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 Korea

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.

An alumnus of the class of 2014, Shibazaki spent her time at the high school excelling in sports as captain of the volleyball team, a member of the soccer team, and also participating in the JROTC’s marksmanship and drill teams. 

After deciding to pursue a career in the military, Shibazaki said the joined the JROTC unit during her senior year and would use the experience for her applications 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 year, Shibazaki told Stars and Stripes in June. 

“I looked into all the service academies, but I noticed the Coast Guard is different,” Shibazaki said. “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.”

Shibazaki 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. It’s kind of like you’re are building yourself up and watching yourself grow. I got a taste of what (servicemembers) do, and I could see myself doing that.”

According to the Coast Guard Academies Institutional Research Office, approximately 10 percent of cadets identify as former members of a JROTC program. Shibazaki credits her time in the program and its rifle and drill teams for giving her a leg up, especially during Swab Summer, the academy’s version of boot camp.

“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.” 

Shibazaki was the first cadet JROTC instructor Brad Cramer sent to the Coast Guard Academy in the nine years he’s been teaching it. 

“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,” he said.

JROTC is a stepping stone 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 and enter E-2 minimum.

Though JROTC might have helped lead Shibazaki gain the experience to be accepted into the academy, it is a commitment to the program and her discipline that drove her.

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

One of the biggest challenges Shibazaki 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. This is the only active-duty sailing vessel in the U.S. military and is a training vessel for cadets at the Coast Guard Academy and candidates from the Officer Candidate School. 

“It’s like a Pirates of the Caribbean ship,” Shibazaki said. “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.”

Over spring break, Shibazaki returned to Japan to visit her parents and talk to her old JROTC unit about opportunities with the Coast Guard Academy. 

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

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

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