Going Underway – The AC YEAR

As I discuss in-depth in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal Pele Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! Everything You Need to Know, now that you have re-established communications with your Plebe, you may need a Navy dictionary… SIQ, MOS, MOOW, bulkhead, deck, ladders… what??? I know that at first I had to stop my first Plebe to ask what things meant and I have to say that he was very patient. We laugh about it now, but many times, especially when he was in a hurry – which was often – I was left clueless. That is why I have added a link on the Important Links section of my website for Navy Speak translations. This resource is also very helpful – Glossary of USNA and Navy terms to help decipher your conversations. Some terms are very common; some I haven’t heard my Officers use yet… You can check it out and begin speaking the same language, or at least understanding it better!

As the AC Year gets underway, it is critical to remember that Plebes and Mids are now so busy with classes, sports practice, ECAs (Extra Curricular Activities), studying for ProKno (Professional Knowledge) quizzes, Plebe duties like getting signatures, making bulletin boards, etc., and of course, their company military duties, like standing watch. They will fail at something, but that is to be expected. They are learning to prioritize and manage their time and responsibilities and they have too many with too little time.

Football season will be a challenge in and of itself, because with it come bets. Plebes can’t refuse a bet from an Upperclass AND they always have to bet that Navy will win, which can lead to some interesting results. You will hear all of the stories from your Plebe when you visit, but make sure that you check with them before you make plans to make sure they are available and don’t have watch. Remember that if you do visit, they can ask for permission to have dinner with you at the Naval Academy Club since it is on the USNA campus. They may have a ProKno quiz but if you plan ahead of time, they may be able to work it out. We had as many as six or eight Mids at join us for dinner whenever we visited and it was a blast!

By now, we as parents should be well on our way to letting go, especially Firstie parents. One of the first things you will notice is that unless your Plebe filled out the form to give you access to their grades, you will have to depend on your Plebe to tell you what their grades are, and that is OK. You will not know if they go to the clinic – doctors don’t need Mom and Dad’s approval for them to receive medical treatment. They are now adults in the military and it is good for us to learn to respect their adulthood. It took me some time to learn, but in the end it has been great for my relationship with my Mids.

I remember one early morning in the fall of Plebe year I received a call from my then-Plebe, and he did not sound well. He explained that he was dizzy, nauseous, had a headache and a queasy stomach, and had fallen over during morning PT, and could not walk straight. He was afraid that he would fall. I knew that he had been taking boxing, and I immediately thought it was a concussion but I did not say anything so as not to worry him. I did ask him to please go get checked out, stay hydrated, and asked him go with one of his roommates, if possible. He asked for permission to go, and later told me that as he was walking to BMU with his Squad Leader, he almost fell over several times… I was worried to death and very frustrated that I could not be there to ask questions and “fix things.” This was the first time my son was sick away from my watchful eye and care, and of course, no one can take care of him like Mom.

In any case, I also knew that I could not be there to take care of him, so I had to TRUST THE SYSTEM!! I was so sick of hearing that by now… To top it all off, I did not hear from him the rest of the day and figured no news is good news. And no, I did not even think of calling. Our Plebes trained us well! I knew that he was busy and as a rule, did not like to call or text during the school day.

I received a call from him the following morning. And it went something like this, “I went to BMU (Brigade Medical Unit) and they said I was dehydrated. They gave me a chit to be SIQ (Sick in Quarters), told me to hydrate and gave me Advil. I slept for 17 hours! I guess I was exhausted.” I asked how he was feeling, but I pretty much knew that he was feeling better because he sounded like my kid again! Phew! I felt so much better and I gave myself a pat on the back for trusting the system…

So my advice to you? Trust your kid and know that they are maturing and growing into trustworthy adults. It is hard, but it is good to realize that our roles as parents have changed from hands-on, directive, to hands-off advisors, unless they ask you to be hands-on in a particular situation. Midshipmen are very resourceful and will find their own ride to and from BWI, figure out how to get their passport, and how to get things done. It is part of their training, and as much as we still want to “fix things”, we need to allow them to take care of themselves. With that said, they need to learn to advocate for themselves as well, so sometimes it is OK to go against the current using the proper channels. My former Mids learned very quickly that they were now their only advocate.

One of the easiest ways to begin regarding them as adults in their own right is to ask before doing. Check with them before you do anything that pertains to them – that includes posting about them – pictures or otherwise, checking with them before you book the hotel and flights for the visit, and showing them general adult courtesy. I remember asking about posting certain pictures and I got a yay and sometimes a nay, but I did ask… Yes, we are still parents, but they are now adults, and deserve being treated as such.

Also, as with Plebe Summer, it is good to remember that everything will be company dependent. Each company has its own way of doing things and its own culture. What may pass in one company may be a no-no for another. Although the rules are the same for all, how they are carried out can vary by company. This is a critical point to understand because in the Fleet and Marine Corps, it is the same – things can very by unit, ship, platoon, and even by service community.

If you visit in the fall during football season, here are some helpful tips:

  • During the Academic Year (AC Year) you should be able to see your Plebe on the Yard. They will be able to let you know when they are available – just work around their schedule.
  • We usually brought dinner for them and friends and met them at Dahlgren or the Levitt Center. We also brought coffee and breakfast logs (see my book) on Friday or Saturday mornings. Make sure to coordinate beforehand.
  • Plebes usually have Saturday liberty from midday after military obloigations to 11:59 pm.
  • When they have football games they don’t have as much free time because they have certain company responsibilities and attendance at the game is mandatory for all Mids unless they have other duties (like watch), but usually have liberty after.
  • Sometimes with a Navy win they can get overnights when they can spend the night outside of Bancroft Hall. They can also bank these for when you visit, so make sure to ask. If they do have an overnight available, they will be able to spend the night with you, and you will be able to see your Plebe at the game for a bit too, but they do have to stay in the Plebe areas. 
  • We always purchased season tickets in the grass area – it is right next to the the Midshipman seating area, and I was able to get some wonderful pictures of end-zone push-ups, the Glee Club, my Mids with friends, and the football game.

Finally, the information posted by the Naval Academy on the website and Facebook pages is the best and most current, and I do invite you to read other blog posts and listen to my podcast.

And always feel free to reach out with your questions. I am always glad to help! GO NAVY!!

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