I Remember It Well – On PPW and Seeing Your Plebe

This is it – Just a few more days to go before you see your Plebe!! The summer has dragged on, but now that you look back, it flew by, right? Keep this in mind as you endure Plebe year and the four years in general. With Plebe Summer under your belts, you are one-third of the way done with the journey. Plebe Year will be the next third, the remaining three years will be the last third, and they will fly by – but let’s tackle PPW first.

You will see your Plebe on the Friday of PPW and you will be so proud! I can’t wait for you to see your sons and daughters in their shining summer whites. Get ready!! After the past six weeks of little communication, Waldo hunting, sending packages – some of which have arrived and some that are possible “still in transit”, you will finally see them, get to hug them, and spend time with them. I remember having to literally pinch myself to make sure it was real!

I hope that you enjoy your time together. Take time to listen to their stories, allow them time to relax, unwind, rest, and basically, to do whatever they would like. They have earned it, and the next few days are crucial to getting them re-energized for the Brigade Reform and the ACYear.

If they request it on your phone call, you can bring their contacts, laptop, or iPad so they can catch up with their friends, etc., and they may request a black or silver watch. (Note: They probably won’t be able to keep their electronics yet, so you will most likely have to travel back with it). Your Mid may nap – or not. Our kids chose not to nap and just wanted to be with us.

For my oldest’s PPW, the entire family (grand parents, aunts, uncles, etc.) were there to greet him on the Yard. I have to say it was a bit overwhelming and I spent the entire weekend cooking, playing hostess, and washing dishes, much to my dismay. I got bits and pieces of conversations and missed most of the stories. I discuss this at length in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal.

If you have family coming, you may want to reconsider the hostess-cooking-clean up thing… For our daughter, having lived through has brother’s PPW, right off the bat she told us in no uncertain terms that she wanted NO ONE to come. Just the five of us and the puppies, so that is what we did. Although I love my extended family, it was much better to have just the five of us. At least for our family… please do whatever is best for your family! Try to enjoy this weekend and the time with your Plebe.

My advice is to try as much as possible to make it about your Plebe – they have been secluded from civilization, and this is the first time they have to enjoy with family, being out and about, and seeing you after these several weeks of Plebe Summer.

Something to note is that part of being in N*ot College are the military and the Academy’s rites of passage that earn one the privileges that will be granted. Everything will come in due time and after due process. For example, Enlisted sailors go through Boot Camp, SEALs go through intense BUDS training for a reason – and not everyone will make it. There is no way that any one wears that Trident or moves on to the Fleet without having earned it. Although Plebe Summer is not even close to BUDS, what is true, is that Plebes will have to earn their privileges, go through the rites of passage, and they have to be patient… everything will come in time.

As you prepare for PPW, I thought I would share some thoughts that may be helpful from our experiences:

During PPW there may be the temptation to skirt the rules, but it is not an advisable option at the United States Naval Academy. I know that Mids are notorious for placing their foot on the line, but crossing over it is a whole other issue altogether. It is be helpful to know that Plebes are to be in USNA issued uniforms at all times when out in public, and in their USNA issued PT gear in the hotel room or house when you visit during PPW AND during Plebe year. Plebes are NOT allowed to wear civilian clothes – at all – during Plebe Year. What to do? You can ask your Plebe to bring a set of PT gear for you to keep or you can buy your own set at the Midstore. I always kept our set in my suitcase so I would not forget it for the next time. Once they set foot outside the door into any public space, they must be in their uniform.

The only time they can dress in civilian clothes as a Plebe is when they are on leave (leave is vacation – such as Thanksgiving, Christmas/Holiday break, spring break, summer block of leave) and they are able to come home. When they travel to you for Thanksgiving, they will be on Leave and although they will probably travel in their uniform, once they arrive at home they will be able to wear civilian clothes for the duration of their leave. Additionally, looking toward Thanksgiving, etc., travel for Plebes (and usually Youngsters) from and to Annapolis must be in their uniform (not sure if this will change this year but you can ask your Plebe).

As you are out and about in Annapolis, you may notice that your Plebe will “Plebe” their cover – they will hold their cover with all five fingers extended on the inside part of their cover. This is what they have been trained to do. They will also be very cognizant of not getting their uniform dirty, so it will be a good idea to carry many Shout wipes wherever you go. I discuss all of this in book at length. Something else to keep in mind is that the world is very small. You never know who you are going to run into or where, so it is best to play by the rules for the first year… I have a great anecdote about this in my book. This may seem like something small or insignificant even, but doing otherwise jeopardizes your Plebe’s character and development as a future Naval Officer.

During PPW, they will be on Town Liberty (not on duty), which is when they are allowed to go into the town of Annapolis, Baltimore or DC, until a set time, usually 11:59 p.m. that same day. I highly recommend that they return about an hour early to avoid the traffic jam that is sure to occur as everyone rushes back to the Yard, especially if you are driving! I can’t tell you how many Plebes I have seen getting out of cars and running down the King George Street at 11:45pm because Gate 1 is backed up with cars all the way to 450.

During the AC Year, Liberty may occasionally include an overnight in town, where they will be able to stay with you for the evening, during PPW they will be like cinderella and will have to be back before midnight. On Sunday it may be 1800 or 2000. Check the SOE (Schedule of Events) for the weekend and your Plebe will have the latest because sometimes, it does change at the last minute – it happened to us.

Another thing that we take for granted is driving. No, Plebes (and Youngsters for that matter) ARE NOT allowed to drive while in Annapolis or the vicinity. So just don’t do it! It is important that as parents we set a good example and not help them break the rules. We need to be walking the straight and narrow, even if our Plebes don’t. We need to realize that when we act, we no longer affect just our own kid – our sons or daughters are now a part of a very cohesive squad and company. It takes courage to do the right thing when you don’t want to – encourage your Plebe to be courageous and to do what they are supposed to.

