Sir, yes sir; sir, no sir; sir, aye aye sir; sir, no excuse sir; sir, I’ll find out sir. These five simple phrases will get you through the majority of Plebe Summer at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Plebe Summer is the seven-week indoctrination phase incoming freshmen go through to learn basic military customs and courtesies. Getting through the Naval Academy has been and will continue to be the most challenging thing I have partaken in until I commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy in May 2022.
About two years ago, I was sitting in the same shoes as most high school seniors are in now. I had visited many colleges, but none of them seemed to click. In September of my senior year, my family and I travelled to Annapolis for my cousin’s bat mitzvah. With time to spare during the day before the evening party, my father suggested taking a tour of the Academy. Having come from a family with no one in military service since World War II, I didn’t even know what the Naval Academy was and I couldn’t predict how that visit would change my life.
What stood out to me was the Naval Academy’s dedication to creating a well-rounded person by holding everyone to the highest standards morally, mentally and physically and to develop world class leaders. I also have learned it is impossible to get through anything without the person to your left and your right. No one comes in being perfect in all of the missions of the Naval Academy, but there is not a person I don’t trust to help me when I am struggling. I have made great friends who have seen me through the depths of Plebe Summer, the arduous journey of sea trials and the euphoria of Herndon.
In order to prepare midshipmen to be the best possible officers when they graduate, the Academy offers tuition-free four-year education, room and board, food, clothes, medical care, computer, textbooks and a monthly stipend, among other incentives.
At the end of four years, about 90% of midshipmen will commission for a minimum of five years as an officer in one of four communities: surface warfare, which includes any conventional naval ship (aircraft carrier, destroyer, amphibious ship, etc.); submarine warfare; naval aviation, either as a pilot or naval flight officer (specializes in airborne weapons and sensor systems); or in the Marine Corps as either a ground or flight officer. The other 10% include SEALS, EOD, intelligence, and many other jobs.
Before commissioning, the Academy ensures that each midshipman will experience what each community is like, which most would agree is one of the best parts of the training. The summer is broken into three blocks, two of which, after telling them what your choices are, are planned by the Academy. For my first block I led a squad of rising high school seniors in Summer Seminar, which allows interested high school students to experience life as a midshipman. For my second block I was sent to San Diego where I spent a week on the USS Scranton, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine. While underway, I was allowed to drive the $1.5 billion boat, climb inside its torpedo tubes, and witness it fire blank torpedoes completely undetected at an aircraft carrier a few thousand yards away. I also got to interact with the amazing crew and learn how 140 people maintain and operate one of the Navy’s deadliest weapons. Before embarking on the submarine, I was given a few days of paid vacation in San Diego; I took this time to visit the naval air base in Coronado, where a lieutenant showed us around and let us sit on an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, which was definitely the coolest thing I have ever done. We also toured Navy surface ships and visited the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot. After this, I had a greater appreciation for how well our naval forces operate as well as what I might want to do when I commission.
If this has piqued your interest, I highly recommend that you consider the U.S. Naval Academy during your college search, as no other university or institution will give you better tools for success in later life. And yes, women do attend the Academy. Roughly 28% of my class is female and they are some of the toughest and brightest people I have met. For parents who might worry about their children joining the military, I promise that no other university can provide the job stability, leadership opportunities and training to make them as successful and competitive as the Academy does. I encourage anyone interested to reach out to me at 924-5096 or at email@example.com. “Go Navy, Beat Army!”
—Jeremy Wolfe is a 2018 graduate of Scarsdale High School.