U.S. Coast Guard Academy Commencement 2020

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

This is a screenshot of the virtual swearing in ceremony

U.S. Coast Guard Ensigns ‘Zoom’ Into 2020 Commencement


Parts of the 2020 U.S. Coast Guard commencement were prerecorded and aired during the livestream of the event. In one taped element, graduating cadets took their oath of service in a Zoom call.

The uncertainty of coronavirus forced the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to do something it’s never done — commission officers virtually.

The service academy in New London put together a virtual commencement Wednesday for its ensigns who represent the class of 2020.

It featured both live and prerecorded elements, as the academy sought to commission new officers while staying safe during the pandemic.

Coast Guard Commandant Karl L. Schultz addressed the class and compared the current situation to the last time commencement was affected: During World War II, cadets graduated early to go out and defend the country.

“Those wartime classes’ experiences, their worldview and the leadership philosophy they carried were molded by the clash of great powers in a war that impacted every single nation on earth, just as your career trajectory as commissioned officers will be shaped by the current COVID-19 pandemic — the most consequential health crisis in our collective memories,” Schultz said.

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, delivered the keynote address.

“As frustrating as it may be, the unorthodox situation in which we find ourselves today is emblematic of what you will all find when you’re on the front lines defending this country, and that is the need to be prepared for the unexpected,” Wolf said. “You must be ready.”

Wolf offered advice on how the graduates can stay prepared: Continue to learn and take calculated risks.

The highest-ranking American military officer also addressed the class of 2020. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that in addition to the ongoing stress the pandemic is putting on the U.S. armed forces, other points of tension have surfaced during the academic career of the cadets, like “Russian aggression” in Syria and Eastern Europe and “an assertive Chinese militarizing the South China Sea.”

“As you leave your homes for your first duty assignment and begin your journey, you will serve your country during a time of incredible challenge and increased complexity around the world,” Milley said. “The world around us is becoming increasingly unpredictable and under increased strain.”

He then called on the ensigns to fulfill their duties as service members by maintaining peace and using diplomacy as the weapon to do so.

First Class Alaric Stone, this year’s USCGA distinguished graduate, spoke on behalf of his fellow class members. He discussed the last time cadets gathered in person — on “Billet Night” in March, when cadets receive deployment orders — and how, because of the pandemic, it ended up being their final time together as cadets.

“We’ve heard it over and over again — the refrain ‘you don’t realize how special this place is until you leave it,’” Stone said. “Distance has a way of giving us perspective, and while the situation has been less than ideal, it has given us a unique opportunity to see just how special it is to be at the academy surrounded by friends.”

Comments from Milley, Wolf and Stone were prerecorded.

As part of the virtual proceedings, all of the ensigns’ names were announced in recognition of their graduation. While that’s standard practice, this year’s added wrinkle included an accompanying photo of each ensign broadcast on the livestream. Another prerecorded element cycled through cadets appearing via Zoom as they took their graduation oath.

This year’s group of ensigns is the largest in USCGA history. The class of 248 includes 100 women — the most ever.



  1. Captain Kevin G Coulombe says:

    Congratulations to all the 2020 ensigns. I share their disappointment in not graduating in a proper ceremony. Graduating from SUNY Maritime College I missed my graduation ceremony as well and never experienced the formal ceremony we all expect. I hope the US Coast Guard can take some corrective action on your behalf in the near future, perhaps after universal vaccination.

    Again congratulations and salutes. I trust you all have satisfying and successful careers.

    Maintain course and speed.

    Captain Kevin Coulombe, Master, US Merchant Marine (rtd)

Leave a Comment

We welcome your comments on postings at all Coast Guard sites/journals. These are sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard to provide a forum to talk about our work providing maritime safety, security and stewardship for the American people to secure the homeland, save lives and property, protect the environment, and promote economic prosperity.

The information provided is for public information only and is not a distress communication channel. People in an emergency and in need of Coast Guard assistance should use VHF-FM Channel 16 (156.8 MHz), dial 911, or call their nearest Coast Guard unit.

All comments submitted are moderated. The Coast Guard retains the discretion to determine which comments it will post and which it will not. We expect all contributors to be respectful. We will not post comments that contain personal attacks of any kind; refer to Coast Guard or other employees by name; contain offensive terms that target specific ethnic or racial groups, or contain vulgar language. We will also not post comments that are spam, are clearly off topic, or that promote services or products.

The U.S. Coast Guard disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from any comments posted on this page. This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

If you have specific questions regarding a U.S. Coast Guard program that involves details you do not wish to share publicly please contact the program point of contact listed at http://www.uscg.mil/global/mail/

The U.S. Coast Guard will not collect or retain Personally Identifiable Information unless you voluntarily provide it to us. To view the U.S. Coast Guards Privacy Policy, please visit: http://www.uscg.mil/global/disclaim.asp

Please note: Anonymous comments have been disabled for this journal. It is preferred that you use your real name when posting a comment. WE WILL POST THE NAME YOU ENTER WHEN YOU SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT. Also, you are welcome to use Open ID or other user technologies that may be available.