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Coast Guard Academy’s 131st Graduation Speaker Was Janet Napolitano, Secretart of Homeland Security

English: United States Coast Guard Academy seal

English: United States Coast Guard Academy seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coast Guard Academy’s 131st Graduation Speaker is Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano

by London Richter on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 3:16pm ·

HC HC Coast Guard Commencement02 NEW LONDON 05/16/12 Derek Balke (center) grips his cadet shoulder boards in his hands as he and fellow newly commissioned ensigns Anthony Bareno, (left) Emily Balingit Clark, (second from right) and Trevor Auth (right) take theirs off at the end of commencement ceremonies at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy‘s 131st commencement exercises at the New London campus.

May 16, 2012

New London, Connecticut

U.S. Coast Guard Academy

Good afternoon! Thank you, Admiral Papp, for the introduction, and for inviting me to speak today at your graduation, or as I’ve heard, roughly your 12th “culmination” since 2008.

By the way, I was challenged to see whether I could fit the names of all 16 of the Coast Guard’s 210’ cutters in this speech. Listen close: I have confidence you can count them all.

It’s good to be back at the Coast Guard Academy. I thank your Superintendent, Admiral Stosz, and all the members of the faculty who have helped get you to this point.

On behalf of your Commander in Chief, President Obama, (who will speak at the Air Force Academy on 22 May) congratulations to each of you. And thanks to all who have supported you: your families, your friends, and your (undoubtedly relieved) parents. Please join me in giving all those who have helped you a round of applause.

As the Service Secretary of the Coast Guard, it is my honor to address you as you embark on a career of service to your nation.

After four years of studying with diligence, you enter active duty with the confidence instilled by the finest multi-mission maritime military education in the world.

You have learned about both teamwork and self-reliance, and you have remained resolute in the face of many obstacles. You are well on your way to becoming steadfast leaders.

And that’s critical, because once you leave here, you will be given a lot of responsibility very quickly. I was on the Cutter Kittiwake just a couple weeks ago, and the majority of her crew, including the Commanding Officer, were 25 years old or younger.

Leadership in Uncertain Times

The qualities you have developed over the last four years, that strength of character, are exactly what our nation needs as your careers get underway during uncertain times.

Cadets, we live in a world of evolving threats and unconventional enemies; a world where the battlefield often has no boundaries or uniforms.

You will don many hats as you leave this Academy, because it means a lot to be a member of the Coast Guard – you are rescuers, protectors, first responders, law enforcers, teachers, public servants.

You graduate in a 21st Century anchored in neither the Cold War nor the conventional rules of warfare. In this ever-changing world, the only certainty is that you will be called on to carry out many missions around the globe:

You will help people who are in danger at sea. Last year, the Coast Guard rescued 3,804 men and women.

You will enforce our laws, ensuring that drugs and contraband stay away from our shores, and that our waters are protected from pollution and overfishing. Last year, the Coast Guard accounted for approximately 40% of all U.S., allied nation and partner nation interdictions in the drug transit zone.

You will stop human traffickers and others who are trying to come to our shores illegally, while saving those who have become stranded in crafts not worthy of the sea. Last year, the Coast Guard saved the lives of 2,474 refugees who otherwise would have drowned in their attempt to reach our country’s shores.

You will keep vital shipping lanes half a world away open to commerce – training and patrolling with allies to keep pirates at bay. Last year, the Coast Guard interrupted or defeated four pirate attacks.

You will help ensure the safety of America’s ports, as well as foreign ports that serve as last points of departure to the United States. The Coast Guard operates as the Captains of the Port in 42 locations around our nation.

You will support the defense of our nation during war. Currently, the Coast Guard has men and women in locations like Kuwait, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

And you know that no matter how routine the mission may seem, you must remain vigilant on unforgiving seas. Those in the Coast Guard who gave their lives in the last year bear silent, but eternal witness to the risks of your chosen profession.

But while we know you would give your life – “dearly to an enemy, but freely to rescue those in peril,” as your Creed says, we as your leaders are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that you remain safe and that you have the tools and equipment necessary to succeed in your jobs.

That’s why we invest in you, providing one of the finest educations in the world here at this Academy. And that is why we are investing in new cutters, and helicopters, and other resources to meet your needs.

Our continued investment means that even as the world around us evolves, the Coast Guard will remain a durable and versatile multi-mission force, a force that never rests.

Preparing Future Coast Guard Leaders

But above and beyond equipment and technology, the Coast Guard’s work will continue to require people with a range of talents possibly unmatched anywhere else in public service.

And I have to say, after reviewing the research on your class, I am impressed. You have already distinguished yourselves in so many ways.

Your Distinguished Graduate, Katie Schumacher finished with a 3.97 GPA, despite the major time commitment of serving as regimental Executive Officer.

