Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris Visits USMMA
Visit Highlights the Importance of a Strong U.S. Merchant Marine
KINGS POINT, N.Y., May 22, 2023 –Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris, USN (Retired), National Vice President of the Navy League of the United States, recently visited the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) at Kings Point.
Harris is the former Vice Director for Operations to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his distinguished 34-year career, Rear Adm. Harris led joint, combined, multinational, and interagency organizations across all aspects of defense, including full-spectrum operations, program management, strategic planning, and execution. He also commanded the U.S. Fourth Fleet, leading U.S. naval forces assigned to the U.S. Southern Command. Numerous journals have published his articles on surface warfare, combat logistics, irregular warfare, and leadership.
Rear Adm. Harris’s visit began by meeting with his long-time friend, Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan, Superintendent. They discussed Vice Adm. Nunan’s vision for USMMA, for which Harris offered enthusiastic Navy League support. Afterward, Rear Admiral John Ballard, Academic Dean & Provost, gave Rear Adm. Harris an overview of USMMA’s curriculum, highlighting Sea Year.
Following lunch with the Regiment of Midshipmen and a campus tour, that included the Full Mission Bridge Simulator, Rear Adm. Harris led a panel discussion for faculty, staff, and midshipmen. The discussion, which took place just a few weeks before National Maritime Day, focused on a National Defense Strategy that must include the merchant marine. Harris said, we need to “rebuild sealift capabilities expected to operate in contested environments.” He also said, “we need to align resources and action to maintain U.S. strength.” He went on to say that the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Michael M. Gilday) and Secretary of the Navy (Carlos Del Toro) recognize “the merchant marine must have the capability for (both) conflict and for humanitarian missions.” The panel not only addressed possible ways to increase the availability of sealift ships, but also discussed the critical need for trained U.S. merchant mariners. Even with the number of new mariners graduating annually from USMMA and the state maritime academies, there is a serious shortfall. Harris said, “USMMA graduates are very well prepared for sea. We need to focus on retention.” He reiterated, “we got to fight to get to the fight.”
Rear Adm. Harris then joined midshipmen, representing many of USMMA’s affinity groups, for dinner in the Topside Dining Room of Delano Hall. Admiral Harris, an avid reader, shared leadership lessons from Admiral William H. McRaven’s book, The Wisdom of the Bullfrog. Then Harris shared his own, “Eight H’s of Leadership: Honesty, Health, Hard Work, Hubris, Humility, Humor, Head Work, and Hang On.” Elaborating on each topic, the Admiral passed on wisdom gained through years of personal experience to the group of future maritime and military leaders. The topics explained how investing in yourself makes you a better leader. He ended with, “Tough times don’t last.”
After dinner, midshipmen, faculty, staff, and leadership enjoyed a dessert reception in the American Merchant Marine Museum. “It was a great honor to have Admiral Harris visit the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy,” said Vice Admiral Joanna M. Nunan, Superintendent. “His unwavering support of the U.S. Merchant Marine highlights the significant role that merchant mariners play in supporting our military and keeping Americans safe.”
Headquartered in Arlington, VA., the Navy League of the United States, was founded in 1902 with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt. It is a nonprofit civilian, educational and advocacy organization that supports America’s sea services: the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and U.S.-flag Merchant Marine.