Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A bit technical, a bit nostalgic: 4th Class No More.

Now where did I leave off? Just a quick summary-- I felt that this most recent trimester was the most rigorous of the three. No easy B+'s- the grade needed to score an Academic Star . My GPA this trimester was weighed around B. As a mentor suggested last trimester, I had built up enough of a lead earlier in the year that I could still maintain a Star status for the year overall. I knew of In a brief personal journal entry, I noted this past exam week as "The Crucible", since it would determine if I had a choice of engineering majors (The cutoff for two programs is near 2.8, a B- average). So no big blog post that week. 24 hours after completing my last exam, I was on a Reserve Fleet ship, the SS Wright, in Baltimore MD. Aboard the ship, us USMMA students entertained the staff and leaders of the Maritime Administration from just an hour south in DC; represented the future of American maritime potential aboard the museum ship NS Savannah (and became one of few midshipmen to work aboard a (formerly) nuclear vessel); represented the Academy during Fleet Week in the city (Navy mids and Coast Guard cadets were present as well); and finally, worked on modular refrigerator units that were being placed onto the ship. And we spent some time after work in the evenings cruising the city in plainclothes. On that note, it was to benefit that one upperclassman had brought his car to the ship. My older Academymates enjoyed $1 specials on National Bohemian (Natty Boh)-- but not the driver, mind us; we enjoyed baseball on the big screen at Candie Maries (at Fleet and Milton), and I enjoyed playing some ping-pong. We didn't know how much fun and enjoyable-- and economical-- an American port could be. We expressed some shipboard courtesy- Catch the crew after the meal if you have a question about work. And some courtesy among our own: Do not discuss the Regiment outside of campus-- that includes casual remarks about our promotion on June 19 (after 2012's graduation) to midshipmen-one-class-higher. Indeed, talking about "class rate" is viewed taboo like talking about social class in America. (It seems to me, though, that Band Company is just slightly different. Class rate is paid attention to with detail over there- The Regiment, which includes Class rate, seems to be a big pride in that Company than in the other companies). While at sea, we have the same title- Cadet. We often work side by side. So class rate just is a tad less relevant while at sea--- although, I must note, sea experience does count. Onboard the SS Wright, there were us newbies-- landlubbers, perhaps, with single digit count of days at sea. Our driver was a year higher than us, and had over 200 days at sea- on ships that left port! The rising senior on board had somewhere near 300 days. And that term "Rising firstie/ second/ third class" was a new creation by us, since we had to recognize that the incoming fourth class (Class of 2016) haven't been to sea yet; and that our shoulder boards needed to be restriped. The person in charge, the port engineer, is a 1975 Academy grad, and never heard that term used before. Always room for something new. The taboo of "class rate" is drawn to the spotlight: As a practical matter, I left campus dressed down slightly. I had dry cleaned my official liberty attire- summer whites- and put it away in my suitcase so that it would be fresh for when I needed to entertain official visitors from the Maritime Administration onboard my ship. Others left in civilian clothes for personal reasons, such as to mark the end of fourth class year. Apparently, according to the new commandant, this is a second class privilege that had slid to the third class over time. It's true. I checked the thick book of midshipmen regulations (over 200 pages). But why did second and third class priveleges merged over time? The oldest regulations were written when midshipmen spent nearly all of third class year at sea. This has changed since the 1960's, where two "splits" in each of 2nd and 3rd class year alternate semesters (now trimesters) at sea. But what happened is that A split spends 2 trimesters as third class, B split spends 2 trimesters ans second class. (Part of the reason for this was to better Kings Point winter athletics- B split students spend all 4 winters at the Academy-- the other component was to keep students from the "drudgery" of 6 straight trimesters). So is it really fair for half the class to have better culmulative priveleges than the other half? The other large change is a revamping of liberty policy. The new first class had already gotten creative with 4th class liberty. Noting that most disciplinary problems on liberty occured after dark on Saturday nights, liberty was granted all weekend, as typical for upperclassmen, with the exception of 9pm to 9am on Saturday night. The most adventurous 4th class would have to hang tight until after midnight bed check before heading back out to the City. Previously, we had rotated between weeks of liberty from 2pm until midnight and weeks of no liberty because someone "messed up" the previous weekend. The new strategy (which I had actually suggested months before as a way to raise plebe morale for those who had no intention to participate in nightlife) worked. It worked so well that it came into use for the third class, to combat their own occassional rowdiness on the 3:19am train. (But we were not the most rowdy, though, as the New York Post never mentioned us in why the Long Island Railroad increased police presence on that train. This was a culture change for the third class, who were accustomed to overnight liberty evey weekend. But the 3:19am train would also literally become a thing of memory only. Effective the weekend before Memorial Day, the 3:19am, train was now the 3:04am train. It had been the 3:19am train long enough that recent graduates talk about the memories from that train. Perhaps the change in departure time, it is rumored, was to break us up into two groups- those who came back to Penn Station early, and those who tried to cut it close. Perhaps it was to drive some nightlifers back into town for another hour of cash spending. The Commandant reports that liberty policy will indeed change. Overnight liberty will be granted on a pass system (a system which had existed before the familiar system, which he calls a "free-for-all"). Fourth class will have the fewest (That would be, according to the old rule book, 3 for the second and third trimester, including holiday weekends). Currently, first class are entitled to seven- about one for every other weekend. Policy regarding extra liberty passes for high GPA's will be formalized. While our first go-to guy to take these weekends was the Class of 2012's valedictorian, who certainly enjoyed the privelege as a plebe, his successor doubted that the program actually existed-- doubting that talk on the parent's page reflected reality. For my roommate one recent weekend, this doubt was overruled by the Commissioned Officer on the basis that mothers are right!