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Academy Leadership opens new Obstacle Course at USMMA

KINGS POINT, N.Y., July 7, 2019 - Rear Admiral Jack Buono, Superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), along with CAPT Mikel Stroud, Commandant, and Dr. John Ballard, Academic Dean and Provost, officially opened the new confidence-obstacle course at Kings Point recently. Faculty, staff and midshipmen all attended the ribbon-cutting that marked the opening of the course.

The newly installed course, located behind Patten Health Clinic, is designed to instill strength and confidence in students. Midshipmen developing their skills on the course will be challenged by confined spaces, ropes, cargo nets, ramps and Jacobs Ladders, that are all incorporated into the shipboard-inspired course. In addition, the course builds on the success of the “HITT Locker,” that midshipmen use on campus to build their personal fitness. Perhaps more importantly, as future officers, midshipmen will potentially lead service members who have been through a recruit training experience using such courses, so they will have better insight into the fitness development experience of their subordinates.

“People ask us why a confidence-obstacle course would be necessary at the Merchant Marine Academy,” said Stroud. “Our midshipmen can develop strength, balance, confidence and coordination as they navigate the 15 obstacles, many of which they are likely to encounter in some form during their Sea Year experience.” The course also provides a critical developmental opportunity for small groups of midshipmen, and challenges every participant in cardiovascular endurance.

The confidence-obstacle course is an integral and valuable part of USMMA indoctrination training for Plebe Candidates, as it is in many training schools. “We’ve been taking the Plebe Candidates over to SUNY Maritime College for a while now for this training,” said CDR Andrew McCarthy, Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen. “Now, having a course on campus will be considerably more efficient and will save us valuable time during indoctrination because we won’t have to ferry the new class over and back just to get this training.”

“The confidence-obstacle course was purchased with FY 2018 appropriations,” said David Socolof, Director of Academy Financial Management. “The Academy was fortunate that final appropriations for the year in the Academy’s operating account were above the President’s request allowing for the acquisition of this long-desired training tool.”

As with any undertaking like this, safety is a key component and a high priority for the training venue. “We have made every effort to incorporate safety and maritime realism into the development of this course,” said Gunnery Sergeant Brandon Reagin, the senior non-commissioned officer on the Commandant’s staff. “Not only are the obstacles inspired by a shipboard environment, but instructors must also be certified and everyone gets a safety brief before use; the course is only open to appropriately-trained Academy personnel, and the entire 323-foot by 25-foot course is lined with a minimum of six inches of rubber mulch to cushion any unfortunate falls.”

As a group, the incoming Plebe Candidates of the Class of 2023 will be the first to receive the benefit of training with the new confidence-obstacle course later this month.

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ABOUT USMMA

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, located in Kings Point, N.Y, educates and graduates leaders of exemplary character who are inspired to serve the national security, marine transportation, and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine Officers and commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Academy, which was established under the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, as the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1943. It is administered by the Maritime Administration under the auspices of the Department of Transportation.

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Updated: Monday, July 8, 2019
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