Friday, June 18, 2010

Five Days in Annapolis, Been Changed

Article I of the US Armed Forces Code of Conduct:
"I am an American fighting in the forces which defend my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense".

EMT teams raced around campus Wednesday as we performed a half-version, 7 hour synthesis of Sea Trials, a keystone experience for Plebe (Freshmen) Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Although our whole squad of 7 pulled through, not every shipmate did. Some stopped on their own volition; others went out with a zap and bang. On our squad's final trial, fatigued, wet, and sore, we clumsily bear-crawled down a hill. We had a perfect sightline of EMT's working on a fellow shipmate. I suppose that the Midshipmen didn't put up a courtesy curtain because "that there ain't the worst you'll see in battle". The openness of the event also allowed us to say to ourselves and to our squad buddies: "That kid has (darn) good dedication".

I had a co-worker tell me that I was nuts for considering to attend a service academy. Multiple times over the week we were reminded, directly and indirectly, of what you'll have to be prepared to give up if you attend the Academy. Examples include time with friends and family, civilian clothes, "regular college stuff", your life. Our squad leader,a Midshipmen of the Class of 2013, took us to Memorial Hall, a most revered and hallowed space. We perambulated the hall in our buddy pairs. He pointed to the columns of WWII Midshipmen casualties. The usually peppy gymnast just stared. "That many", he murmured. We then went over the wall bearing plaques for the casualties of recent graduating years. The squad leader showed us our place on the wall: "Remember, we are at war and will likely be at war when you graduate". What I want to do is pilot from the bridge of a large ship. My title would be Surface Warfare Officer. My buddy wants to train to be an aviator- not on recon missions but as a Marine Aviator, in the middle of the field of action. I was not dissuaded, neither was he. We know that with privilege comes responsibility. "Where else will someone let you, age 25, take out a $40 million jet and burn $18,000 of fuel in a single trip?"

That's what's so great about being a Naval Officer- the end product of Academy life. Now clean words here will not describe how much I loved the daily challenges- including and especially Sea Trial Day, a "tough day" even when it comes to real-life plebe year. This is the best part- I never expected that I would like it so much.

I reencountered that shipmate the next day at "Graduation". He told me in a serious tone,"Too bad that I missed Indoc last night 'cuz I was in the hospital".
What a beast.

Shipmate Anonymous, what you missed was the awesome experience of being placed under pressure by rising Sophomores who are testing out their newly-earned authority for the first time. Reality Check: What'cha gonna feel if your wood-clad ship was on fire? Personally, I was in a sweat based on the high expectations, but I kept cool under pressure. I wasn't 'dropped' (for reparation in the physical form) as much as I or any of my fellow squadmates had expected.

At least we had this sometimes rebellious reply in our sleeve: " Sir, order to the helm Sir". Never Sir a Ma'am, though.

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