Navy Life Story: Plebe Summer Part III

In case you’re not a longtime fan, the previous entry is here.

As I sit down again to write this, after only like a three year hiatus from the last entry and a span of 13 years since the events happened, I’m trying to think of a narrative to weave. I wander around thinking about it and I’m really surprised by all the little events and things I remember. It was so long ago. I was confused much of the time, though “confused” isn’t really the word for it. I am pretty good and simply shedding my perception of those things that aren’t really necessary for day-to-day existence and only focusing on the task at again, a skill that is useful for an event like Plebe Summer. There was so much that I simply didn’t realize was going on, through the sheer force of my own ignorance. I feel like a lot of the other Plebes simply knew more about the Academy than I did, having done much more research on the institution prior to applying, or maybe just because they paid attention at more of the right times. I didn’t know that Company Senior Enlisted was even a position for a long time, and so never quite figured out why that one Chief was always hanging around us. This is something I very much should have known – I think I probably cited her name multiple times a day when reciting the chain of command but it never clicked that this Chief walking around was the name I was yelling when ordered.

I covered up a lot of my ignorance with knowing a lot of other stuff. I grew up around the Naval Academy and used to live there when I was a small kid. I could suddenly put a lot of my dad’s stories into context so I had these weird little nuggets of information that allowed me to convey a broader understanding that I didn’t have. Plus I actually read Reef Points like you were supposed to whenever you had a second of downtime to just stand there. And I didn’t just focus on the stuff you were supposed to memorize, because that was boring, but read all the history and gouge in the back. So I think that must have made me seem like I knew what I was doing. Plus then again it’s Plebe Summer – it doesn’t require a whole lot of smarts, just enough sense to do what you’re told. I wasn’t great at that, but apparently just good enough.

Then again maybe it shouldn’t be remarkable to remember so much about Plebe Summer. It is an incredible time of forgetting and learning all in once. The point of Plebe Summer is to prepare you to enter the Brigade of Midshipmen, to become a fully functioning member of the society that is the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy made me in almost every way the person I am today, and Plebe Summer was the staging point for that growth and transformation. There is a weird phenomenon that happens over Plebe Summer that you shed so much of what you were before. We were warned at the beginning by one of the Cadre that we would simply forget much of what had occurred over High School and before. Not forget, I still remember High School, but the events that occurred before Plebe Summer fell from such significance to the person I became that they are relegated deeper into the subconsciousness just out of sheer irrelevance.

The first few days of Plebe Summer were about establishing the routine and habits that would carry us through the rest of the experience. Many of these were very weird, looking back. Many of these efforts were about saving time. I dry shaved over Plebe Summer for reasons that are still somewhat unfathomable to me – but it seemed to work. And I suppose it saved time in the morning. It was weeks or months into the Academic Year (so after Plebe Summer had ended) when I realized I could use shaving cream – and shaving became worlds nicer. We also didn’t use soap over Plebe Summer? Olsen suggested, and the rest of us simply took as gospel, the advice that we just use shampoo. There were four of us in the room, and when it was time to shower we simply left the shower running the entire time. The first person would get in and turn the water on. We each had been issued shampoo as part of our standard-issue supply, and one of these bottles was stationed in the shower. We used the shampoo as shampoo and as body wash. When one person was done showering, and they showered as quick as possible, they left the water on and the next person rotated in. I guess this saved time?

I’ll end with that for this entry, since it’s late and I’m already at like 800 something words. I’ll fill the rest of my Plebe Summer posts with memories about stuff. Someday it’d be a project to go back and put them in chronological order. I wrote letters home like you’re supposed to, and I’m sure mom has those saved somewhere. They probably smell like the rest of Plebe Summer did, which was a mix of sweat and Febreze. I still can’t smell Febreze without shuddering.