Imagine the NFL draft, the Oscars, and The Price is Right rolled into one awesome event – actually even better, because it has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with service. Ship Selection is the night when Midshipmen that are SWO Selects get to literally shine.
Firsties that have been assigned to the Surface Warfare community will choose the ships where they will work and live for the foreseeable future. This will be the vessel where they begin their naval careers, train, and qualify for their SWO pin over the next two years. A lot of research goes into the choice of ship and a lot of things are in motion at the same time. Selection is by Order of Merit (OOM). OOM is key for many things at USNA. For Ship Selection, the higher the OOM the closer the Midshipman is to making their first choice. As choices disappear, Plan B becomes very real.
Desirable ports? Rota Spain is usually the first to go, along with Hawaii and Japan. And although location is of interest, of main importance is the ship and the opportunities it can offer. Are they currently in dry dock or are they scheduled to be? This can significantly delay qualifications that happen underway. Has there been a lot of turn over in command? Are they deployed or going to deploy soon, or did they just return from deployment? These are all things to think about. But as in anything with the Big Navy, it can be a coin toss regardless of the amount of research. Some Midshipmen are bound to very few choices due to their service selection, such as IP (Information Professional) or IW (Information Warfare). They will usually go towards the end of the “draft” and are limited to certain ships designated with plaques of a specific color depending on the assignment. There are also Blue Chips – those are ships that have extended an invitation to a particular Midshipman that has been on the ship for a summer training or other opportunity, and the ship’s command has basically said “we want you”. Midshipmen can accept the blue chip invite – or not and select another ship.
As far as the event itself, the air is electric and full of excitement. This is the moment the sacrifices and overcoming the difficulties past four years have forged. It is amazing! Usually, each Midshipman chooses a song that will play as they walk down to the stage where there are boards with names of ports and ship ready for the harvest. The Mids will walk down as their name is called in OOM while a mini bio with a picture is shown on a giant electronic screen hovering over the stage. As the Midshipmen walk across the stage, the tension is palpable. The choice is made – the Firstie takes the plaque with the ship name off of the board and signs of elation are expressed – back flips, fist pumps, jumps, somersaults, and a myriad of other antics can occur and along with big smiles, are all a part of this pinnacle moment. Shouts of joy and relief will usually accompany the ship selection and the plaque is tightly grasped, as if it might evaporate into thin air at any moment. Fist pumps, from time to time – all the while being cognizant of respecting the uniform.
After the ship is selected, the Mid will walk across the stage where Officers from the various ships are waiting at the other end of the stage and greet their new charge. They are greeted by the ship’s welcome committee. Under normal circumstances, each ship will usually send a welcome committee of one or two officers, maybe more, and they come prepared with swag from their ship to give to the Ensigns-to-be that have selected their ship. Usually USNA alumni from the prior year are amongst the entourage that greets the Firsties after they select their ship. My then-ENS was one of those former Mid “greeters” that welcomed the class 2018 prospects. It is as exciting for the grads as it is for the Firsties, and it sure does bring back memories. Some of the ships stationed in Japan can have the coolest swag – katana swords for the soon-to-be Ensigns that select their ships.
With all of this said, remember Semper Gumby… nothing is set in stone and things can change before they get to their ship, so be prepared, to go with the flow and keep Semper Gumby close to your sleeve…
Ship Selection is the ultimate experience for Midshipmen and spectators – in person or virtual – alike. Classmates, friends, family members, Upperclass, and Plebes are all excitedly cheering for their class and company mates. Sometimes they will be holding signs, making noise for their favorite Firstie. It is so crazy and SO amazing! My husband likes to say that Ship Selection night is just like the NFL draft but with a heart for true service. And the big difference is that unlike the NFL draft, these “rookies” aren’t getting millions… They are selflessly serving their nation. Our Mids humbly continue on their journey of service and of putting others before self; of putting their lives on the line so that we can be safe here at home. Can’t say the same of other drafts…
The takeaway? We have some pretty remarkable kids who are Midshipmen and will be Officers in the Navy or the Marine Corps. They are incredible human beings to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Here, here to all of those who are to serve, who are serving, and those that have come before: May you enjoy fair winds and following seas! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and enjoy the excitement of the ship that you have selected!! YOU HAVE EARNED IT – GO NAVY!
Here is some more info from the horse’s mouth… http://www.public.navy.mil/…/midshipmen/Pages/default.aspx
(Shared from my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, by AN Shine. Copyright 2013, 2019)