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Convocation - Friday, August 17, 2012
Welcome Back

Good afternoon cadets, faculty, staff and distinguished visitors. We are proud to be locally connected and relevant in the community, and today we are thrilled to be joined by New London Mayor Finizio and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Fisher. And we are pleased that a member of the incoming Class of 2016 is a New London High grad, as are two of this year’s prep school students. 

Welcome aboard and welcome back! In particular, I want to welcome the newest members of our corps, the incoming Class of 2016, who are just beginning their journey – let’s hear it for this new class we have worked so hard to train this summer! 

And let’s recognize our first class cadets – who have finished up their last summer and are heading down the final leg of their track line –the graduating Class of 2013! 

Finally, let’s give a Corps of Cadets-sized welcome for the new faculty and staff who have reported aboard over the course of the summer. 

Although it seems like we just graduated the Class of 2012, unbelievably, three months have passed and we have all experienced a summer filled with professional development and leadership opportunities. These critical components of our Academy program are our special value proposition to America and what set us apart from the numerous small New England colleges with whom we compete. 

So, I’m sure everyone is refreshed and very excited to get back into the routine of the school year! This includes interesting academic courses that will stretch your minds, and sports and clubs that will stretch your abilities as you strive for proficiency and excellence in all you do. Are you ready??? 

Just over a week ago, we proudly celebrated the 222nd birthday of our Service–our rich history serves as a firm foundation and a powerful inspiration. 

I suspect my feelings are not much different from those of Capt. John Henriques, our very first superintendent, who served in that role as commanding officer of the U. S. Revenue Cutters Dobbin and Chase, precursors to our modern-day Academy. 

Following in Capt. Henriques’ legacy, I am proud to have trained for three summers in Eagle as a cadet, and to stand before you today as a cutterman and as your 40th superintendent. I am very enthused to be here and excited to start up the new year. I am proud –proud of our faculty, our staff and most of all, our cadets! 

My Message to All Cadets 

All summer, I’ve heard great stories about how individual cadets have performed during their summer programs. I heard about 3/c Makaridze, who, while serving at CG Station Oak Island, North Carolina, employed his knowledge of the Russian language to communicate with and help rescue a distressed sailboat attempting a trans-Atlantic crossing. 

I watched (and heard) 4/c Daghir sounding off with confidence on the Engine Order Telegraph during her very first Special Sea Detail coming out of Portland onboard Eagle. 

2/c Kulp, Flint, Monteforte, Brown and Emmons did an exceptional job navigating the L-44 Blue Goose through pea-soup fog all day with their superintendent as a passenger. 

And 1/c cadets Hope and Adams aren’t even here because they are still out onboard the cutter Rush conducting a high seas driftnet operation in the Western Pacific! 

These are great stories. Most of you had a chance to experience what being in the Coast Guard is all about –and it was fun and rewarding. The light at the end of the tunnel for all of you is that commission you look forward to earning and getting orders to your first assignment. 

However, that will only happen if you succeed in your academics. This week is designed to shift your focus and get you back into the academic year routine. 

Now is the time to work to enhance your relationships with the faculty and staff. Here at the Coast Guard Academy, it is looked upon as a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help. Get help early and often if you need it –do NOT wait until you are overwhelmed – that is not a strategy for success. 

Although today’s focus is on the start of the academic year, the Academy’s mission is to prepare you to lead our Coast Guard – in what our Commandant, Adm. Papp, calls “uncertain and stormy seas.” I am going to demand that you earn my trust to be given the privilege – that comes with commissioning–to lead our Coast Guard and our enlisted corps. 

You can meet these standards and expectations by building a firm foundation of proficiency and discipline while you are here – proficiency in your studies, proficiency in leadership and disciplined initiative. 

Never forget how fortunate you are to be here – to have earned a coveted place at the Coast Guard Academy. I have very high expectations for each one of you sitting here today – there is nothing you can’t accomplish if you devote yourself to your goals. Work hard and persevere –that is a sure recipe for success. 

My Message to 4/c Cadets 

Congratulations on persevering through Swab Summer and earning your shoulder boards! You met the challenges of Sea Trials and were privileged to have the opportunity of sailing for a week in the historic barque Eagle. Did you all have a great time onboard Eagle? I know I did and was very proud to watch you for the week I was underway with Delta, Echo and Foxtrot. 

