Anchors Away!

“There is no such thing as a free lunch”

Milton Freedman

State 39: Maryland - May 13, 2018


We woke up at a Walmart in Glen Burnie well rested, and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we partook in the best vegan crab cakes in Maryland, and could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead! The first task of the day is to drive 20 miles Southeast to Annapolis to the Cross Country Couple's “Made in the USA” tour for Maryland; United States Naval Academy. Established on October 10, 1845, United States Naval Academy is a four-year undergraduate public university situated on a 338-acre campus offering 25 majors. US Naval Academy students are called Midshipmen. Upon graduation, Midshipmen are presented with a Bachelors of Science Degree, and a commissioning in the United States Navy as an Ensign or a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. A small percentage of Midshipmen are from other allied nations to be trained to serve as Officers in their respective country.

As I drove Rosie up to the main gate of the United States Naval Academy, my approach was abruptly halted by an armed guard standing directly in my path! He had one hand extended forward signaling “STOP”, and his other hand was on his gun! Perhaps it was not the brightest idea for me to drive onto the United States Naval Academy in a big white cargo van. You live and learn! The guard demanded to see my military id, and since I did not possess one, I was denied entry. The guard ordered my van out of the academy, and I was instructed to instead enter on foot. I found a parking spot for Rosie on the street six blocks away, and walked back to the academy. After passing through airport style security, we went to the tour guide desk to pay our entrance fee of $11.50 per person, watched a brief movie, and then we met up with our guide. I could not wait to learn about the life of a Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy!

The guide began by providing general information about the USNA Midshipmen. Midshipman outrank even the most senior enlisted personnel, but rank lower than Chief Warrant Officers. Instead of being called freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors, Midshipmen are ranked fourth class, third class, second class, and first class. With the completion of each academic year, the Midshipmen move up in rank, and are afforded additional privileges such as: watching television, listening to music, watching movies, napping, wearing civilian attire and driving their own car. Fourth Class is the lowest rank of Midshipman, and are more commonly called “Plebes”.

The goal of the Plebe’s first year at the Academy is to transition from civilian to Midshipmen, and the transformation begins each year during Plebe Summer. Plebe Summer is a 7 week rigorous physical and mental boot camp style orientation for all incoming Midshipmen designed to develop leadership, ability, motivation, moral strength, physical skills and stamina. The first day of Plebe Summer is called Induction Day. On Induction day, Plebe’s are greeted by higher ranking Midshipman trainers called Detailers who immediately begin the military indoctrination process. After each Plebe says goodbye to their parents, they receive standard issue gear, get hair cuts to military specifications, taught the proper technique for saluting, and assigned a number used to identify them for the duration of the time at the academy. Plebes also receive their indoctrination and affirmation to adhere to the Honor Concept, which states:

Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right. They tell they truth and ensure that the full truth is known.

They do not lie.

Midshipmen embrace fairness in all actions. They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented.

They do not cheat.

Midshipman respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property.

They do not steal.

The final public portion of Induction Day is where the entire incoming class of Plebes take the Oath of Office, and are sworn into the Navy as active duty Midshipmen! This is just day one in the life on a Midshipman during their four years at the United States Naval Academy! Over the next 90 minutes, our guide led us throughout the academy highlighting additional points of interest which include: two Heisman Trophies, an example of a typical room of a Midshipman, collection of footballs from the Army Navy games, the Academy Chapel, endless examples of breathtakingly beautiful architecture, and a selfie opportunity next to the statue of the official mascot of the United States Naval Academy; Bill the Goat. Please see the pictures below.

Our tour concluded in the crypt of John Paul Jones beneath the Naval Academy Chapel, and the story about how his body came to be entombed there is quite the fascinating tale. Commonly called the "Father of the American Navy", Jones Paul Jones was our countries first well known Naval Commander. In 1775, Jones joined the newly formed Continental Navy, and was appointed to the US Frigate Alfred. In February 1776, Jones had the honor of being the first person to hoist the flag over a US Naval vessel. Throughout the Revolutionary War, Jones conducted raids on ships and coastal settlements belonging to the British capturing critically needed supplies for the Continental Army!

