KINGSPORT — Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Kingsport’s Hunter Holt, a 2012 graduate of Dobyns-Bennett, had a tough decision to make when it came time to choose the college he would attend.
Holt had been accepted by both the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
“Since I was very little I’ve always been interested in boats and being on the water,” said Holt. “The Air Force Academy looked good, but in the end I went with my dream of having a career on the water.”
His introduction to military life began early. Starting last July prior to his freshman year, Holt attended SWAB Summer, a seven-week program of physical activity and military training.
“Physically, I had trained for being there so that part wasn’t a problem. But the military stuff was tough.”
Once on campus, Holt found that not only was he in a rigorous academic environment, he was pretty much low man on the totem pole.
“Freshmen are in a follower position,” said Holt. “They do all the lowest jobs like taking out the trash and cleaning the barracks, including the bathrooms.
“My course studies were pretty basic,” added Holt. “And because I had taken AP calculus in high school that got me a little ahead at the academy.”
In addition to his duties both in the classroom and on campus, Holt also was an offensive lineman on the Coast Guard Academy’s football team, the Bears.
“Playing football got me a little bit of slack,” joked Holt. “Because of my game schedule, I got out of some duties and also got to sleep late once in a while.”
His first year behind him, Holt spent 12 weeks this summer on the water. His first six weeks he was assigned to the Coast Guard’s tall ship, the Eagle.
“We sailed from New London to the Caribbean Sea,” said Holt. “There were stops in St. Martin, Aruba, Guantanamo Bay and St. Petersburg, Fla.
“My duties on ship included standing watch, being the helmsman and navigation among other things. And there was cooking duty,” joked Holt.
The second half of his summer was spent in Boston doing search and rescue missions.
“Being on the water is pretty rewarding,” said Holt. “I really loved that.”
As his sophomore year is set to begin, Holt knows that the pace will pick up dramatically.
“I’ve been told that the second year is pretty hard academically. There are more job-specific classes.
“Luckily, I’m now in more of a leadership position so I won’t have all that stuff that I went through as a freshman.”
And how do his parents, Chris and Kari, feel about his being at the Coast Guard Academy?
“They love coming up and seeing my football games,” said Holt. “And they really like the idea that my college is being paid for and I get paid a little money along the way.”
Looking ahead, where does Holt see himself when he graduates from the Coast Guard Academy?
“I would love to get into flight school and learn to fly helicopters,” said Holt. “But that’s a very select group. They only accept six candidates a year.
“But I signed up to be on the water so during my five-year commitment after graduation I should get at least two good tours on bigger boats.”
The Coast Guard has 19 different sectors it patrols. They include the entire East Coast of the United States, the Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, West Coast, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Looking back, how does Holt now feel about his decision to attend the Coast Guard Academy?
“I was skeptical about all of this when it was first presented to me. But then I began to think about finishing college without any student loans and a guaranteed job.
“In the long run, this is the best decision I could have made,” said Holt. “I’ll have an awesome job and will have the experience of being a military officer.
“The Air Force would have been cool, but in the end this was always my dream, to be working on the water. Really, I love this.”