Cadet 1st-Class Jennifer Becher (pictured) is a fourth-year student at the USCG Academy in New London, Connecticut. She calls this summer's temporary duty on the Bristol Bay "a great assignment." While onboard, she will learn the duties of and qualify for the rating of In-Port Officer of the Day (OOD).
Cadet Becher's hometown is Westland, Michigan, where she graduated from Westland John Glenn High School with a 3.9+ grade-point-average. She wasn't really planning on a military career, until she learned of the opportunities in the Coast Guard through the Academy Introduction Mission ( AIM ), a program which introduces prospective cadets to the Academy during the summer between their 11th- and 12th-grade classes.
Admission to the Academy is based on academic qualification (as demonstrated on SAT/ACT test scores and High School GPA), community involvement, and class ranking. There are also physical requirements, such as height minimums and maximums, that must be met as well. Unlike the other military academies (West Point, Annapolis, Air Force Academy), admission is not done by Congressional or Presidential appointment. Over 5,000 applicants vie for only 280 slots, so admission is very selective, with a trend for even greater competition as the current entering class size has been reduced to 230. In Cadet Becher's class, women comprised approximately 85 of the initial 280 cadets. Attrition over the four year program has reduced the size of her class to 180, with 42 women remaining.
All uniforms, books, and materials are supplied by the Academy. "You just have to bring six pairs of (white) underwear; the Academy supplies everything else," said Becher. Cadets do have to pay about $1,500 upon admission, but in return they receive a Macintosh laptop computer; otherwise there are no tuition or room-and-board charges at the Academy. In fact, the cadets earn pay as they learn. A first year cadet (4th-class), will receive about $80/month. The pay increases each year, until by their 4-th year, a Cadet 1st-Class earns around $280/month.
Upon graduation, cadets become an Ensign in the Coast Guard. They then have a 5-year obligation to serve. Typically, the first two years will be shipboard duty.
Because shipboard quarters usually require shared berthing, the women Cadets are assigned in pairs. Joining Cadet Becher aboard the Bristol Bay is another 4-th year Academy Cadet, Jennifer Martin.
Cadet 1st-class Martin is from San Diego, where her father was also a Coast Guard officer. On board the Bristol Bay she and Cadet Becher share quarters on the ATON barge.
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Copyright © 1996 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: October 10, 1996;