John Paul Jones passed away in Paris, France on July 18, 1792 at the age of 45. Jones’s body was mummified, preserved in alcohol and buried in a led coffin in a cemetery reserved for French elite. Four years after Jones’s passing, the French Revolution was winding down, and the government sold the cemetery to raise desperately needed funds. Over the next century, the former cemetery had long been forgotten, and the land was used for gardening, illegal gambling and the disposal of dead animals. In 1905, U.S. Ambassador to France; Horace Porter found the former cemetery where John Paul Jones was interred after searching for six years. Sonar was used to scan the ground for led coffins, and five were found. After conducting a comprehensive postmortem examination on all five of the exhumed bodies, the third unearthed was determined to be the body of the “Father of the US Navy” John Paul Jones!

On July 6, 1905, Jones's body was returned to the United States aboard the USS Brooklyn, and his remains were re-interred in a bronze and marble sarcophagus beneath the chapel at the Naval Academy on January 26, 1913. The crypt containing Jones’s remains was quite exquisite even surpassing the splendor of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, which you can see for your self by clicking here. Please see the pictures below.

The United States Naval Academy offers an educational experience unlike any other university, which includes; 8:1 student faculty ratio, monthly payment of $1,017.00, an 86% graduation rate, $0 four-year tuition cost, 25 academic majors, 100% post graduation employment, and ranks among the highest starting salary in the country. Upon graduation, Midshipmen are required to serve for a minimum of five years on active duty, and three years on reserve. By the age of 27 years old, these officers have: traveled the world, have zero student loan debt, and since the military pretty much pays for all expenses, they are able to save an insanely large amount of money! Sounds good to me! Let’s apply for admission together!

The Naval Academy has a notoriously lengthy and in depth application process. Even before applying, you have to to meet certain eligibility requirements: You must be a United States citizen between the age of 17-23, unmarried with no dependents, not pregnant and have a valid Social Security number. Are you eligible? I am excluded because I am 37 and married, but I am glad you are able to apply!

The next step is to check your eligibility to submit a preliminary application, and to do so you must be a: junior or senior in high school, or current college student looking to transfer. Did you meet the requirements? Awesome! To complete the preliminary application you will need to provide: High School Educational Testing Service (ETS) Code, High School Class Rank, Congressional State and District, Full Zip Code, and SAT, ACT or PSAT scores. After submitting your preliminary application, the Naval Academy will notify you by mail of your status. I am so excited for you!!!

While you are waiting for your letter to arrive, you might as well begin the next step in the application process: Apply for nomination. Applicants can only be nominated by their US Representative or US Senators from their respective Congressional district or state. If unable to secure the nomination from the aforementioned, you can also be nominated by the US President, US Vice President or the Secretary of the Navy. The process of applying for a Congressional or Presidential nomination is similar to applying for college. The process for requesting a nomination varies depending on whose endorsement you seek. To cover all of your bases, it is best to submit an application for nomination with both Senators from your state, your US Congressman, and the US President and Vice President! If your parent is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor nomination is not necessary.

Did you get your letter in the mail from the USNA regarding the status of your preliminary application? Congratulations! You are now an official candidate for admission into the United States Naval Academy! Don’t start singing “Anchors Away” just yet!!! Now you are authorized to begin the official application process! The Naval Academy requires candidates to take the college entrance exams prior to admission. Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the American College Test (ACT) are the only two tests permitted. While the USNA does not publish their scoring requirements, a minimum score of 1380 on the SAT is the general consensus among those accepted. I hope you scored high on your SAT’s! 1400 you say? You are in the 95th percentile! Hooray!!!

The next step is to submit your official school transcript. Your high school Guidance Counselor will need to complete a Candidate Academic Information Form, and mail it along with your official transcript and your candidate number to USNA. The average GPA for those who have been accepted into the Naval Academy is 3.88, so I hope you have a good GPA! Valedictorian with 4.0 GPA you say! Impressive! You just received your nomination letter in the mail from The Vice President of the US; Mike Pence! Wow! That will look great on your official application! You and the Navy; full steam ahead!

