Vice President Mike Pence, right, shakes hands with Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, USCA, at the commencement for the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., Wednesday, May 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Pence warns Coast Guard graduates of the perils facing US

May 23, 2018 - 1:29 pm

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence warned the new U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates on Wednesday of the perils America faces from rogue regimes, criminal networks and terrorist groups, saying the new ensigns will be on the front lines of the threats of illegal drugs, terrorism and human trafficking.

"The truth is, you assume your watch at a time when your leadership and your service is needed more than ever before," he said.

Pence delivered the service academy's keynote address at an outdoor ceremony at the riverside campus in New London, Connecticut. He comes a year after President Donald Trump addressed the graduates.

Pence told the crowd he brought greetings from Trump, crediting him with making the financial investments needed by the Coast Guard and other military branches.

"Over the past 16 months, President Trump has already taken decisive action to rebuild our military, to restore the arsenal of democracy to give our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines and our great Coast Guard the resources you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe," he said, adding how more than $12 billion is set aside to rebuild the Coast Guard's "aging fleet" and to "strengthen your vital assets." He noted there will be 25 new off-shore patrol cutters, two new national security cutters and six more fast-response cutters to "support our border security efforts and our fight against terrorism across the world."

"We are going to give the best fighting force in the world the best equipment they've ever had," Pence said.

Besides combatting terrorism and illegal drugs, Pence noted how many of the graduates will participate in much-needed search-and-rescue missions, like those that occurred during last year's string of devastating hurricanes, and to patrol the "increasingly contested polar waters in the years ahead to advance America's energy and national security interests across this vital region."

The president and vice present typically each address the graduating class at one of the federal service academies on a rotating basis.

About a dozen protesters held signs outside the academy gates that called for better protection of the poor and greater tolerance of the LGBT community. It was a far smaller showing than last year, when Trump made his first appearance at a service academy.

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