Merchant mariners choose Coast Guard

Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2011 Coast Guard ensigns

Thirteen U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2011 graduates, who entered Coast Guard active duty as ensigns, stand with Coast Guard Rear Adm. Kevin Cook (far right). U.S. Coast Guard photo.

When it comes to commissioning a military officer, most people think of the military academies or officer candidate schools. However, one accession source that most people don’t think of brings a great deal of talent and experience to the U.S. Coast Guard. It is an institution that offers students a different educational experience while still providing them the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces – the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

Monday, 13 new Coast Guard ensigns joined the officer corps after taking the Oath of Office and receiving their diplomas and merchant marine licenses at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy’s 70th commencement ceremony in Kings Point, N.Y.

Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2011 take the Oath of Office

Rear Adm. Kevin Cook swears in the entire U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Hoon Park.

“Kings Point graduates bring with them a great depth of working knowledge of the commercial vessels the Coast Guard regulates and cannot be overstated,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, director of Coast Guard Prevention Policy. “As our partnership strengthens with industry, these new Coast Guard officers and mariners have earned their Coast Guard licenses and sailed and trained on merchant ships. They will help continue to build capacity and competency as part of the marine safety enhancement efforts in the Coast Guard, and I’m very excited to welcome them into our service.”

“In the past three years, the Coast Guard has commissioned 51 graduates from Kings Point – the most midshipmen entering the military in any service, enhancing our marine safety knowledge with license mariners in our officer corps,” said Lt. Hoon Park, Coast Guard liaison at USMMA.

Merchant Marine Academy Class of 2011 prepare to sign Coast Guard Oath of Office

The new Coast Guard officers prepare to sign their oath of office with Rear Adm. Kevin Cook (head of table). U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Hoon Park.

The graduates also bring a wealth of diversity in both experience and background to Coast Guard operations. Among the 13 officers who joined the Coast Guard this year, four were females and five were under-represented minorities; five were engineering majors, seven were deck majors, and one majored in both deck and engineering. Two of the new ensigns will attend flight training, three will serve on Coast Guard cutters, and eight will go to response, prevention and inspections positions at Coast Guard sector commands.

USMMA, which is operated by the Maritime Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is a four-year, fully accredited university. Graduates of the academy serve their country by pursuing careers in the maritime industry and the armed services. Unlike other federal service academies, Kings Point midshipmen have an opportunity to pursue an active duty commission in any of the five branches of service (Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force) or in the Naval Reserves. During their four years, USMMA graduates also earn a Merchant Marine License as an unlimited tonnage 3rd Mate Officer or 3rd Assistant Engineer. Each midshipman, in addition to classroom studies, has spent a year at sea in a work-study program aboard various U.S.-flag merchant vessels.

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