A different perspective as you prepare for Induction Day

Discussion in 'Naval Academy - USNA' started by coachkarl, Jun 13, 2017.

  1. coachkarl

    coachkarl Member

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    I’ve been thinking about Induction Day and before it’s too late, wanted to share a few thoughts.

    I appreciate the honesty on this board, but if you feel compelled to comment with something that includes the work “snowflake” or something similar, please exercise some self-control and move on.

    You all know about the difficulty of the application process, how grueling it is from first application to MOC interviews, etc. And in our run up to Induction Day 2017, all I heard was how amazing I Day was, how the memories were amazing and so on.

    If that’s the experience of you and your soon-to-be Plebe, enjoy. Our experience was quite the opposite and you should be prepared for both outcomes and everything in between. And your experience is the right experience – like all things with USNA, one size does not fit all.

    And, spoiler alert, my DS survived Plebe Summer, and throughout the academic year, his experience improved. By the time Plebe year ended, he was a happy Mid, looking forward to his first summer and his Youngster year.

    OK, so some advice.

    Prepare: This falls into two categories, in my opinion. First, are logistics. Make sure your S2BP (soon-to-be Plebe) has not only completed the packet, but really understands it. My DS failed to read things thoroughly, so he didn’t realize he had “homework” (stuff he had to memorize) and would be “tested” on I Day. That made an awful day a lot worse. Also, make copies of EVERYTHING. We brought three full copies of the packet and every piece of ID we had – SS card, drivers license, passport, high school ID … seriously. We brought it all. You’ve probably already made your travel plans. We stayed right in town and that was the smartest thing we did that weekend. There are a lot of other little logistics stuff (especially for your last 30 minutes after the Oath of Office) that you can find on the forum, so I won’t repeat all that. Second, mental prep. Our DS didn’t do any. And it cost him. He really had no idea what he was getting into, really. He knew it would be tough, but no idea how tough. And he knew they would yell, but no idea how much.

    Prepare II: YOU need to prepare. Let me share our story – again, you mileage WILL vary. We dropped our pensive S2BP at the gate at 8 a.m. Then we began OUR day. A series of tours and lectures (and the great lunch on Hospital Point), which all had a unifying thread: These kids are amazing … they are the best of the best; we were swamped with platitudes and praise. And we thought, “wow, the USNA gets it. These kids are awesome.” Then we got our seats for the Oath of Office. The entire class seated in front of Bancroft, surrounded by all the Detailers in their summer whites. Those upperclassmen commit to taking care of the Plebes. Then the oath is administered and you hear 1,000 Plebes bark “I DO!” and the Blue Angles fly over. Our hearts swelled and, at that moment, I thought, “the people on the forums were right. This IS the greatest day ever!”

    Then we had our 30 minutes with our plebe. When he found us, his eyes were red and puffy; the tears weren’t rolling, but welled in his eyes. After more than a year of striving tirelessly toward the goal of getting into the Academy, he had achieved his objective. This was the moment we had all been waiting for. And the first words out of his mouth here, “I don’t know that I can do this.”

    My heart sank. My wife welled up. His sister clung to him. My instinct was to pack up our stuff, grab my son and get the hell out of there … to go home and spend the rest of the summer hiking, having bonfires in the backyard and hanging out in the basement playing Madden. Instead, I took a deep breath and went into Dad mode, helping him frame the situation. Here are the key points I made:
    1. Don’t take it personally. Yes, they are going to yell and scream. Yes, they are going to belittle you and insult you. But it’s a game. They have to weed out the people who aren’t cut out to be here. They are dropping a carpet bomb and seeing who is still standing when the smoke clears. In short, it’s a game and they’re trying to get you quit. It's a game. Just a game.

    2. They can’t lay hands on you. They can yell. They can call you everything under the sun. They can make you run, do push ups, lift, push or pull any manner of things. But they can’t physically harm you. So you if you block out #1 – the mental & emotional abuse, they can only wear you out.

    3. And this was on the one that pushed him over the line – they cannot stop the clock. They. Cannot. Stop. The. Clock. Plebe Summer is finite – it’s 6 weeks. And when you’re going through what seems like the worst 30 minutes of your life, you are 30 minutes closer to the end of Plebe summer.
    He took a deep breath and said, “OK. That’s helpful. I gotta get back.” Side note: You’re supposed to have 30 minutes, but it will take a few minutes for your Plebe to find you and they will want to get into line well ahead of time – they will have had the fear of God instilled in them about being late for that. Anyway, we had a big family hug, I led us in prayer for him, and he was on his way.

