It has been a difficult spring for Mids on the Yard. ROM and a tough message from leadership has been rough on morale. But vaccines are making the rounds and sunshiny days are sure to arrive as spring moves in and Athletic activities return to the Yard. Here are some things to consider.
As I discuss in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, Plebes should have selected their majors by now and training blocks should have been announced. Many will get their first choices and many will not, specially in this CoVid world. Just as life on the Yard is Company dependent, so Navy life is dependent on Big Navy needs. Parents may have to listen through some venting sessions, but know and reassure your Plebe or Mid that everything should work out – if not now, in the long run.
If they did not get their first choice, now is a good opportunity to practice self advocacy in a respectful way – with the understanding that things may not change – and that is ok too. And as spring begins to bloom, things will begin to go slightly down hill – not in a negative sense, but will gain in momentum toward the end of the year. The watchful eye of the Upperclass begins to turn elsewhere and depending on the company and the status of CoVid restrictions, Plebes ad the Brigade may begin to get a little breathing room.
Firsties may turn toward wrapping up Capstone projects, commissioning and actually leaving the Yard – they will need to vacate their quarters at least a week prior to Commissioning (usually after their last exam), although they can request to remain at Bancroft Hall and may have to move to new quarters at that time. 2/Cs are busy preparing for their summer trainings which should be directly tied to their service assignment – like Leatherneck for aspiring Marines, sub, aviation and SWO cruises, SEALs and EOD training and screeners, power fight for aviation hopefuls , and so many more. They are also thinking ahead to Firstie year and Service Selection.
As difficult as it is in current circumstances, this may be a good opportunity for Plebes and Mids alike to focus on academics and try to finish strong. In a few weeks Final Exams will begin and will bring a busyness and stress of their own, followed a few days later by Sea Trails.
Depending on the state of all things CoVid, Sea Trials may or may not be able to go on as usual. Sea Trials are not open to the public any way, and is the next to last hurdle for Plebes to overcome before they are “Plebes No More”. During Sea Trails, each company usually works together as a tightly knit group to overcome different physical trials and obstacles that come their way. It is a long and grueling 15-hour day that can begin as early as 2 a.m. After Sea Trials, Plebes will have a newly earned respect of their Upperclass and will be one step closer to Herndon. They will be physically and emotionally exhausted, but will be overjoyed at the end of the day. Given their ROM and restrictions, this may be a great way to end their ACYear. If it does happen, you can look for pictures on your Plebe’s Company page or the main USNA page, or possibly the Alumni Association Photo Program if things go as planned.
The final test – the Herndon climb – should arrive the Monday of Commissioning Week . It is an indescribable experience – a roller coaster of emotion as the Midshipmen scale the unimpressive slab of marble (until it is greased by 1st Co. Upperclass with 200 Lbs. of lard, that is!). The Herndon monument is named after Commander William Lewis Herndon who chose to not abandon ship and went down with his vessel and over 400 passengers on board that could not be saved. His story is a must read before Herndon in order to understand the significance of the Herndon Climb – others before self will be very self-evident.
The culmination of the climb, when the dixie cup is replaced with a Midshipman cover and the elation of the Mids, their families, and bystanders, is something not to be missed and is a memory you will talk about long after it is over! (for an in-depth look, please read my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal and visit my Life at Navy tab on my website. Again, as with all things CoVid, we will have to wait and see how/if this event moves forward, and whether visitors will be permitted on the Yard at that time. It is good to keep in mind that the Naval Academy is an active military base and as such, is not only under their own guidelines, but more importantly, they are under the Dept. of the Navy’s guidelines and restrictions (if any).
On another note, let’s talk training – There are usually three training blocks including zero block, which many athletes use in order to complete their naval training before they go on to athletic training. Each block is approx. four weeks long. Each Plebe will usually take part in some type of a surface cruise for one of the blocks and leadership training for the other. Rising 3/Cs will go on Protramid (they spend one week in each service community), 2/Cs will have their Fleet Cruise, and rising Firsties should have their service community training blocks (e.g. Leatherneck). They should have one block of leave unless there is new guidance, or they choose to take summer classes to lighten the load in the Fall or take advantage of another training. For more in-depth detail, please read my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal.
2/C Training Cruises can be as a part of a carrier group, on a ship that is in port, a sub, or a myriad of other opportunities. Leadership training can consist of OSTS (sailing), YPs, STEM Detailer, NOLS or something similar – remember that this is dependent on CoVid guidelines from Big Navy, and the offerings may vary this year due to the current circumstances… They will certainly be busy and hopefully, they will have some fun and learn about the service communities available.
Something the Academy excels at is developing young people to be responsible, dedicated, courageous, committed leaders. And it shows! From I-Day to Herndon, you will see the transformation. Imagine the final product when they are Commissioned. It is a humbling experience to share with our children. An honor and a sense of overwhelming pride, as our sons and daughters follow in the footstep of giants – not only in their military careers, but in their training at the Academy. I have said this several times already and will say it again. I know that this year has been extra tough on all of the classes, and especially on the newbie Plebes. But rest assured that they will be stronger and more resilient for this experience. Once they get through what this year has brought, there is nothing that can stand in their way. They will be more than ready – and believe it or not, so will you as parents!
It is a privilege to share this journey with you. As always, I am here if you need help. GO NAVY!!