Coast Guard Ensign Sasha Shibazaki gets her new rank pinned on by her parents Bobby and Nisako May 22 after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy. Shibazaki is a 2014 alumnus of M.C. Perry High School, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. (Courtesy Photo)
Coast Guard Ensign Sasha Shibazaki gets her new rank pinned on by her parents Bobby and Nisako May 22 after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy. Shibazaki is a 2014 alumnus of M.C. Perry High School, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. (Courtesy Photo)

M.C. Perry alum graduates Coast Guard Academy

by James Bolinger
Stripes Japan

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – M.C. Perry High School graduate Sasha Shibazaki graduated the Coast Guard Academy in May and said that the structure and self-discipline she learned as the Officer in Charge of the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps was a key to her success.

Ensign Shibazaki, 23, graduated from the Coast Guard Academy May 22, and will be stationed in Houma, La., as a vessel inspector for a Marine Safety Unit.

An alumnus of the M.C. Perry class of 2014, Shibazaki was the captain of the volleyball team, played soccer, and was on both the JROTC’s marksmanship and drill teams.

She said she joined the JROTC unit her senior year when she decided to pursue a career in the military, eventually applying to the Coast Guard, Naval and Air Force Academies.

She was accepted into both the Coast Guard and Naval academy preparatory schools, which provided her an additional year of schooling before beginning her freshman her Shibazaki told Stars and Stripes in June.

“I looked into all the service academies, but I noticed the coast guard is different,” said Shibazaki. “I noticed that their mission is more humanitarian compared to the other services. Saving lives and helping others -- that was one of the bigger factors in choosing the coast guard. It’s also very female friendly, and most of the bases are in the states.”

Shabazaki added that her as the leader of M.C. Perry’s JROTC was a factor in her success.

“I liked how JROTC was very structured,” she said. “They had high standards that I liked. It’s kind of like you’re are building yourself up andwatching yourself grow. I got a taste of what (servicemembers) do, and I could see myself doing that.”

Rifle and drill team gave her a leg up during Swab Summer which is kind of like boot camp cadets, she said.

“Knowing how to drill already was really helpful,” Shibazaki said. “I still got yelled at, but I feel like I got yelled at less for that part. Even though it’s only a small aspect, knowing you are a little bit prepared was nice.”

According to the Coast Guard Academies Institutional Research Office approximately 10% of cadets identified as members of a JROTC program, David Santos a spokesman for the Academy told Stripes in July.

When Shabazaki came into JROTC her instructor, retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Brad Cramer said he had already known her since her freshman year.

“She was in all the sports programs, and I was the cross-country coach. It is a small school, and she was a standout athlete here. She showed some interest in going into the military, and that was when she started looking into JROTC. Once she was in, she went into it 100%, full steam.”

She was on the drill team and the marksman ship team, and became the OIC of the unit, he said. She had a natural talent for leadership, and of course she wanted to get into one of the academies.

Shabazaki was the first cadet Cramer sent to the Coast Guard academy in the nine years he has been teaching JROTC.

JROTC is a steppingstone to joining the military, he said. The program helps students interested in the service academies and helps others earn college ROTC scholarships. Many others join JROTC because they can gain enlisted rank for completing two-years of the program. They can enter E-2 minimum. Eight of the 12 student’s in the programs recent senior class entered military service.

It wasn’t just JROTC that helped her get accepted he said. It was a joint effort between the teachers and faculty here, and her parents. Everyone was one board for making sure that she hopefully she qualified.

“She was put in those leadership roles, which hopefully challenged her, and she succeeded,” he said. “She never faltered or cowered away from a challenge that was thrown at her.”

One of the biggest challenges Shabzaki faced during her time at the academy was also her most memorable, she said.

Sophomore cadets spend a summer aboard the 295-foot Barque Eagle, the flagship of Coast Guard. The this is the only active-duty sailing vessel in America's military, and is a a training vessel for cadets at the Coast Guard Academy and candidates from the Officer Candidate School.

“It’s like a Pirate’s of the Caribbean ship,” said Shibazaki. “We sailed across the Atlantic to Ireland from New London, Conn. Since we are trying to become officers, they teach us everything from scratch – from how to be non-rates (sailors with no job designation), to how to handle lines. The super basic things. It was the most memorable thing I have ever done.”

Shabazaki returned to Japan over spring break earlier this year to visit her parents and talk to her old JROTC unit about opportunities with Coast Guard Academy.

“At the academy, it’s hard and it’s not supposed to be easy,” she said. “The way to get through it is with your friends and the relationships around you. Make sure you take care of them and be a good person.”

She suggested that students who are interested in attending a service academy do research and attend each academy’s summer seminar.

She also recommended that any students who graduate form an academy return to Japan and share their experiences with other students.

“Living in Japan, it seems like many kids don’t know as much about opportunities at the academy,” she said. “I think it can impact the younger generation and bring some diversity into the service -- especially at the Coast Guard Academy.”

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