Coast Guard welcomes new class with COVID protocols

Gone on the first day are traditional haircuts, uniform issues and drill practice

The following is text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(NEW LONDON, Conn.) — The U.S. Coast Guard Academy welcomed aboard 271 young men and women into the class of 2024 on Wednesday.

Day One marks the traditional start of Swab Summer, but this year the event was a very different one. Precautionary measures, including the wearing of masks and the practice of social distancing, were clearly in place as academy staff and cadets worked to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The incoming students arrived with their individual platoons starting at 6 a.m. and continued into the evening as eight groups individually navigated the check-in process in 90-minute evolutions.

Gone were the traditional haircuts, uniform issues and drill practice. Instead, each platoon was sworn-in shortly after reporting before starting a 14-day restriction of movement (ROM) period which will consist mostly of military indoctrination, online and some classroom training prior to physical training commencing on day 15.

“We have had to adapt,” said Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, academy superintendent. “We have a fantastic crew and community here and they’ve really pivoted. Since March 13, when we made the decision to keep our students away after spring break and finish the semester online, we’ve had 750 students come back on campus and we’re welcoming a new class today. So, we’re doing pretty well. We’re managing it, and making it work.” 

Of the incoming class this year about 39 percent are women and 34 percent come from underrepresented ethnicity groups. Also joining the class are six international students from Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, the Federated States of Micronesia, Jordan and the Philippines.

One of the swabs joining the class is Ellie Hiigel. To say that Coast Guard service is in her blood may be a bit of an understatement.

Her mother, Capt. Joanna Hiigel, is a Coast Guard Reserve officer who met her father, Capt. Mark Hiigel, commander of Sector Humboldt Bay, at the academy. Her aunt also attended the academy and her older sister Tana is a second class cadet.

“I am both excited and nervous to begin my journey on July 8 at USCGA. I have grown up on stories about the academy, and how it instilled in my parents respect and a love for service to others. This has shaped my life and fostered a desire to continue that tradition and legacy of service,” Ellie Hiigel said.

“For me, the lure of the Coast Guard Academy is that it's not just a college,” she added, “but a place where people change for the better to become leaders of our nation through challenging experiences.”

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