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Convocation - THURSDAY, August 21, 2014
State of the Coast Guard Academy (Convocation)
“From Mission to Commission: Resolve to be Worthy”

Good afternoon Cadets, Faculty, Staff and distinguished visitors. Welcome to the Coast Guard Academy’s 2014 Convocation and the start of an exciting new academic year!

It’s inspiring to look out and see the auditorium filled with cadets, faculty and staff – and the distinguished guests celebrating with us here today: our Academy senior leadership team; Mrs. Amanda Constant of the Parents’ Association; members of the Great Class of 1968 Link in the Chain CAPT Mont Smith and CDR and Mrs. Frank Murray; our local education partners, Dr. Spera, Principal of the Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton and Mr. Wood, Director of UCONN Avery Point.

Thank you all for being here today as we assemble together at the start of a new year to get energized and to think about our future as an Academy and a Community.

Welcome aboard and welcome back from your summer assignments to our beloved Academy! In particular, I want to welcome the newest members of our corps, the incoming Class of 2018, who are just beginning their journey of self discovery. Many of you – particularly the second class cadre and the first class company and regimental staffs - have worked incredibly hard this summer to train these new cadets, and I saw strong evidence of that success at Sea Trials last week. Congratulations and let’s hear it for the Class of 2018!

And let’s recognize our first class cadets – who have finished up their last summer and are heading down the final leg of their trackline – how many days to go?? (271) Let’s hear it for the graduating Class of 2015!

We just completed new faculty school, and I’m pleased to welcome over 30 energetic new members including athletic coaches, civilians, rotating military, permanent commissioned teaching staff – and, we are fortunate to have a new NSA visiting professor – Mr. Scott Howie and a new State Department visiting professor, Mr. David Rovinsky.

We also had a big change in the staff, with a number of new senior leaders including CAPT Jack Vogt, our Assistant Superintendent, CAPT Bob McKenna, our Director of Admissions, Master Chief George Lopez, our Command Master Chief, CAPT Ernest Sullivent, our Chief Medical Officer, CAPT Greg Wisener, Commanding Officer of the Leadership Development Center and CDR Josh Fant, our Facilities Engineer. Welcome aboard to our new faculty and staff!

Message to Cadets 

I’ve heard great stories about how well you cadets have performed during your summer programs. I heard about 1/c Sponseller, who stood Junior Officer of the Deck in the CGC SPAR for Operation Arctic Shield. 1/c Ltifi was awarded a Commandant’s Letter of Commendation ribbon for rendering critical first aide to a young Navy petty officer. In support of our cyber security efforts, 1/c Hub, Carani, Figgins, Law and Greene participated in internships at the NSA.

3/c Overheim and 3/c Vanderen directly contributed to front line operations as qualified helm, lookout and security watch standers onboard the fast response cutter CHARLES DAVID during AMIO surge ops. And BZ to the 2/c cadets – the Class of 2016 - who achieved 100% qualification on the basic pistol marksmanship course!

CAPT Pulver, Commanding Officer of EAGLE, is proud to report that 1/c Williamson and 1/c Spadafora qualified as underway EOW and 3/c Blanco qualified as both QMOW and Oiler.

These are just a few of the great stories. Most of you cadets had a chance to experience what being in the Coast Guard is all about…and it was fun and rewarding. I saw that during my time aboard the Leadership-44 EGRET and the EAGLE. You had the chance to reflect on the reasoning behind a lot of what you do in Chase Hall and it’s all starting to come together.

I urge you all to keep the momentum from the summer! This week is designed to shift your focus and get you back into the academic year routine. You should be getting to know your faculty advisor, professors and coaches.

These professional relationships are among the most valuable investments you can make in your future, and some of the faculty and staff you trust most as cadets will remain mentors throughout your entire career. If you don’t have a mentor, I urge you to seek one; and I challenge you all to consider serving as mentors – I guarantee you will find such service rewarding.

I have very high expectations for each one of you cadets sitting here today. You are all extremely talented, but what are you doing to grow and learn to be the very best you can be, versus just doing enough to get by? As we start a new year I challenge each of you to apply the energy you got from the summer and stretch out of your comfort zone to make a difference and be a positive force for good.

Message to the Faculty 

Convocation is a great opportunity to recognize our world-class faculty – civilian, rotating military and PCTS - and I continue to be amazed by all you do.

