TAMU Maritime Academy begins summer in Corpus Christi

The training ship General Rudder, shown here in a file photo, docked in front of the Ortiz Center in Corpus Christi on May 17 carrying 50 cadets enrolled in the Texas A&M Maritime Academy’s summer training classes. Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University at Galveston

Students enrolled in Texas A&M Maritime Academy this summer began their training in Corpus Christi on May 17 aboard the training ship General Rudder. The General Rudder docked at the Solomon P. Ortiz Center at the Harbor Bridge with 50 cadets on board training for practical experience in seamanship, navigation and shipboard engineering. They are training for careers aboard cruise ships, freighters, tankers, tugs and other ships. Some are training for careers in the U.S. Navy.

Texas A&M Maritime Academy is part of Texas A&M University at Galveston. The branch campus is located on 135 acres on Pelican Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

One of only six state maritime academies, it hosts two groups of students that make up the Corps of Cadets. The first are working to become employed as Merchant Marine officers. They do not need a military commitment but have an option to join the U.S. Navy Reserves.

The second group hails from the NROTC College program, and each one is committed to joining the Navy upon graduation. Both groups are called midshipmen and are required to sail with the academy at some point in their college career.

Cruises last 60-120 days, depending on the program. Cadets practice the role of licensed mate/engineer by being in charge of watch, maintenance and kitchen duty. They also attend lectures. Each year’s course begins and ends at a different port with multiple stops in between. The 2017 program begins this week in Corpus Christi.

GENERAL RUDDER HISTORY

The General Rudder is named for Texas A&M University graduate James Earl Rudder, commander of the Army Rangers during the scaling of Pointe Du Hoc on D-Day, June 6, 1944, on the French Coast. He served as president of Texas A&M from 1959-70.

Under Rudder’s watch, women were allowed to attend the all-male college and membership in the Corps of Midshipmen became voluntary. Rudder is credited with paving the way for Texas A&M to become a flagship university. Today, the school’s enrollment stands at 50,000 with a research budget of about $700 million.

The General Rudder began as the U.S. Naval Ship Contender in 1983. She was an ocean surveillance ship for the U.S. Navy tasked with collecting underwater acoustical date during the Cold War. It became the primary training vessel of the Merchant Marine Academy, where it was named the T/V Kings Pointer. It became internationally renowned as the first ship of any kind to reach the crash site of the Egypt Air Flight 990 off the coast of Nantucket Island on Oct. 31, 1999.

The ship has been used by every branch of the armed forces for training midshipmen. It also served as the Department of Transportation’s official platform for the Tall Ships Parade held in New York City in 2000.

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