Future Leaders: Sailing into a Commission

On May 17, 2017, the Class of 2017 will graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and become the newest group of officers in the U.S. Coast Guard. Over the next week, Coast Guard Compass will take an inside look at four of the upcoming graduates and the future of these new leaders.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm

The Coast Guard Academy recognizes the most recent awardees on the Board of Trustees Honors list. To be selected as a BOT list recipient, a cadet must simultaneously earn a term grade point average of 3.15 or higher, be in the top 25 percent of his or her class in military performance and get a score of 270 or higher on the Physical Fitness Examination. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Barger.

The Coast Guard Academy recognizes the most recent awardees on the Board of Trustees Honors list. To be selected as a BOT list recipient, a cadet must simultaneously earn a term grade point average of 3.15 or higher, be in the top 25 percent of his or her class in military performance and get a score of 270 or higher on the Physical Fitness Examination. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Barger.

Nikole Barnes couldn’t have written a better story for how her time at the Coast Guard Academy turned out. At the beginning, it wasn’t always high praise and trophies for Barnes. For a while, she struggled to meet the challenging military, academic and athletic requirements of the Academy. With a little help and guidance, Barnes was able to refocus herself and finish strong, a common theme for her time at the Academy.

“I was on academic probation and was overloading on my classes,” Barnes said. “With the help of my instructors and the support from my advisor Lt. Cmdr. [Kimberly] Young-McLear, I was able to turn my academic career around.”

All of that encouragement paid off, when Barnes earned a place on the coveted Board of Trustees Honors list. To be included on the BOT list, cadets must earn three uniform stars for excellence in military, academic and athletic performance during the semester. This means a cadet must simultaneously attain a term grade point average above 3.15, be in the top 25 percent of their class in military performance and obtain a score of 270 or higher on the Physical Fitness Examination. Only around three percent of the Corps of Cadets accomplishes that feat.

One of the requirements to earn a place on the BOT list is to excel in athletics. The sailing team is the athletic sport she called home and that was where Barnes truly shined.

First Class Cadet Nikole Barnes, Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair.

First Class Cadet Nikole Barnes, Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair.

“For sailing, I was named the Women Sailor of the Year for College Sailing for 2015-2016, I was named All American for both Women’s and COED for my Sophomore and Junior year with an honorable mention my freshman year, and I was named Female Rookie of the Year in 2013 for the [Academy],” said Barnes.

First Class Cadet Nikole Barnes, Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair.

First Class Cadet Nikole Barnes, Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair.

Her team also won the 2016 College Women’s Nationals, she won A Division by 50 points, and was recognized as the College Women’s Sailor of the Year.

As busy as her athletic life kept her, Barnes still took the time to volunteer for a great many things that took place around the Academy.

“I participated in numerous clubs, including CASA (Cadets Against Sexual Assault), the International Club, SPECTRUM (LGBTQ club), the Sustainability Club, and the WLC (Women’s Leadership Council),” said Barnes. “I am also a team captain of the Dinghy Sailing Team. For the sailing team, I wanted to be able to get to know my teammates on a closer level before I graduated and being a team captain has allowed me to do so while also helping lead the team.”

For Barnes, with time came perspective and the perspective allowed her to look back at how it all began. She recalled one of her favorite memories from her time at the Academy. The memory was from the grueling boot camp style training they go through called Swab Summer.

First Class Cadet Nikole Barnes, Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair.

First Class Cadet Nikole Barnes, Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sinclair.

“Swab Summer was ending and I hugged 1st Class Cadet Niki Kruger with tears streaking down our faces,” Barnes said. “We both went to prep school and it wasn’t easy to get to that spot. It was a great moment to see that our hard work finally paid off.”

As this chapter of her Coast Guard career comes to a close, she will take her oath of office, become an ensign and take some much-deserved leave. From there, Barnes will head to the Response and Incident Management Division at Sector Miami to begin the next chapter.

“I’m very excited to get started working at Sector Miami in the Incident Management Division,” Barnes said. “While I do not have a lot of knowledge in that area, I hope that I can bring my unit a fresh set of eyes on how the unit performs and see if we can all work together to get full efficiency in our missions. I can’t wait to get started working there!”

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