Coast Guard cadets get peek at their future on Billet Night
New London — Leamy Hall at the Coast Guard Academy was full of cheers, fist pumps, back patting, hugs and inside jokes for a boisterous Billet Night on Thursday, when first-class cadets got their assignments for where they will be going after graduating in 75 days.
More than 200 of the 248 first-class cadets will be going to cutters. Some are headed to different Coast Guard sectors, while 20 got the coveted assignment of flight training school in Pensacola, Fla. Those going to flight school got a standing ovation from their peers — and some put on aviator sunglasses afterward.
After the ceremony, first-class Cadet Mike Daunt said he was "super excited" to get his top choice of flight school, adding that a lot of mentors and people he looks up to are aviators, including family members.
"It's so great to be back with you, and to see that some of you actually have a smile. Haven't seen that in a long time," Superintendent Rear Adm. William Kelly said to the unmasked group. He concluded, "I'm so very proud of you. You led the Corps of Cadets through the pandemic; you've led them through this entire year."
Proud parents could watch via livestream, and Kelly said they already may be planning their trips.
Cadets were called on stage a few at a time and handed folders with their assignments, as master of ceremonies Capt. Michael Turdo, commanding officer of the tall ship Eagle, described the cutters by their mottos and recent patrols before instructing: "Open your billets."
"You'll enjoy sunny skies and warm weather in this bustling home port. This cutter will be the first in its class," Turdo said for one assignment. One of the four cadets on stage began jumping up and down after seeing he was headed to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Argus in San Pedro, Calif.
Earlier, Turdo took the opportunity to roast and rib some individual cadets, pulling up a picture of one not-clean-shaven cadet taken while he was home earlier in the pandemic, and childhood and ROTC photos of others.
Turdo interspersed the jokes with moments of sincerity about a night he said is "truly one of the highlights of your Coast Guard career."
He said everyone thinks ensign billets are easy, but they're actually quite nuanced because "they have to look at performance, requests, skills and desires."
Cadets had put down their top choices, and a detailer went through to match people with their locations.
Throughout the evening, Turdo went through the achievements of various cutters. The cutter Dauntless was the first to seize 1 million pounds of marijuana. On its most recent patrol, the cutter Spencer prevented $10 million worth of cocaine and marijuana from entering the United States. The cutter Healey provided 1.3 million gallons of fuel to a village in Alaska.
Cadets are headed to cutters based out of Charleston, S.C.; Cape Canaveral, Fla.; Hawaii; Alaska; Guam; and more.
After the ceremony, Cadet Jaden Lewis said he got his second choice and was really exited to be co-located with his girlfriend. Cadet Jacob Schellman, who is headed to a cutter in Charleston, said after a long four years, he's ready to get out there and begin an enjoyable and fruitful experience in the Coast Guard.
For a gallery of more photos from Billet Night, click here.