One of my proudest moments this summer was June 25th, Reporting-In Day, when I looked out over the parade field at the new class of 2016 – civilians transformed into swabs with an entire summer of “boot camp” style training ahead. 

But now all of that is behind you – in your wake. You worked hard and persevered. You have been sworn in and taken the oath of office as Coast Guardsmen and women. 

My charge to you in your first year is this: Embrace your role as a follower…this is an active role, not passive. As our mission statement directs, develop your foundation: “sound bodies, stout hearts and alert minds.” Focus on your academics. Develop disciplined study habits and structure your time well. Do not fall behind. Do not overextend. Look to our core values for guidance in all you do. And follow my recipe for success: Hard Work + Perseverance = Success. 

My Message to 3/c Cadets 

Congratulations on earning your stripe – I can vividly remember how good that feels! I know your first full summer of field experience was stimulating and refreshing and gave you some good insights into our amazing Coast Guard roles and missions. 

You should be proud. Your class represented the Academy and the nation exceptionally well this summer onboard America’s Tall Ship Eagle during numerous OpSail 2012 events along the East Coast, including right here in New London! 

As 3/c, you are making the transition from “followers” to “role modelers,” and that is not going to be easy. You are in between being the “follower” and the “mentor,” and your role is less clear. 

This year is going to be what you make of it…the Coast Guard Academy mission statement charges you to develop “that high sense of honor, loyalty and obedience which goes with trained initiative and leadership” –don’t sit back and wait to be told what to do, or try to “fly under the radar” hoping to avoid notice. Use disciplined initiative to find your niche and make your mark as a role modeler. 

Search for your passion – what inspires you from inside and likewise what you project outwardly. Pursue excellence in all you do because the 4/c are looking at you to set the example to help them steer clear of shoal water –and I am counting on you. 

My Message to 2/c Cadets 

You just experienced the summer cadets all wait for with eager anticipation – when you are given your first tangible leadership roles. I was a summer cadre for the swabs when I was a 2/c. I know how it feels to have the incredible responsibility of properly shaping and developing the new class –when you are still seeking to attain proficiency in your own leadership skills. 

I’ve been watching you this summer –outside my window on the parade field, down on the waterfront, and onboard Eagle. I am very proud of how you have truly risen to the challenge in your new role as “mentors,” teaching and training as swab, AIM, waterfront or Eagle cadre. 

But now it’s time to expand beyond teaching and training to inspiring –and this will take disciplined initiative. Strive to become the mentor you wish you had, not necessarily the one someone tells you you should be, or the one you experienced when you were an underclass. 

You are entering a very challenging and rewarding year. As our mission statement directs, you should strive to be “well grounded in seamanship, the sciences and the amenities.” You will be focusing on your majors and the academic year will be tough. Draw upon your summer leadership and professional development experiences to keep focused on both your classes and your requirement to serve as mentors. 

My Message to 1/c Cadets 

Welcome back from what I am sure has been an amazing summer. I remember splitting my time 1/c summer between sailing Eagle from New London to Ireland, Portugal and Spain and competing in the Newport-Bermuda race with the offshore sailing program. 

Reflecting back, there is no doubt about it; my three summers onboard Eagle as a cadet perfectly prepared me for the challenges I faced as a JO (Junior Officer) on my first ships. And I commend those four 1/c cadets, cadets Stephens, Horvath, Talbot and Hartwell, for qualifying in challenging positions as underway Engineer and Deck Watch Officers onboard Eagle. 

You are just 279 days away from commissioning and graduation –but who is counting. I expect a lot from you; we are vesting you with the authority, responsibility, and accountability you need to lead. Strive to become active and effective leaders – proficient in this critical discipline. 

This is the chance you have been waiting for – to step up to the plate as “leaders” and make your mark as individuals and more importantly, as a class. Leadership is the most important thing you learn here at the Academy – don’t ever forget that. 

As our mission statement directs, you should be “strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in the U. S. Coast Guard in the service of their country and humanity.” Are you ready for that charge? I am counting on you and I have high expectations – one of you could be standing in my place some day. Here’s to the great class of 2013! 

