KINGS POINT, N.Y. — Defense Secretary James Mattis is urging U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduates to always maintain integrity and “run the ethical midfield.”

Mattis also stressed preparedness and taking responsibility in Saturday’s commencement address, saying the 191 graduates should “always know where your boots are” so they’re ready when trouble looms.

The academy, in its 75th year, prepares students for maritime transport industry careers. In wartime, Merchant Marine ships deliver troops, supplies and equipment overseas for U.S. forces and allies.

Graduates must serve five years of active duty in the military or eight years as a reserve unit officer. They also must work five years in the maritime industry.

Mattis, whose father was a merchant mariner, said he factors their role into every war plan he reviews because they’re counted on to sustain the fight.

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