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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

United States Merchant Marine Academy Hosts U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program Chartering Ceremony

KINGS POINT, N.Y., February 22, 2023 – On Wednesday, February 8, The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) held a Chartering Ceremony and recognized USMMA midshipmen who became plank owners of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Auxiliary University Program (AUP) Unit at USMMA.

The AUP’s mission is “to provide a continuous resource of well-trained viable officer candidates which can develop into career officers in the USCG or similar service agency.” USMMA’s mission is “to educate and graduate 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.” With complimentary goals, the program is a welcome addition to the leadership training offered at USMMA and, as evidenced by USCG leadership in attendance, these new AUP members will be an important part of the Coast Guard’s efforts to recruit the best officer candidates from diverse backgrounds and professional experiences.

The afternoon began with Mr. Russ Gasdia, Branch Chief Auxiliary University Programs Development & Outreach USCG Auxiliary, introducing members of the official party, Mr. James Stevens, Division Chief, Auxiliary University Programs Division, Student Programs Directorate, USCG Auxiliary, Captain Zeita Merchant, USCG, Commander, Sector New York, Captain Richard Schultz, USCG, Chief of Prevention, First District, Rear Admiral John Ballard, USMS, USMMA Dean and Provost, Rear Admiral John W. Mauger, USCG, First District Commander. Then Admiral Nunan welcomed the official party, honored guests, alumni and the newest AUP Unit, who have earned the title, “plank owners.”

Nunan said, “Let me reiterate a point I made at my Assumption of Command, the greatest challenge facing the American National Security establishment is Talent Management. The services are falling short of goals in recruiting and retaining personnel. They have had to modernize their brand of leadership, creating respectful and rewarding cultures in an effort to attract enough of the contemporary workforce to perform their service missions. This is true for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. This is the work I was doing for the Coast Guard before I came to Kings Point. 

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program is an important part of this work for the Coast Guard, and I am thrilled to support the USMMA Auxiliary University Program Unit.” She went on to thank two Associate Professors in the Department of Marine Transportation, Captain Kevin Clarke, a former Coast Guard Reserve Petty Officer and Master Mariner in the Merchant Marine, and Lieutenant Brian Bonomi, Coast Guard Liaison, for bringing AUP to the Academy.

Nunan said, “Tonight, we recognize 35 plank owners who are either here at USMMA, or at sea. As we speak, we have four AUP members aboard two cutters, POLAR STAR and MORRO BAY. POLAR STAR is in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, supporting Operation Deep Freeze and MORRO BAY is conducting icebreaking on the Great Lakes. These cutters are performing missions vital to our Nation’s economic prosperity and strategic objectives. In addition, we are preparing to send several midshipmen AUP members on two 418-foot- long National Security Cutters, in March, at the start of their second sailing.

In just the past five years, we have had 59 Kings Pointers commission into the Coast Guard, who are serving in all operational officer specialties, including several who are in attendance tonight and serve under Capt. Merchant’s command at Sector New York. In addition, Kings Pointers are Coast Guard aviators, cuttermen, engineers, marine inspectors and law enforcement officers. We also have 11 midshipmen set to Commission into the Coast Guard in June.”

Next, Mr. Gasdia, invited Lt. Bonomi, USCG, AUP Unit Officer, Commander Carolyn Hunter, USMS, AUP Faculty Advisor, Capt. Clarke, AUP Auxiliary Unit Liaison, and Second Class Midshipman Caleb Hancock, AUP Unit Leader, to join the official party on the stage to accept the official Certificate of Charter, establishing USMMA “as a stand-alone unit of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Programs, for the purpose of educating and developing leaders for tomorrow’s USCG an USCG Auxiliary.”

After each new AUP unit member went on stage to receive a plank owner certificate and congratulations from each member of the receiving line, Midn. Hancock, spoke. He thanked the honored guests and faculty leadership for supporting him and his fellow unit members’ “dream to join the Coast Guard.” He also thanked his fellow midshipmen for trusting him to lead the unit. Finally, Midn. Hancock introduced the keynote speaker, Rear Adm. Mauger.

Mauger shared facts about the 11,000 women and men that work in the First Coast Guard District, which covers Northern New Jersey through Maine and West to the Hudson River Valley, pointing out that “5,500 of them don’t even collect a paycheck. They do it because they are passionate about the mission, passionate about the people, passionate about serving their communities – so, I really appreciate the work that our Auxiliary are doing. To the folks in the front row, you are part of that community and I thank you for that.”

At the conclusion of the official ceremony, the audience and guests gathered for a brief reception and cake-cutting at the American Merchant Marine Museum. 



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.

On the web: U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

On Facebook: @USMMAOfficial

On Twitter: @USMMAo

Last updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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