When we help them to break the rules, we risk our sons and daughters getting in trouble, and more importantly, we place them in the awkward position of getting the Plebes in their entire squad and/or company in trouble too! They will be asked sooner or later whether they wore civvies, left the allowed area, etc., and they will have to give an answer. Other Plebes will know if they are lying or not, if they are doing the right thing or not, and if they are a leader they can trust – or not…. Your Plebe does not want to be the one to get their squad or company in trouble. Remember what they have been learning over the past or so weeks, they either ALL rise together – or they ALL fall together within the bounds they are given by their Detailers.

An anecdote from Plebe year to illustrate…my son asked for and received a chit (special permission) during the ACYear to visit family in NY during a long weekend. While walking around Rockefeller Center with a friend, he happened to run into, who else, but his Company Commander. As they locked eyes while crossing the street in opposite directions, his heart skipped a beat – he never thought he would run into any one in the City…and this Firstie was just as surprised to see my son, but gave him a nod and gave him a thumbs up, and said “Good job for being in full uniform during liberty”and kept walking.. It was random, but if anything, it confirmed to my then-Plebe that it is necessary and so worth it to follow the rules because you just never know… I was also glad to know that he was doing the right thing when he had the opportunity not to… Our Mid was living out the core values – Honor, Courage, Commitment!

One more piece of advice, please be careful with what you share on social media after PPW. Your Plebe will be able to pour their heart out, vent, commiserate, laugh, tell funny stories and so much more. Not all is meant to be shared outside of your family. Two or three years ago, some parents on Facebook posted about something that they had learned about from their Plebe, who had trusted their parents to keep confidence.

Unfortunately, they chose not to and posted details and stories on social media. The effect of the parents’ post one of the parent pages was immediate and devastating to the ENTIRE BRIGADE! Shortened and in some cases lost Liberty, additional and longer watches, earlier TAPS and a myriad of other consequences are all possible. My advice – please remember that Facebook is public, even within our closed parents groups. We all have to be discerning as to what we share publicly.

To eat at King Hall or not to eat at King Hall? That is the question! I suggest to leave it up to your Plebe with no pressure from you, but I guarantee they will want out of the Yard ASAP! In any case, your Plebe may be able to secure tickets when they are not under the microscopic eye of their Detailers (and if CoVid guidance allows), maybe toward the end of Plebe year? Or better yet, for 2/C parents weekend when they are Upper Class and will be begging you to join them and their best friends there…

DEFINITELY visit their quarters, meet their Plebe Summer roommates, take pictures, but take your cue from them and ask them as to how much they want you to interact with Detailers. If they are like my kids, it will be to not even look in their general direction and only speak when spoken to – basically only say Hello and run! In any case, it is best not to say much, maybe a polite hello and keep going. You definitely do not want to engage a Detailer in a conversation about how appreciative you are that they have been working with your Boo Bear and that Plebe Summer is over, etc. because you will be dooming your Plebe to either carry a bear for the rest of the year, or to be called Boo Bear by everyone for the next four years (and it has happened!).

Finally (phew!), although PPW is here, Plebe Summer will not be over until they meet the rest of the Upper Class in their company during Brigade reform on HELL-O Night, (see my post on this special night) so they still have a week or so still to go after PPW ends. In the meantime, your Plebe knows what the rules are – what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do. Please encourage them to make the right choice. Trust me – your Plebe does NOT want to be the one that costs his squad or company-mates privileges, especially if it involves something we did as parents. They also should not want to compromise their character – is their character really worth wearing civvies instead of PT gear? I am sure you will agree that it is just not worth it.

Plebe year will be over in the blink of an eye, and your Plebes will get to reap the benefits of their self-discipline, and will enjoy many privileges denied them as Plebes. Be patient and encourage your Plebe to be patient. It is not only a right of passage, but it is about learning to follow orders even when you don’t want to, when no one is looking, and all about earning the respect and trust of their peers and their Detailers. As future Naval Officers, not following orders could cost real men and women their lives… Just do the right thing!

And as Karl Smith always talks about, everyone’s journey is the right journey for them. Don’t feel like you have to do something or not do it. Do what is right for your family and your Plebe.

I hope to see you at the Midstore for my book signing during PPW. The schedule is below:

Thursday, August 11, 20221300 to 1700h
Friday, August 12, 20210800 to 1000h and 1300 to 1600h
Saturday, August 13, 20210800 to 1200h

You can listen to my latest Podcast episode which may be helpful as you prepare for PPW: “What are Sponsors Anyway?” A candid conversation with with Kathleen Rohrs, where we talk about being a USNA parent, being a 30-year Sponsor Mom, PPW Dos and Dont’s and talk a little about the ACYear. It should be very helpful. My podcast is on Podbean and is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcast!

Other wonderful resources about our USNA Journey are Karl Smith’s blog, My Kid the Mid, and Steve Wade’s book, The Naval Academy – A Parent’s Ponderings from Home Port: Untying the Bowline on I-Day. One of my most brilliant mentors, Elaine Brye’s Be Safe, Love Mom website and book will give you a glimpse ahead past Commissioning and also offers strategies to persevere as a military parent. You can listen to my podcasts with Karl, Steve, and Elaine here. These USNA parents express what they have learned about the journey that may also help you to forge your own way along the journey.

So proud of you and your Plebes – You did it!! You are almost at the end of the tunnel. Hang in there and enjoy your Plebe.

Remember that I am just a message away and here to help!

Class of 2020 PPW – Plebe and Firstie
%d bloggers like this: