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Coast Guard Academy welcomes its largest class of female cadets

New cadet, Elaina Koenig, with her family
Brian Scott-Smith
New cadet Elaina Koenig with her family.

Nearly 300 young men and women from across the U.S. and the world arrived at the Coast Guard Academy in New London on Monday to start day one of their training as part of the incoming class of 2026.

It’s the largest number of women joining, approximately 43% of the overall class — and 37% identify as underrepresented minorities.

“It makes me feel really good to be part of that,” said Elaina Koenig, from the state of Washington. “It makes my mom feel happy to know I’m with other women in the Coast Guard. I’m looking forward to getting to know my group after the summer.”

This year’s class also saw nine international students from countries such as the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Day one marks the start of the traditional Swab Summer: an intense training program to transform the civilian students into military personnel. The new recruits received their uniforms, new haircuts, drill practice and said goodbye to their parents after the swearing-in ceremony.

“When you rise together to engage in the rigorous program before you, the transformation that will take place over the next 200 short weeks will ensure you are ready in all respects to live out the Coast Guard ethos,” Rear Admiral William Kelly, the superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, told his new cadets. “To protect, defend, save and shield our nation, it’s people and the environment we live in.”

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.