Samantha – Plebe Summer Begins

At this point I could make an excuse that Samantha was too busy to get another episode to me, but to tell the truth my research left a lot of holes. I finally decided I would just have to be vague where I didn’t know the details.

Samantha got through Induction Day without any major problems. She did feel a loss when her family left, but that was something she already knew she had to deal with. Here’s her take on some of what happened over the next few days.

Plebe summer: it started as soon as our visits with family ended. Most of it was just plain hard, and despite my preparation I wasn’t a supergirl. I took my licks along with everyone else.

That first evening meal was interesting. Learning to sit at attention on the front four inches of my chair managed to bring the reality of my change in life into focus. My advance knowledge of Reef Points actually made me the target of more questions. I’m sure it was to see where I would miss something. I managed with only a few mistakes.

On the other hand, some of it seemed absolutely ridiculous, and Lance Wilson seemed to work on tripping me up. That evening in the hall outside our rooms he seemed to take an immediate dislike for me. He pounced on me as soon as we assembled.

“Plebe, how long have you been in the Navy?”

His face was less than six inches from mine. He wasn’t a bad looking guy. About my height, sandy hair, green eyes, but his frown would have burned the paint on the wall behind me. I was tempted to give a straight answer, but I stared him in the eye, unblinking, and responded as required, “All me bloomin’ life, sir! Me mother was a mermaid. Me father was King Neptune.”

I think that surprised him, but Dad had made sure I knew it. It may be that all the advance work I had done was what set Wilson off. He ran me through the whole series. I continued to respond correctly. Finally, he asked, “Plebe, what’s your favorite quotation?” He was right there in my face again.

I had to think about that, but I knew I wouldn’t have time. I spouted the first quotation that came to mind, “Sir, on the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory, sir.”

His frown darkened. “Plebe, that was by an Army general,” he growled. “You can do better than that.”

“Sir, yes sir. God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.”

“Nimitz. That’s more like it, but I prefer, ‘A ship is always referred to as ‘she’ because it costs so much to keep one in paint and powder.’” He smirked at that one.

The next morning we were introduced to PEP. That’s the Physical Exercise Program, an hour and a half of pure torture we would have to endure virtually every morning. As a long distance runner I was in better shape than a lot of my classmates, but even so by the time that first PEP session was over, I was exhausted. I can only imagine what some of the less prepared were going through. At least, Wilson wasn’t on my backside during PEP.

Then there was marching. We got into it almost immediately. I thought I was pretty good; in fact, I “know” I was pretty good, but that didn’t deter Wilson. When we formed up to march to meals or practice marching, he would be right alongside me, repeatedly tossing barbs. They were all trivial, like “Get in step” (I was doing my best, but the entire company needed to work on that), “Eyes front” (Okay, I admit I let my eyes wander), and “Head up. Chin back” (I was doing better than anyone else around me. Dad had taught me well). By the time we dismissed I was close to losing my temper despite knowing that was what he was after.

Room inspections were another matter. Again I knew what to expect, and I knew it took teamwork. We weren’t just responsible for our own stuff. We were responsible for our roommates’ stuff too. I tried to get that across to Ashley and Danielle but it didn’t sink in right away. Fortunately, it only took one of Wilson’s raking over the coals to do it. That may have been because of me, but after that I became the de facto room commander, and they both listened to me.

All in all the first few days were really challenging even as prepared as I was. And Wilson continued to dog me. I’m not exactly sure when it came to me, but I don’t take kindly to being harassed (I know, it wasn’t harassment. It was what he was supposed to be doing). I quickly decided that I was going to pay him back. The question was, how could I do it and not get caught?

Samantha – I is for Induction

Induction Day at the Naval Academy is a production. It’s specifically for in processing for midshipmen candidates. Their families and the incoming candidates have activities lined up that can keep them busy for the whole day. Samantha had prepared for it with her father’s help. He had given her his copy of Reef Points and, knowing it was updated annually, she had dutifully memorized everything anyway. She had studied everything she could find in the library and online. She knew where to go and what was going to happen, and she knew that when she walked into Alumni Hall there was no turning back.

I followed the other candidates to the check in station. On my way I was stopped by a Marine Colonel who shook my hand and welcomed me aboard. “Are you Admiral Pederson’s daughter?” That took me by surprise, but I was too dazed to notice his name tag. I learned afterwards that he was Colonel Allen, the Commandant of Midshipmen. He was still shaking hands when I walked up to the table to pick up my name tag and information packet.

The guy who handed me my name tag looked at my t-shirt. “I hope that doesn’t mean you think this is a mistake.”

I laughed. “Heavens no. I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to do my best to set some new records.”

“Great attitude. So what are you standing around for?” He smiled and nodded toward the next table.

