The US Military learned a very important lesson over the years and that is we fight as one team. But it’s not just the uniformed services we know so well: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. We also have a group of patriots who have played a vital role in the projection of US military power since the Revolutionary War to the current day: the Merchant Marines.
In my 22 years of service to America, it was the US Merchant Marines who ensured our combat equipment reached the Middle East in the First Gulf War and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, it seems we currently have a Congress that does not understand how we fight.
Recently a resolution was put forth from the United States Merchant Marine Academy National Parents Association (USMMA NPA) regarding the Pay Our Military Act (P.L. 113-39) which was passed on September 30th to ensure servicemen and women would continue to be paid in the event of a government shutdown.
All uniformed services were included … except the Merchant Marines.
Clearly it somehow escaped Congress that Midshipmen at USMMA are US Naval Reservists with a sworn military commitment upon graduation. Approximately one-third of them will enter active duty service in every branch of the military and the USMMA is the single largest commissioning source of Naval Reserve Ensigns.
What’s more, the 11-month academic year, which includes duty at sea aboard US Flag merchant vessels and ships of the Military Sealift Command provides insufficient make-up days for classes, commissioning and licensing requirements – which means a shutdown leaves them up that particular creek without a paddle in terms of finishing their qualifications.
And finally, Midshipmen in attendance at the USMMA have each received a Congressional appointment to the academy – which is why I find it so ridiculous this same Congress would overlook them. (Heck, I have Midshipmen at that Academy who received a Congressional appointment from me.)
This oversight is ludicrous and adversely affects our military readiness. Death gratuity benefits oversight and now this. Doggone, this is amateur hour on Capitol Hill.