Welcome to the fleet Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017

Written by Lt. j.g. Alexis Davis
Coast Guard Academy Public Affairs Officer

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from President Donald J. Trump during their commencement ceremony, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Barger.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from President Donald J. Trump during their commencement ceremony, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Barger.

President Donald. J. Trump addressed the Class of 2017 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, during the 136th Commencement, May 17, 2017. One hundred ninty-five graduating cadets had the opportunity to listen to a tribute from their commander in chief.

“Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready. You are ‘Always Ready,’” said Trump.

The president’s speech was uplifting, empowering, and at times humorous. He spoke about issues directly facing our new ensigns as they go out into the fleet and joked about their Academy parking violations. He also reaffirmed how important the service is, saying, “The Coast Guard is truly vital to the United States Armed Forces and truly vital to our great country.”

Family, friends, professors, alumni, and cadets alike, enjoyed a warm, sunny day as they supported the new ensigns, wishing them well as they embark on their chosen professions. Despite the protest outside the gates, the atmosphere at the Academy was both celebratory and hopeful. The new ensigns will be embarking on careers such as aviation, deck watch officer, engineering, prevention, response, and for the first time, two cadets were selected to go to cyber command.

Ensign Christopher Popiel, the Class of 2017 distinguished graduate, points to his fellow classmates as he quotes Winston Churchill during his speech in front of President Donald J. Trump, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm.

Ensign Christopher Popiel, the Class of 2017 distinguished graduate, points to his fellow classmates as he quotes Winston Churchill during his speech in front of President Donald J. Trump, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm.

The class’s distinguished honor graduate, the equivalent of a military valedictorian, was Christopher Robert Popiel, and included six international students who will be returning to their respective countries in Mexico, the Marshall Islands, Georgia, and Honduras. There were 56 who graduated with high honors and 45 with honors. There was one Fulbright scholar, Patrick Ledzian, who will be traveling to the Netherlands to begin working on his master’s in the fall.

Popiel addressed his shipmates during the ceremony to encourage and remind them of all their successes over the past four years and included a special tribute to their class motto: The storm yields knowledge.

“Everyone has experienced their own trials and tribulations, but the fact that we are all here today proves that we had the courage to weather these storms,” said Popiel.

Popiel will be stationed in Seattle aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the branch’s only heavy icebreaker. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft also addressed cadets, hopeful about our future in the Arctic since the administration has decided to invest in six new heavy icebreakers, which would increase the service’s operational capability in the Artic. Construction is set to begin in 2020.

Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, walks through a cordon of cadets onto Cadet Memorial Field as part of the 136th Commencement exercises official party, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm.

Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, walks through a cordon of cadets onto Cadet Memorial Field as part of the 136th Commencement exercises official party, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm.

“We just freed up money under this administration to finally invest in heavy icebreakers,” said Zukunft. “We’re going to build six, and we’re on the fast track to build the first one.”

The president’s concluding remarks reassured cadets that their service was to be commended as they join those before them in the long blue line.

“In the Coast Guard, you don’t run from danger, you chase it,” said Trump. “You are deployed in support of operations in theaters of conflict all around the world. Not only do you defend American security, you also protect American prosperity. It’s a mission that goes back to the earliest days of the Revenue Cutter Service. As your commander in chief, I thank you. I salute you. And I, once again, congratulate the Coast Guard Class of 2017.”

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from President Donald J. Trump during their commencement ceremony, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm.

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017 graduates and receives their commissions as officers from President Donald J. Trump during their commencement ceremony, May 17, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm.

To view pictures of the Commencement day ceremony visit the Academy Flickr page.

Tags: , ,