The End of the Ride

Discussion in 'Merchant Marine Academy - USMMA' started by St. Crispian, May 22, 2010.

  1. St. Crispian

    St. Crispian New Member

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    So here we are 3years and 10 ½ months after putting a kid, who grew up in a town of 2500 and a county with not a single stoplight, on a plane to travel 2600 miles to a place he had never been. We’ve all read about the roller coaster ride that is life at Kings Point. With only licensing exams in the way of graduation (oh, that little thing) we are just about to head on out of the amusement park. We thought a little reflection may help someone heading into INDOC or considering the Academy, especially if you will be one of those Mids who won’t be able to come home, except for trimester breaks or Christmas. This will include the good, the bad and the ugly (not necessarily in that order). This is also written from the perspective of non-helicopter parents. We have been very much of the belief that someone that is qualified enough to have been accepted to the Academy, must learn to deal with the adult world on their own. You don’t make a better officer by continuing to blow their nose and wipe their … . Our perspective is from listening to our favorite mid and his classmates and reading what is available on line. The views expressed herein are those of parents and not necessarily the views of a midshipman. We have only been to the Academy once, on Parents’ Day Weekend 2006. With all those disclosures out of the way, here it is.
    The Academy appears, to use a nautical term, to be adrift. There appears to be a present lack of leadership in both the academic and regimental side of life. The problem appeared to rear itself upon the appointment of the last superintendent. (who even thinks to appoint a teetotaler to lead a bunch of sailors?) It was our understanding the last guy went to his own Homecoming at that other school in Annapolis rather than attend Homecoming at KP. Also he didn’t even bother to learn the Academy’s alma mater by the end of INDOC. Now that’s what I call leadership. Okay, okay that’s all in the past and the present trials and tribulations should not be a negative reflection on the acting superintendent. But MARAD definitely needs to step up to the plate and produce a Superintendent that takes charge and moves the Academy forward. We all can read the Blue Ribbon Panel review to see what needs to be done to the physical plant. All that’s lacking is stable leadership. That also goes for the Regimental lifestyle. This is not a post to discuss the benefits or distractions of the Regiment. What is needed is a clarification of what the Regiment will be to the Academy. Again leadership is sorely needed. Regarding the Academic side of life, like all institutions of any size it needs to sweep out some dead wood. One would expect that a federal service academy should expect and demand the best from its faculty and staff. This is not an indictment of all, as there are some very dedicated instructors that have done well with our children’s education. However the malaise and “give me my paycheck for just showing up” attitude of some, make the rest look bad. The Academy is also deficient in image, as well as content. If the Academy wants to shed its position as the red-headed bastard step-child of the service academies it needs a public relations make-over. Let’s look at a few simple things that can be done:
    1. Take the time to freshen up the Academy website. It is a very poor reflection that the “News” story stays the same for, not weeks, but months on end. When was the last time there were fresh pictures on the site. The same guys have been folding the flag for over 4 years. The last time the “Midshipmen Life” stories were changed was when the Class of 2010 was awaiting Recognition. Shameful.
    2. Get a new recruiting video. It’s well done, but it’s old.
    3. Start a recruiting drive for the Best and the Brightest from around the country. Let high school juniors know about the Academy. Quit saying it’s the Best Kept Secret of service academies. Be a beacon, not a ping on the sonar. Kings Point has some of the most dedicated alumni I have witnessed from any four year institution of higher learning. Capitalize on that asset.
    Okay, okay enough of the bad and the ugly. The truth of the matter is we couldn’t be more proud of our favorite mid and all that he has accomplished in 4 years. The truth of the matter is that we couldn’t think of another 4 year college/university/ service academy that would have been the great ride (roller coaster analogy) that Kings Point has been. Th truth of the matter is that the experiences from KP sculpted a great young man from boy in 4 years. Sure, it’s tough to send the kid away and not see him for months on end. At one point he hadn’t been home for 10 months. But oh, how he grew and how he learned. Sea Year is just a great experience, even when things are not so great at the moment. At 20 he got himself ½ way around the world by himself to meet a ship in the Philipines. At 21 he had a chance to be at the con going through the Straits of Hormuz. Now this is a kid who probably still can’t parallel park a small SUV and he’s at the con in one of the busiest shipping channels in the world? The stories he has, well actually I don’t want to know all the stories he has and his mother should know even less about his sailor’s life. He has been all over the eastern seaboard, getting to visit Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Charleston, Florida and points in between. He has had the opportunity to be educated in classes of 25+/- and not in giant lecture halls of 300-400 students. He has had the opportunity to learn his trade (or at least a small part of it) before he graduates unlike the usual college experience. Not a shabby experience and not one enjoyed by many of his high school classmates that went to State U. Of the few other mids we have met, that are his chums, well they are always welcome around our fire. Maybe that has been the greatest experience and blessing of all, the friends he has made and the mates he can count on. Godspeed to them all, wherever they go.
    So yeah, if you’re thinking about going to Kings Point, go, but go all in – just get ready for the Ride.
     