This year we recognized Dr. Ernie Manfred with Distinguished Professor Emeritus status – he is just the tenth professor in the history of the Academy to receive this honor.

In support of the R&D Center’s annual Arctic Shield operation, Mr. Barry Hurst, our aquatics instructor, is leading the deployment of our new Seabotix ROV.

CAPT Sanders, Dr. Paolino, LCDR James, LCDR Sweeney and 1/c Patterson deployed aboard CGC HEALY to conduct Arctic research. Professor Vliestra from the Science Department deployed as a scientist-in-residence at Sitka Sound Science Center in Alaska to study elements of marine conservation.

Dr. Emami from Electrical Engineering presented a research paper related to controllers for autonomous sailing vessels at the American Control Conference in June and received the best paper presentation award in her session.

Responding to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense’s spotlight on professionalism and ethics in our armed forces, Dr. Wingrove-Haugland, Dr. Matthes and LCDR Ely drafted a paper entitled “Ethics in the U. S. Coast Guard,” and I use material from that paper in the keynote message I will deliver momentarily.

I have just charged the cadets with looking to you, the Faculty, for advice and help – you can be their primary influencers and serve as exceptional role models; please be there for them. Although we celebrate our research that adds Academy value to the Coast Guard, we are first and foremost a Teaching College; our key mission – to Graduate young men and women – is all about teaching and I applaud faculty members, such as CDR Brown from Chemistry, who are bringing new and innovative teaching methods to the classroom.

Message to the Staff 

Although Convocation is, by nature, an academic event, in addition to the students and faculty I want to acknowledge our large and diverse staff. You provide the Mission Support that enables us to function, and we absolutely rely on you.

You provide for our medical needs, and I’m proud that you treat everyone, from the most junior fourth class cadet up to the Superintendent, with the utmost professionalism and respect. You support our spiritual needs from the decks of EAGLE to the sporting fields (who hasn’t seen and heard Father Schuley asking the Almighty for intervention at a varsity athletic competition!)

Our Band continued to delight audiences as our new Bandmaster, LCDR Williamson, finished up his first season.

You deliver legal, financial, Information Technology, public affairs, administrative support and security services, and you maintain our facilities and grounds. This year our financial staff received accolades for putting forth immense effort to help the CG achieve a clean audit for the first time in history.

We have an amazing professional staff of company officers and chiefs and instructors who are developing our leaders of character every day. One of them, LT Jorell Webb, won the NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award for 2014. Congratulations, LT Webb!

Our NAF employees provide excellent food service to support official functions and individuals in the O’Club and the Drydock. And I want to give a shout-out to Mr. Bill Martin, who was named the NAF Employee of the Year for the entire Coast Guard!

Let’s give a corps of cadets-sized thanks to all the faculty and staff who support our mission and our cadets!

Strategic Plan Progress and Academy Accomplishments 

Last year I announced our 2013-2018 Strategic Plan. I am very proud of all we accomplished last year despite the budget and sequestration pressures. We have proven we are a strong and resilient Coast Guard Academy team. We have advanced our goal to be “Locally Relevant and Nationally Prominent,” and continue to make remarkable progress in achieving the goals set forth in our Strategic Plan. We have a lot to celebrate!

This year we produced a remarkable Fulbright award winner, ENS Jessica Lukasik. And we placed first among training centers in the 2013 Jim Simpson Award for Outstanding Unit Achievement in CG Public Affairs.

We signed an updated MOU with the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, and LCDR Cost subsequently lectured to graduate students in the Marine Safety and Environmental Administration program. We expanded our partnerships by deploying 1/c Saylor and Dr. Bergondo from the Science Department aboard Dr. Robert Ballard’s research vessel Nautilus.

We hosted the first joint graduation between OCS and NOAA Basic Officer Training Course, and six cadets deployed onboard three NOAA ships for summer training and research. This year we admitted 10 cadets from Connecticut into the Class of 2018, including 4/c Cecelia Hosley from our new partner institution, the Marine Science Magnet high school in Groton.

We are shaping and balancing the cadet learning experience through the Core Curriculum Review. The report was submitted this spring after more than three years of hard work and cooperation among the faculty and the Dean is coordinating the effort to develop an implementation plan.

