In the Pacific's azure expanse, four young men from Saipan are charting a unique course. Cadets Genzo Gonzales, Seiji Gonzales, Kyle San Nicolas, and Noah Mesa of the U.S. U.S. Coast Guard Academy are bridging their love for the sea and cultural roots to the prestige of one of America's most renowned maritime institutions. This summer, they journeyed back to their home waters, not as ordinary islanders but as burgeoning U.S. Coast Guard officers poised to reshape their maritime communities.
Currently hailing from the U.S. U.S. Coast Guard Academy, an institution with a venerable history of training the nation's future maritime leaders, these cadets embody the Academy's mission. Coming from an island culture that holds the ocean as a central figure, these young men have decided to harness their affinity for the sea and utilize it to protect their nation's waters.
"It's about diversification, representation," said Genzo Gonzales. "Having that representation in the U.S. Coast Guard allows us to grow stronger." This belief in the strength of diverse perspectives drives these cadets to bring their unique insights into the U.S. Coast Guard's operations.
On their recent visit to the active-duty stations and Fast Response Cutters in their home region, the cadets were excited to see the operations up close.
"The sense of community and learning on the USCGC Oliver Henry was invaluable," said Mesa, "As a Pacific Islander, the opportunity to serve in the region I call home is an honor. It was eye-opening to witness how the U.S. Coast Guard operates in real-world scenarios right in my own backyard. From the crew to the operations, the experience has only deepened my commitment to serving in Guam, my top choice for a commission."
They saw it as an opportunity to bridge the gap between their theoretical knowledge and real-world application, to experience first-hand the tangible impact of the U.S. Coast Guard's work.
"Our involvement in the operations was enlightening," said Seiji Gonzales, who found great value in "seeing the U.S. Coast Guard from a perspective that it's not the academy, it's hands-on." His sentiments were echoed by San Nicolas, who found the crew to be "very welcoming" and was grateful for the experience of shadowing the crew and "seeing what the real U.S. Coast Guard is like." Mesa also offered, "This human connection adds a layer of meaning to the missions, making them not just a duty, but a calling."
His insights reveal that the Coast Guard's strength lies in its high-level training and state-of-the-art equipment and its ability to connect deeply with the communities it serves.
Moreover, their time on the Fast Response Cutters helped them comprehend the extensive responsibilities held by the crew. Genzo Gonzales described his exhilaration at being part of a typhoon response team and flying with the HC-130 Hercules aircraft crews from Hawaii around their islands as part of the broader U.S. Coast Guard operations. "It's really gaining an appreciation for all of the U.S. Coast Guard work from officers to enlisted as well," he noted.
Their participation in these operations reaffirmed their choice to pursue a career in the U.S. Coast Guard and deepened their understanding of the service's complex, multifaceted tasks. It also gave them an appreciation for their role in enhancing the U.S. Coast Guard's operations with their unique perspective as individuals hailing from the Pacific Islands.
"I get excited at the concept of traveling Oceania to islands I've only seen on classroom globes. Through the FRC, I wish to indulge in my cultural background as a Pacific Islander, " said Mesa. "I want to give back to the places I call home through the missions of the Coast Guard."
As the summer came to a close and the cadets prepared to return to the Academy, they reflected on the bond they shared with their ocean-centric culture, their duty to the nation, and their role as future U.S. Coast Guard officers.
"They are a testament to the fact that some of our most effective future leaders come from regions rich in maritime tradition," says Capt. Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. "I'm excited about what lies ahead for them and the U.S. Coast Guard." As the cadets journey forward, they carry with them the invaluable lessons learned in the waters of their homeland and a resolve to be worthy of the traditions of the United States Coast Guard.