Long-awaited billet night arrives for CGA's Class of 2016

First Class Cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy react to their first duty assignment of Flight School Training as part of Billet Night at the academy in New London Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Tim Cook/The Day)

New London — As one Coast Guard Academy cadet posted Thursday on Instagram, "1,347 days later it's finally billet night!"

Billet night is a long-standing tradition and a night that First-class cadets look forward to pretty much from the time they start at the academy.

The 186 cadets, including five international cadets, of the Class of 2016 now know where they're headed after graduating in May.

The international cadets will all return to their home countries to serve in the Lithuanian Navy, Maldives Coast Guard, Rwandan Defense Force and Sri Lanka Navy.

The class features a Connecticut cohort of 13 including First-class cadet Jacquelyn Kubicko, of Stratford, who is going to the coveted flight school in Pensacola, Fla.

It's a timely year for aviation assignments as 2016 is the 100th anniversary of Coast Guard aviation.

"I was nervous; I knew that the people I went up with all put in for flight school, but it's still nerve-racking because you never know," Kubicko said, fresh billet in hand. 

It's a billet that requires two years of training.

A variety of factors are weighed, not just class rank, in deciding where to assign cadets. Considerations are given to requests to co-locate and to cadets who are planning to get married.

Kubicko was also excited for her close friend, First-class cadet Jennifer Melendez, who she's roomed with several times over the course of her academy career.

"I was crying for her," Kubicko said of watching Melendez on stage get her first choice.

In fact, both young women got their first choices.

Melendez will be serving on the Coast Guard Cutter Munro, one of the Coast Guard's six national security cutters. Twenty-two cadets in total will be serving on national security cutters.

"I wasn't sure at all. I mean, middle of my class, so you're never really sure. I didn't know if other people wanted the Munro either," Melendez said of her thoughts before she received her billet.

The Munro, named after the Coast Guard's only Medal of Honor recipient, Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas A. Munro, is also the service's newest national security cutter.

It was commissioned last November in Pascagoula, Miss., but is based out of Alameda, Calif.

Melendez is looking forward to being stationed in California where her boyfriend, an Air Force Academy cadet, will also be stationed.

The couple will be about six hours away from each other, but at least on the same side of the country.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft spoke at the Munro's christening and highlighted the need for advanced ships like the national security cutters to defend the nation and carry out drug interdictions that disrupt transnational criminal networks, according to a Coast Guard news release.

"It's a new cutter. It's where the fleet is going, so it's really exciting to be able to be on the newest cutters out there, to really learn where the Coast Guard is going to be in a few years," Melendez, of New Brunswick, N.J., said.

She's also looking forward to "all of the law enforcement" and being an engineer.

Melendez represents the majority in that 90 percent of the Class of 2016 will serve on cutters.

First Class Cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy react to their first duty assignment of Flight School Training as part of Billet Night at the academy in New London Thursday, March 3, 2016.   (Tim Cook/The Day)
First Class Cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy react to their first duty assignment of Flight School Training as part of Billet Night at the academy in New London Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Tim Cook/The Day)
First Class Cadet Jessica Roesch, left, becomes emotional after receiving her first duty assignment of Flight School Training as part of Billet Night at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London Thursday, March 3, 2016.   (Tim Cook/The Day)
First Class Cadet Jessica Roesch, left, becomes emotional after receiving her first duty assignment of Flight School Training as part of Billet Night at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London Thursday, March 3, 2016. (Tim Cook/The Day)
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