My Message to Faculty and Staff 

For many of you, welcome back! I trust you have enjoyed inspiring and rewarding summers. And welcome aboard to our 29 new faculty and approximately 100 new staff joining us this year. 

Although we take a hiatus from the academic year during the summer, our cadet leadership and professional development programs, along with our indoctrination and familiarization programs require heavy faculty and staff support. 

Thank you for all your efforts to support our cadet programs this summer. And thanks to people like Dr. Susan Swithenbank, who sailed aboard Eagle in our faculty-to-sea program. 

I have just charged the cadets with looking to you for advice and help – you can be their primary influencers and serve as exceptional role models.

I ask for your commitment in helping them reach their full potential as they develop into Leaders of Character.
 

My Message to Senior Leadership Team 

This summer we welcome three key members of our Senior Leadership Team. After being vacant for more than half a year, the Assistant Superintendent position is being filled by an officer who is no stranger to the cadet corps or the Academy – Capt. Eric Jones reported in from Command of CGC Eagle.

And filling the key role as Commandant of Cadets is another career sailor, Capt. Jim McCauley, who reported in from Command of CGC Rush in Honolulu.
 

Reporting in as Chief of Personnel and Administration (or as I like to say, our Base Commander), is Capt. Sean Gill, who served previously at CGA as the Staff Judge Advocate. 

Other key positions being filled this summer are our Staff Judge Advocate, Cdr. Steve Adler; Facilities Engineer, Cdr. Andy Clyburn; and Chief Information Officer, Cdr. Rob Oatman. 

Leadership is what we do here at the Academy, and I ask the faculty and staff to join me in “leading from the front,” as many of you did by taking the physical fitness exam this week. The cadets deserve no less. 

State of the Academy 

After over a year in the Superintendent position, I am most impressed with our PEOPLE, from the cadets, who I describe as “1,000 points of energy,” to the faculty and staff who develop and lead those cadets and support the entire Academy enterprise. 

As we start the 2012-2013 academic year, the Coast Guard Academy has moved closer to National Prominence, as evidenced by our ranking as #1 in the Regional Colleges (North) category by U.S. News and World Report for the second consecutive year. 

We are strong and proud, and our course remains steady. We are guided by our strategic plan, our mission and our vision. We are grounded in the Core Values and our rich history provides context to guide us into the future. 

We have made remarkable progress in my five focus areas, and that has been evident by the positive recognition we have received from our Commandant, the media and our many partners as we strive to be “Locally Relevant; Nationally Prominent. 

My first focus area is strategic communications outreach, or "telling the story" of all the great things we do here at the Academy. We have proactively engaged with our media partners to bring a spotlight on the Academy, cadets, faculty and staff. Fox TV national recently did a segment on the incoming Class of 2016, and NBC just filmed our cadets performing a “shout-out” for the Olympics. 

Last academic year, the Academy established a direct data link with K-12 partners and the International Space Station, the mission commander of which was none other than retired CG Capt. Dan Burbank! 

A second focus area is strengthening the Academy's value to the Coast Guard, DHS and beyond by leveraging our unique capabilities and capacities. In that vein, we hosted an acclaimed international Leadership for the Arctic Conference and stood up our Center for Maritime Policy and Strategy. 

In addition, our Institute for Leadership is flourishing, and has been instrumental in making the new Leadership-44’s first and foremost a significant cadet leadership experience in addition to the traditional seamanship experience. 

This summer we piloted a new ship rider program with tugboats through a Memorandum of Understanding I signed with the American Waterways Operators – a number of cadets spent about two weeks gaining professional maritime experience and familiarizing with the towboat industry, which we now regulate. 

Just this week, we start hosting our first National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Basic Officer Training Course for a pilot test. If successful, the Academy could become the single accession source for all Coast Guard and NOAA officers. 

And locally, just yesterday our cadets broke ground on a Habitat for Humanity project right here in New London that will be fully funded and executed by the Coast Guard Academy. 

Third, we have an exciting opportunity to shape and balance the cadet learning experience through the Core Curriculum Review. This is a multi-year process and we have moved forward with defining goals and objectives. 