Your Honor Graduate Justin Daniel finished with the highest GPA at 3.99.

Members of your class including Eric Doherty and Garrick Gillan helped designed and build the “SailBot” autonomous sailboat. Jacob Conrad, Nick Powell, Tom Kane, and Brian Gracey designed and built a “Mobile Biodiesel Batch reactor” that can pull up to a McDonald’s, take the fryer oil, and produce diesel fuel on the spot.

As an attorney myself, I was particularly proud to hear that David Rehfuss’ team won a worldwide “Competition on the Law of Armed Conflict for Military Academies,” beating Army, Navy, and Air Force! I hear we also beat Army in Action Pistol.

And your class has excelled athletically as well:

The softball team won three games in one day earlier this month to come from behind, win the conference, and make it to the national tournament.

And Hayley Feindel overcame a lot to become, as the newspaper said, ‘the most accomplished athlete in the venerable history of the Academy.’ Talk about dependable – she was conference Pitcher of the Year – for the third time – she’s a two time All-American, AND she’s the all-time Division III leader in wins and strikeouts.

And it’s only fitting that you’re good at water sports, with women’s Crew ranked 5th in the country, under leaders like All-American Sarah Jane Otey. If you need any help at the upcoming crew championships, I want you to know I’ve been named an Honorary Coast Guard Coxswain by Coast Guard Station Washington, where I had the chance to show off my small boat driving skills last year.

And Trevor Siperek, a two-time All-Conference Cross Country runner, is ranked near the top of the country at steeplechase, and is also competing in the national finals later this month.

The list I have given is only illustrative, not exhaustive. In fact, your class has many other impressive achievements. No parade field rejects here!

After your Academy education, I am confident all of you will be well prepared to excel at whatever comes next, ready to join a long line of leaders in an organization with a rich history.

In short, I believe your extraordinary achievements and valiant service merit special consideration. Therefore, and using the powers vested in me, I hereby absolve all cadets of the restrictions associated with minor conduct offenses!

(But I cannot, I will not, and I shall not Pardon cadet Webster Smith, Class of 2006)

But as much as you have already accomplished, this is also just the beginning.

One DHS and USCG Role

Remember, the Coast Guard does not carry out its missions alone – you are part of something larger – the homeland security family. More and more, we are working together as one DHS to protect against terrorism, secure our borders, and respond to disasters of all types.

Our components support each other by sharing information, leveraging resources, and conducting joint operations. And while complementary missions bring us together, it is the venturous spirit shared by all who willingly put service over self that bonds us as One DHS.

Embodying Core Values

That spirit shows in the way you will face the overarching challenge of the Coast Guard, and of DHS as a whole: the challenge of leading in an uncertain world.

You are the first class to be born after the end of the Cold War, and to grow up in the Internet age.

You have faced uncertainty and change throughout your lives. And the world around you will continue to change, often in unpredictable ways. You must think about how you will confront these challenges as proud Coast Guard Officers, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States.

My advice is to always remember that you are decisive leaders of character, guided by the three Core Values of honor, respect and devotion to duty – three values that you’ve already made your own.

You’ve lived “honor” through your decision to serve, and the integrity you’ve upheld through your time as cadets. As honorable leaders of character, I encourage you to look to other leaders and learn about how they approached challenges. Understanding their successes – and mistakes – can help guide you through difficult times.

There is no clearer example of an honorable leader of character than George Washington. As much as we know about our first President, each generation finds that it has more to learn.

Today, we have a picture of a complex figure who could have assumed near absolute power after the American Revolution, but who resisted that temptation, voluntarily serving only two terms as president.

It is difficult to overstate how rare it is for anyone in history to refuse absolute power, or how much this selflessness shaped our nation. It is the very definition of honor.

And yet this deeply honorable man also had his flaws and struggles, as his biographers have noted. So let the actions of leaders inspire you, but let them also teach you that no one is perfect, and that our success comes despite our imperfections.

Now, we come to the core value of “respect,” which, in the Coast Guard, is all about treating the people around us with “fairness, dignity, and compassion.” Indeed, you’ve demonstrated respect in many ways:

Your compassion has shown through in your commemoration of the life of classmate Kenny Link, and the love and support you’ve shown his family since he passed on;

By building a children’s home for a small community in Honduras, you have helped those who have next to nothing gain a measure of dignity.

Raising funds to fight leukemia and lymphoma is another example of your compassion; and accruing the most community service hours of any class in the past two years shows your dedication to building a fairer world.

You have lived respect, and I encourage you to continue to live this value. Show it in how you deal with both your colleagues and your superior officers. Show it, as well, in how you deal with those under your command. After all, it is difficult to inspire a crew if they sense you do not respect them.

