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PHOTOS: U.S. Senator Gary Peters Receives the Willard J. Smith Meritorious Award at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy for Passing His CADETS Act into Law

Following the Ceremony, Peters Joined Cadets Aboard the T/S State of Michigan During a Training Exercise in Grand Traverse Bay

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) received the Admiral Willard J. Smith Meritorious Service Award to recognize his support of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, including by authoring and passing the CADETS Act into law. Senator Peters participated in the ceremony alongside Northwestern Michigan College Vice President for Educational Service Stephen Siciliano, Ph.D and Superintendent of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy Rear Admiral Gerard Achenbach, Ed., who presented the award to Peters.

Peters’ bipartisan Changing Age-Determined Eligibility to Student Incentive Payments (CADETS) Act was signed into law by President Biden last year, expanding eligibility for the Maritime Administration’s Student Incentive Payment Program. Previously, students older than 26 were prohibited from receiving Student Incentive Payment Program benefits. Peters’ legislation expands the eligibility age to include any qualified student who will meet the age requirements for enlistment in the U.S. Navy Reserve at their time of graduation, and ensures that non-traditional cadets, including veterans, can receive this funding. In return for their commitment to serve, cadets can now receive up to $64,000 in this incentive payment funding over four years to help offset the cost of tuition, uniforms, books, and living costs because of Peters’ legislation. The Great Lakes Maritime Academy – one of the six state maritime academies – is based at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Peters visited the Great Lakes Maritime Academy last year to highlight this legislation.

“I am proud to be recognized as this year’s Willard J. Smith Meritorious Award recipient by the dedicated leadership of Northwestern Michigan College and the Great Lakes Maritime Academy,” said Senator Peters. “The merchant marine officers serving in the Great Lakes and around the world are crucial to the success of our economy and national security. I fought hard to get my CADETS Act signed into law ensure more individuals, including our veterans, can afford the training they need to join our merchant marine workforce.”

“It was an honor to present Senator Peters with the Admiral Willard Smith Meritorious Service Award for his support of Northwestern Michigan College's Great Lakes Maritime Academy. This award, and his selection as the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force 2021 Legislator of the Year demonstrate that Senator Peters is a champion of the U.S. maritime industry and that he works tirelessly, in a bipartisan fashion to promote a strong U.S. flag merchant marine. His work is helping to alleviate the current shortage of licensed mariners, an issue of national concern. Additionally, his efforts with Michigan entities such as the Port of Monroe will bring good jobs that pay a living wage to Michigan,” said Rear Admiral Gerard Achenbach, Ed.D, Superintendent of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy. “Here in Traverse City his work on the CADETs Act coupled with an increase to the Student Incentive Payment for cadets who agree to serve as licensed officers and officers in the Navy's Strategic Sealift Officer's Program, makes the Great Lakes Maritime Academy an affordable option for all Michigan residents, especially non-traditional students and military veterans.”

"Northwestern Michigan College is deeply grateful for Senator Peters’ dedication to education at all levels. His bipartisan work in the Senate has expanded benefits to our students and particularly our veterans,” said Northwestern Michigan College Vice President for Educational Services Stephen Siciliano. Ph.D.

“After the CADETS Act was signed into law, I became eligible for the Maritime Administration’s Student Incentive Payment Program,” said Ensign Rick Ramos of the United States Navy and recent graduate of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy. “This legislation allowed me to access funding that offset the cost of my education and helped catapult my career into the maritime industry.” 

To download photos from the visit, click HERE or on the images below. Images are courtesy of Senator Peters’ office.

Peters, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, has been a strong advocate for the United States’ maritime military institutions as well as the maritime sector. Peters is Chairman of the Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. In 2021, he was recognized by the Navy Supply Corps Foundation Board of Directors as the 60th Navy Supply Corps Foundation Distinguished Alumnus. In 2018, Peters’ legislation to reauthorize the Maritime Administration – the federal agency responsible for promoting and maintaining a strong U.S. commercial maritime industry – was signed into law. The legislation required a competitiveness study to make recommendations for improving the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway system – one of the most heavily traveled waterways in the United States – and increased training opportunities for United States Merchant Marine Academy cadets.