U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Graduates 214 New Leaders

Courtesy USMMA

Published Jun 27, 2024 5:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point graduated 214 new U.S. Merchant Marine and Military Officers in its Class of 2024 commencement ceremony yesterday.

The keynote speaker, Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, gave the commencement speech before a crowd of more than 3,000, including graduates, family members, and representatives from the federal government, U.S. military, and maritime industry. “You have much to be proud of and the path you have chosen is a tremendously honorable one. As soon-to-be ensigns and second lieutenants, assistant engineers, and third mates, you will crew ships that are essential to our Nation’s security,” said Sullivan. “You’ll spend a large part of your life at sea so your fellow Americans can live safely at home.”

He continued, “Now, as the President’s National Security Advisor, I see the impact of the U.S. Merchant Marine every single day. In the Atlantic, you are making sure that ammunition reaches Ukrainian soldiers fighting for their freedom. In the Pacific, you are deterring aggression and upholding freedom of navigation. In the Red Sea, as Admiral Nunan and Administrator Phillips referenced, you’re facing down unprecedented attacks against international trade in one of the most vital waterways in the world. At ports, on decks, and in engine rooms around the globe, the Blue and Gray help keep our people safe and our country strong. And in return, we owe it to you to keep the merchant marine strong and that’s why President Biden is taking historic steps to spur investment in ships made in American shipyards, built with American supplies, and crewed by American Mariners.”

As Superintendent, Vice Adm. Joanna M. Nunan, USMS, addressed the “Covid kids,” the Class that arrived at the height of the pandemic, and said, “somehow, you kept your faith in Kings Point’s promise that the world would open to you.” She said, “Class of 2024, you were always determined, a breed apart, the essence of Acta non Verba!”

Speaking to the new graduates, Distinguished Alumna Rear Adm. Dianna Wolfson, USN, Director of Fleet Maintenance, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Class of ’96, said, “We stand at a pivotal moment today, facing formidable challenges on the horizon but I have every confidence that the men and women graduating here today are not just equipped to face these challenges, but to conquer them."

As part of the commencement exercises, General Eric M. Smith, USMC, 39th Commandant of the Marine Corps, administered the commissioning oath and Rear Adm. Michael E. Platt, USCG, Commander, First Coast Guard District, administered the Merchant Mariner Oath. Fifty-six graduates were sworn in as active-duty officers in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The remaining graduates will serve as Navy reservists in the Strategic Sealift Officer Program while working as USCG-Licensed Mariners aboard deep-sea vessels, offshore supply vessels, tugs, and towing vessels.

After the ceremony concluded, Admiral Nunan said, "the presence of the National Security Advisor and the Commandant of the Marine Corps was not just an honor but a testament to the critical role the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy plays in protecting our nation.  Their participation added overwhelming excitement and pride among the graduates and their families, and was matched only by the enjoyment they showed in joining us.”

Each congressionally nominated graduate received a Bachelor of Science Degree and an unlimited Merchant Marine Officer license from the Coast Guard, and an officer’s commission in the Navy or other branch of the military. In exchange for their education, each has the option of serving as a Merchant Marine Officer while concurrently serving in any branch of the U.S. military in the reserves or serving five years of active duty. USMMA graduates ensure a steady stream of Merchant Marine Officers who support the nation’s economic and security requirements in times of peace and war.

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