Although not a part of the actual Core Curriculum Review, we have added an exciting core CG History course to ensure our cadets are well grounded in our service identity as realized through our rich history. 

Fourth, we are examining staffing and organizational alignment in view of our modernized Coast Guard. The Vice Commandant recently approved the decision to move the Leadership Development Center under Forces Readiness Command for reporting purposes. We retain all the benefits of collocation with the LDC, but the greater benefit will be to the Coast Guard workforce with all training commands under one authority. 

In addition, this allows the LDC to be clearly distinguished as the Coast Guard’s leadership center of excellence, while the Institute for Leadership can step up to serve as the Academy’s leadership center of excellence. We made significant strides in advancing our leadership philosophy –to develop leaders of character in a repeatable, measurable manner, and will mature the implementation and assessment of the LEAD framework, which is: Learn from Theory, Experience through Practice, Analyze using Reflection, and Deepen through Mentoring. 

Fifth, we will continue our focus on diversity; we must shape an officer corps that draws the talents, abilities and viewpoints from the richness of American society. We are proud to welcome another very diverse class with the cadets of 2016 representing 39 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Belgium and South Korea, along with five international cadets. 

And we just completed our second year of the Engineering Command Mentor Program that partners with historically black colleges to bring summer interns to CGA to work with our Academy Introduction Mission summer program. 

External Environment 

Despite these incredible accomplishments, we still have much to do and we cannot become complacent – we should expect tough budget times and uncertainty ahead for the next few years, particularly this year with the Presidential election in November. 

Our incoming class sizes will be smaller than they were in the post-9/11 growth years, and this will enable us to bring OCS back up to an optimal strength. However, it is possible we may have to reduce some faculty and staff and restructure some of our programs. 

In addition, we may face some budget tightening here at the Academy, and some of our large capital investment projects, such as the new firing range and Eagle pier, will likely be put on hold. 

But, as the political and economic tides ebb and flow, so goes the budget. Personally, I see opportunity in the “uncertain and stormy seas” the Commandant warns us we are facing. As sailors, we know that after every storm comes a beautiful new day. 

So, we must prepare for those brighter days ahead–we must focus our efforts on updating our strategic plan for 2013-2018 to ensure we continue to deliver the value our Commandant, our Service Secretary and our President expect and demand from us. This value proposition will be our best insurance against the decremental budget environment. 

There are three main components of our value –what distinguishes our Academy from small New England colleges and state maritime academies: First is our focus on STEM education, with each cadet earning a Bachelor of Science degree; second is our professional development (summer training, nautical science, military bearing) and finally, our leadership and character development – we graduate leaders of character who will selflessly serve our nation. 

The strategy for showcasing our value is through achieving national prominence. This is truly an “all hands on deck” evolution. Very little that happens here at the Academy is the responsibility of just one person or department. We are a team and we pull together. 

The motto on the Great Seal of the United States is “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one. You saw that power of unity on Eagle, as you all pulled together to raise or douse a sail. And we see it here every day in the barracks, in Admissions, on the athletic fields and in the classrooms. 

Audience 

As we gather here this afternoon, I feel so fortunate and proud to be part of such enthusiasm and energy. It really is contagious! 

I look forward to interacting with you in the classrooms, cheering with you on the athletic fields, and supporting you within the multitude of professional military training venues that shape all of us as one Academy team – pulling together to develop the leaders and provide the leadership the Coast Guard needs to execute its noble missions. 

As we prepare to start this new and exciting academic year, once more I’m going to ask us all to recall our Academy motto, “scientiae cedit mare,” – the Sea Yields to Knowledge. 

We are here today to continue the academic, professional and leader development that will imbue in you cadets the knowledge and proficiency you need to meet the challenges posed by the uncertain and stormy seas you will face as commissioned officers. 

And finally, let’s remember to keep focused on the bigger picture – what lies outside these gates – starting with our local partnerships here in New London and at the state level. 

In addition to being proud members of the Academy family, we are first and foremost members of the nation’s greatest maritime organization –as we sound off in our Coast Guard Ethos, “we are the United States Coast Guard!” 

Go Books! and Go Bears! 

Semper paratus and God bless America and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.