The Moment is Here: Service Assignments

Service Assignments are this Thursday for Firsties so I thought I would share a brief excerpt from my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, on Service Assignments from the Firstie Year / Commissioning Chapter:

“As Firstie year kicks off, one of the first things that Firsties have to do after reform is to make their service selections. Firsties will rank their choice of service communities in order of preference from #1 – their top choice, thru #6 – their least desired choice, and they submit their service selections electronically…

Some communities, like Marines, will not consider anyone that does not rank them as first choice and have earned a recommendation after successfully completing Leatherneck, although that has changed in recent years to accommodate Mids that had SpecOps as their first choice, such as SEALs and EOD, etc. The Subs community will recruit their preferred candidates early, usually at the end of 2/C year, but many gain entry into the sub community during service assignment. The Aviation community has special requirements of their own, and so it goes!

In November of Firstie year – usually the Thursday before Thanksgiving break, Firsties will get their “Big Navy” Service Assignments. They will usually gather in their Company wardrooms for where they will find out what community they have been assigned to for their service. Live streaming of service assignments was halted a few years ago, but the USNA page on Facebook and Instagram, as well as the company pages have plenty of pictures. My former Mids were both Company PAOs during their 2/C years and were in charge of taking pictures and made sure there were plenty of them!

It is so nerve-racking and exciting as Firsties wait to hear what community they and their friends are assigned to. This is the moment they have been working so hard toward and what they have been waiting for during the past four years!

As each name is called and their assignment announced, they are given a certificate that states their service community and they will shake the hand of the their Company Officer and/or SEL (Senior Enlisted Leader). All Mids are sitting at the edge of their seats and the excitement is palpable… At the end of the day, they all celebrate together. You can see the expressions of relief. Our son and daughter texted us to let us know they had received their first choice and we were so excited for them! They also let us know that some of their friends had not received their first choice, and as glad as they were for their own assignment, they also shared their fellow Mids’ disappointment and were there to support them however they could.

With all of the celebration, it can be easy to overlook the disappointment. Typically 90% +/- of Firsties will get their first choice assignment and most will be ecstatic. For our Second Mid (Class of 2020), approx. 85% of Firsties got their #1 choice. However, their class is one of the smallest to commission in the recent past (under 1,000 Firsties commissioned).

As with all things at USNA, the main purpose of Service Assignment is to fulfill the needs of Big Navy, and in some cases, there will be great disappointment as some Mids do not receive their desired community assignment. This happened to a friend of our Firstie who had requested Pilot but received NFO instead. Another had requested SEALs but did not get it. It took some time for them to get used to the idea, but eventually, they tried to find the silver lining. It was so great to see how Mids support each other, no matter what. We witnessed the fruits of Plebe Summer and the past four years as we saw the tangible evidence of the bonding that has taken place and how closely knit they are. They truly care about each other and are there to support one another.

From our experience with 4th Company and 28th Companies, on the eve after Service Assignment, the Plebes plan a very special evening of good-natured fun. I looked back and remembered that a mere three years prior, as a Plebe, our son was in charge of coordinating activities for Service Assignment night… Each company does their own thing, but they are all so creative and have so much fun. He planned different activities for the Firsties – pilots had to carry the NFOs as they “flew” through the p-ways; submariners had to bob for apples; SWOs were blindfolded and had to navigate an obstacle course while carrying coffee. you get the gist! I am not sure what they will plan this year, but watch for pictures and videos on your Mid’s company pages!

This is one of the many firsts and lasts as Firsties prepare to commission and begin their career as Naval or Marine Officers. We can be so proud of their hard work, of their camaraderie, of overcoming adversity, of their hard work and dedication, and so many memories over the past four years. Watch for other celebrations, like Ship Selection – a MUST see, and other similar events as Firstie year progresses.

Service Assignment night that celebrates Firsties’ assignments. Above: Class of 2017 SWOs navigate around a makeshift obstacle course blindfolded.
(Post is an excerpt from A USNA Mom’s Journal, First Edition. Copyright 2019. Copying is expressly prohibited without prior consent from the author. Please note that text may have changed in later editions.)
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