The fifth of the service branches, the Merchant Marines, has been in operation since the late 30’s, acting as the transportation field of the military. In times of war, merchant marines are the sea shepherds for supplies and munitions, the “fourth arm” of defense and vital to getting vitals to the front. In times of peace, merchant marines account for transporting essential imports to the U.S., considering we purchase nearly a third of the world’s output of raw materials.
Operating since 1942, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy trains the men and women who run the oceanic train of supplies to and from the United States. Located on 82 acres of waterfront property at Kings Point on Long Island (allowing immediate access to their fleet of 100+ vessels and small craft), the USMMA trains the next “shipboard officers and…leaders in the transportation field” with both sound academia and comprehensive, military seaboard instruction.
As a result of the need for onsite instruction as incoming midshipmen, there is no distance education offered on the academic side of things. The 950 students are taught in classrooms with a 12:1 student faculty ratio, vying for Bachelor of Science degrees while simultaneously learning the “specialized training for licensing as a merchant marine officer, and… the military knowledge for commissioning in a reserve component of the Armed Forces”. There are six academic departments, with Marine Engineering and Marine Transportation being the largest and most popular areas of study, but with offerings in Naval Science, Mathematics/Science, the Humanities, and Physical Education/Athletics.
Admission is dependent on a recommendation from a Senator or Representative (as it is with all service academies but the Coast Guard) in addition to essays, additional letters, and high grades/SAT/ACT. Physical fitness is also a stress in all service branches, so athletic pre-screenings are also important, as is a healthy, active life in their 28 varsity sports (Division III).
The curriculum balances academics and military/seaboard training in a rigorous, hands-on environment. Though online learning is at a low here, there are numerous “simulations”, with “multiple full mission and part task simulator laboratories”, allowing controlled, yet experiential training in everything from a “medium speed diesel engine room power plant” to “liquid cargo handling”. Using technology (CGI, etc), students work at improving safety, becoming familiar with expensive, large, and dangerous machinery safely, and help in evaluation of equipment while earning certification.
The academy challenges midshipmen both mentally and physically, with numerous educational trips out to sea after freshman year to instruct in “self-reliance and initiative” in the “mariner’s environment” around the world. USMMA graduates receive a B.S. as well as a USCG License as a Merchant Marine Officer (no lower than 3rd Mate or 3rd Assistant Engineer) and a commission in the US Navy Reserve (or a full service commission if accepted).
Giving students not only academic instruction, but the needed skills to supply our demand both at war and in peace, the US Merchant Marine Academy stands as the backbone of our service fields, teaching young men how to navigate the dangerous waters to get our men and women what they need safely.