by Lisa Ferdinando – The United States needs its Merchant Marine officers to employ discipline, strategic thinking and strong ethics in the often challenging and dangerous maritime transport industry, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said today during his commencement remarks to 187 graduates at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.
The new Merchant Marine officers will be performing extremely important duties, Mattis said.
“As small as our Merchant Marine may be today, it is absolutely essential. It’s in every war plan that I review, I guarantee you,” the secretary said. “Because you’re going to be the fourth arm of the defense. You’re going to sustain our allies and fuel our ships and ferry our warriors.”
Mattis commended the graduates for their commitment to service, noting the maritime industry can be hazardous and fraught with situations that are uncomfortable, both physically and ethically.
Ready for the Challenge
Mattis called on the new officers to recall their training at the academy at all times, especially when they hit the “rocks and shoals” in life. The graduates, he said, are intellectually ready, physically prepared and spiritually ready for the tests that are coming.
He urged them to “listen to the words that you were given here, and the guidance you were given here, because when destiny taps you on the shoulder you must be ready.”
Mattis said the United States needs its Merchant Marines for commerce as well as when the “storm clouds gather” and the military needs to be ready for the fight.
“You are going to be the skilled and confident mariners and other service leaders that your country needs, and we need every one of you right now — every one of you counts,” he said.
Critical During Times of War, National Emergency
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is a federal service academy. In times of war or national emergency, Merchant Marine ships operate as an auxiliary unit to the Navy, delivering military troops, supplies and equipment overseas for U.S. forces and allies.
Graduates have a service obligation of working five years in the U.S. maritime industry with eight years of service as an officer in any reserve unit of the armed forces; or they can choose to serve five years active duty in any of the nation’s armed forces.
Mattis also spoke at the US Naval War College graduation ceremonies on Frida.