Class of 2016: Setting sail with the weight of a country on their shoulders

 Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rick Brahm, U.S. Coast Guard Academy

As 186 cadets in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 took their final step off the stage to graduate, May 18, they also took their first steps into the rest of their careers.

NEW LONDON, Conn. -- The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson during their commencement ceremony May 18, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson during their commencement ceremony May 18, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

During his second commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson congratulated and welcomed the Coast Guard’s newest swell of officers.

Secretary Johnson pointed out just a few of the admirable ways the class of 2016 has distinguished itself.

NEW LONDON, Conn. -- The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson during their commencement ceremony May 18, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson during their commencement ceremony May 18, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

“You have established the international cadet fund, which enabled international cadets’ families to be here today,” said Johnson. “You have hosted over 100 athletes of the Special Olympics as part of a community service outreach project, something the size of which has not been done in nine years. You helped refurbish, clean and paint an elementary school in Aruba.”

The Secretary encouraged the graduates to serve the Coast Guard proudly, saying, “In this life, you will see and accomplish things that will far exceed your own present imagination, I guarantee it.”

“The future is bright for all of you because if you want to put on a uniform and serve your country, the Coast Guard is the place to be,” said Johnson. “

The Class of 2016′s Distinguished Honor Graduate, Ensign Jacquelyn Kubicko, offered her enthusiastic and sincere thoughts about what her classmates and she have been through.

“Lasting four years here is no easy feat. But if you look behind you, Class of 2016, you’ll see the faculty who have devoted themselves to our development, our families who have and will continue to support us, and our friends who have backed us from the beginning. They’re behind us today, and they’ll always be behind us, because their mission was to prepare us for what lies ahead.” said Kubicko.

NEW LONDON, Conn. -- The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson during their commencement ceremony May 18, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson during their commencement ceremony May 18, 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.

“Many college students will graduate in the coming weeks, but only 186 in the Nation will be able to glance down at their jacket and see U.S. Coast Guard,” said Kubicko. “That two-gram nameplate holds the weight of a class, the weight of an organization, and the weight of a Nation’s expectation for us to go out and defend our waterways, protect the environment, confront climate change, tend buoys, interdict drugs, prevent cyber-attacks, interdict migrants and save lives.

Johnson’s concluding remarks reassured the new graduates that their biggest challenges are just beginning.

“Each one of you will enter service with great responsibility,” he cautioned. “From the start, you will have to manage risks and threats. You will be asked to carry out difficult missions around the globe. After today, some of you will go to flight school and process migrants in the Caribbean. You’ll oversee disaster response on the Gulf Coast and will lead ships into New York. Your jobs will be difficult and will demand your sacrifice. You will continue to be tested and challenged.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2016, congratulations Coast Guard families and forever, GO BEARS!

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