Summer 2010 Update #2 – US Naval Academy Commissioning Week

Wow!  What a busy past week (picture gallery.)

We are tired from all of the activities we participated in for the Naval Academy’s Commissioning Week (one of Jane’s childhood girlfriend’s son was graduating from the Naval Academy) which concluded in the conferring of academic degrees (Bachelor of Science) and the commissioning of the midshipmen into either the Marine Corps, Navy, or even the Army or Air Force (special circumstances for Army/Air Force commissioning.)

The week started for us with a demonstration of precision marching and rifle handling by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon based at Marine Barracks Washington.  The 24 man rifle platoon performs their entire drill without any commands, drum beats,

The Marine Silent Drill Team tosses rifles at each other

The entire drill is performed without any command of any sort

or any other visual or aural clues.  The Marines were all about the same height, looked about the same, and acted as one organism.  Their routine was a thing of beauty to watch.  There are some YouTube videos of the guys performing and I encourage you to search them out and watch the guys in action.

We thoroughly enjoyed a walking tour of the over 300 acre Naval Academy site first established in 1845 by then Secretary of the Navy, George Bancroft.

The dormitory that houses all 4,000+ midshipmen under one roof is in fact named after George Bancroft.  This is one humongous building (the largest dormitory in the world) consisting of 33 acres of floor space, 1,700 rooms and 4.8 miles of halls.

In addition to the midshipmen rooms, Bancroft Hall houses offices for the Commandant of Midshipmen, six battalion officers, six battalion chaplains, thirty company officers and their senior enlisted leaders, a barbershop, bank, travel office, a small restaurant known as “Steerage,” textbook store, general store (“The Naval Academy Store” or “The Mid Store”), laundromat, uniform store, cobbler shop, the USNA Band, the USNA branch of the United States Postal Service, a gymnasium, spaces for extracurricular activities, and full medical & dental clinics as well as small optometry and orthopedics clinics. The Hall even has its own ZIP code (21412)!

The building also contains King Hall (named after Fleet Admiral Ernest King), where all midshipmen are fed simultaneously three times daily.

The midshipmen gather in formation three times a day, five days a week (except the summer) in the large plaza in front of Bancroft to count noses and gain more practice at assembling, marching, and following a military routine.  Every Friday, there is a formal Color Parade at Worden Field in which all 4,000+ midshipmen again get more practice in marching and generally following a very regimented lifestyle (my analysis!)  We got to watch a noon meal formation in front of Bancroft Hall and the very last Color Parade for the first class (seniors) midshipmen.  It was so hot and miserable, 62 mids were either carried off or helped off the parade grounds due to heat exhaustion.  We heard one was taken to the academy hospital!  The mids were dressed in their dark blue formal uniforms so it’s no wonder so many were being helped off the field.  The local Annapolis newspaper showed some pictures of the graduating ‘firsties’ playing in a fountain after their parade – celebrating and cooling off!

On the same day as the color parade another tradition happens, the Herndon monument plebe climb.

A ‘plebe’ is a first year or freshmen student that has a very difficult life at the Academy until they transform from civilian student to military student.  These kids leave a known and familiar world for a completely different environment where they are challenged physically, emotionally, and mentally with the upper classmen  and Chief Petty Officers (senior enlisted Naval non-commissioned officers) dishing out the ‘works.’   Their first year is extremely challenging and demanding and when they realize their plebe year is about over and they will advance a year, they are all excited with the realization of a major milestone accomplished in their path to becoming a commissioned officer in the armed forces.

This excitement is discharged with the Herndon monument plebe climb (we finally got back to this!)  All 1,000+ plebes dress in their gym outfits and prepare to climb the 21 foot tall Herndon obelisk with the objective of replacing the plebe ‘dixie-cup’ cap  previously placed on top with a hat worn by 1st, 2nd and, 3rd class mids.  Traditionally the obelisk is greased with lard and the plebes sprayed with water while they climbed, but this year the Commandant of the Naval Academy decreed no grease for safety reasons (which turned out to be an extremely unpopular and provocative decision since he altered a long tradition.)

Two F/A-18s pass closs by going in opposite directions

The Blue Angels put on quite the show

The Navy’s Blue Angels (officially the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron) performed their amazing aerobatics right in front of the Naval Academy over the Severn River.  We have never ever been so close to an aerobatic show, either civilian or military.  There are 20 pictures of this demonstration in our photo gallery (I took 500!)  You aviation lovers be sure and check it out.

Last Friday was the event that 1,000+ midshipmen ‘firsties’ and thousands of family, friends and supporters were eagerly anticipating – the commissioning of the mids into the Navy, Marines, or for the class of 2010, one into the Army.  The new  Navy officers are commissioned as Ensigns (O-1), and Marine/Army as 2nd Lts (also O-1).  The rank insignia is one gold bar affectionately referred to as the ‘butter bar.’

The speaker for this commissioning ceremony was Vice President of the Unites States Joe Biden while President Obama was the speaker for the West Point ceremony (they trade off each year.)  Biden shook the hand of each graduate – I’ll bet his hand needed

VP Joe Biden shakes the hand of new Navy Ensign Quinn Rohane

VP Joe Biden shakes the hand of an Ensign

a rest after all of that.

We are all very proud of brand-new Ensign […] who has chosen the […] career track.  He reports to Pensacola Naval Air Station in about 30 days for primary flight training.  […] track is not a pilot track, but he will be aboard […]

We leave the Annapolis area tomorrow and are headed to Gaffney, SC for some routine maintenance maintenance on our Freightliner coach chassis, and then later on the week we head to the Oriental, NC area to have another visit with some dear old friends, the Auths.