Why two brothers from ELCO chose to serve in the US Merchant Marine

3 min read1,625 views and 573 shares Posted October 8, 2019

Local brothers Chad and Alex Puglio are serving their country in the United States Merchant Marine, an often unnoticed but vital component of the nation’s defense. They are the sons of Mike & Tess Puglio of Myerstown.

Older brother Chad, a 2014 ELCO alumnus, graduated this past June from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

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Younger brother Alex, a 2017 ELCO grad, is currently a 3rd Class Midshipman in the academy’s Class of 2022.

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The United States Merchant Marine is unlike any other branch of the service. Not purely military, not purely civilian, it is a fleet of merchant ships crewed by men and women merchant mariners who are civilians in peacetime.

In wartime, the Merchant Marine becomes an arm of the U.S. Navy, and transports troops and supplies. Kings Point was founded in 1943 to provide a corps of able seamen for the war effort.

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As with the other service academies such as Annapolis and West Point, a Congressional appointment is required for admission to Kings Point.

Unlike the other service academies, Kings Point grads have a choice in fulfilling their service obligation upon graduation. They can choose a five year commission as an active duty officer in any of the military branches, or they can commit to six years in the maritime industry, coupled with eight years of service in any military reserve.

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World War II poster (Wikipedia)

LebTown recently spoke by telephone to Chad Puglio, who was in Norfolk, Virginia, awaiting assignment to a commercial merchant vessel. Upon graduation, he opted for private maritime service rather than a commission in the active military.

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“I was a marine engineering major at the academy,” he said. “Marine engineering is heavy on mechanical and electrical engineering. Our job is to operate the big commercial container ships you see at sea.”

“At the academy there are basically two majors: marine transportation and marine engineering,” Puglio explained. “Transportation is the deck side. They handle navigation and piloting the vessel. We are down below in the engine room, running machinery, all kinds of hands-on stuff.”

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U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduate Chad Puglio

Why should an academically solid, healthy high school senior choose Kings Point over better known service academies at West Point, Annapolis, or Colorado Springs?

“The graduation option [to go active military or private maritime] was a big plus for me,” said Chad. “And Sea Year.”

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Sea Year? Sea Year refers to the full year of hands-on training that students receive over the course of their time at the academy. Kings Point is the only service academy that requires that much hands-on training for graduation.

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“I did four months at sea in my first year at the academy. Guam, Japan, and Hawaii,” Chad said. “I traveled to something like 25 countries before I graduated.”

Chad proudly pointed out that the unofficial motto of Kings Point is “The World Is Our Campus.”

(United States Merchant Marine Academy)

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