At the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, the "Waterfront" is more than a place. It's a community of midshipman, faculty and staff dedicated to enriching maritime training at the Academy with on-the-water experience. As Commander Chris Gasiorek '95 says, "Any chance to get a cadet on the water is a chance to make that cadet a better mariner."
And making better American mariners is exactly what the USMMA has been doing at Kings Point since 1943.
Last week Academy Superintendent RADM Philip Greene invited me aboard the academy's flagship training vessel, Summerwind, when the vessel and its crew sailed into Washington, DC. I think the DOT leaders who joined me on my visit would agree that--as impressive as it is to tour a 100-foot schooner--we were even more impressed by the Summerwind crew of cadets and what they taught us about the value of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
We heard from five different cadets about their recent tours on commercial merchant vessels, and each one of these young men and women from the class of 2013 mentioned how well-prepared they were for shipboard service by the academy.
And that was echoed by Kevin Stoekler of Portland, Oregon, who said, "What I learned at school applied every single day, both to the day-to-day activities aboard the ship and to the projects we took on."
Every one of the cadets also mentioned that the academy offered a great combination of professional preparation and service to their country.
We weren't the only people impressed by the Summerwind in Washington. The ship's beauty, history, and impeccable condition raised eyebrows among the Wounded Warriors who sailed on the Summerwind last week. And, the cadets report that, among the middle school students who toured the ship's below-deck accommodations, many audible "wows" were heard.
Perhaps one of those young students will be a member of the Kings Point class of 2023. If so, he or she will likely agree with cadet Karl Sergojan of Olympia, Washington, who summed up his academy experience this way: "There is no other way I could get the leadership training and personal and professional development opportunities that Kings Point has offered me."
Thank you, RADM Greene, CDR Gasiorek, and all the cadets for an excellent visit, and for representing the academy, the Department of Transportation, and your country so capably.