  2. KPMarineopsdad

    KPMarineopsdad Member

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    I just found this reflection made by a recent graduate. I'm glad I saved it.

    In three short months the show will stop and something new will begin. This roller coaster ride of Kings Point will end, and in some weird way there is a part of me that doesn’t want to get off. I am always amazed of how much this place was able to cram into four years of training, and the vastly different lives that will be led once we all leave.
    While walking to class the other day I couldn’t help but take account of everyone around me. A future ship’s Pilot already had his LNG PIC and Liquid PIC, and he was flanked by a future Marine Corp fighter-pilot who had already completed OCS. There was an engineer walking by who signed on with MSC, a sailor truly capable of fixing anything should it go broke. A future Army Infantry Officer was on our starboard flank, a man excited for his commitment and future duty to his country knowing full his odds of deployment. A close friend was just accepted to an Off-Shore Supply Vessel Company, and within 6 months he will be ship-handling with the best of them.
    One was headed towards the Union Hall, excited for a variety of adventures that AMO or MMP had in store for him, and another just received a US Coast Guard Cutter assignment out west. A future lifer on tugboats cruised by, while also committing to the obligation of a Coast Guard reserve assignment for Port Operations. Future aviators and soldiers will head into active duty in every branch of service and as sailors in every facet of the Merchant Marine.
    You could search the world ten times over and never find that combination of young adults in any other place.
    I never thought school could be as much fun as Kings Point. Not the waking up early, the pushups, the haircuts, long hours and lack of toilet paper; but the absolute blast of spending 18 hours a day with your best buds. There were some days I absolutely just could not wait to get to class to see what would happen next. It’s was like every class was an episode from “Seinfeld” with writers, directors, actors, a laugh track and audience. But your couldn’t write the stuff that happens at Kings Point, it would never be possible to script something this fun to watch, live, and breath.
    As we get ready to leave here we have to get ready to say “thanks” as this offer is only available here. Maybe it was some storm at sea you will never forget, and no one back home will ever be able to understand. Maybe it was that hop in a F/A-18 and breaking the sound barrier and pulling 7.2 G’s during your Naval Flight Internship, or sailing to Antarctica. Maybe it was the broad spectrum of leadership you got to witness during these four years, from bad to good, and being able to take a part of everything you liked. Perhaps it is your new ability to get along with just about anyone having spent 300 days chipping rust next to the wildest of personalities. Your visits to over a dozen countries will always be with you, although you would rather forget the Suez Canal.
    You broke ice up the Hudson in the dead of winter while driving Growler, and learned how to dock the Liberator. Maybe you were sailing to Bermuda on one of the Academy’s 40 foot boats and while stuck in the gnarliest of squalls in the middle of the night while surrounded by lightning you turned to your buddy and said “can you believe they let us do this!?” You got feel what it’s like to be on a real college varsity sports team, and the highs and lows that competition brings. Maybe you scored the winning touchdown, the golden goal, the home run, or were a supporting player in the hardest of seasons. You know how it feels to be on a team.
    You learned just how much work you can get out of a longshoreman in Venezuela with a pack of Marlboro Reds, and how to tell the Bosun just had too much to drink and not take it personally.
    You may forget the monuments you saw along the way; the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis in Greece; the War Statues along the banks of the Suez Canal that were riddled with bullet holes. But NEVER forget the people. Those interactions, social situations, follower and leadership challenges are what truly contribute to what you are today. Those are the tools we will use when we go forward, not the photos we took. I am not sure you can find those tools anywhere else.
    You can now throw together a 20 slide PowerPoint project in 60 minutes and actually deliver it with ease; earn an A- and instantly forget what you just presented. You now work better under pressure and on a team. You know when to make watching “Lost” more of a priority than studying Nav Law. You now know when you had too much to drink.
    You will never forget the rush of dropping a tray in Delano only to hear a hundreds of your shipmates roar in approval, or crashing into your first (and hopefully last) ship while on the bridge of the CAORF simulator. You will always remember what it was like to put out your first Class Bravo fire and walking into a room of smoke and orange flames.
    Some people may say Kings Point is a “fake” service academy, yet you will always know your experiences were very real.
    Very simply, we went to school for free and got paid to see the world. We each have a pretty full tool chest, a bank of experiences and people skills that will serve us well in addition to a commission, an Unlimited Tonnage or Unlimited Horse-Power license valid on any vessel in any ocean, and a degree. We also got four years of smashing free haircuts.
     
