292 swabs report in at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy

New London

The incoming class of cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy experienced a baptism by fire amid sweltering temperatures.

They learned new drills while marching in the hot sun, started to memorize the cadet handbook, the “Running Light”, and many had their heads shaved.

Monday was Day One of Swab Summer, an intense seven weeks designed to transform civilian students into military members ready for the challenges of becoming a Coast Guard officer.

One of the 12 swabs from Connecticut thought about his grandfather who was a staff sargent in the Air Force and later went to work at the academy.

“When I was younger, he was the only one I let hold me, so in a way, I feel like he’s still holding me, like through here. So, it’s really sentimental. It goes deep for me,” said Niles Harrell of Norwich.

He, like all of his classmates, is learning to live by the cadets’ core values. They are honor, respect, and devotion to duty. Some want to make sure that the respect part is what all experience.

“I expect each and every cadet as well as our staff to treat each other with the utmost respect in a fair, professional, and dignified manner at all times,” said Captain Rick Wester, the academy’s new Commandant of Cadets.

Related Content: NAACP calls for racial climate change at Coast Guard Academy

That’s what he told the swabs and their parents. He says respect is on what everything else will be built.

But recently, the NAACP said there is racial bias on the New London campus and the confederate flag has been used to intimidate cadets of color.

“Every case we do take very seriously,” said Capt. Wester.

It was 29 years ago on Monday that Capt. Wester reported in at the academy, and since then, he says there are a lot more resources for cadets who have become more diverse.

Of the 292 in the incoming class, 40 percent are female and 36 percent are underrepresented minorities.

The academy now has an office of inclusion and diversity, but NAACP members say if the system was working, cadets wouldn’t be complaining to them.

“If anyone doesn’t feel comfortable filing a report, they can always come to me and I am always available and I will personally ensure that we will appropriately address their concerns,” said Capt Wester.

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