign up to be perpetually humiliated by the cadre they sign up for public humilation as well.
But now you have completely changed the entire context of the original post.

It wasn't the article to which I was objecting but the picture and the context of the comment - I will admit can be construed in different tones.

So the concern has been addressed, yes? :confused:
Probably not z...reading the article I got a kick out of the business about Ali Shovalaloff's name...I know her quite well and she is a great kid...she had to be snickering under her breath when she gave the kid the's all part of the game and the process so let's take a chill pill folks.:rolleyes:
Maybe we can all agree that these swabs could have responded better to the questions.
Maybe we can all agree that these swabs could have responded better to the questions.

Aside from getting the right answer, what would have been the "correct" way to answer?

At USNA we had different terminology and the only answer to give when you DON'T know the RIGHT answer is "I'll find out, Sir!", so I ask this question out of true ignorance of USCGA practices rather than as my usual wise-ass self. :biggrin:
No first person during Swab Summer. "Sir/Ma'am, Swab XXXX will find out, Sir/Ma'am."

Of course this also involves the swab reporting back, but they would usually just want to answer when asked next (which might not happen). What is not a great idea is saying you're going to find out and then not doing it.
swab summer trng

Do the swabs qualify with a pistol at any time during swab summer? My husband thought maybe they have to shoot the 9mm? I know they drill with their "piece" (gun, is that the right terminology?) while in formation. BTW, the one used in drills, is that a wooden replica of a certain rifle? Sorry if silly question, I'm not well-versed on weaponry and was curious...just really wanted to know what Coasties are armed with while on the boats, too. Thanks.
They will not shoot during swab summer, but will do so during their 2/c summer as cadre (before the swabs get there), or at least that's how we did it.

The Coast Guard is swithing from the 9mm to a Sig40 as our pistol.

Cadets march/drill with M-1 rifles, the originals, although they have been filled in with lead, so they cannot be fired (unfortunately, they are much heavier). The exception to this are 1/c, who march with swords.
Haha, they showed that picture on the big screen in Dimick earlier this summer. Everyone got a good laugh except this one Swab in the back....