Reporting In Day 2015: The view from the other side

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 reports to the campus on R-Day, June 29, 2015, marking the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 reports to the campus on R-Day, June 29, 2015, marking the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

Chaos reigned supreme in the minds of 287 trainees at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. It was June 29, and Reporting-In Day had come.

To an outside observer the swabs, or trainees, could be seen participating in military traditions that date back to the Academy’s earlier years. Traditions such as reading a Running Light, a small book containing all of the information a swab is required to know, squaring corners and greeting superiors.

The Class of 2019, the largest class in the last four years, continues to maintain recent gains made in diversity with 33 percent of the class from underrepresented minorities and 35 percent women. R-Day is the start of Swab Summer, an exciting and intense seven-week training period that forms the foundation of each cadet’s Academy experience and military career, preparing them for the stressful, high-profile missions they may encounter as commissioned officers in the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The importance of creating a stressful environment during the summer training period is two-fold,” said Lt. Grant Johnson, R-Day project officer. “First, it begins teaching the trainees the importance of thinking clearly and remaining calm during stressful situations. It is similar to muscle memory: the more often they are exposed to pressure situations, the more experienced and confident they will become over time.  Second, by experiencing a stressful event, Swab Summer, the trainees develop a closely-knit bond with each other; a bond built on shared effort and challenge.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 reports to the campus on R-Day, June 29, 2015, marking the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 reports to the campus on R-Day, June 29, 2015, marking the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

Some of the tasks that swabs perform can be monotonous and seemingly without purpose, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Practicing discipline and attention to detail in even the most routine tasks prepares the trainees to impart that same discipline and attention to detail in more complex tasks, tasks they may encounter in their Coast Guard careers such as piloting an aircraft in stormy weather, navigating a ship in heavy seas or responding to natural disasters,” Johnson said.

For the swabs, reporting-in day is a mixed bag of emotions: nervousness, apprehension, anticipation and perhaps some fear of the unknown. Even though some swabs can’t wait for R-Day to end, it is unforgettable for everyone involved.

Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Diaz hasn’t forgotten that day. Diaz, a Class of 2004 graduate, is the Swab Summer project officer at the Academy. He now oversees all of the training that the swabs go through over the course of their first summer at the Academy.

A cadet says goodbye to his family at the end of Reporting-In Day. This day marks the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

A cadet says goodbye to his family at the end of Reporting-In Day. This day marks the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

“It’s weird I remember who I stood next to when I reported in,” said Diaz. “I remember it being extremely hot and humid and then it being chaotic. We went from station to station and we were constantly doing things that, at the time, I didn’t even really know had a higher purpose. I was one of the first swabs to form up in my company and from there it was just non-stop chaos and it was a very hot, long summer.”

Having gone through all that training himself, he now sees it in a different light. What was once perceived as an intimidating day full of chaos is now viewed as a well-oiled machine with a lot of moving parts.

“Now that I am an officer and have seen R-Day from the other side, I now see the method to the madness, Diaz said. “I now see all the planning and coordination that had to happen behind the scenes for it to go off effectively. I understand that the real challenge is not from the swabs’ perspective, but from the cadre’s perspective. When you go through R-Day as a cadre you literally have to take those swabs from hair cuts to general issues to uniforms and sea bags to drilling them and teaching them the simplest facing movements that exist and getting them to show their parents that within eight hours of checking in they are already being molded into military members.”

With time and experience comes perspective, and for Diaz, that is what it took for him to see that some of the oldest traditions are the ones we need the most.

“Ultimately what I have observed as a swab, to cadre and now as an officer in charge of Swab Summer, is that it hasn’t changed. Essentially you come in as a civilian and you end the day as a new member of the long blue line.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 reports to the campus on R-Day, June 29, 2015, marking the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 reports to the campus on R-Day, June 29, 2015, marking the beginning of swab summer and of the 200-week training program that leads to becoming a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

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