The next step in the application process is the dreaded medical examination. The Admissions Department will submit your name to the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board or DoDMERB who will contact you to schedule your medical examination. DoDMERB will carefully review the results of your exam to determine if you meet the medical standards for admission. One month later, you will receive a letter in the mail of the DoDMERB findings. If you have a disqualifying condition, The DoDMERB may request additional information, require follow-up appointments or issue a waiver at their discretion.

The list of disqualifying medical conditions are stringent and quite lengthy, but I highlighted a few for your review: shorter than 58 inches, taller than 80 inches, color blindness, vision not correctable to 20/20, history of LASIK eye surgery, BMI> 25% for men, and >35% for women, varicose veins, hay fever, history of dislocation of any major joint, history of kidney stones, hormonal disorders, undescended testicle, dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps), GERD (heartburn), psoriasis, severe acne, thyroid disorders, food allergies and any body alteration or tattoo visible while in uniform.

While we are on the topic of tattoos, If you have any body modification you must go before the Body Alteration Review Board or BARB to have your tattoo examined. If the pre-existing tattoo is deemed a violation of Navy policy, the BARB can either grant a waiver or issue an order to remove the tattoo at the applicant's own expense! So how did your medical review go? You passed DoDMERB! Wow, you are the picture of perfect health! What about the anchor tattoo you got on your ass for your 18th birthday? I’m glad to hear the BARB granted you a waiver! That was a close one! You were almost disqualified!

Next step in the application process is the Candidate Fitness Assessment used to evaluate coordination, strength, speed, agility, and endurance. The test consists of a one-mile run, a 'shuttle' run, a kneeling basketball throw, abdominal crunches, push-ups, and pull-ups. The candidates raw scores for each event will be converted into a scale score between between 0-100 points. The six test events are administered concurrently at specific intervals over a 40-minute period. I hope you ate your Wheaties! You scored a 95 on your fitness assessment? Congratulations!

The final step in the application process is the interview with a Blue and Gold Officer. Comprised of volunteers of the Naval Academy, Blue and Gold Officers or BGO's can be civilians, graduates or parents of Midshipmen located in every state. The BGO are the eyes and ears for the academy to ensure they have a good picture of each candidate. The interview may take place in your home, the officer's home or other designated locations typically lasting between a half hour to two hours.

Here are a few tips for your interview with a BGO. Prepare as if you are having a professional job interview: present a resume of your high school activities, deliver a firm handshake, smile, make eye contact, dress business casual, and be yourself! While it is wise to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Naval Academy and is programs and principles, do not to come off as a know it all or trash talk other military branches. The BGO will be assessing your communication skills, interests, motivation, organizational skills, physical fitness, voice, eye contact, and even personal grooming. Don't forget to put on your deodorant!

During your interview, the BGO will inquire about your motivation, interests, sports, activities, academic achievements, and your reason for seeking admission into the academy. In addition, the BGO will inquire about family military history to ensure the desire to apply was your decision and not pushed upon you by your parents. Since the military prefers a candidate willing to serve as an officer in any branch, the BGO will ask if the candidate has applied for other military academies. Upon the interview's conclusion, the BGO sends a summary of their interactions to the Naval Academy.

How did your interview with your Blue and Gold Officer go? He came to your home, and it lasted two hours. I am happy to hear you feel the interview went well. Congratulations! You just completed your application to the United States Naval Academy! Good Luck! In 2016, the US Naval Academy received 16,101 total applications, and only 3000 of the applicants fully qualified for admission. From the pool of qualified applicants, 1,373 received offers of appointment, and 1,191 enrolled in the Naval Academy resulting in an admission rate of 7.4%! Clearly, many are called but few are chosen!

Even if selected, you are sacrificing four years of your life in the academy, five years of your life in the fleet, and three years on reserve where you can be called back up for active duty. Uncle Sam now controls where you live, what you wear, what you do, where you go, what you eat and almost every other aspect of your life for the next 9 to 12 years! Some may be willing to endure such sacrifice for love of country, out of family tradition, or for the benefits extended to Midshipmen. However, for the vast majority, the old adage still rings true, “There is no such thing as a free lunch”.

After departing, The United States Naval Academy we decided to treat ourselves to a motel in Glen Burnie which was 21 miles North of Annapolis.

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