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Alumni Profile


Chosen as an Outstanding Alumni, Cmdr. Jason Smith ’96 emphasizes the value of “connecting” people on the job and through MMA.

Cmdr. Smith received a 2015 Outstanding Alum-
nus Award, which was presented at the 2016
Homecoming Banquet to coincide with his 20th
class reunion.

What is your present career position?
I’m a Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard and
currently lead the Coast Guard’s Liquefied Gas
Carrier National Center of Expertise in Port
Arthur, Texas, a specialized unit that trains and
assists field inspectors and industry representa-
tives on regulatory aspects of the liquefied gas
industry, from large-scale liquefied gas carriers
to vessels that use liquefied gas as a fuel.

What are highlights of your progress from MMA to
your current job?
I’ve had an enjoyable career with the Coast
Guard, which actually started while I was at
MMA. I was an enlisted reservist since I was
a sophomore and continued to serve upon
graduation. I have been at units in Washing-
ton, Oregon, Netherlands, Washington, DC,
Massachusetts, and now in Texas.
Although my primary role has been with
the inspection of vessels, I’ve had the opportu-
nity to be involved in incident management on
major oil spills and security incidents. One of the
most memorable assignments was as a liaison to
the International Maritime Organization where
I served as a U.S. delegate on the development of
international policy.

What personal philosophy has guided you through the
I’ve always relied on the fact that I can’t do it
alone and need others to obtain mission success.
Realizing this, I have found it’s most important
to network and build partnerships inside and
outside the Coast Guard.

What did you learn at MMA that has served you as a
Coast Guard officer?
The maritime profession and teamwork. From a
technical perspective, the training I received at
MMA to be a mariner allows me to relate to those
I now serve to protect. This insight provides not
only the understanding of maritime operations
and processes, but also the limitations and chal-
lenges mariners face.
From a leadership perspective, the emphasis
on teamwork and how we cannot succeed alone
has allowed me to work together with Coast

Guard, other government agencies and industry
partners to accomplish goals. Cooperation and
understanding the assets each member brings to
the table will always produce the best results.

What led you to MMA?
My dad was in the Coast Guard for a few years
and always spoke highly of going to sea and the
camaraderie that is associated with it.

When I was looking for college opportunities,
I met Jeff Wright (then Admissions Director) at
a college fair who explained all that MMA had to
offer, much of which sounded similar to what my
dad had described. A combination of these two
influences made for an easy choice.

Who are your mentors?
I have many from various aspects of my career
and still, maybe even more so now, rely on them
for guidance and direction.
I stay in touch with my advisor from MMA,
Dr. Shashi Kumar who set me in the right direc-
tion from the start.
Since leaving MMA, some of my Coast Guard
supervisors and colleagues have taken me under
their wing and mentored me along the way.
Finally, I found that the MMA alumni network
serves as a form of mentorship. I consider many
fellow alumni to be mentors, such as Capt. Steve
Palmer ’72, who has supported and advocated
for me in many ways.
I’ve recently attended a few alumni events,
and each time I’ve looked around the room to see
some of the most successful maritime profession-
als in the field. It would be great if there was a

way to link these current maritime leaders with
future leaders at MMA.
I encourage any current student or recent
graduate to engage with the alumni office and
contact active alumni with a successful career
path in line with what you want to do. The life
long relationship you may gain will be well worth
the initial investment.

What are some of the highlights of your experience
at MMA?
Like most MMA graduates, cruise and cadet
shipping top the list. Having the opportunity to
get hands-on training and see the world can’t be
beat by any college. I will never forget the shared
experiences and friendships I gained at MMA.

When you first graduated could you envision where
your career might lead?
Well, I continue to ask myself that question, and
still don’t know where my career might lead.
Even though the Coast Guard career path is
quite linear and predictable, it is also competitive,
so I never knew if I would be able to make it a
career. I always hoped it would lead to 20 years
for retirement, and now I can say I accomplished
at least that goal.
I have had amazing assignments, from being
an overseas inspector in Rotterdam with respon-
sibility for inspection of U.S. vessels throughout
Europe, Africa and the Middle East to serving
as U.S. liaison to the International Maritime
One of my mentors once told me, the
proof you love your job is if you can say every
assignment you are in is your favorite, and I am
fortunate to be able to say that.

In your present job, safety and protection of the envi-
ronment are major concerns. What are your thoughts
about how the Coast Guard and merchant mariners
can better cooperate along these lines?
The Coast Guard alone cannot ensure safety
at sea; it needs support from the mariners who
work and live at sea. Collaborating with the Coast
Guard should be thought of as a mutually bene-
ficial arrangement. The same goes for the Coast
Guard, establishing an open and close relation-
ship with mariners and maritime representatives
is a must to accomplish our mission.
We rely on teamwork with those from within
the industry and all concerned citizens to keep
our waters and mariners safe.

Cmdr. Smith at the Panama Canal Vessel Traffic Center

On that note
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