When he gave his most recent “State of the Coast Guard” address earlier this year, Admiral Robert J. Papp said the branch is facing “uncertain and stormy seas.” Yet the commandant of the Coast Guard also told the ’s Class of 2012 that the Coast Guard is at its best in such situations, describing service in the Coast Guard as a calling of great honor.
“Always remember your oath,” said Papp. “It’s a sacred bond and it will serve as a constant beacon to guide you.”
A total of 165 men and 68 women went from cadet to ensign at the academy’s 131st commencement on Wednesday. Most of the class—197 graduates—will be assigned to Coast Guard cutters, while 24 will go to flight school and nine to sectors. Three graduates from Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia will return to their countries. Thirteen Connecticut students were included in the class.
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Papp noted that the class includes cadet Joseph W. Durfey, whose graduation continues a longstanding Coast Guard tradition in his family. In fact, Papp said, Durfey will be serving on the same cutter that his grandfather commanded from 1970 to 1972.
“Forty-two years. Only in the Coast Guard could that happen,” said Papp. “But there is a ray of hope. Secretary Napolitano is working very hard to get us those new cutters.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said the federal government is investing in new cutters and helicopters for the Coast Guard to meet its needs. She said the service is part of a more unified Department of Homeland Security, and that it has assumed a number of roles in the changing world. Napolitano said that in addition to rescuing 3,804 mariners in distress last year, the Coast Guard’s activities also include migrant interdiction and rescue, port security, interrupting pirate attacks, and stopping drug trafficking. She said the cadets have grown up in an uncertain time.
“You are the first class to be born after the end of the Cold War and to grow up in the Internet age,” she said.
Napolitano noted a mission by the Revenue Cutter Service, the predecessor of the Coast Guard, to rescue whalers trapped by ice in Alaska in 1898. She said the Coast Guard continued the legacy of the “Overland Expedition” last winter when an icebreaker cleared a path for a tanker of heating oil to relieve the icebound city of Nome.
“I am confident you will extend that line forward for decades, decades to come in your own careers and in any other way imaginable,” said Napolitano.
Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz said the commencement marks her first as superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy and the first one she as attended since her own graduation. She said anyone who goes through the academy knows that support from family, friends, and classmates is crucial.
“The Class of 2012 is comprised of many exceptional young men and women who have learned that they are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain,” said Stosz. "They have forged the bonds of trust that enable them to develop into individual leaders of character, and to form the cohesive team represented here today."
Katie Marie Shumacher, the distinguished graduate of the Class of 2012, delivered the cadet commencement address. She recalled the energy of her fellow cadets as well as experiences such as late nights working on projects and visits to local restaurants. She joked that the class was the one that knew it would get through the academy only to “face the end of the world at the end of the year.”
Schumacher said the commencement might be the last time some members of the class see each other, but that their experiences at the academy will keep them close.
“We will still be standing shoulder to shoulder, unique individuals unified by shaping and experiences,” she said.