The third core value is devotion to duty. You have embodied this value by volunteering to serve your nation, persevering through every obstacle of the last four years, and by remaining alert, even on a leisure cruise, noticing and rescuing stranded young boaters off Key West. And you will live it in a thousand other acts, large and small, over the course of your careers.

For devotion to duty, I encourage you to follow the example David Henry Jarvis, first in the cadet class of 1883, and namesake of the Jarvis Inspirational Leadership Award.

As a First Lieutenant, he led his men, dogs and 400 reindeer in one of the greatest displays of devotion to duty in our history – the Overland Expedition. And while I know the graduates know the story, I’ll tell it briefly for everyone else.

In November 1897, a fleet of eight whaling ships with some 300 people aboard had become stranded off the northernmost tip of the United States – Point Barrow, Alaska, high in the Arctic – and courageous rescuers were needed to relieve them.

And so America turned to her Revenue Cutter Service, now known as the Coast Guard.

On the orders of President McKinley himself, (Captain “Hell roaring Mike Healy”) and the Revenue Cutter Bear headed north, into the frigid Arctic Winter, landing Lieutenant Jarvis and just two other men near Cape Vancouver.

Dauntless in the face of ice, snow, mountains and weather as cold as 60 degrees below zero, they traveled 1,500 miles at breakneck speed across the Alaskan wilds.

Halfway through, with the help of Native Alaskans, they gathered hundreds of reindeer – self-propelled food – and drove them the rest of the way to Point Barrow.

The whalers were saved, the nation was grateful, and the legacy of devotion to duty the Coast Guard would inherit was born.

That legacy lives on, as we were reminded this year. When the harsh winter placed Nome, Alaska, in peril, America turned again to the Coast Guard. With its heating oil supplies close to running out, the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy came to the rescue, clearing the path for an oil tanker, staying close, bringing her along, leading her forward until the cargo was safely delivered.

Conclusion

You can trace an unbroken line of devotion to duty from the valiant feat of First Lieutenant Jarvis’s team to the men and women of the Healy.

And I am confident you will extend that line forward for decades to come in your own careers, in every way imaginable.

Because for all its history, the Arctic is still a young frontier that you can explore. For all our success against terrorists, our adversaries will adapt, and you will too.

For all we know about ocean science, there is still so much more to learn. And for all the advances in maritime safety, we still know that no ship is unsinkable, and there will always be tragedies to respond to and lives to be saved.

You are not only heirs to a great tradition in each of these areas, you enter a force that is vibrant and vigorous today. And you represent its future – a future that is undoubtedly and incredibly bright – a future where you will conquer challenges yet undreamed of.

You are ready. You are prepared. Go forward to meet those challenges. Semper Paratus!

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Coast Guard Honors First Black Academy Graduate

United States Coast Guard Academy seal

United States Coast Guard Academy seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The Coast Guard Academy in New London honored its first African-American graduate on April 1st with a new award that is named after him.

The Day newspaper of New London reports that CDR Merle James Smith Jr., USCG (Ret.) received the inaugural Merle J. Smith Pioneer Award at the Academy on Sunday, April 1st. The 67-year-old Mystic resident graduated in the Academy Class of 1966 and served 23 years of regular and reserve active duty in the Coast Guard.

CDR Smith was the first Black cadet to be admitted to the United States Coast Guard Academy. The Academy was founded in 1876.

This recognition is well deserved and long overdue. Honoring the first Black graduate honors all Black graduates. The Academy was founded in 1876. The exclusion of African Americans from the Academy from 1876 until 1962 is a tragic fact of American history. The meager resources allotted to Black recruitment is just as tragic.

CDR Smith was the first Black cadet to be admitted to the United States Coast Guard Academy. He was not an Affirmative Action cadet. He was not appointed in direct response to President Kennedy’s directive to find qualified Black high school graduates for the Academy.

The Academy was not aware at first that there was an African American cadet at the Academy. He had not been recruited as a “Black cadet”; nor, was he recognized as one by the Coast Guard Academy Admission’s Office. He was not recognized as an African American because he did not physically resemble one. None of his school records labeled him as Black, and he had not been recruited as a minority candidate. When Black spectators came to watch the entire corps of cadets march in parade, they frequently mistook Anthony Carbone and Donnie Winchester as the possible Black cadet. Carbone was an Italian, and Winchester was a Native American. They both were considerably darker than Merle Smith.

CDR Smith’s appointment had been tendered before President Kennedy issued the directive to find and appoint Black candidates for the Coast Guard Academy. His father, Colonel Merle Smith , Senior, was the Professor of Military Science at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland; and, he had formerly been an Army Staff officer at the Pentagon.

