Commissioning Possibilities in a Year of Uncertainty

For Firstie Parents – waiting to hear what the final decision will be about Commissioning it is disconcerting. Trust me – I know! Our now ENS was in the Class of 2020: the first class to ever have the distinction of having commissioned virtually. Waiting was the hardest part. Accepting the decision was the next hardest part, but we took our lead from our then-Firstie, who took it all in stride and was over the news in less than five minutes. If they could get over it and begin looking at the next thing, we had to as well, so we pivoted to a virtual commissioning that was very heartfelt and was full of silver linings. That is not to say that it was better than or as good as, but, it was definitely much better than expected.

With that in mind, my goal below is to review the usual in-person Commissioning Week, and to also give some ideas for a virtual celebration. This is an over view, but you can find more in-depth detail in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal available in my shop.

If Commissioning Week is in person… what to do? I thought I would share some of the things that made the week unforgettable for our family and some of the lessons learned…. There are lots of other things to do and concerts to attend but what you do is up to you and what is best for your Firstie and your family.

We chose to keep our schedule wide open so that we would be available to spend time with our Firstie whenever they were available. It also made it less stressful for all of us! It is good to keep in mind that your Firstie will probably not be available to go with you to all events. They will still have duties and responsibilities on the Yard and they will want to get together with their friends. Very soon they will be scattered to the four winds after four years together by the bay, so you will find that they want to see each other as much as possible.

As parents, it is best of we don’t take it personally. The best course of action is to enjoy things on your own and with your guests when your Mid is not around. It may also be a good idea to set expectations with family, especially grandparents and guests, and explain that your Mid may not be around and may not be able to spend as much time with them as they would like… This may help avoid hurt feelings and/or unrealistic expectations… With that said, we were pleasantly surprised that our son was back at our rental pretty early each evening, and just wanted to hang out… WITH US! 😂

Semper Gumby becomes very important now and going forward to when they report to their assigned duty in the fleet, Marines, etc. and even beyond. Here is what the week may look like:

Saturday (before Commissioning) – if your Firstie missed Ring Dance due to an MO, LREC, other obligation, or CoVid, now may be their chance to attend if they are given permission and want to.

Sunday – Baccalaureate Chapel is a moving and special service when Firsties dedicate their service to God and sign their name in the book. Amazing tradition! Check the schedule for times. The Jewish Service is on the Friday before Commissioning Week. For 2020, the Chaplains were able to hold a virtual service, but the Firsties were not able to sign the book.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday – Supe’s Reception.
Batt 1st & 2nd on Sunday, Batts 3 & 4 on Monday, and Batts 5& 6th on Tues.

Awards and Such – Ask your Mid if they are getting an academic/athletic award/recognition – each department gives out their awards on a different day, so make sure you don’t miss the photo op and surge in parental pride.

Monday – Herndon, if things go as usual and there is no schedule conflict, you too can re-live the culmination of Plebe year. Also, the Marine Silent Drill Team is a must see. For us (4th Co) This evening was free but our son was busy, so we had dinner with our Mid’s roomie parents. It was an amazing time of friendship.

Tuesday – Blue Angel practice – you an choose to have a picnic on the Yard. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO BRIDGE AND GATE CLOSURES – Bridges around Annapolis will shut down from approx. 11am to 2 p.m. or so so it will be better to be very early than get stuck. Be wherever you are going by 10:30 a.m. and plan on staying for a few hours. This day worked for our Company party. DEFINITELY one of the highlights of the week. Also, Tuesday evening is the Glee Club concert which is amazing!

Wednesday – 6a.m. Commencement Rehearsal (NOT open to the public – or parents). Wednesday is also the Blue Angels official Show!! Careful with bridge/gate closures. There is usually an Organ Concert at 4p.m. if you can attend and like concerts of this type, it is truly amazing!

Thursday – 11a.m. (check the SOE for the time) Color Parade. Tickets for seating are required if you or a guest want or need a seat. Bring your camera! There was not much going on in the afternoon, so we planned our family dinner for Thursday. We made it early (5p.m.) so that our Mid would have time to meet up with friends after. I have specifics of what to do at the dinner which proved invaluable for Commissioning Day. Read about in in the Firstie and Commissioning chapters of my book A USNA Mom’s Journal. After dinner, we returned to our rental house and enjoyed time together with family and guests who arrived that morning. Our son was able to join us later that evening, and it was a pretty early night looking ahead to the long day! It is helpful to make a list of everything you will need on Friday – I have the full list n my book.

Friday – Commissioning Day!! Make sure you have a bite to eat for you and your Firstie and stay hydrated (ideas in my book). Be prepared for all sorts of weather. Our day began chilly morning that turned to light sprinkles, and by mid morning, it was hot. We gave our guests navy ponchos (on my list of things to get in my book) and other essentials to survive the day in the favors we gave out at dinner the night before.

Many people plan a tailgate in the parking lot that morning. We opted not to do that because our guests were planning on arriving at different times. Concessions are open at the stadium and no food may be brought in. Note that umbrellas are not permitted and be prepared for security to be amped up.

Make sure that you have discussed with your Firstie and guests a designated spot to meet after the ceremony to exchange shoulder boards (since they have been commissioned as Navy Officers, they have to change their Mid shoulder boards to their ENS boards), change their cover – from Mid to Officer cover and have their First Salute. I have some notes on this and much, much more that we learned from our less than desirable experience on the field during our ’17’s Commissioning that I have included in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal. Take lots of pictures and enjoy your post-commissioning ceremony events!

PLEASE CHECK THE CURRENT YEAR SCHEDULE FOR EVENTS. Tickets for ticketed events like the Supe’s reception, Color Parade, Commissioning Ball (possibly), and Commissioning ceremony will be given to your Mid the week before Commissioning usually. Make sure he/she gives them to you!

Virtual Options

I also address this in my book but thought I would mention here that there are many things you can do to make the virtual option very special – if that comes to pass. We gathered on a Zoom call and ended up having over 50 guests, which would not have happened in person, you can create a tribute video, a slideshow, and many other small details that make the virtual occasion meaningful. There can be many silver linings.

In any case, remember to enjoy each “last” of Firstie year and remember to celebrate the small and the big things… It is an unbelievable journey that will continue as they move into the fleet or Marine Corps, but that is for another post.

Please use the promo code CW2021 to receive a discount on my book and my Commissioning resources. Feel free to reach out and ask questions. I will be answering some FAQs in a post next week so keep watching my blog! Also remember that I am here to help – my mission is to pay it forward to my Navy family. Just a message away! – GO NAVY!!