In my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, I guide you through the journey from Plebe Summer through Commissioning. For the Plebes, so far so good! Your Mid has survived Plebe Summer, made it back to the Yard after Thanksgiving and Christmas Breaks, has made it through the snow storms and the Dark Ages with a little encouragement from home and filled-to-the-brim care packages. For parents, President’s weekend may have been a three-day opportunity to visit your Plebe. I have to say that Spring Break is like Wednesday – once you can get through it, you are pretty much home… So what is next?
From now until Spring Break, things will have been crazy – ACYear in full swing, projects left and right; a repeat of the fall semester, except that your Plebe should now has a handle on things! They should have already applied for summer training and other opportunities, and they will find out sometime in March or before, hopefully. If they have taken their leadership classes to heart, they may even be interviewing for more responsibility and leadership within their company for next year. Professional training continues with Pro Quizzes and may vary in activities by company – our Mid’s company did a run through all of the major monuments in DC, and incorporated leadership lessons at each monument that each Plebe had to prepare.
Know that after Spring Break things will begin to go slightly down hill – not in a negative sense, but in momentum toward the end of the year. For our Mid, this time was an opportunity to flourish as the watchful eye of the Upperclass begins to turn elsewhere depending on the company. Firsties are now concerned with wrapping up Capstone projects, commissioning and actually leaving the Yard. 2/Cs are busy preparing for their summer training, which can be directly tied to their service assignment – like Leatherneck for aspiring Marines, sub and SWO cruises, SEALs training, Aviation, and so many more! This is an opportunity for your Plebe to focus on academics and try to finish strong. It is also an opportunity to enjoy a little more freedom – within reason and boundaries. A few weeks after Spring Break will begin Final Exams – stressful and busy, and then there may be an opportunity, depending on exam schedule and obtaining permissions, for them to visit home during Zero Block, from when exams end until a couple of days before Sea Trails. Our Mid visited for four days (exams ended early for him!) before he had to report for Sea Trials.
Sea Trials are not open to the public, and is the next to last hurdle for Plebes to be Plebes No More. Each company will be able to work together as a tightly knit group to overcome different obstacles and physical trials. After Sea Trials. They will have a newly gained respect from 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!
The final test – Herndon – will arrive the Monday before Commissioning (May 23rd this year) for the Herndon climb. It is an indescribable experience – a roller coaster of emotion as the Midshipmen scale the unimpressive slab of marble (until it is greased with 200 Lbs. of lard, that is!) named after Commander William Lewis Herndon who chose to not abandon ship and went down with his vessel and over 400 passengers who could not be saved on board. 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’s over!
Let’s talk training – There are three training blocks (plus zero block – between finals and Commissioning or slightly longer, which many athletes use in order to complete their naval training before they go to their athletic training). Each block is about four weeks long. Once Plebes become Rising Youngsters after the current class commissions, they will participate in PROTRAMID for one block and will have leadership training for the other. During Protramid, newly minted Youngsters will have the opportunity to experience one week in each of the main service communities – Surface Warfare, Marines, Aviation, and Submarines. They will also have one block of leave unless they choose to take summer classes to lighten the load in the Fall. Leadership training can consist of OSTS (sailing), YPs, STEM Detailer, NOLS or something similar.
Depending on the Block that your Plebe will have their surface cruise or leadership training, you may have them home for a bit, but otherwise they will be busy and also have fun. You will see a different young man or woman when you see them next. That is something the Academy excels at – 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 get 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. It is a privilege to share this journey with you!!