We continue diversifying our faculty, staff and corps of cadets to shape an officer corps that reflects the enlisted corps we lead and the population we serve. This year we implemented new recruiting initiatives resulting in a broadly diverse Class of 2018 and a Corps of Cadets that is now 35% female and 31% minority.

We advanced the safety and security of our workforce and trainees by executing our first-ever Active Shooter Drill and we are installing a keyless entry system to better secure Chase Hall. And we established a start-up grant office that will help support our research efforts.

We were recognized in the most recent U.S. News and World Report college rankings as the #1 Public School in the Regional Colleges North category, in Forbes magazine as #4 on their “Best Value College” list and we are listed among their top 25 “Best Public Colleges.” Let’s celebrate this!

Look at our sports teams – where leaders of character are forged - intercollegiate sailing had one of its best years in history with 2/c Christina Frost finishing third at the Women's Singlehanded Championship and the women's team placing sixth at the Women's National Championship…on top of that the offshore team won the prestigious McMillian Cup!

As a military academy, I’m proud our rifle team won the Mid-Atlantic Conference championship.

Women’s basketball had an incredible year under Coach Alex Ivansheck, going all the way to the Conference championship. In football, 2/c Joe Rizzardi was honored by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston with their prestigious Gold Helmet Award. Both the men’s and women’s rugby teams went to Nationals. 1/c Taylor Tennyson won the national championship in boxing for his weight class.

We produced five athletes earning All-American honors including Division III National Champion 1/c Christian Brindamour in the 50 meter freestyle swimming competition, and ENS Adam Scalesse became the most decorated CGA track and field athlete in history as he earned his sixth All-American honor by placing third in the Division III nationals in the 110 meter hurdles. Let’s celebrate this!

We hosted U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Commissioner of the South Korean Coast Guard, NCAA President Mark Emmert, Ms. Soledad O’Brien and numerous federal, state and local elected officials.

In addition, we brought the Major Cutter Commanding Officers annual conference and dining in to the Academy for the first time ever. Everywhere I look, I see pride in our commitment to be Locally Relevant and Nationally Prominent! Let’s celebrate this!

“From Mission to Commission: Resolve to be Worthy”

My message to guide us for the coming year focuses on the theme, “Resolve to be Worthy.” In 1932 the Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy published a mission statement – the one you fourth class belted out all summer – that charges the Academy “To graduate young men and women…strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard in the service of their country and humanity.”

Today my message to the entire Academy Community – cadets, faculty and staff - is this: Resolve to be Worthy. This requires us to comport ourselves with the utmost professionalism and in so doing, fully embrace our core values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty.

From Swab to Ensign – from Mission to Commission – we develop professionals - leaders of character who must be worthy to raise their right hands and accept the moral obligation to devote themselves to the duty “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

As we struggle through constantly evolving global conflicts, an increasing erosion of civility here in our own society, and the ethical and conduct lapses appearing in our Armed Forces, it is incumbent on the members of the Coast Guard to strive for ethical conduct and professionalism in all we do. Members of a Profession exhibit honor, respect and devotion to duty, regardless of the challenges and influences of a changing world.

There is a famous quote by Jean-Baptiste Karr, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” As we enter a new academic year, we embrace a changing Coast Guard and Coast Guard Academy.

Although we recently celebrated the 224th anniversary of our origins as the Revenue Cutter Service, in 2015 we will celebrate the 100th birthday of the year our Service and our Academy were changed from the United States Revenue Cutter Service and Revenue Cutter Service Academy to the United States Coast Guard and Coast Guard Academy.

Our beloved Coast Guard and Coast Guard Academy have been characterized by change as we have evolved and expanded our roles and missions over the years. And looking back, all that change was good! We are larger and more relevant to America - and for that matter the world - than ever before.

But our Coast Guard is just one piece of the bigger global picture. Nationally, we are facing economic and policy challenges, with a huge national debt and mid-term elections coming up in Congress. On the international stage, the world around us is in turmoil. We face a multitude of threats to our security, including those from the cyber domain and those stemming from the lack of governance in the Arctic.

We have big new changes in senior leadership with a new Service Secretary, Secretary Jeh Johnson, and a new Commandant, ADM Paul Zukunft, who made his first official Coast Guard visit to our Academy. New people have transferred into and out of our Academy community this year as they always do. In that vein, this is my fourth and likely final year as Superintendent…and I am committed to making it a good one that takes advantage of these changes to position our Academy for success well into the future.