The only two Black cadets to have been recruited under President John F. Kennedy’s Directive were London Steverson and Kenneth Boyd. they both entered the Academy in 1964 and graduated in 1968.

CDR Smith is a 1974 graduate of the National Law Center at George Washington University, Washington, DC. He attended law school while serving in the Coast Guard. He became a Coast Guard Law Specialist.

After graduating, his Coast Guard career took him to Vietnam in 1969, where he commanded a patrol boat for a year. He became the first sea-service African-American to be awarded a Bronze Star. After receiving his law degree from George Washington University in 1974 he became a Coast Guard Law Specialist. Later, he returned to the New London, CT area to work as an attorney for Electric Boat, the Groton-based submarine builder.

It was after retiring from active duty in the Coast Guard, he became an adjunct law professor at the Coast Guard Academy.

In 2006 while teaching law at the Academy CDR Smith was retained as the Individual Military Counsel for Cadet Webster Smith who became the first Coast Guard Academy cadet to be court-martial in the history of the Coast Guard Academy. CDR Smith is no relation to Cadet Webster Smith. Cadet Webster Smith was detailed a Navy Judge Advocate Ggeneral (JAG) officer as his detailed military counsel. The Individual Military counsel is the lead counsel. He is a civilian and he is in charge of the defense team.

CDR Smith received a Pioneer Award. What does that mean? A “Pioneer” is a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.  What was the criteria for selection? Who was on the Selection Committee? Was there anyone else in contention? Will there be subsequent recipients? How many times can one do something for the first time?

The Award could have been called the Trailblazer Award. Trailblazer is a synonym for Pioneer. The term trailblazer signifies those who strike out on a new path or break new ground, either literally or symbolically, using skills of innovation or brave constitutions to conduct their lives off the beaten path. Often known for independent thought, rugged individualism and pioneering ways, trailblazers throughout history have included cutting-edge inventors, explorers and healers. Trailblazers throughout history all have shared an innovative spirit that kept them going when told their endeavors would be fruitless or against impossible odds. All have made their mark on history and mankind by refusing to quit and pushing ahead, most often into uncharted territory. When Merle James Smith entered the Coast Guard Academy in June 1962 he was sailing into uncharted waters. He had no chart, compass or navigator; yet, he reached his destination.

Minority recruitment remains an area that the Academy alleges is the impossible dream. Thirty-three percent of Coast Guard cadets are female; one out of three cadets is a female. The first female classes produced several flag rank officers. We have a plethora of female admirals.

In February, 1976 the Coast Guard Academy announced the appointments of female cadets to enter with the Class of 1980. Fourteen women  graduate as part of the Academy’s Class of 1980.

In 1991 a Women’s Advisory Council was established.

In 2000 the Coast Guard  promoted its first female officer to Rear Admiral. She was Captain Vivien S. Crea. She was not an Academy graduate.

In 2009 CAPT Sandra L. Stosz was promoted to Rear Admiral, becoming the first female graduate of the Coast Guard Academy to reach flag rank.

The Coast Guard was the first to select a woman superintendent of a military service academy.  Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, Coast Guard Director of Reserve and Leadership, was selected as Superintendent of the Academy. Rear Admiral Stosz graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in the Class of 1982.

In 2008 the Academy hosted a free, public Women’s Equality Day information fair on August 26 in Munro Hall at the Academy.

Each year since 1971, when President Jimmy Carter designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, the United States has recognized the struggle for equal rights for women.

The Coast Guard Academy celebrates the event with the theme “Strengthening Our Communities” by hosting various Coast Guard and regional community groups on campus.

“This was billed as a great opportunity for members of our Coast Guard and surrounding New London community to network and learn from the organizations that help support and strengthen Academy leadership,” said LTJG Colleen Jones, Assistant Civil Rights Officer at the Academy and the event organizer.

The various organizations in attendance were the Greater New Haven National Organization of Women, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Connecticut, National Naval Officers Association, Academy Women, Toastmasters, CG Educational Services, CG Child Development Center, and the League of Women Voters.

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Coast Guard Academy to Receive NAACP Award.

United States Coast Guard Academy seal

Image via Wikipedia

The Coast Guard Academy (CGA) will receive the Community Service Education Award from the Norwich branch of the NAACP at its 48th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner on Friday 7 October 2011.

The theme for this year’s dinner is “Affirming America’s Promise”.

The Academy will be recognized for contributions to the New London, Connecticut  community. According to Judge London Steverson, a 1968 graduate of the Academy and a Silver Life member of the NAACP, the Academy has a Partners in Education Program, known as PIE, which takes computer technology equipment used at the Coast Guard Academy, recycles and rebuilds it, then distributes it to local schools. Cadets also go to the schools and assist children and staff with their new computer equipment.

(www.judgelondonsteverson.com)

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