Navy Life Story: Plebe Summer Part II

I might be in this photo? I was somewhere in this group.

A large part of the Plebe Summer experience is about being disoriented. No watches were allowed during Plebe Summer and the clocks were covered up. As part of this disorientation, they didn’t even let us see where we were going on the bus when we were being driven away from Alumni Hall. Since I knew the Academy so well that didn’t exactly disorient me, but they tried. The bus ride dropped you off at Bancroft Hall, where you met your first company Cadre. “Cadre” is the term for the 1/C Midshipmen that are running Plebe Summer. Three years later, when that was my role, we were called “Detailers,” but since I had the last real Plebe Summer they were called Cadre. The Cadre escorted you up to your room where you stowed your stuff and waited until the rest of your company arrived.

I was lucky because in my room waiting was my new friend and current security question answer for “First College Roommate,” Wes. Wes was a great boon because he had gone to NAPS, the Naval Academy Preparatory School, so he knew a great many of the ropes and was the first ally I had met on an already long hard day. He showed me how I was supposed to store my stuff and we chit-chatted for the next few hours while we waited and our other two roommates, Matt and Jester, showed up.

The next event on I-Day was our swearing in. After everyone had arrived in company area, the Cadre collected us and he proceeded down to T-Court. That bag that I had tossed on the truck earlier with all of my underwear that I had just been issued? On this trip to T-Court I spotted it in one of the hallways. I wasn’t going to see it again for three days, so for the next three days I did everything, including PT, in the same pair of underwear I showed up in that day.

In T-Court, we were directed to our seats. There are 30 companies in the Brigade of Midshipmen, and I was in 26th Company. It was an excellent company, but as I found out on I-Day and as I would experience for the next four years, we always wind up in the back and we never have any idea what is going on. So in a confused state and blinded by the sea of white uniforms in front of me, I suppose I was sworn in to the US Navy. I don’t really remember.

The rest of I-Day couldn’t have been much. We went to dinner, came back to company area, and sat down to write our first Thought of the Day. The Thought of the Day was a letter you were required to write every night to your squad leader. Its purpose was to keep tabs on the mental state of each Plebe. When I was a Plebe Summer Detailer, we would all go through each Thought of the Day and flag any as “yellow” or “red” if the Plebes were having suicidal thoughts or anything that needed addressing. The only Thought of the Day I remember was the one time I tried to make a joke – and was swiftly rebuked for it (as an extended explanatory parenthesis, later in the summer we were taking muster and our Squad Leader Assistant, who’s job it was to take muster, didn’t know where one of us was. Our squad leader yelled at us and commented, sarcastically, “did he just disappear into the ether?!” Since it was at the Academy that Michelson disproved the existence of ether, I found this ironic and reported it in my thought of the day. Result: squad leader in my face hissing “that was very witty and insightful and don’t you ever fucking write anything like that again.” Such is Plebe Summer). We came together as a group and, as we were to do every night for our entire Plebe Year, sang “Blue and Gold,” finishing with a resounding “BEAT ARMY.”

Then it was lights out. On our first night, Jester was caught not quite all the way in the covers at lights out. Our Company Commander told an incredulous Jester to burrow all the way to the bottom of his rack and then back to the top. The rest of us tried not to laugh. And that was day 1 of Plebe Summer.