2011-01-27 / News

Cadet vaults to new heights at U.S. Coast Guard Academy

By Geoff Campbell


Peter Imbraile Peter Imbraile Peter Imbraile first took to the sea from the Conanicut Yacht Club beach in Jamestown.

Now he is completing his second-class year at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.

He was six years old when his family moved from Steamboat Springs, Colo., to make Jamestown their home. He recalls spending a lot of time on Narragansett Bay sailing with his father on their Beneteau 36.7 sailing boat.

Following graduation in 2012, Imbraile will be placed by the Coast Guard “in the fleet,” for a five-year first tour of duty.

His first fleet experience, like all cadets, was during his sophomore summer. Imbraile spent the summer assigned to a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter, the USCGC Campbell.

Imbraile said that he joined the crew for an 11-week stint, cruising along the coast of Cuba on a mission of “drug and migrant interdiction.” He added that it is both the law enforcement and the search-and-rescue tasks of the Coast Guard that attracted him to the academy initially.

Growing up Imbraile was enamored with boats and planes. He added that the military piqued his attention. Being on the water as much as he was, he said that the Coast Guard made a strong impression on him.

Peter attended Melrose and Lawn Avenue Schools and ran cross-country and track in middle school. He had been a sprinter on Lawn Avenue’s track team and when he arrived at North Kingstown High School, head coach of the track-and-field team Charlie Breagy was quick to notice Imbraile’s upper-body strength and asked if he would like to try pole vaulting.

Joining one other pole vaulter on the men’s side, the pair was coached by Jamestowner John Kelly, who was crowned New England champion in the pole vault in high school.

Although North Kingstown won the Division-I South each year for an eight-year period, Bishop Hendricken was the track-and-field powerhouse, winning the state championship nine consecutive times.

It wasn’t until Imbraile’s junior year that the Skippers took home the state championship, a feat that has not been duplicated since.

When it came to college choices, Peter said that he was attracted to the military lifestyle but debated whether or not to enroll at a traditional university with a ROTC program, or to apply to a service academy. He applied to and was accepted to both the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy.

Imbraile said that the Coast Guard Academy is the only service academy that does not require a congressional appointment, leaving it unfettered by the per-state requirements.

Imbraile explained that the Coast Guard Academy trackand field coach approached him but that he was drawn to the school for its academics.

Competing in Division-III college athletics means that Rhode Island College, Merchant Marine Academy, Connecticut College, and MIT are all regular foes.

Peter said that the transition academically from high school to the academy was relatively easy, “I was very well prepared.” The challenge came on the athletic side of the equation.

Life at the academy breaks down into three segments: military, academic and athletic. The athletic component is time restricted so that while he was able to practice four hours a day in high school – including private or club practice – at the academy a two-hour practice is the limit. Summers are regimented as well, leaving no time for practice.

Because of that, he said, it was not until his spring season last year that he began to exceed the vaulting heights that he had attained in high school.

The first summer is devoted to boot camp, called Swab Summer, a seven-week training regimen that all cadets have to pass. Imbraile characterized it by saying they were “running everywhere.” Boot camp days began with 90 minutes of vigorous exercise and then military training, and back to physical training.

While he acknowledges that he finished the summer in excellent physical shape, he was not able to practice his event. He was shipboard most of his sophomore summer, and as a rising second classman he took on a leadership role during Swab Summer for the class of 2014.

He explained that the Swab Summer leadership role provided him the opportunity to “have a hands-on role, a direct impact on [a new cadet’s] experience, he said.

“You are their first impression of the service.”

In spite of less practice time, Imbraile has improved his high school best by three inches, from 12 feet to 12 feet 3 inches. He said that his goal is to reach 13 feet by the end of the track-andfield season. A height of 12 feet 9 inches will qualify him for the New England Championships.

Imbraile said that the Coast Guard Academy boasts that 30 percent of all of the cadets are women, the highest of all of the services. He added that it is the only service in which all jobs are open to either gender.

In the spring of 2012, Peter will graduate as an ensign in the Coast Guard with a degree in operational research and computer analysis, comparable to a degree in applied mathematics. Peter added that only 40 of the 1,000 students at the academy have the same major.

He will be required to serve five years of active duty, calling it “taxpayer payback.” Peter said that it is too early to tell if he will be a career man, but based on his experience so far, he said that it is quite possible that he would sign up for additional tours.

Imbraile named his shared experience with his 250 classmates and the powerful connections and friendships that result as his favorite part of the academy.

Only an hour from his home in Jamestown, Peter enjoys the weekend freedoms available to upperclassmen. He said that he often brings classmates home who are less able to reach their homes in a weekend’s time.

He credited the first-year experience, a highly regimented introduction to military life, with producing a sense of purpose and camaraderie that he will value always.

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