  3. kp2001

    kp2001 USMMA Alumnus

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    First, St Crispian: thanks for posting your reflections and I hope this isn't your last post.

    For those reading they are both important reflections posted above. The second is only a few years old (maybe 2 or 3 if recollection reminds me).

    If you notice there are usually a few themes from any reflection on KP like this:
    1)The adventures you will have are amazing and shape you greatly
    2)The place has a few rough spots
    3)I couldn't imagine a better place for me to go to school

    Couldn't agree more with both and I still consider myself lucky to be a graduate.
     
  4. KPMum2012

    KPMum2012 Parent

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    We're only coming up on halfway through this journey. But your words rang true to me. Best of luck to the class of 2010 in the upcoming licensing exams!
     
  5. jessibee2013

    jessibee2013 Member

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    Both accounts bring tears to my eyes and make me even prouder that our DS is at KP. Those wonderful posts have me reflecting too...

    We are still in the beginning of the journey- DS is getting ready for his first sea adventure, having survived the Plebe Year (well, almost, 4 weeks to go)! There have been ups and downs but he has already changed from the nervous, scared boy we dropped off last July to a confident, forward-looking young man. The most amazing change is his attitude- he is positive and upbeat and faces adversity and hardship with mental toughness and a sense of humor. Perhaps "This too shall pass" is the survival mantra for successful Plebes at KP.

    I won't be presumptuous to pretend I know how the next 3 years will play out but, from the parent perspective, Plebe year has been incredible in so, so many ways (and yes, there definitely is the good, the bad and ugly but the good far outweighs the rest).:thumb:

    CONGRATULATIONS to 2010:beer1:
     
  6. KPEngineer

    KPEngineer Eternal Father ...

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    I was once asked if I enjoyed my years at KP. It only took me about 2 seconds to answer ... "I wish I appreciated it then as much as I do now."
     
  7. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

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    Have you already graduated then?
     
  8. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    I Hesitate To Post On This Thread But ...

    I hesitate to post much on this thread but ... to paraphrase the words of "The Chairman" aka Frank Sinatra - I gotta be me.

    First nothing in my words here should be construed as belittling the soon to be accomplishments of the members of the USMMA Class of 2010. Once you pass license and then you walk down the aisle, get your degrees, your licenses and your commissions, all those things will indeed be clear attestations to the growth you have had and the knowledge you have received as a result of the at times challenging journey you each started in July 2007. Clearly it hasn't been easy, many of you still have and treasure your class t-shirt, which no doubt has many names of fine young men and women who started that journey with you but will not be at your sides when you receive those accolades next month. So first and foremost I say to you all Congratulations and I along with thousands of other alumni look forward to welcoming you to our fraternity.

    That said, I'd suggest that for you as alumni and we as parents, this is both an end and a beginning. If your life passes in any fashion similar to mine, graduation from the USMMA is a significant accomplishment and notable intermediate milestone. However, it's nowhere near the end of the journey. You, like we classes that have gone before you, have all been given a solid foundation to go accomplish your life's goals and to make a positive difference as leaders. As such it's as much a begining as an end and there's still a lot of work, and fun ahead. I know personally, I am 28 years out from my last line at USMMA and I feel my journey is a long way from over. I look back and remember with tremendous pride and affection my four years at USMMA. To this day, most of my strongest and best friendships trace their roots back to those days spent at USMMA from 1979 - 1982. As I said this past spring on what's become an annual fishing trip with four of my classmates, it's important to have at least a few people who you know would get on a plane and fly halfway around the world to help you in whatever way you needed if it was humanly possible for them to do so. When I said it, the statement was met with universal agreement, and we were/are all serious. That's not something easily understood by someone who isn't a Kings Pointer and a Classmate and/or teammate from your time there.

    My advise as this time of joy approaches is threefold: 1) Remember my point about the depths of the friendships formed at KP well, that is indeed something that just gets more important as life goes on. 2) The most important thing I've learned starting from my time at USMMA was/is how to be happy without being satisfied or complacent - I believe it's what enables Kings Pointers to remain driven and accomplish so much, without being "the ultimate sticks in the mud." 3) Despite "the bad and the ugly" that went with "the good" remember that from whom much has been given - much is rightly expected. To a degree that needs to start with each of us working to make sure those that come after us, have the same or better opportunities as we were given at USMMA. That of course starts with providing a strong alumni, including alumni giving and financial support. Virtually 100% of you will be gainfully employed and earning solid salaries by this October. Most of you will not have any significant student loans/debt (I don't consider your NFCU and/or USAA career started loans as significant debt and assuming you didn't "piss that away" you probably still have that to use for what it was actually meant for.). As such the time has come to stop complaining about what was/is wrong with USMMA and not working and contributing both your intellectual and financial support to fix those things that need to be fixed.

    If this sounds a little in your face and offensive at this time of otherwise general celebrations and joy, I guess so be it. I was and am a little disappointed to see so much negativity in the post of a parent of a member of the graduating class, whose child has is at the threshold of walking off campus with the full benefit of an education worth over $200,000 for what is basically free. Especially when in their own words:

    So here's my challenge to the current parents, including myself, who clearly enjoy jumping on bandwagons and offering uneducated opinions. How about we all step up to the plate and lead. By lead, I mean in all ways, starting first and foremost with donating. Think about it. If every family donated $10,000.00 to the USMMA Foundation each year our children were at the USMMA, that would be almost $1,000,000.00 Further, we could discuss with Jim Tobin how to do that in a way that the monies we donated were used first and foremost for things the midshipmen need within a reasonable time period, say 24 months of it being received by the Foundation. In that way, all we'd really be doing is helping ensure those things that aren't covered by the Federal Budget's appropriated funds, Athletics, Intramurals, Club Sports & Activities, the Regimental Band, those non-curriculum waterfront activities, etc. have current and adequate funding. In doing so it would free up some of the alumni funds, which I assure you are being solicited on a more ardent basis as well, for things like that have and require a longer term and larger commitment. For example did you ever wonder why the "Yocum Sailing Center" bears the family name of a living alumnus...

    Just some food for thought as the parents and members of the Class of 2010 head toward graduation day.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2010
  9. KPEngineer

    KPEngineer Eternal Father ...

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    The bonds shared by KPers transcend centuries (I graduated during the 20th century)

    Fellow alumni greet me like a brother even though we have never met before and old friends from school are still my best friends even though we haven't seen each other in over a decade. I have a KP license plate frame on my car and I sometimes get yells of "what year" from passing cars.

    The experience was worth far more that $200,000 to me.
     
  10. KPMum2012

    KPMum2012 Parent

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    Jasperdog, I'm sorry if we came across as negative. What spoke to me in the first post was a sense that while, yes, there are some problems, KP is a great place. The experiences our DD is having could never be matched anywhere else. And as KPEngineer stated, the bonds formed are amazing.

    That said, you make an excellent point about putting our money (and our leadership) where our mouth - er keyboard? - is.
     
  11. Apgallozzi

    Apgallozzi Member

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    I can't help but feel humbled and extremely grateful that I have the opportunity to attend such a great institution. In 44 days I will be able to start this experience and I assure you I will not be wasting my time there. Hopefully I will get the chance to provide some part of the Regimental Leadership in my years to come.
     
  12. noworries

    noworries Banned

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    well, bless your heart
     

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