When the USNS Yuma docked at SUNY Maritime last week, it brought Fleet Week to the Bronx for the first time in the celebration’s 30-year history. The USNS Yuma is an Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel, designed to carry supplies, troops and other necessities to support American military operations.
How did this giant vessel make it to the Bronx, let alone our own SUNY campus? It had an inside connection. Three Maritime alumni sailed the ship in, up the Hudson River in the traditional parade of ships and back down the East River to campus.
“I call this campus God’s country. I told headquarters we were taking this ship to God’s country,” Capt. Gommo ’89 electrical engineering said. “We’ve got to bring the Navy’s newest asset to our home.”
In addition to Gommo, the ship’s 26-person crew included George Hairston ’00 facilities engineering, the ship’s chief engineer, and Alex Spitz ’14 marine transportation, the ship’s third mate.
The Yuma was delivered to the Navy less than two weeks ago. Along with the other ships participating in Fleet Week, the ship was open for public tours throughout Memorial Day weekend. More than 2,000 people, including groups from 19 Bronx County schools, visited the ship. A dozen Navy and Coast Guard vessels participated in Fleet Week, across Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn.
Two Maritime marine engineering students were also on board as part of the crew. They will spend the summer working in the ship’s engine room, overseen and mentored by Hairston. He turns to his own experiences to find inspiration to bring to the students.
“Having someone believe in you, it makes you do better. Mentoring is a big deal in this day and age,” Hairston said. “Growing up in Brooklyn, I know a lot of people who aren’t here or are incarcerated. It’s all about taking the opportunities that are given to you. I tell these students: Don’t let anyone stop what you’re trying to achieve.”
“It’s all about hard work. It’s all about wanting it and shooting for the moon.”
The cadet-shipping program, an intensive internship program available exclusively at Maritime, helps students gain on board experience and decide if they want to work on board vessels or pursue shore-side careers.
“You don’t have to be focused on going to sea. I could have been equally or possibly more successful if I had just used my electrical engineering degree. The opportunities from Maritime really are limitless,” Capt. Gommo said.
“My advice to students is: Don’t get discouraged; there’s a great reward at graduation.”
More than two-thirds of students at Maritime pursue U.S. Coast Guard licenses in addition to bachelor’s degrees. The license demonstrates that they have the knowledge and training to navigate or power a marine vessel and qualifies them to work offshore.
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SUNY Maritime College, located in the Bronx, 30 minutes from mid-town Manhattan, is one of six state maritime academies in the United States. Maritime College educates dynamic leaders for the global maritime industry.