Coast Guard, NOAA reach benchmark in ongoing partnership

 U.S. Coast Guard Officer Candidate Class 2-14 and NOAA Basic Officer Training Class 123 during the first-ever joint graduation ceremony between the two agencies. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

U.S. Coast Guard Officer Candidate Class 2-14 and NOAA Basic Officer Training Class 123 during the first-ever joint graduation ceremony between the two agencies. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

Perched on a rocky hill overlooking Connecticut’s busy Thames River sits Robert Crown Park, a quiet, forested section of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. On May 7, a hushed group of Coast Guard and NOAA officers gathered in the park to observe NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan and Academy Superintendent Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz place a brass survey marker in the ground.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan addresses the newly commissioned officers. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan addresses the newly commissioned officers. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

The eight-inch, round survey marker, emblazoned with a seal that blends the emblems of the U.S. Coast Guard with that of NOAA, is no ordinary survey marker. Rather than mark a specific elevation or key location point, this metal disc marks the partnership that the Coast Guard and NOAA share, and celebrates the ongoing materialization of the two agencies’ bond.

Shortly after the survey marker was placed, 52 Coast Guard and NOAA officer candidates stood proudly at the first joint graduation ceremony. They have been training side-by-side for 17 weeks at the Officer Candidate School in New London, Conn.

Dr. Sullivan, a former astronaut who was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, addressed the officer candidates at the graduation.

“You’ve sworn an oath to defend our constitution and to serve our nation and your agency as a uniformed officer,” said Sullivan. “Right now you carry the special confidence and trust of our country. Every minute of every single day you represent something much larger than yourself. Embrace it. It’s a tremendous honor.”

The joint training of officer candidates has proven prudent, as the missions of the Coast Guard and NOAA are elementally related.

U.S. Coast Guard Officer Candidate Class 2-14 and NOAA Basic Officer Training Class 123 render honors to NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

U.S. Coast Guard Officer Candidate Class 2-14 and NOAA Basic Officer Training Class 123 render honors to NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

“I happen to think that NOAA and the Coast Guard have the very best missions in the federal government,” said Sullivan. “We provide a unique and vital blend of science, service, stewardship and security.”

At the most fundamental level, both agencies strive to keep those at sea safe and informed. The Coast Guard achieves this through a variety of missions, including search and rescue, aids to navigation, maritime security, and boating safety. NOAA achieves this through scientific research, climate monitoring, and weather forecasting, among many other responsibilities and services.

In closing, Sullivan left the newly-commissioned officers with a few sobering and inspirational words.

“When the dark night comes that you’re standing the mid-watch in rough weather hundreds of miles from civilization, or you’re walking to the flight line in weather that has even the birds grounded, you may rightly wonder what ever possessed you to sign up for something like this,” said Sullivan. “I want you to think in that moment, how many people are depending on you to help protect their lives, their families, and their livelihoods. I am fully confident that the preparation you receive here, coupled with the diverse experience many of you brought to the game, will equip you to keep your bearing and rise above the storm to fulfill your mission.”

As the Coast Guard and NOAA officers disperse across the globe to report to a wide variety of sea, land and air stations, they will take with them the lessons learned, the friendships formed and the sense of solidarity and determination echoed in their class motto: “We start together. We finish together.”

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2 Responses

  1. Karen Lowe says:

    What an inspiring story about an important moment in time. Dr. Sullivan’s words are an inspiration. Great piece!

  2. Nicky says:

    We can’t we simply fold NOAA into the USCG. They do similar Scientific missions and it would save the taxpayers money to unify them into a single branch within the USCG.