Texas A&M-Galveston Sea Term Highlights Disaster Support Opportunity
Texas A&M University at Galveston’s Maritime Academy cadets will leave Galveston as an entire academy for the first time since 2005 next week. Over 260 cadets will embark Saturday, July 6, aboard the Training Ship Golden Bear for a seven-week, international training cruise.
“I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity for our Aggie cadets to sail together from our home here in Galveston,” Texas A&M-Galveston Chief Operating Officer and Vice President Col. Michael E. Fossum ’80, USAFR, (Ret.) said “Training, learning and living as a complete class under the leadership of our own professional crew and staff allows us to set a high standard of professionalism reinforced by our core values: excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service.”
The T/S Golden Bear will serve as an at-sea classroom the second half of the summer to allow cadets to fulfill their required sea days to graduate. It has state-of-the-art maritime training systems that provide cadets valuable hands-on training in navigation and marine engineering systems. Texas A&M-Galveston faculty and staff provide instruction and college services while cadets attend classes and perform all shipboard duties typically assigned in a career at sea.
“We will visit Ponce, Puerto Rico, then transit the Panama Canal, one of the most important waterways in the world, and call at Balboa,” Texas A&M Maritime Academy Superintendent Rear Admiral Michael J. Rodriguez, USMS said. “After Balboa we call at Honolulu, then Seattle, and end our summer cruise in the Bay Area at Vallejo. Sailing to these great Pacific ports will be excellent experience and international exposure for our cadets as well as our faculty and staff.”
Maritime Academy (MARAD) training ships are federally owned vessels operated by the seven U.S. maritime academies to serve cadet-training purposes. They are also valuable support vessels for disaster response efforts. Texas A&M-Galveston’s last large training ship, the Texas Clipper II, provided support for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005 before the federal government recalled the ship for another mission.
“We’re very fortunate to have the support of the Maritime Administration in securing a ship-sharing agreement with the California Maritime Academy this year,” Fossum said. “We’ve been waiting patiently for a replacement of the Texas Clipper II and have received significant support from U.S. Congress in securing the next generation of training vessels – a National Security Multi-Mission Vessel – better suited to serve both cadet training and as a disaster response capability in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The critical need for a larger training ship stationed on the Gulf Coast was highlighted in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey when it took two weeks for ships from the upper East Coast academies to arrive. Within a day, Texas A&M-Galveston moved 35 FEMA workers onto the T/S General Rudder, but didn’t have the capacity to accommodate the overwhelming need in the region. University administration is working closely with MARAD to secure a new and larger training ship that will be a permanent asset for TAMMA and serve as an emergency response vessel for the entire Gulf Coast.
“From Galveston we can get anywhere – from Brownsville to Key West – in two days and that’s very significant. The Gulf Coast is the most disaster-prone coastal region in the U.S. We need this kind of capability right here, not two weeks from here,” Col. Fossum said.
Cadets, faculty and staff will join the TS Golden Bear in Galveston on July 1 and depart July 6. The entire two-month summer training cruise will end with TAMMA cadets returning the ship back to the California Maritime Academy on August 29.
The public is invited to participate in a community-organized Sail Away Flotilla on July 6 at 8 a.m. to bid farewell to the cadets. For more information or to follow the voyage visit the Summer Sea Term website.