CADET CAMERON WELICKA: If you come, just be prepared to have your mind blown, like, just the amazing things you get to do here.
LT. MARCUS CANADY: The moment I stepped on board, I was a Division Officer. I was in charge of five or six guys. I had to come into that leadership role with some type of leadership skills, leadership abilities, and the Coast Guard Academy does a good job of providing me that.
LT. PETER LANG: Every day is an adventure here. I think I've been to over 30 or 40 different countries on five different continents, in the four and a half years since I've graduated the United States Coast Guard Academy.
ENSIGN DECAROL DAVIS: At a regular college, you're not getting a job automatically when you get out. I love my job. I personally think I have the best job in the Coast Guard.
CADET MICHAEL GORDON: It's not something you can really take lightly. It's been one of the most rewarding and life changing experiences of my life. You get a top notch education and come out debt free.
NARRATOR: When students apply for admission to the United States Coast Guard Academy, they're applying for more than just a college education. They're signing up for a career and a way of life. In fact, four out of five Academy graduates pursue graduate school opportunities and approximately 85% voluntarily continue their commissions as officers after their mandatory five year commitment has been fulfilled.
Why? Because job satisfaction in the Coast Guard is extremely high. While Search and Rescue and Homeland Security are our most visible missions, the United States Coast Guard is much more than that. We're on duty 24 hours a day, performing a wide range of safety, security, environmental, scientific, defense and law enforcement missions. It takes a special kind of person to put service above self, and it takes a great many such individuals to effectively execute such a big mission with such a small surface.
EVELYN ELLIS: In talking with the fourth class, I kept asking, you know, "Why did you come here?" I didn't get the typical answers. It's about, "I want to make a difference in the world. I want to save lives. I want to rescue people. I want to make sure that America stays free." I mean, it's a very, very different kind of mindset.
NARRATOR: Students are challenged academically, physically, and professionally.
CAPT. WILLIAM G. KELLY: We're putting them through a four year experience that's going to provide them all the tools and skills that they need to serve as a leader of character in the United States Coast Guard.
NARRATOR: The 200-week Coast Guard Academy program is a college experience like no other.
CAPT. WILLIAM G. KELLY: When we say they have a four year program here, that's a full four year program.
NARRATOR: On the fastest track to command in the Military, Academy graduates can be in charge of their own ship, just two years after graduation.
CAPT. WILLIAM G. KELLY: Very quickly, a Cadet, then an Ensign, then a Lieutenant j.g. can have command of a Coast Guard Cutter, command of a Boarding Team, on drug vessels, on possible homeland terrorist vessels.
LT. CHARLENE FORGUE: At 24 years old, I was in charge of an 87-foot patrol boat, and 11 enlisted crew members.
NARRATOR: The Coast Guard Academy's academic program is among the nation's best, as reflected by rankings in US News and World Report, and Princeton Review. The Academy's eight majors and 13 fields of study can open doors to countless career opportunities throughout the Coast Guard, government, and civilian life. The faculty charged with challenging cadets and promoting intellectual and critical thought is comprised of civilians, permanent military, and rotating military personnel.
CAPT. KURT J. COLELLA: We are really one of the very few four year technically focused colleges left able to teach courses in intel and security studies, in a way that is right on the front lines of what's going on in that arena, internationally.
NARRATOR: With a total enrollment of around 1,000, the student to faculty ratio is eight to one. All classes are taught by professors, not graduate assistants, meaning that Cadets benefit from professors who get to know the Cadets personally, taking an active interest in each Cadet's learning.
CAPT. JOHN FITZGERALD: It's a small school environment. You get top quality instructors, but I think the big thing that sets us apart is the individual attention that the cadets get, from the teachers built in the classroom and outside the classroom.
CADET REESE MOWERY: I get to talk to my teachers every day, and if I have a question or I'm struggling, I can ask them, and they'll focus on me, focus on that question, and it's just a better learning environment.
