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Massanutten Alumni Return to Discuss United States Merchant Marine Academy

The senior workshop led by Mrs. Conway had special guest speakers when former Massanutten Military Academy cadets Riga Sargent (Class of 2018) and Jackson Pigott (Class of 2019) returned to their alma mater to talk about their new school, the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

Speaking in front of friends and former classmates can be stressful for any public speaker, but USMMA plebes Pigott and Sargent shrugged off any such worries.

“It’s not nerve-wracking because this is my school,” Sargent said. “It’s OK. I was back here once before for (Pigott’s) graduation.”Though it’s only been a few months since he graduated from MMA in May, Pigott echoed a similar sentiment.“I kind of like it,” Pigott said. “Being back brings back memories of the things we did here. It’s fun seeing all the familiar faces.”

One of the requirements for plebes at USMMA is that they have to return to their high school to speak to students about what the academy offers educationally and occupationally.

MMA cadets learned that USMMA midshipmen have one of the most important responsibilities in international relations: safeguarding all operations on the water for both military and commercial purposes. Nearly 95 percent of all the world’s products are transported over water, making the work that USMMA midshipmen and officers do vital to global stability.

Boasting a rigorous academic curriculum, the USMMA requires more credit hours for a baccalaureate degree than any service academy in the country. The demanding schooling combined with a hands-on year at sea result in a unique set of skills that make USMMA graduates attractive officers for placement in the military or merchant marine.

During their Sea Year, midshipmen can be based anywhere in the world. “It could be Djibouti, Dubai, Spain, Hawaii, even Antarctica,” Pigott said.

“But you have to have a real good GPA to get to Antarctica,” Sargent added, laughing. “Really good.”

Both MMA graduates were eager to begin their schooling at USMMA for similar reasons: the academy offered a way to get educated in work at sea.

“The family business is a maritime company, so (USMMA) was my first choice,” Pigott said.

As for Sargent, she applied to both the Coast Guard and USMMA. When the latter accepted her she was happy to begin her journey. “I want to work on oil tankers,” Sargent said. “So I’m happy to be studying (at USMMA).”

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