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US Coast Guard Academy visits SWFL for baseball tournament

The United States Coast Guard Academy is in New London, Connecticut. There are about 1,000 cadets going to school there, several from right here in Southwest Florida.

Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety & Security Specialist, is the father of a Coast Guard cadet, and he spoke to the senior Coast Guard officer of the academy, who was in Fort Myers Tuesday to cheer for the Coast Guard’s Bears baseball team.

Bill Kelly was a lowly swab — a freshman — at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1983. He didn’t know what great opportunities the academy would offer. But he learned, because 37 years later, he is a two-star admiral and superintendent of the academy.

“We prepare officers to go out and serve in the world’s best Coast Guard,” Kelly told WINK News.

And Kelly’s job is to make sure everyone in the U.S. knows about those opportunities, which means showing up to sporting events such as a recent college baseball tournament in Fort Myers.

“We’re looking for a young woman or man who has got some grit,” Kelly said. “Has great academic scores, really has a special something.”

Southwest Florida currently has four cadets and four more are joining the class of 2024. After they graduate from the U. S. Coast Guard Academy, they go out to serve usually for two years on a Coast Guard ship somewhere across the country and around the globe.

Freshman Mark Stutts, otherwise known as a fourth-class cadet, plays baseball now.

“I’m very excited,” said Stutts, who is from Merritt Island, Florida. “I’m hoping I can get to flight school in the future.”

If you’re thinking about military service, if you’re thinking about being part of a team, everything about doing something special to do for your life, look up U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

And, as you hear anytime you’re are near a cadet, “Go Bears!”

The Coast Guard Academy was ahead of its time, admitting women two years before the other academies. Nearly 40% of cadets are female, the highest of all of the federal military academies.

And you have to work hard to get in.

“A lot of people apply. Not a lot of people get accepted,” said junior Lindsey Tarro, who is from Vernon Connecticut. “So I’m just super grateful.”

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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