NARRATOR: The integrated experience that is the Coast Guard Academy requires that every Cadet possess the knowledge, skills and physical fitness necessary to meet the physical rigors of a career in the Coast Guard. On an annual basis, two-thirds of the Academy student body competes at the varsity intercollegiate level. The Academy participates in 23 varsity programs, including the most popular mainstream sports, played at colleges and universities across the country, along with other sports that would be expected of a water-based service academy.
RAY CIEPLIK: We're in the NCAA Division Three, which means non-scholarship. Many people reflect upon that as being the last bastion of pure athletics.
CADET PAUL ARNOLD: The opportunity to play and be a big contributor to a team, since it's such a small school -
CADET TRAVIS MURRAY: I love it. You know, I've been on two great Coast Guard basketball teams in history.
CADET TRAVIS MURRAY: I was originally going to play basketball, and I kind of -- when I found out that we had a boxing program here, that was something that really kind of interested me. I didn't know too much about it. Most high schools don't offer it. I was a three time All-American, third class year, second class year, and first class year, and I actually won the National Championship at 165 pounds this year.
NARRATOR: There's no doubt. The three cornerstones of academics, athletics, and the military component are demanding. Despite this, cadets are still provided the opportunity and encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities. From social events to organized activities, it's all part of the Cadet experience, all part of what bonds Cadets to one another, and to their service.
CADET LOUISE MANDOUR-BRACKIN: As far as the social experience -- I think we've got a lot of the opportunities that other colleges will offer. If you want a club, we most likely have it, and if we don't have it, you can usually find other people to help you start it.
MALE SPEAKER: I'm involved with the Cadet Glee Club here, and, with that, we go on a lot of different trips across the country, and it's been great. It's been a lot of fun.
NARRATOR: Locate on the water front, on the River Thames, the Academy is situated on a classic New England Campus in New London, Connecticut, set upon rolling hills, with sweeping views of water and sky. The Academy is not only a great place to learn and grow, but also live. Graduates of the Academy include distinguished leaders not just in the Coast Guard, but also in business, law, education, government, and even space. Two Academy graduates became astronauts.
REAR ADMIRAL J. SCOTT BURHOE: One of the greatest things about coming here, among all the great things, is that we do hire 100% of our graduates from here, that everybody, you know, ends up with, really, a great job, a job dedicating themselves to public service and going out and doing work that really is very important to this country.
CADET JACQUELINE FITCH: Not only am I going to have a job when I graduate, but I'm going to have a rewarding job that I'm going to enjoy.
CADET MCCREA HARRISON: I'm just excited about serving my country, and all the different experiences that come with that.
CADET SEAN MARCH: I would say saving lives, going out there, doing the mission, helping people. That's what really excites me.
JOHN FITZGERALD: I would say that the Coast Guard academy requires somebody that's dedicated, that's willing to sacrifice, is committed to serving others and the country, which is a pretty heavy price to pay, and it's a deep sacrifice. But, that said, it's probably one of the most rewarding careers that you have.
CADET AMY TOW: We're small for a reason, and only the best of the best are here.
CADET HUDSON: This is a place where you can definitely learn a lot about yourself, learn a lot about the world. You can learn a lot about your own government. You can learn a lot about being an American citizen.
NARRATOR: The United States Coast Guard Academy, providing a solid foundation for life, offering the prestigious higher education and rigorous professional development required of those in positions of leadership, in one of the best and most respected organizations in the world, the United States Coast Guard.
MCCREA HARRISON: The mission of the United States Coast Guard academy is to graduate young men and women with sound bodies, stout hearts and alert minds with a liking for the sea and its floor, and with that high sense of honor, loyalty and obedience, which goes with trained initiative and leadership, well-grounded in seamen-ship, the sciences and the amenities, and strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of Commission Officers, and the United States Coast Guard, in the service of their country and humanity.