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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Coast Guard cadets celebrate their assignments

    From left, Cadets Natasha Muirhead, Jillian Walsh, William Cuneen, Gaige Kruger and A. Shuait celebrate after opening their billets Thursday, March 2, 2023, and finding they will be stationed aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James in Charleston, S.C. during Billet Night at the Coast Guard Academy in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Cadets react during the roast held by Capt. Jessica Rozzi-Ochs, of the Coast Guard Eagle, Thursday, March 2, 2023, before the billets were handed out during Billet Night at the Coast Guard Academy in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    From left, cadets Melissa Rowell, Reilly Pogoloff and William Paiz react after they open their billets and find they are going to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous in Virginia Beach, Va. Thursday, March 2, 2023, during Billet Night at the Coast Guard Academy in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Rear Admiral William Kelly, superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, speaks Thursday, March 2, 2023, during Billet Night at the Coast Guard Academy in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Rear Admiral Michael Johnston reacts as he opens his billet Thursday, March 2, 2023, during Billet Night at the Coast Guard Academy and finds he will be the new Superintendent. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London― Capt. Jessica Rozzi-Ochs called a group of five first-class cadets up to the stage in Leamy Hall at the Coast Guard Academy and began, “Around the nation, these officers take part in nearly every Coast Guard mission.”

    As she then directed them to open their assignments, the crowd erupted in cheers and standing ovations as their coveted destination flashed on the projector screen overhead: flight training school in Pensacola, Fla.

    Thursday night was the annual Billet Night at the academy, when students in their fourth year find out where they’re headed after graduation on May 17.

    It was a night of jumping and fist-pumping, back-patting and breaking out into dance moves, group hugs and group pictures.

    “I’m really, really excited, a little nervous, but good,” Reilly Pogoloff said before the ceremony. “I feel like I haven’t felt this excited for something since receiving my appointment.”

    A government studies major from Virginia, she said her grandfather went to the academy and was an inspiration to her. She played soccer, learned a lot about herself, and was challenged academically and mentally.

    She was in the first group of cadets called up onstage, and the four of them found out they’re are going to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous in Virginia Beach.

    But before any cadets went onstage, Rear Adm. Michael J. Johnston was called up to get his assignment as superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy. He will take over this summer as Rear Adm. William Kelly retires from the service and takes a job as president of Christopher Newport University.

    Of the 243 cadets in the class of 2023, 207 are going aboard a cutter, 23 are going to flight school, seven are going to Coast Guard sectors and marine safety units, and six are going to cyber command in Washington, D.C.

    The presentation of assignments is like the military equivalent of a vacation prize introduction on a game show, as Rozzi-Ochs read information and fun facts about each destination before the big reveal.

    The cutter Diligence was featured in the science fiction movie “Around the World Under the Sea.” The cutter Munro is named after the only Coast Guardsman to earn a medal of honor. The cutter Mohawk is the most successful drug enforcement cutter in the fleet.

    “I’m super excited. That was my first choice,” government major Brian Morel said of his assignment to Mohawk, a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Key West, Fla. He wants to take command of a cutter one day and said this is a good place to start.

    As per tradition, the master of ceremonies was the commanding officer of the barque Eagle. And as per tradition, Rozzi-Ochs prefaced the announcement of billets with ribbing and roasting of cadets.

    Kelly reminded cadets of the coin he gave them in the auditorium four years ago that said “all in,” and he said “your unit is going to expect that of you, your service is going to expect that of you, and above all your nation is going to expect that of you.”

    Ahead of the presentation of billets, he referred to a comment by Commandant Linda Fagan that “There are no bad jobs in the United States Coast Guard.”

    “And she is spot-on,” Kelly said.

    e.moser@theday.com

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