To celebrate Black History Month we caught up with some current and former Coast Guard Academy cadet-athletes and learned about why they chose the Academy, their experiences here and what Black History Month means to them.
John McDonald ('08) was a member of the 2006 and 2007 football teams which won back-to-back New England Football Conference (NEFC) Bogan Division championships as the teams posted consecutive records of 8-1 in the regular season. He was the captain of the 2007 team and was a two-time NEFC all-conference selection.
McDonald, who was a management major, attended the Naval Academy Prep School (NAPS) prior to arriving at the Academy. He choose the Coast Guard Academy for one reason, opportunity.
"The opportunity to serve in the military, the opportunity to attend a service academy, the opportunity to earn a degree without student debt, the opportunity to play college football, the opportunity to have a guaranteed job after graduation, the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country/world," said McDonald. "I knew I wanted to do and have all of these and the Coast Guard Academy offered them all."
He served on the Coast Guard Cutter TAHOMA, out of Portsmouth, N.H. as a deck watch officer and Weapons and Deck division officer. Following that assignment, McDonald served at the Coast Guard Recruiting Command in Washington, DC as the Mid Atlantic recruitment Regional Leader.
Upon completing his service commitment, he separated from active duty and worked as an account representative with Bradley Morris Inc. in Chesapeake, Va. before returning to federal service. He is currently a Department of the Army civilian serving as the Enrollment and Scholarship Officer with the Hampton University Army ROTC program in his hometown of Hampton, Va.
McDonald sees Black History Month as a national acknowledgment of the accomplishments and contributions that African-Americans have made to the country and world across all industry sectors and fields of study.
"It is also a reminder of the fact that these achievements were realized in spite of being systematically enslaved, oppressed, segregated and denied basic rights and opportunities throughout the history of the United States," added McDonald. "It is sobering to consider that the opportunities and rights that I have in my life are a result of their work, perseverance, and sacrifice and I have a responsibility to pay that forward."
He finds it incredibly rewarding be able to serve and give back to our country. "The culture of the Coast Guard is one of helping others and I have not had a more fulfilling or satisfying experience than participating in operations that saved lives," said McDonald.
While at the Academy the leadership skills he learned have been important in his life on a daily basis. "The most important leadership skills that I learned were problem solving and listening. Organizations, military or civilian, value those that have the ability to develop courses of action to solve problems and complete task and rarely are decisions made in a vacuum," said McDonald. "As a leader, you need to have the willingness to seek and consider input from superiors, peers, and subordinates alike. More often than not, that input will yield additional information or another perspective that will be key in your decision. "
He also has some fond memories from his playing days at the Academy as well that included Playing in the NEFC Championship game his senior year against Curry College. "We came up short in the end losing 10-7, but I was so incredibly proud to have been a part of that team and I'll never forget the toughness and grit we played with that day and of course my other great memory was beating Kings Point 36-31 at home in the season opener of my senior season," said McDonald.
"I was blessed to have a phenomenal support network of family, friends, coaches, and professors during my time at CGA and graduating and commissioning were the proudest moments in my life."