    Once they are all lined up, they begin that drumbeat. It got many folks all jazzed up. To me, it sounded like a death march. With each drumbeat, I had to fight the instinct to walk up, pull him out of line and take him home. Slowly, solemnly, they march toward Bancroft, through the massive doorway and into the building. After the last company crosses the threshold, they slam the massive doors shut and that “bang” resonates throughout Tecumseh Court like a cannon shot. Many people cheered. My wife and daughter broke into tears, sobbing heavily. I was numb. I found that I had been holding my breath for some time and exhaled.

    We stopped for dinner, but they spent almost the entire time sobbing and we left most of the food on our plates. By the time we got back into the car, they were exhausted and fell asleep for the three-hour ride home. The time between that and his first letter home and first phone call was, without question, the longest days of my entire life.

    Again, our story has become quite a happy one. And, without question, your experience will be your own and likely not mirror ours. But I hope there are some lessons here that might help some folks.

    I have a number of suggestions for Plebe Summer, but those deserve their own thread, so they can wait.

    Congrats and best of luck to you and your family.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2017
  2. grahamtorr65

    grahamtorr65 Member

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    Thanks for this
     
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  3. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    Great (and timely) advice Coach.

    Only (small) quibble is the comment about belittling, insult, and emotional abuse. The days of the sadistic Upperclassmen running plebes for his own enjoyment (read James Webb "Sense of Honor") are long gone. The Plebe Summer cadre is hand picked, and trained. There are strict limits on how far they can go. There should not be any belittling, hazing or personal abuse, and Plebe Summer is not about weeding out people. Of course, this doesn't mean that Plebe Summer is going to fun, or stress free. Of course, part of the program is to put the Plebes under physical, mental, and emotional stress , and it is that stress that creates a bond among classmates and forms the foundation of the Naval Academy class. Yes, it will be hard ..but don't take it personal.

    Point 3 is great . Plebe Summer is pretty short, and looking back, only a few of my USNA memories include Plebe Summer. It's a Rite of Passage, but I am sure most graduates will agree that remaining 4 years were harder. (Yes, it doesn't end with Plebe Year-- there are different types of challenges and stressors throughout the USNA experience).

    For all the Plebes to Be ... Keep a positive attitude, and look at each day as a new challenge. You wouldn't have been appointed if USNA didn't think you were qualified . It's okay to be nervous ... everyone is , some just show it in different ways. Most importantly, enjoy the ride --30 years from now you will be reminiscing with classmates, and I assure you the good memories will outweigh the bad.


    Good luck.
     
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  4. coachkarl

    coachkarl Member

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    Fair enough. The Plebes don't have that perspective, so what they consider belittling, would pale in comparison to what previous classes endured.

    Agreed. Already my son says most of it was a blur!
     
  5. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 10-Year Member

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    @coachkarl provides a down-to-earth perspective about I-Day and what it can be like. It is not like dropping off your DD or DS at U of Whatsis. There is profound change apparent in less than half a day.

    Depending on personality types, the ability to handle stress and degree of preparation, both mental and physical, some will handle it differently. Both new plebe and family!

    For those parents worried about the yelling and tough routines, there is a reason for it, and it may contribute to saving your kid's life one day. The ability:
    - to think clearly under enormous pressure
    - to understand directions in a chaotic environment
    - to lead others in that environment
    - to act swiftly according to training, memorized routines and muscle memory with alarms going off in the cockpit, under fire, or other extreme situations
    - to push themselves beyond comfortable limits
    - to understand the difference between pain and injury
    - to learn new things quickly, and to do more things faster and at the same time than they ever thought possible
    - to work with others in harsh and uncomfortable conditions, overlooking personality differences
    - to learn to fail but relying on grit and mental toughness to keep trying
    - to understand their own weaknesses and how to guard against them
    - to believe in their ability to overcome

    My USNA grad DH credits PS and subsequent training with giving him the confidence and ability to survive aviation and combat-related experiences that were life or death, no hyperbole there.

    This is why so many experienced posters mention candidates should really research and think about this choice, so they are clear on their reasons. You can get through all that stuff above if you know, deep down, you are where you are meant to be.
     
  6. mjm

    mjm 5-Year Member

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    Coach Karl..... Great points! My DS ( "all in" and totally prepared ) looked at me after the oath and it was a look I had never before seen on his face. I put on my big girl pants and told him to put one foot in front of the other and take it one step at a time..... told him that he would be fine. Did I believe this? Maybe, but I had to let him know that it would not be easy but he could do it.... and of course as his mother I was terrified. Now his sister ( my third) is applying and her brother is a firstie. He walked her into NASS to check her in this past Saturday and he commented about the look on her face!!