Which brings me back to our quote, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Although the change around us may seem overwhelming, the core values, character and ethos of our Service are touchstones that remain the same as they were back in 1915 when the United States Coast Guard was formed. These values have enabled us to thrive through change and adversity.

Admiral Zukunft’s Commandant’s Direction is a perfect template for us to follow, and helps ground us as members of a military, maritime profession. He charges all of us with the following:

  • Service to Nation: We will serve our Nation through the selfless performance of our missions
  • Duty to People: We will honor our duty to protect those we serve and those who serve with us
  • Commitment to Excellence: We will commit ourselves to excellence by supporting and executing our operations in a proficient and professional manner

By voluntarily taking the Oath of Office, each member of the Coast Guard thus takes on the obligation incumbent in the military profession – to put Service to Nation, Duty to People and Commitment to Excellence above his or her own self-interest.

Taking the Oath of Office and serving one’s country is a noble calling, but this obligation limits our personal freedoms and requires us to Resolve to be Worthy. It is through devoting ourselves to a greater cause – resolving to be worthy - that we will support our nation, our Coast Guard and each other in service to our country and humanity.

Now I’ve offered some fairly academic observations on the importance of professionalism and holding fast to our enduring Service values, character and ethos as the world around us changes. But what does this all really mean to each one of you in the audience? In summary, it simply means “Service before Self,” or as we say onboard EAGLE and here at the Academy, “Ship, Shipmate, Self.”

If we approach life from that big picture perspective – if we never forget how fortunate we are to be here – cadets, faculty, staff – all of us who have the special privilege – that “special trust and confidence” to serve, teach, work, learn and grow here at this absolutely amazing institution - if we Resolve to be Worthy – if we adhere to “Ship, Shipmate, Self,” we will make wise ethical choices that are right for our country, the citizens we serve, and ultimately, ourselves. So, as we start a new year, let’s commit to ourselves and each other…the Resolve to be Worthy.

Alignment with Coast Guard Priorities 

Looking to the future, our Strategic Plan is aligned with ADM Zukunft’s strategic intent, which includes several priorities we are well poised to support here at the Academy, and which will be our focus areas for the coming year. These are Cyber Security, the Arctic and Professionalism.

Cyber Security: The Commandant is developing a Cyber Strategy that will look to our Academy for support. Last month Dean Colella led a team down to CGHQ to brief a senior group including four or five flag officers and senior executive service members. We need to look for ways to weave cyber issues throughout our curriculum in all departments. We will look for opportunities to address cyber challenges through research and capstone projects.

Arctic: Earlier this year the Commandant published an Arctic Strategy, and ADM Zukunft has made Arctic issues a top priority. As a result, the Academy is standing up a Center for Arctic Strategy and Policy, and we plan a ribbon cutting ceremony in September with the Vice Commandant presiding.

Professionalism and Ethics: The Commandant needs an officer corps that is professional, trusted and respected. He also needs a service academy trusted to deliver that workforce. We must look to our Institute for Leadership and our faculty and staff to help advance the discussion on how to reliably and repeatedly train and educate leaders of character who will make wise morale choices.


I am excited to enter a new year with supportive new leadership and relevant focus areas. Being Semper Paratus is the Coast Guard’s enduring value to the Nation. Our academy is small and nimble; we are well poised to embrace change and now is the time to make our mark!

Now is the time for each of you to make your own contribution to achieving the goals in our Strategic Plan; to advance our efforts to add value in emerging areas; to lead, motivate and inspire each other to reach high and make a difference.

And now is the time for Resolve. We must Resolve to be Worthy. For you cadets, that means being strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in service of your country and humanity. For the faculty and staff, that means resolving to be worthy of the privilege of working and contributing here at the United States Coast Guard Academy, with all the associated opportunities and rewards your position entails. We must all Resolve to be Worthy of the high expectations the American people and our leaders set for us as professionals at a federal service academy.

I am proud, and I hope you all share my pride. Pride in America, Pride in the U. S. Coast Guard and Pride in our beloved Academy and our cadets. As we walk out of this auditorium today - proud, energized and ready for a new year, I challenge you all: Resolve to be Worthy! 

God bless America and the God Bless the United States Coast Guard Academy!

Go Books! and Go Bears! 

Beat King’s Point!