Dartmouth native ranks high at Mass Maritime Academy
Four years ago, Dartmouth native Dominic Vaccari helped lead the Dartmouth High marching band to its second consecutive national championship as a drum major.
Now, he’s using those same leadership skills at the Mass Maritime Academy as the school’s highest ranking cadet.
As the academy's Regimental Commander, Vaccari said he regularly meets with other cadet leaders to plan ceremonies, training sessions, inspections, formations, and branding for the academy — along with attending his engineering classes at the college.
“I definitely stay busy,” he said. “I consider it to be two educations really, but I wouldn't have changed it for the world.”
Vaccari’s tenure started in the early days of the pandemic — something he initially thought “was not going to last going into the summer.”
“Boy, was I wrong,” he laughed.
As the summer neared and the pandemic continued, the Dartmouth native promptly got to work with leadership and his fellow cadets to figure out how exactly incoming freshmen would go through their boot camp-style orientation.
Vaccari said setting up the logistics “was especially daunting,” adding that normally, around 400 new students go through a two-week session. Instead, the groups were evenly split for a week each as they trained masked up and six feet apart.
During the leadup to orientation, the Dartmouth cadet regularly met with other student leaders to divide tables by plastic shields at the dining hall, practice socially distanced marches, and modify shower schedules.
While planning boot camp took time that would be used for other leadership training sessions, the Regimental Commander said he was glad to see a successful boot camp.
“The second week obviously went a lot better than the first one,” Vaccari said. “For what we had to work with, things couldn’t have gone better.”
One of the proudest accomplishments during his tenure, he said, was helping to implement more mental health resources at the academy.
“It’s a changing world and it’s good that we’re adapting now to get these procedures to evolve and keep up with everyone else,” he said.
Most recently, the highest ranking cadet was given the honor of making a speech to celebrate the retirement of his mentor and the academy’s commandant of cadets Capt. Ed Rozak — now a commodore.
“It was freezing cold, but that’s okay,” Vaccari laughed. “It was really great to honor him.”
By this time next month, the Dartmouth native will become a college graduate. He noted that while he does have some opportunities— including a leadership role with National Grid and potentially joining the Coast Guard reserve — he will definitely miss his time at the maritime academy.
“I’ve truly come to love this place,” Vaccari said. “I’m not sure if I’m actually ready to leave — it hasn’t really sunk in yet that it’s almost over.”