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Coast Guard Academy needs you
to help fill the class of 2008!

The AIM Program and Auxiliary Career Counselor's
help achieve this goal.

By Wayne Spivak, BC-AIG, N-IC
National Press Corps
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

This year, over six thousand men and women applied for an appointment at the Coast Guard Academy. Only one in seven will receive an appointment, and approximately 75% of those appointed will enroll as a United States Coast Guard Cadets.


(click pictures to enlarge)

Now if you're mathematically impaired, don't worry, I'll spell it out. Of the 6,028 applications, the Academy made 429 appointments. 305 accepted. One would think the Academy is flush with candidates, since they received so many applications.

"Not so", says CAPT Sue Bibeau, Director of Admissions for the United States Coast Guard Academy. According to CAPT Bibeau, "the number of college bound High School grads will begin to decline in 2008. Worse, the number of students seeking an engineering degree has already begun to decline substantially, and those who plan to study engineering will be less prepared to succeed in the classroom than their predecessors. Add to the stringent appointment requirements, plus our physical education requirements, and we really have a very small pool of applicants."

"This is why the Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) is so important to the livelihood of both the Academy and the Officer Corps of the Coast Guard', said Bibeau. It is the single major source of recruiting. AIM delivers on average ¼ of the entire entering class, each year.

AIM is run almost entirely by the Auxiliary. It is the Auxiliarists themselves, and in particular, the Career Counselors (CC) that makes the AIM program what it is, a major success.

"I know this is what I want to do. I am very proud to be an American. If I don't make it to the Academy, I will enlist & do OCS. So the Coast Guard is my career choice." - AIM student

"My AIM week was a little deceptive", said Cadet Michael Chandler, a 2C or Junior, in remembering his time as a AIMSter. "The week was a fun and games, and my first year was anything but fun and games," Cadet Chandler recalled. This year, Cadet Chandler is part of the Cadet Cadre, who provide the leadership training, as well as the disciplinarians of the AIMsters.

The backbone of the week however, are the Auxiliarists that take their vacations working with the young men and women, making sure the week is as fulfilling as possible. One such Auxiliarist is Ann Roller, of Brockport, NY.

Ann is unique, in that she is also the mother of a former AIMster, who ultimately went to the Academy. While her daughter was at the Academy, Ann became President of the upstate New York Chapter of the Coast Guard Academy parents association.

It wasn't until her daughter was in her last year at the Academy that Ann joined the Auxiliary. This summer, Ann is working more than double duty. First as an AIM leader, secondly as a Career Counselor for the AIM program, and also as a Mom, since her daughter ENS Loraleigh Whiteside, was brought back to the Academy on temporary assigned duty (TAD) from CGC Tahoma, out of New Bedford, Massachusetts to work with the SWABS, the first year Academy Cadets. This assignment is considered quite a feather in one's bonnet, especially for Ensign.

"I learned so much information in such a short amount of time & I need to review everything I have learned & make sure that this is the school for me. (However I'm very enthusiastic & hopeful about going to the Academy." - AIM Student

I caught up with ENS. Whiteside in her office, on a hot humid day. Her AIM week still holds some fond memories, and she considers the week as the icing on the cake, as to why she became a Coast Guard Cadet, and ultimately an Ensign. "I don't remember many of the specifics of the week, but it was the overall approach that made my decision. I knew I wanted to join the military, but AIM week clearly told me the Coast Guard was where I belonged," said ENS Whiteside.

Do the AIMsters enjoy themselves? I asked several during a tour of the Coast Guard Academy Museum. One young woman from Miami said "I thought I physically trained enough. I ran five miles a day for several weeks before coming to the Academy. However, Miami is flat and the Academy has lots of hills. My legs are killing me, but I'm having a great time!"

Another AIMster from Wyoming lamented how he came from a state with no water, except for some lakes. He now wants to come to the Academy and go into Aviation, after hearing a speech by a Coast Guard Aviator at Coast Guard Career night. Yet, another young man said he knew he wanted the Coast Guard Academy, and the AIM week fully reinforced his decision. He'd have no other way.

"This year's AIM program is different than my year," Cadet Chandler commented, "the first several days are total Academy reality, from the yelling and screaming used to make you tow the line, to memorization of the The Bowsprit, a book which lists everything Coast Guard, from the name of each Coast Guard Cutter, to the name of each unit. However, as the week progresses, we are going to lighten up and the last few days will be fun and games!"

"The first day was horrible, but now I don't want to leave." - AIM Student


So unique, and successful, one Academy Admissions Staffer stated that they had to password protect their web site, so competing colleges and the other service academies wouldn't steal their students or some of their secrets of success!

John Johnston, the Division Chief in charge of the AIM program, puts in long hours during AIM week, making sure the program fulfills its mission - Introduce the Academy to prospective Applicants. He and the other members of the AIM program, including the CC's located in hopefully every flotilla have been so successful, that not only has the program grown, but AIM week is now two different AIM weeks, and each class is 30% larger.

"That's tremendous growth in the program," said CAPT Bibeau, "and we're even contemplating adding a third week onto the AIM program next year. We have the staffing and logistics down, and I believe we can achieve this milestone! AIM actually saves the Coast Guard and the US Government money in the long run, since those students who decide Academy life is not for them during this week, don't apply. We then don't have to spend the time to review their applications, and should they accept an appointment, they won't decide to leave."

In reading the critiques from last years class of AIM students, a unique underlying theme became evident. Whether they felt the Academy was right or wrong for them, or even if the Military was the right career choice, if not the Academy, the former AIMster's praised the educational aspects of AIM week. That makes AIM a unique adventure for the student and a win-win for the Academy.

As hard as the AIM staff and the Academy Admissions Staff work on and for the AIM program, one can not underestimate the importance of the Career Counselor. It is these men and women, who go to the high schools, and seek out the crème de la crème of the American youth.

They interview them and prep them. They walk both the student and the parents though the process. They inform them of the advantages given to the AIMster, which are not in black and white. Advantages include increased sense of self-worth, and a more determined bearing. One might use the term a "can-do attitude" for they, the student has survived a difficult course: mentally, physically, emotionally and academically. All occurring in just one short week.

"The Cadre has made me realize that this is where I should be. I learned from their honor, respect, & pride in the USCGA that I want to follow them." - AIM Student

AIM Week for some young man or woman, will be a new beginning; for others a week spent learning a new found discipline; all thanks to the men and women who are part of America's Volunteer Lifesavers, the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.

For more information about next year's AIM Week(s), contact your local Career Counselor by contacting your local Coast Guard Unit (http://www.uscg.mil) or use Auxiliary Flotilla Finder at http://www.cgaux.org/cgauxweb/getzip.html.
Additional information can be found at CGate News (http://www.cgatenews.com/), the official gateway for AIM.
Photographs are available at: http://www.freeportflotilla1306.org/press/aimweek/
Photograph by:
John (Jack) Roberts
Branch Chief
AIM Division
Personnel Department
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary