Advice for New Plebe Sponsor

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by runningtide, Jul 18, 2011.

  1. runningtide

    runningtide Member

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    A few weeks ago, I received confirmation that I have been accepted as a USNA plebe sponsor. The reason I'm posting this is to get some advice from former mids and sponsors.
    First a little background. My family has lived 5 minutes from the yard for over 30 years. We have several close friends that have sponsored mids, so we have some firsthand knowledge of the routine. I'm a 62 year old Air Force Vet (SSGT), but also a great Navy fan. As a family, we enjoy sailing, crew, music, fishing, and all things Annapolis. We are not wealthy, but have a modest home near the water, and belong to a local yacht club (no not AYC :redface:). We are preparing the house for the mids, and I think they will enjoy the area we have set aside for them. Our lower level is a large family room, professional pool table, fireplace, 50" LCD, stocked fridge with soft drinks, and a lot of well used comfortable furniture where the mids can kick their feet up, and relax without worrying about spilling anything on the upholstery. There is also a laundry on the same level, as I understand this will get a continuous workout. The point is, the mids can have total privacy on their own level without competition from family members. I've been told that most mids priority when at the sponsor’s home is sleep, eat, laundry, and watching movies.
    My family has wanted to sponsor for several years, but three years ago, my wife began a fight against cancer. After 18 months my wife and best friend of 32 years lost her battle, and the time since has been occupied with obvious challenges.
    . I have two wonderful boys at home, one 20 that goes to college locally and lives at home, and his older brother that moved back home a year ago to save money for photography equipment necessary for his growing business.I talked to the boys and asked how they felt, and they are as excited as I am abouthe sponsor program

    OK..So much for that long winded background. Now comes the questions. I'm trying to get a clearer picture of what most mids really look forward too, if that is a category that even possible to address. I'm going to a training class this week at the academy, and I'm sure some of this will come up. But I'd be interested to hear about some experiences and suggestions for both sponsors, and past mids. Also, would the mids hhave any problem with a family without a mom around? As you can guess.., this is a guys house now.

    Thanks so much for your time

    GO NAVY...BEAT ARMY ! :thumb:
     
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  2. LongAgoPlebe

    LongAgoPlebe Member

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    Runningtide,

    Thanks SO much for your service as a veteran and as a mid sponsor! Like many mids, I had a close relationship with my sponsor family that lasted well beyond my years on the Yard.

    I think you've guessed well and summed up neatly what most mids want most of the time. With hindsight and experience, I think it is like most relationships: there's a lot of exploring, negotiation about what each wants (although admittedly this is a very mid-centered relationship), what each is able and willing to offer.

    Where I saw sponsor-mid relationships go bad:

    1. Sponsors didn't stick to boundaries (e.g. let plebes drive their cars, be out of uniform, drink alcohol, watch porn). Not just the egregious things but the little things too. You'll get a whole passel of rules the mids (especially plebes) have to follow even when they are on town liberty with you. Stick to them, as much for your comfort and peace of mind.

    2. Mids being parasites and sponsors not putting a stop to it. Again, a matter of clear expecations and boundaries.

    3. Sponsors trying to take on too many kids and going beyond their means.


    Where things really, really worked well:

    1. Space. Unplugging. Biggest expectation was "clean up after yourself."

    2. Being that day-in, day-out example of a service member whose life is working. We got plenty of examples of excellent decorum, customs & courtesies, protocols, being polite, speaking formally and professionally up and down your chain, etc at USNA. My sponsor family showed me what a real service family looked like. (Both were in the armed services.) They'd talk with us as casually or more formally about how it was to PCS in the middle of your kid's school year, or what it was like living on or off base at (say) Norfolk NAS and Miramar, or when to think about going to grad school if you were thinking of going up for flag, or what enlisted people really thought of O-1s and O-2s and how to avoid being That Girl or That Guy. My sponsors never spoke ill of colleagues personally, but they did talk frankly about what good and bad leadership looked like in the Fleet.

    3. To the extent you are willing and able, being that fallback. I've posted elsewhere that I went to USNA without parental support. If it hadn't been for my sponsor family, I would have left USNA not on my own terms. When a holiday plan fell through, they cheerfully invited me.

    I am very sorry about your wife and the loss of your best friend. I hope your experience as a sponsor fills you up as you contribute to these young people. Please let me tell you now: if you ever feel like they're taking advantage of you, or even that they're a bit ingrateful because they're not saying anything and always seem to just eat, sleep, and use a staggering amount of water - they are incredibly grateful, and if it were not for people like you, some of us may not have made it through.

    Fair winds and following seas,

    LAP
     
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  3. bergmom

    bergmom Member

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    Thank you

    Runningtide...I can not help you with the questions you have regarding what mids will want when they come to your home because I have just sent a plebe off to Annapolis and feel completely in the dark about what he is feeling or needing. However, as a mom, I must say that your message brought tears to my eyes. Knowing there are people out there, like you, that are eager to help out our sons is very heart-warming! My son has already been assigned to a sponsor family, but if he had not been, I would be requesting you immediately! I am very sorry to hear that your wife of many years has passed away, but I can tell by your message that you have a open heart and are a compassionate man...and I think that is what they will need from you...I bet you also have many great stories of your days in the Air Force! Thank you for making my day:smile:
     
  4. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    Thanks for volunteering for this important role. Not sure I can add any value to what's been shared so well. Just 2 words of caution ...

    1. Sometimes your role might be a place to crash. Nothing personal, just what a Plebe needs most. A quiet, cool rack and place to check the computer, listen to music, have some snacks, get some needed rest.

    2. Sometimes, fairly often it seems, these just don't work out for no particular reason beyond not being a good match. Again, don't fret nor take it personally. The next one may be a better "fit."

    3. Conversely, yours may be found to be one of the "cool" sponsor parent places and you might inherit other(s). This process can be really hit-and-miss. Here's yours is a big hit! Again, thank you for reaching out to these young people, most of whom are facing a stressful change-of-scenery, at least for awhile.
     
  5. cgmo

    cgmo New Member

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    Runningtide - I have been reading the boards for a while, but had not felt a need to reply before now. First, I am so sorry for your loss. That you refer to your wife as your best friend says it all.

    I, too, have just sent a plebe to Annapolis. Knowing that there are people such as you and your family - willing to open their home to my son when he is so far from home -means more to me than you can know. I have to agree with LongAgoPlebe, though - don't be afraid to stick to the rules!

    Thank you for being a USNA Sponsor!
     
  6. runningtide

    runningtide Member

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    LongAgoPlebe
    Thanks so much for the advice, especially about the code of conduct. I agree completely with adhering to the rules. This opportunity these men and women have is a chance of a lifetime, and I can assure you I have no intention of contributing to any deviation from the Honor Code.
    I even purchased a copy of Reef Points at I-Day, and have been brushing up
    I know from other sponsors that occasionally, the relationship becomes very close and I know your sponsors must have been very proud of you. I don't have any special expectations, ...just to lend a hand if needed. Though I was enlisted, when I came back from South East Asia in the late 60's I was stationed at Luke AFB, outside Phoenix. With no transportation and being 30 miles outside town in the dessert, I was basically marooned on the base until a wonderful women working in the PX took pity on me and her and her husband became somewhat of an unofficial sponsor family. The drove me to their home, or in town, introduced me to their wonderful children, lent me their car, and even helped me get a loan to by a motorcycle. I went back to Phoenix on a business trip 10 years ago, and looked them up. Though much older, they still remembered me and we had a great reunion.
    Again..Thanks so much for your advice and service to our nation.

    Bergmom....
    Your tender response was so much appreciated and like you, I got a little teary...I run the seawall at the Yard each morning at 0600. I've been watching the class of 2015 going through their Plebe summer morning workouts, and I can assure you their starting to really look good. It's amazing how far they have come in only a few weeks. The last few days in Annapolis have been almost like autumn, due to a cold front that hung around since Thursday. Sadly.., it's back to heat and humidity....But the Plebes really enjoyed the weather.
    I know your contact with you Mid is nearly non-existent, but I can tell you some good news that maybe you may not beware of. When I went through basic, and then to advanced school, our DI's (Drill Instructors) could be very intimidating and at time downright mean. Yes...I understand why, but at 18 it's quite a shock anyway. At the academy I watch the detailers (first class) assigned to train the Plebes, while they run by me during my morning workout. Instead of hounding a Plebe unable to keep up, they instead encourage them and truly help them succeed. Oh they do at times get in their face, but when they see a Plebe is truly trying, but having difficulties, they are really there to help.
    I hope your Mid finds a good sponsor. All mids will be at Alumni Hall on the 7th of August to meet with their assigned sponsors. If your Mid finds he's not happy with his assigned sponsor, they can switch around. Get in touch with me on B mail if I can help.

    CGMO....
    Thanks so much for the kind words. Believe me.., from what I have heard from most sponsors, they get more out of the deal than the Plebes. God Bless you Mid .....

    Mickey
     
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  7. mumsyto3

    mumsyto3 Member

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    I'm sure there are a lot of plebe parents out there right now breathing a little easier tonight after reading your post above. What a great thing for you to post. You are already a great sponsor parent!

    Thank you so much for your service to this country and to the Mids. I appreciate your due diligence in figuring out how to be a sponsor parent. It sounds like you have a great set up at your house.

    I don't have specific suggestions but will tell you what experience DS had with his sponsor family. He was assigned a sponsor family but it really hasn't worked out. His sponsor family has a large extended family living in a very small place. There are a lot of pets in the household as well. DS likes animals, but the smell (full cat litter boxes everywhere) is unbearable and there is so much animal hair on the chairs and couches that my son can't sit down while he is there. They are very nice people and it is very nice of them to open their home to him. DS feels bad that he doesn't go to their house (he thinks he's letting them down by not going there). We've tried to reinforce with him that the sponsor program is there to help him out, and if it's not a right fit he shouldn't feel guilty about not going there.

    Best of luck to you and your future Mids and God Bless you!
     
  8. NorthernCalMother

    NorthernCalMother Member

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    Plebes are a diverse group

    Like other posters, I send my condolences for the loss of your beloved wife. I also thank you for your service, and agree that you (and your sons) are already a wonderful sponsor family -- just caring enough to ask your question makes you terrific.

    Sounds as if you have the perfect physical set-up for plebes, and it may not take much more. When my 2nd Lt was a plebe and was lucky enough to share a sponsor w/ another Mid, I got him to admit (I think by spring), "My sponsor is the nicest lady on earth, but I think I hoped getting away from the yard would mean ... I'd be ignored."

    I bet a lot of Mids would enjoy activities, special meals, planned outings, etc., but mine is probably not the only one who would have liked to stare into space semi-privately for a couple hours. (He also greatly, greatly appreciated a couple rides to BWI that first year.)

    Thank you for volunteering to sponsor Mid's. Parents are @ least as grateful as Mid's -- maybe more so -- for your support!
     
  9. Spanky58ggpt

    Spanky58ggpt Member

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    Thank you

    Thank you for starting this thread, for your service and for becoming a sponsor. I hope that one of those fine young people can become a part of one of those special relationships developed between sponsors and mids. My DS is currently a plebe and was mentored during his application process by a young Marine captain that I watched grow up during high school, graduated from the academy, and has become a fine Marine. He has shared with my DS often how special his sponsor family was. You and your family, I feel, are going to have a similar impact on your adopted mid(s). I hope my DS is lucky enough to be paired with someone like you, Capt MJ, or any of many wonderful families who are kind enough to provide this woderful experience for these young people we hope will become the leaders that our nation needs. As parents, they are our treasure, and it sounds like your home would be a safe place for anyone's treasure. Thank you and God Bless.
     
  10. runningtide

    runningtide Member

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    Pictures of your class 2015 Plebe Summer

    To all of you who have said such very nice words about my family and being Plebe sponsors, I can't thank you enough. Believe me, it's an honor to provide a little help and comfort to these wonderful men and women. Please by all means keep your suggestions coming.

    On a side note, I know when my oldest son went off to school how hard it was looking at his empty room and missing him so very much. At least, we had the option to call and exchange email...something the parents of Mids during Plebe summer do not have. But in case some of you with Mids at Plebe summer this year do not realize, there is a very active facebook page devoted to Plebe summer. What's great about it is the almost daily posting of pictures of the class of 2015 as they go thru the summer routine. (Might even get a look at your Mid) When I run the Yard in the morning, I see a photographer trailing the Mids non-stop (I assume he works for the Academy).

    Anyway...the link can be found at the USNA web site, or just go to https://www.facebook.com/USNavalAcademy.

    Also...while I'm asking for advice from all of you, I'm also more than please to provide any advise or suggestions regarding Annapolis and PPW in August. My family loves this town and have been here for over 30 years, so we know the place cold. If there is anythiing I can help with, for those of you traveling back to Annapolis to see your Plebe, please do not hesitate to ask.
     
  11. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar Member

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    runningtide

    First, what a wonderful post. The only thing I can offer is thanks. We have a family friend whose DS will be a first class Midshipman, this fall. It is folks like you who give these students an opportunity to get off the yard and let their hair down, so to speak. But is also get them the opportunity to learn from someone with prior military experience, which is a great thing. I believe this will be a great experience for both siides, so enjoy. I also would like to say thanks for your service to our great country, the United States of America.

    God Bless,

    RGK
     
  12. osdad

    osdad Member

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    My Mid never did click with her sponsor. In fact, except for one tailgate party, she didn’t see him but for the first meeting at PPW. Some reasons it didn’t work for her might be enlightening for you and other Plebe parents.

    He wasn’t available when she was free. He had his hobbies that took him out of the area often and it seems the two were never on the same schedule. Plebes don’t always know if/when liberty will happen so him not being there the first few times she called was a negative to future efforts.

    He lived some distance from the yard so a ride to/from was necessary (not your issue I know but 5 minutes in a car might be 30 on foot in January.)

    He had other Mids he was sponsoring and my Plebe never knew who they were or if they’d be there if she went. I’m sure this one could have been overcome with time but Plebes are nervous about running into upper class in settings other than what they’ve been used to.

    While she never verbalized it, I don’t think she was comfortable being alone in a house with someone who was essentially a stranger. I suggest that if you get a female Mid that you make it a point to invite her roommates – in fact I’d insist that she bring them along, at least until you’ve established a good rapport.

    I applaud you and your sons for making this commitment to support our sons/daughters and I too am sorry for your loss.
     
  13. runningtide

    runningtide Member

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    OSDAD

    I'm sorry to hear about you mid's bad experience with her sponsor. I know from talking to one of our sponsor friends that scheduling can be a problem, especially if your mid is in a sports program. And there are times I'm sure where I will be unavilable when my mids are. But I intend to keep that to a minimum.

    Just like these mids are making a commitment, so am I and my family. I can't figure how some sponsors could leave a young mid "hanging" after making the commitment to be a responsible sponsor. Also the comment you made about the sponsor having other mids is very familiar. One of my best friends has been sponsoring mids for over 8 years. At any give time, there is usually a few of them at the house. He told me himself it's a little difficult when upper class mids are around when the plebes show up, but for the most part the upper class mids don't "hang" around the house as much. (Though there is a constant battle in the laundry room :shake:)

    My situation is somewhat simpler. I have a good deal of control over my schedule, and don't have any other mids at present. Though I intend to spend time with my mids.., I also know from previous postings, that many of the mids just want to zone out, and are not looking for a "family" agenda. As we get more comfortable around each other, hopefully, the conversations will begin to flow. As I said, it's mostly a guys house, so as you can guess there is no formal agenda. My boys used to call our house "Maniac Manner". But I'm hoping the informal atmsphere and the humor that invades my house almost constantly will make the mids feel comfortable.
     
  14. GabsmomFL

    GabsmomFL Member

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    AUG 7th?>

    Thanks so much for the post.... SO excited for my mid to find out about her sponsor..

    I thank you in advance for your kindness... it truly makes a mom feel good to know someone is willing to mentor her daughter and others...

    Cant wait to hear all about DD sponsor!
     
  15. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    Anyone's have specific ideas, experiences on how, if, degree to which "real" parents and sponsor parents should, might, should not interact? Might this be helpful to "plebe" Plebe sponsor parents?
     
  16. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    runningtide, thank you for your own service and your willingness to sponsor. Our family has been sponsoring mids since 1996, both husband and I are retired Navy (he's USNA grad), both of us had 26 year careers, I was on USNA Commandant's staff. PM me anytime with specific questions!

    Excellent comments above.

    There are many styles of sponsorship, and relationships either click or they don't, as all mids are individuals and unique in their needs and wants.

    One of the best things you have going for you, is when mids share stories from the Yard, you will get the lingo (even if your native language is AF:biggrin:) and understand things like standing the duty, unit dramas, etc.

    Off the top of my head...

    - Sponsor more than one. One mid at the house just feels awkward. Let him/her meet some classmates and swap stories, make new "sponsor brother/sister" friends.
    - Set some guidelines about what you expect at your house. Our "experienced" upperclass have learned the ropes and take their new plebe siblings in hand, but stuff like: yes, you can take a shower, but bring up used towels to the laundry room after. Yes, you can sleep between the sheets in the guest room bed, but re-make the bed or whatever you want done. Yes, you can snooze on the sofa, but please take off shoes. Please don't leave just one Cheeto in the bag and put it back in the pantry closet. Feel free to snack on the stuff that's already open in the designated Mid Snack Cabinet, if you are dying for the unopened bag of Doritos and want to hit the salsa in the refrigerator, check with one of us. What goes downstairs to the TV room, comes back upstairs, such as soda cans, banana peels, ice cream bowls. No heavy bedding in the washing machine - and you will want to do a washer tutorial for that first wash. Many are unused to soft water from a well, or pack the machine with 3 loads of laundry to the point it won't agitate. Yes, you can check Facebook on the computer guest account, but please don't randomly click on links. Don't let the dogs out the front door. Please don't have 3 root beer sodas in a row at 5 PM and then say you feel sick at the dinner table. I could go on - but let's just say, behind every one of these cautions is a story or six...
    - Tell them they are welcome to bring a friend or roommate "unannounced," but more than that, please call/text in advance, so chow/transport plans can be appropriately adjusted.
    - We send an email to the clan on Thursday night with the plan for the weekend, requesting feedback on who needs a pickup at the MidStore (or other usual place) as soon as they get liberty, or a later pick-up for a varsity athlete after practice, does anyone need a run to CVS or grocery store on the way to the house, anyone booking a rack for an overnight (upperclass, not plebes so much), etc.
    - We put out large plastic party cups and a Sharpie. As they rotate through water, milk, OJ, iced tea and soda, you will not churn through every glass in your house within the space of a few hours. Sometime we get creative with nicknames and mark the cups in advance.
    - Bring along an info sheet on you to the Plebe Social with your contact info. Be sure to get their cell phone numbers, though they won't be reachable reliably until the academic year starts.
    - We get better comm results when texting rather than playing vmail tag.
    - Their email account will open when they get the computers at the end of Plebe Summer. You will already have their email account from the assignment sheet you receive at the Plebe Social. It will be m15_ _ _ _@usna.edu
    Their "mid number" is m + class year + unique 4 digits.
    - Have a lot of food. A lot. At normal dinner parties, I might allow one chicken breast or 5 ozs boneless meat per person. For mids, I double, at least. Ice cream is always good, especially a stash of ice cream bars in the freezer door.
    - Ensure you are clear on who they can ride in cars with, what they can wear, etc. It is their responsibility to know as well.
    - We don't entertain them, per se. They appreciate quiet places to relax, snooze, watch TV, do some studying, snooze some more, play with the dogs, hit the pool, eat, chatter. It is OFF THE YARD. That is key.

    We have been rewarded with years of ongoing sponsor family relationships. Two of our "eldest" are currently Surface Warfare Officers in command. We have many "sponsor grandchildren" now. We are honored when they come back to visit us over the years, and continue to call, not as our "mids" anymore, but as junior officers consulting with mentors. Today we had a note from an '01 sponsor daughter now an FBI agent, telling us about a recent op resulting in the arrest of a bad guy, and we fondly recall her leaving blue ink pens in her cammies in the washer and dryer, and having the blue ink spatter and bake onto the dryer interior. She tackled it with nail polish remover, but faint blue marks still exist.

    Relationships with your mids' parents. We ensure they have our contact info, and have a little "open house" drop by on Saturday afternoon of Plebe Parents Weekend, when it's logical for them to perhaps be on their way back from a movie or enroute to dinner. Parents are usually interested in where their son or daughter will be spending time. Some parents we become particularly close to. If parents ask what they can send you, and are insistent, suggest gift cards to Maggie Moo's or Cold Stone, so you can take the mid family for a treat on the way back to the Yard, or Sam's Club/Walmart cards to use for gas (plan on airport shuttle runs at holidays, if you are so inclined) and groceries/detergent. We have become good friends with many of the families over the years, honored by invitations to weddings, wingings, christenings, etc. We decline invitations to go out to dinner with sponsor mid families at least the first two years, because those visits should be for the mids and their families, and while we appreciate the invitation to come along, it's their time. By the time 2/C year rolls around, everyone is more relaxed and has the whole Academy thing down.

    We are looking forward to meeting our new '15 sponsor mids!
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
  17. Whistle Pig

    Whistle Pig Banned

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    Really great stuff! This hits the mark, imo. Thanks! It is an art form, not a science, for sure.
     
  18. runningtide

    runningtide Member

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    Capt MJ.

    WOW...what an info dump....Can't tell you how eye opening you comments and suggestions are.

    As for my enlisted AF background, I've been reading and re-reading Reef Points and going through the many forums out there to get a better idea of life on the Yard.

    I have requested at least two, but could accommodate one more, or the occasional extra. As for the guidelines you posted, fantastic information and suggestions. Like you I want the Mids to enjoy their time with us, but I don't plan to change my career to house servant. As you so clearly pointed out, setting expectations out front is clearly the best way to go. Maybe I should publish some house rates on the door to the fridge :rolleyes:

    I really like the idea of a Mid Snack Cabinet. Be interested in more detail, but makes a lot of sense. As for putting things back where they found them...it reminds me of my best friend and sailing partner, a retired Navy mustang, who coached on the NAS class A's some years ago. He had a little sign he would post in the Nav Station before each cruise with the Mids. The sign said simply "Don't put it down......., put it back"

    I do have one really nagging problem. As you have read, I am now a widower, and with the many challenges this brings, one of the skills I'm not really proficient with is cooking. I know for most Mids, a home cooked meal (you know...., the spread you see on a Norman Rockwell painting) just ain't gonna happen at our house. Since we have three men going in different direction most of the time it's cooking for one most nights. I can BBQ steaks, chicken, and do basic dinners, and will on occasions get one of my wife’s girl friends to help with something more tempting, but I will warn the Mids that my cooking is on a best effort bases. Saying that, there are great takeouts around for those times dinner may not work. Anyway I've got lots of cookbooks, and I'm sure the Mids wont go hungry. I would appreciate some basic ideas on easy to fix casual dinners (Don't worry about the receipt.., just trying to narrow the field)

    You did mention the amount of food needed..., looks like I'll really get a workout on my SAMs' club card. Love the idea of the plastic cups. (It's embarrassing...but my boys and I use them as well) Great advice about the Plebe families and not to accept invites during their early years. I agree..., they need time together.

    I have a book which has a long list of "things to do" before our Mids arrive. After reading this forum and especially Capt MJ's suggestion..., the list just got a lot longer.

    I’m heading over to the Yard tomorrow evening for sponsor training. Taking one of my boys with me so they also understand what’s going on.

    Thanks Capt M and all of you. Keep it coming
     
  19. Navy Mom

    Navy Mom Member

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    For simple meal ideas. .
    If my son is granted the honor of being one of yours mids
    Build your own tacos or tostados works great and easy to fix, just lots of chopping and great conversation as everyone chops up part of the fixings.
    Any kind of pasta or BBQ.

    All of these postings makes me wish that I lived somewhere I could sponsor mids, cadets or ?

    All the best to you

    Navy Mom
    (my son gave me that name)
     
  20. crbauer

    crbauer parent

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    Another simple idea for easy meals. When you have the grill going, go ahead and grill some chicken, lean pork or beef and chop it up to store in containers in the frig. If you can grill some veggies, store those in the frig too. Cook pasta and rice ahead also. Now you have the basics for pasta salads or stir-frys. Everyone can add their own seasonings; sauces or dressings. Works well for those who eat at different times
     

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