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Biden to cadets: Coast Guard faces growing demands

Vice President Joe Biden is saluted as he arrives to speak at the commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The vice president told graduating cadet that the nation will increasingly rely on the service for missions including more remote Arctic operations, port security and support of other U.S. military branches in securing maritime shipping around the world. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

NEW LONDON, Conn. — Vice President Joe Biden told graduating cadets Wednesday at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that the nation will increasingly rely on the service for missions including more remote Arctic operations and fighting maritime crime alongside the U.S. Navy.

With the Thames River as his backdrop under overcast skies, Biden told the 227 cadets at the academy’s 132nd commencement that far beyond search and rescue missions, the service works closely with other branches of the armed forces in a way many Americans do not realize.

“This is not your father’s Coast Guard,” Biden said. “Your job is only getting more complicated.”

The Coast Guard Academy, the smallest of the five federal service academies, has about 940 cadets in its four-year program. They graduate as ensigns, or junior officers, with a bachelor of science degree and an obligation to serve five years in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Biden began his keynote address by saying his thoughts were with the victims of the tornado that hit Oklahoma. He praised Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a fellow Democrat who joined him at the ceremony, for his handling of the Newtown school shooting. He said Malloy knows “what it’s like to go through such travails.”

The vice president said the graduating cadets, too, will face “stormy and uncertain seas” from time to time. But he told the cadets arrayed on a football field surrounded by red-brick buildings they have what it takes to face a rapidly changing world.

As climate change opens new sea routes in the Arctic, Biden said the cadets will be involved in conducting more remote Arctic operations. And as the country contends with security threats from pirates and other stateless actors, he said they will be conducting port security training missions in such countries as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia and working to ensure U.S port facilities around the world meet security standards.

“You graduate into a world where the new fault lines between nations are the sea lanes and the straits you know so well,” he said.

The highest-ranking cadet of the class of 2013, Joseph Sullivan-Springhetti of Beaverton, Ore., said in an address that his class can look forward to saving lives, interdicting drugs, stopping pollution and training foreign navies.

“You and I stand on the brink, on the cusp, of the greatest adventure of our lives,” he said.

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