Much of the rest of the morning and afternoon was a matter of following lines of candidates from one station to the next and then waiting in line. One of the first things we got was a copy of Reef Points. We were told to start memorizing it. We were measured for uniforms and given a gear bag, actually a large laundry bag. We exchanged our civilian clothes first for shorts and a t-shirt and then a “white works” uniform went on over the athletic gear. We got the ubiquitous black canteen. It was supposed to be to keep us hydrated, but I suspect it was also to mark us as plebes.The gear bag got heavier as the remaining uniform gear went in it. There was a medical exam, a dental exam, the obligatory haircut. Actually, I remember that because I didn’t even get to sit in the chair. I was one of several candidates who wore our hair shorter than required. One of the women barbers joked, “Maybe we should cut her hair like we do the guys.”

After what seemed like an interminable trek through station after station, a group of us were herded into a loading dock. We gave up our gear bags on which we had written our names and units in large capital letters. The bags were thrown on a truck and dropped off just outside Bancroft hall. We were left behind to spend some time learning military customs and courtesies, like how to salute and how to answer questions by upper classmen.

It seemed like as soon as we all managed to say, “Sir, yes sir,” in unison, we were ushered out of the loading dock and onto a bus. When we arrived at Bancroft hall, we were hurried off the bus and into the arms of awaiting detailers, upper-class midshipmen, who rushed us over to a stack of gear bags and told us in no uncertain terms to find ours and get it inside without delay. That was one thing I really remember, we couldn’t do much of anything without a detailer yelling at us to hurry up.

Other detailers led us to our plebe summer rooms where we learned things like how to make our racks (beds) and store our gear. Because we were the stragglers, we broke for lunch almost immediately. When we got back to Bancroft Hall, there was some catching up to do, but the afternoon seemed to be gone almost before it started. Then to the shouts of the detailers, we were lined up and marching – as best we could – into Tecumseh court for the swearing in ceremony.

The ceremony was relatively brief, but it seemed to drag on. Admiral Moore had his say, and we all stood with our right hands in the air to respond to the oath of office with “I do.” We were no longer candidates. We were midshipmen. But we were still plebes.

I don’t remember anything else, whatever it was. After that we had 45 minutes to spend with our families, which for me included a personal swearing-in ceremony conducted by my dad, naturally.

That 45 minutes was the shortest time of any event that day. Before I knew it, I was saying a tearful goodbye to Mom, Dad, and Nelson. I squatted down next to Nelson. “Well, little brother, it’ll be a while before I see you again. Take care of Mom and Dad for me.”

“I will.” He smiled mischievously. “Does this mean I get your old room?”

I had to laugh, and it broke the gloomy spell that had been cast over me. I pecked him on the cheek and stood up. I kissed Dad on the cheek and said, “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, sweetheart.” He gipped my arms just below the shoulder and held me back from him to take a look at me. ”God, I’m proud of you. Remember, this isn’t supposed to be easy, but you can do it. I know you can.” He stepped back and saluted. I didn’t have my cover on, but I returned the salute.

Mom was still emotional. I couldn’t blame her, but I was doing what wanted to do, and I was excited about it. “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too.” She tried to sound flippant, but I could see the glint of moisture in her eyes. “Take care of yourself. See you in six weeks.” She took Nelson’s hand and started toward where the car was parked, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

“Goodbye, everybody.” I waved one last time and then stood there until they walked out of sight.

I turned back toward Bancroft Hall. Tomorrow began the real program. Six weeks. Plebe summer. I dreaded it and looked forward to it.

Samantha – L is for Lonely

Induction Day at the Naval Academy is a production. It’s specifically in-processing for midshipmen candidates. Their families and the incoming candidates have activities lined up that can keep them busy for the whole day. Samantha had prepared for it with her father’s help. He had given her his copy of Reef Points and, knowing it was updated annually, she had dutifully memorized everything anyway. She had studied everything she could find in the library and online. She knew where to go and what was going to happen, and she knew that when she walked into Alumni Hall there was no turning back.

The alarm went off at 4:00 am. Grumbling, I reached out to slap the beast that was interfering with my hard won sleep. I had tossed and turned ever since I went to bed, barely getting to sleep when the alarm began beeping. I forced my eyes open and climbed out of bed. I showered, luxuriating in the cold water as I came fully awake. I dressed in a pair of cutoff jean shorts, scruffy running shoes, and a t-shirt that said “You learn from mistakes. I learned a lot today.” I had heard somewhere that you could show up for I-day nude but it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

As I dried my hair, I looked myself over in the bathroom mirror. Here it was, the moment of truth. Was I really ready for this? I was excited, a little scared, but, yes, I was ready. The face in the mirror smiled back with grim determination.

The family had a hurried breakfast. My eggs were tasteless and I had a hard time eating them because my stomach roiled, not from fear but excitement. As the clock ticked down, more than once Nelson objected loudly about having to get up so early, but Mom simply told him he could sleep in the car.

We rolled out of the driveway at 5:00 and hit the interstate. Traffic was light until we reached Alexandria. Then it turned chaotic. On top of the “rush hour” traffic, which was bad enough, not long after we crossed the Potomac, the traffic came to a complete stop. As the delay dragged out I could feel the anxiety building. I was supposed to check in by 10:00, and the margin was getting narrower and narrower. Dad began talking about driving on the shoulder to reach the next exit. Fortunately, before he did, Mom announced, “Traffic is starting to move up ahead.”

