USA — Mullen Praises Merchant Marine Academy Graduates

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2010 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff praised the U.S. Mer­chant Marine Academy’s Class of 2010 yes­ter­day, urg­ing the 198 grad­u­at­ing mariners to live their institution’s mot­to, “Acta Non Ver­ba,” or “Deeds, not words.”

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke at the academy’s com­mence­ment exer­cis­es in Kings Point, N.Y.

“Five decades in uni­form has taught me it’s not what peo­ple say, it’s what they do,” Mullen said. “And by choos­ing to serve, you already began a life with pur­pose and con­se­quences, not just at Kings Point, but around the world.

“Soon, most of you will be com­mis­sioned as ensigns in the naval reserve,” he con­tin­ued, “many serv­ing in the Mer­chant Marine — a vital resource upon which our nation has long depend­ed in peace time and in war.”

The chair­man cit­ed exam­ples from U.S. mil­i­tary his­to­ry and secu­ri­ty and peace con­tri­bu­tions of recent acad­e­my grad­u­ates. He not­ed the 142 mer­chant mariners killed in World War II, as well as acad­e­my grad­u­ates who gave their lives serv­ing with oth­er mil­i­tary branch­es in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“A big part of the her­itage of this insti­tu­tion is remem­ber­ing those who have been test­ed the most when it mat­tered most,” Mullen said. “All of those on the roll of hon­or died for us, and I pray that they rest con­tent.”

Mer­chant Marine Acad­e­my grad­u­ates sup­port mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the chair­man not­ed, and they help to con­duct human­i­tar­i­an mis­sions such as this year’s earth­quake-relief oper­a­tions in Haiti. “Our mil­i­tary, our nation, and even the world owe the Unit­ed States Mer­chant Marine a huge debt of grat­i­tude,” he added.

Upon receiv­ing their com­mis­sions, the grad­u­at­ing mid­ship­men became part of the more than 2 mil­lion peo­ple who make up the U.S. armed forces, the great­est mil­i­tary in the his­to­ry of the world, Mullen said.

Six­ty-five grad­u­ates accept­ed active-duty com­mis­sions in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Five will serve in the Army Nation­al Guard, while the rest will serve in the Navy Reserve. The class also includ­ed sev­en grad­u­ates from Pana­ma.

All of the grad­u­ates earned a bach­e­lor of sci­ence degree while under­go­ing rig­or­ous sea train­ing, which includ­ed more than 400 days of work study at sea with var­i­ous Navy and Coast Guard ves­sels. Nine grad­u­ates served aboard ships in sup­port of oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I’m grate­ful for each and every ser­vice and each and every one of you rais­ing your right hand to serve … our mil­i­tary,” Mullen said. “[Today’s mil­i­tary] and their fam­i­lies are the best I’ve ever seen. Not a day goes by when I’m not proud of the sac­ri­fices they con­tin­ue to make. And we are entrust­ing their safe­ty, their wel­fare, and, quite lit­er­al­ly, their lives to your lead­er­ship.”

Despite the obsta­cles the grad­u­ates over­came over the past four years, many more chal­lenges lie ahead, the chair­man said. “There are many more tests to come, and next time it won’t be in the class­room,” he told them.

Mullen’s advice for the grad­u­ates was to stay engaged in all aspects of their ser­vice and lives to keep pace and lead with­in the sea ser­vices’ ever-chang­ing mis­sion. America’s mar­itime mis­sion has been test­ed and is trust­ed, “but times have changed,” he said.

“Who would have pre­dict­ed our mis­sile defense sys­tem of choice would come not from land-based sites, but from destroy­ers and cruis­ers?” he asked. “Who would have pre­dict­ed that some of our coun­ter­pira­cy solu­tions would not come from the sea, but from aid work­ers and coun­terin­sur­gency experts in vil­lages, help­ing locals to meet basic needs, find­ing mean­ing­ful, non­vi­o­lent employ­ment for young men?”

The chair­man under­scored those changes, not­ing one thing that’s remained con­sis­tent among the sea ser­vices and mil­i­tary: “We are here to help,” he said.

“The glob­al part­ner­ships we keep, those we work so hard to process through our deeds, dri­ve our nation’s secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy, and they pro­vide the kind of pres­ence and sup­port essen­tial to con­fronting chal­lenges before they lead to con­flict,” he said. “I offer to you that we gain more, become col­lec­tive­ly stronger, cul­tur­al­ly rich­er and infi­nite­ly wis­er by what we learn from oth­ers.”

Mullen cit­ed the impor­tance of main­tain­ing and build­ing inter­na­tion­al part­ner­ships. Whether talk­ing about Afghanistan, Africa or inlet seas, he said, no ser­vice or coun­try can be suc­cess­ful alone.

“As you head out in the world to sail, fly, fight and build part­ner­ships on the lead­ing edge of change, I know that you will remem­ber deeds, not words, mat­ter most,” he said. “Hold fast to your par­ents’ val­ues and your mariner tra­di­tions. Embrace your life’s next test, and remem­ber that we can­not con­trol or cap­ture hearts and minds. We must engage them — we must lis­ten to them one heart and one mind at a time, over time.”

The U.S. Mer­chant Marine Acad­e­my is fund­ed by the Trans­porta­tion Department’s Mar­itime Admin­is­tra­tion. The academy’s mid­ship­men study marine engi­neer­ing, nav­i­ga­tion, ship admin­is­tra­tion, mar­itime law and oth­er areas impor­tant to man­ag­ing a large ship.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)