The US Coast Guard Academy's class of 2024 kicked off training in New London Wednesday. The training for the freshmen, traditionally called Swab Summer, looked very different from previous years.
"We are not being yelled at, at all, and they are being very nice to us which is scary because I was expecting them to yell at us," said Sidney Palinkas, a first year cadet from Hartland.
Normally, cadets are welcomed to the academy with yelling, uniforms and haircuts. A complete military indoctrination. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the training process has been adjusted.
"We are going to be better in the future for what we are going through today," said Rear Admiral William Kelly, superintendent of the United States Coast Guard Academy.
According to Kelly, there are 271 students in the class of 2024; 265 are from the US and six are international students. Ten students are from Connecticut.
Kelly said that it is important that the military training continues as scheduled, but is also done safely and follows all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is why cadets will have the traditional Swab Summer activities delayed for two weeks while they are on a Restriction of Movement (ROM) period.
"Then we will be able to come out of that with, what we hope, is a very clean cohort of students that we can then begin to prepare their training in a more robust manner," said Kelly.
The cadets have been issued laptops. They will take online classes and training for the next two weeks. They will also undergo some physical training. On day 15, the traditional boot camp training will begin.
Sidney Palinkas said that she is excited to learn and start the journey of serving her country.
"This is an amazing opportunity for all of us and I am just so excited to see what we all become," said Palinkas.
After being sworn in, from a distance and with masks on, students were granted five minutes to say goodbye to their family members.
"I know she is going to take on the world," Amy Kerr said of her daughter, Amanda, in between hugs.
"My little buddy," John Kerr, Amanda's father, chimed in.
Kerr, a cadet from Michigan, said that while there will be challenges during her training due to the pandemic, she is excited to get started.
"I have everything I need inside of me to do it and it is time to truly develop my character," said Kerr.