I could see some of the tension drain out of Dad’s shoulders. We were moving again, albeit slowly. It took us fifteen more minutes to reach the scene of the accident. A semi was on its side on the southbound side, and the police had blocked all the lanes on that side but the inside one. I counted seven emergency vehicles. I commented, “What a gapers’ block. I bet that’s breaking news, even for this area.”

Mom nodded. “I hope no one was badly hurt.” In a way that’s how I’ll always remember her, always concerned about others. It’s true even now. Am I getting maudlin? It must because this day brings back so many memories.

We arrived at Gate 8 of the Academy at 9:30 or should I say, 0930? By the time we reached Alumni Hall it was 9:45. On our way in Dad reminded me of what was happening. “I’m going to let you out at Alumni Hall. You know what to do. Then I’m going to drop in on Willy – Admiral Moore – to let him know I’m here and introduce the family … the rest of the family. He’s expecting me. You’re going to be busy for the next several hours, but we’ll see you after the swearing in.”

I got out of the car, and they drove off. I watched them until they made a turn and disappeared behind a building. For a moment I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. My Mom and Dad had just driven off, leaving me by myself to face the biggest change in my life. Sure, I’d see them one more time today, but the change would already be taking place.

I looked up at the building in front of me and the young men and women straggling in line toward the entrance. Straggling? No they weren’t. They were walking tall, and so would I. I straightened my back and strode purposefully forward to join them. It was show time!

Samantha – Graduation

Samantha had made up her mind to apply to both the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy. This is what she had to say about the remainder of her school year.

I’m going to synopsize here because the following eight months were hectic but not exciting. As I mentioned before I turned in my preliminary applications for both schools and applied for nominations in every possible channel. Dad recommended I start a serious physical exercise program before taking the fitness tests. I’m glad I did. I found out from Senator Warren’s staff that I had the highest scores of any woman candidate on every single test. And later at the academy it made the first event of each morning almost a breeze.

The interviews with the Admissions Liaison Officer for the Air Force Academy and the Blue and Gold Officer for the Naval Academy were interesting. Both were upbeat and optimistic about my chances for selections.

When the candidate selections came in, I had been selected for both the Air Force and the Navy. It’s no secret that I chose the Naval Academy. That was for two reasons. First and obvious, my dad was a Naval Academy graduate and wanted me to follow in his footsteps, and second, I was having a problem with my right eye at the time and couldn’t pass the vision test for military piloting – At the time I didn’t know it was temporary.

Dad dug into his memorabilia and found his copy of Reef Points and gave it to me to memorize with the caution that it was updated annually. That gave me another head start.

As for school, I kept my four plus grade point average. In track I specialized in cross country. It fit in with my exercise regimen. I could brag about my first place finishes and make excuses for coming in second at state, but I won’t. My social life flourished, but I missed both Renee and Dwayne, and I didn’t make any other serious relationships.

Graduation came, and as one of the three students with the top GPA I got the privilege of speaking. Fortunately, one of the parents, Mrs. Filstrup, was a Toastmaster, and she had conducted a program that taught students public speaking and leadership. Dad had insisted that it would be good training for Annapolis, so I participated. When I learned I would be speaking, Mrs. Filstrup helped me prepare my speech. She even gave me some ideas. You see, my speech was a prank. I couldn’t resist a final one.

When it came my turn to speak, I walked up to the lectern looking as serious as I possibly could. From under my robe I produced a makeup kit and placed it on the lectern. I heard some stirring behind me from the teachers and dignitaries, but I ignored them.

I looked out on the sea of gowns and the friends and family behind them. They hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary … yet. Speaking into the microphone quietly, I said, “As you all know, today is a solemn occasion. Today we commemorate a major milestone in our education. We have all successfully completed twelve years of schooling, some may have taken a few more. Now we’re going out to face a troubled world and try to make a meaningful impact on it. That sounds serious, doesn’t it?”

I paused to look around. Many of the teachers behind me looked tense. Principal Ashworth, however, was grinning broadly. The audience in front of me seemed ready to start yawning. I raised my voice. “Well, I don’t believe in taking life seriously.”

I took off my cap and put it on the shelf in the lectern. I stepped back, grabbed the sides of my gown, and pulled it up and off over my head. The audience gasped. I was wearing a one-piece, white clown suit decorated with random hearts and large red buttons. It had puffy sleeves and trouser legs. I bent over and released the front of my clown shoes so they stuck out like they were supposed to. Then I stepped back to the lectern. “So let’s have some fun.”

Over the next fifteen minutes I applied white face, a painted red smile, and black circles around my eyes, all the while regaling the audience with the need to enjoy life while we could and to share that joy with others. As I got ready to wrap up, I put on an oversized pair of sunglasses and paused briefly. Finally, adding a red sponge nose, I stepped out from behind the lectern. “Class of 2003, here’s my challenge to you. Wherever you go from here, defeat seriousness and spread joy. The world needs you. … Now, who has the beach balls?” I took an exaggerated bow.

I got a standing ovation. Dr. Ashworth led it.

Of course, I only had a rough idea of the work I had ahead of me. Would a cheerful attitude be enough?