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Cadets return to Coast Guard Academy with new health regimen

Cadre Jacob Denns, right, shouts instructions to swab Nicolas Fisher on July 1, 2019, during the first day of a seven-week indoctrination to military academy life for the Class of 2023 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

SEAN D. ELLIOT, THE DAY/TNS

By JULIA BERGMAN | The Day | Published: June 10, 2020

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NEW LONDON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — More than 200 Coast Guard Academy cadets have returned to campus for the first time since early March to prepare for summer training assignments across the country.

After several months of remote training and learning, members of the Class of 2021 returned to the academy Saturday and are under what is known as “restriction of movement,” or ROM, status, meaning they cannot leave the academy grounds and must wear a mask when they leave their rooms, except when they are exercising.

The cadets were all tested for COVID-19 upon their return and are being closely monitored for two weeks to ensure they don’t pose a health risk before going out to the fleet.

Of the 232 cadets who were tested, only one test came back positive, academy spokesman Cmdr. Dave Milne said Wednesday. The academy is still awaiting results for five of the cadets.

The cadet who tested positive is in isolation in a building separate from the barracks. The academy’s health team determined that the cadet was in close contact with eight of his classmates and directed them to quarantine in a separate wing of the building that he is isolating in. Meals are being brought to the cadets.

All of the cadets will be tested a second time before leaving the academy in two weeks for their summer training, which is key to their development as future officers in the Coast Guard.

This is part of the new regimen that academy officials have spent countless hours figuring out as they determined the best way to safely bring the roughly 1,000-member student body back to campus to continue their military training.

“We’re really reinventing everything,” said Capt. Rick Wester, commandant of cadets.

Figuring out the safest way for cadets to eat their meals has proved most challenging, said Wester, who added that with any of these decisions, “we’re always balancing risk.”

Cadets are used to sitting 10 to a table in close quarters. Now, their mealtimes are staggered and they sit in small groups in different areas of the cafeteria, entering and exiting at different places.

Second-class and third-class cadets will return to campus on June 20 and 21. They also will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive and will be under restricted movement status for two weeks.

Some of their summer training will happen online, and they will gather in smaller groups than usual, including when they go aboard the barque Eagle, the Coast Guard’s training ship. The Eagle, which usually has port calls throughout the country and the world, is staying in New London this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On July 8, the Class of 2024 will arrive on campus, 10 days later than scheduled, for the start of their 200-week journey at the academy.

But as First-class Cadet Noelle Greenwood, who will be one of the cadets overseeing that summer training, said, "it's not going to look like previous summers."

Greenwood, 20, of King George, Va., said she was supposed to go to Puerto Rico for a civil engineering internship this summer but decided to spend her summer at the academy as a battalion commander, helping the second-class cadets, known as cadre, train the new cadets, known as swabs.

"I'm passionate about what happens in summer training. I want to help lead the second-class through that process," she said. "The time I spent as a summer cadre was formative to my time at the academy."

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