USMMA Midshipman Awarded U.S. Merchant Marine Medal

USMMA (file image)

Published May 21, 2019 2:26 PM by Capt. Jim Tobin

National Maritime Day is a day to recognize and honor those in the maritime industry, from the brave and courageous merchant mariners who have given their lives in defense of our nation to the men and women who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty in serving our nation’s maritime interests in times of war and peace. 

This year, a current U.S. Merchant Marine Academy midshipman has been selected by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) to receive the prestigious Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement, which, as with military valor medals, is awarded only when merited and rarely, if ever, to a midshipman. This medal, established in 2002, is “awarded to recognize merchant mariners who have participated in an act or operation of humanitarian nature directly to an individual or groups of individuals. This medal may be awarded to those leaders in the maritime industry who have dedicated years of service or achievement and/or given an extraordinary valuable contribution or work to the maritime industry.”

Andrew Bouchot (left) from Castle Pines, Colorado, who is set to graduate from the academy in June 2019, is being recognized for his heroic efforts in saving the life of a stowaway during his Sea Year training. In December 2017, Midshipman Bouchot was sailing aboard the heavy lift vessel Norfolk as an engine cadet. Days after the ship had left Lagos, Nigeria, three stowaways were discovered hidden aboard the vessel. One was dehydrated and gravely ill. Cadet Bouchot, a New York State certified EMT, immediately responded to the medical needs of each of the distressed men. In the hours that followed, Midshipman Bouchot monitored and treated one of the men, who was near comatose, safely re-hydrating him and enabling his full recovery. Cadet Bouchot displayed the highest levels of professionalism and his life-saving actions exhibit the values of merchant mariners everywhere.

The selfless and courageous actions of Midshipman Bouchot are indicative of the character possessed by the men and women who currently attend the USMMA and its 13,000 living alumni.

The academy trains the future leaders of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt dubbed the “Fourth Arm of Defense,” the U.S. Merchant Marine. In peacetime, Merchant Marine vessels carry goods and commodities across the U.S. and the globe; in wartime, the Merchant Marine takes troops, weaponry and materiel to battle, which is why every USMMA graduate incurs a military service obligation for eight years.

USMMA is unique in that a key part of its training, mandated by Congress, takes place aboard vessels for a full twelve months. Sea Year was in place from the start, and 142 students lost their lives while training at sea during WWII, thus making the USMMA the only federal service academy privileged to carry a Battle Standard. Sea Year is a real-world shipboard experience where, as Midshipman Bouchot can attest, anything can happen. This unparalleled hands-on training ensures USMMA students gain the requisite maritime experience and expertise so that graduates are ready to serve as merchant marine officers from day one.

L to R: Brian Foy (legislative outreach coordinator, USMMA Alumni Association & Foundation), Admiral Mark Buzby, Midshipman Andrew Bouchot, and Marilyn Livi (VP, USMMA Alumni Association & Foundation)

We are all very proud of Midshipman Bouchot and believe his leadership and bravery deserve recognition at the highest levels.

The Merchant Marine Medal for Outstanding Achievement, which will be presented to Midshipman Bouchot on this year’s National Maritime Day, recognizes the heroism of a capable young man and brings much-needed recognition to the challenges that our men and women in the Merchant Marine encounter daily.

Capt. Jim Tobin '77 is the president of the USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.