Ex-Army Ranger named superintendent at USMMA

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The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Maritime Administration:

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today named Colonel (ret.) James Helis, Ph.D., as the new superintendent for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.  Helis, a 30-year Army veteran, will begin work at the Academy next month after spending the past eight years as a department chair at the United States War College.

“Colonel Helis is an ideal fit for the Academy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood.  “His extensive military and academic experience reflects the Academy’s mission of both training and educating its students to support our country’s maritime needs, and I look forward to working with him to ensure a strong future for Kings Point.”

Since 2004, Colonel Helis has led the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania.  During his 30 years in the U.S. Army, Colonel Helis served as an Army Ranger and master parachutist and was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he served as Chief of Plans for the NATO International Security Assistance Force.  His professional foreign travel includes Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Haiti, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden.

“I am deeply honored and very excited about the opportunity to serve at Kings Point,” Colonel Helis said.  “I am eager to join the team of faculty, staff, and most of all midshipmen, all of whom daily live by the values of honor, service, and excellence.”

Helis received his Doctorate of Philosophy in International Relations from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  He holds masters degrees from both the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the University of Pennsylvania, and he earned his Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Colonel Helis and his wife, Jan, have two sons, Corbin, 22, a 2011 West Point graduate, and Ian, 18, who joins the Kings Point Class of 2016 this summer.

“Thanks to a thorough search process involving faculty, staff, midshipmen, parents and alumni, we have identified a true leader in Colonel Helis,” said Maritime Administrator David Matsuda.  “As Superintendent for Kings Point, he will bring energy and experience to our team and will help ensure that the Academy continues to chart a course for future success.”

The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, including the hiring of key Academy positions.  As part of the selection process, Colonel Helis also met with a number of midshipmen, faculty and staff from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, as well as alumni and industry leaders.


Dr. William Johnsen, Dean of Academics
"I am extremely pleased that the Secretary of Transportation has selected COL (ret.) James Helis, Ph.D., as the next Superintendent of the Merchant Marine Academy.  While I regret that the US Army War College will lose a superb department chair, King’s Point is gaining a proven leader and soldier-scholar.  I wish Jim every possible success, and know that the Merchant Marine Academy will greatly benefit from his leadership, initiative, and drive."

LGT David Huntoon, served as Commandant of the War College from 2003-2008 when Colonel Helis was Department Chair
“James Helis is an outstanding leader with exceptional operational experience and demonstrated scholarship who will make a superb Superintendent for the United States Merchant Marine Academy.  Jim has always been focused on accomplishing the mission to the highest standard while taking care of his team.  We wish him the very best.”

General (ret) David McKiernan, Colonel Helis’ commander in Afghanistan

"A proven warrior, teacher and leader, the selection of Jim Helis as Superintendent at Kings Point is a great day for the nation and all the young men and women that will benefit from his mentorship. He will lead by example and imbue all those leadership values we cherish and expect from those wearing a uniform in service to our great Nation."

By Professional Mariner Staff