    Good luck to all the incoming Plebes!! And parents of plebes!
     
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  7. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Super Moderator 5-Year Member

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    Thanks for this perspective! I actually think your experience is more common than most are willing to admit to for I Day. I knew my mom couldn't take I Day and therefore requested to go on my own. Best decision for me. And yes there will be tears by some on I Day. Many of us did. They will be okay. As a detailer I remember walking the halls and you could hear probably 75% of the new Plebe's crying. They all snap out of it and in 5 short weeks you will see a different young man or woman. And they will continue to grow and change. Soon they will be those mature, squared away first class you saw taking the detailer oath. One note... you can't make your kid prepare mentally, physically, or emotionally for this. They must own it and want to do it. They will make it regardless if they want it bad enough. They are the ones who will have take the heat if they don't.

    Last weekend we had the going away for the appointees. I used 2 of the 3 items you mentioned... they can't stop time and they can't lay a hand on you. I also reminded them that all these grads here to send them off were once just like them and probably more hosed up then they were. We were certainly less informed as we didn't have forums like this and the Internet (well some of the newer grads did). We all made it, so can they. I told them on the bad days to remember to set small goals and remember to shake it off for the next day. Everyone selected can make it.

    I also echo the Plebe regiment has become more professional and focused. There are many things that won't make sense to them during PS, Plebe Year or even at USNA. It will one day. The lessons learned during Plebe Year have carried me well in life. They carried me across Iraq and Afghanistan. They helped me be a better officer when leading Marines even in horrible conditions. What might seem belittling or an insult, is part of the training. I had a close friend who credited many things learned Plebe Year with his ability to eject at the right time at probably saved his life.

    They are taking 1200 top notch kids and breaking them down to build up as Midshipmen ready to join the Brigade. Plebe Summer isn't OCS or boot camp... it's purpose is to take Plebes and get them ready to be a functioning member of the Brigade in 6 weeks. The first rule of leadership is to learn to follow, Plebe Summer does a whole lot of that. Good luck to all!
     
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  8. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    Not sure if this is a good thing or bad... my parents dropped me off at the local airport with a gym bag (both when sending me off to NAPS, and off to Plebe Summer). I never gave it any thought, and frankly, don't have any recollection of anyone seeing their parents after the induction ceremony. . (It sounds like they did things a little different then ... we didn't form up and march back in after time with parents, we kinda straggled in individually, so we were easy pickings for the detailers. There is safety in numbers ! I remember the hardest part was finding my way up to my room (Fourth deck , 1st wing , overlooking T Court), and taking wrong turns and using upperclass ladders..Oh my..that was fun.
     
  9. Cerberi

    Cerberi Member

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    I for one didn't and don't see the profound change many talk about occurring in their Plebe. Sure my DD has matured over the year and become more independent, but she would have done that anywhere. She was not holding back tears at the end of I Day when we saw her (though she was tired)

    She had a pretty good idea what was going to happen, recognized this is a path she chose and frankly had a pretty easy year. (and she is well within the top 50 overall, plus is a D1 athlete).

    She didn't worry about getting a part time job, she didn't worry about her summer job. She didn't worry about getting the right classes.

    There is no mental or physical abuse. The cadre and the upperclass (during the school year) are much more focused on positive motivation. USNA (nor any other Service Academy) did not pick 1200 top flight young men and women so they could abuse them

    If you have done everything for your P2B and forever told them how wonderful they are - they may be in for a shock, but thousands have rolled through Plebe Summer and Plebe Year without being any worse for wear.

    Parents tend to overdramatize many of the stories told them by their Mids. It's different no doubt, but frankly it's a lot harder to get into USNA than to get run off. Show up, work hard, have a good attitude, be loyal to your classmates, don't take it too seriously (there are very few parades or basketball throwing contests on a submarine).

    As a parent - I knew my Plebe would always be well fed and watered, get enough sleep every night, access to medical care, not be at any keggers, be surrounded by some of the greatest young men and women in the country, get a quality education, and make great friends. And they get paid. They are supervised by upperclassmen and women who are pretty much just like them but a couple of years ahead. And if that supervision somehow fails - they have a senior USN/USMC non-comm and a real life USMC/USN officer to step into the process.

    Realistically - even the process to get in isn't all that complicated (unless you have a DodMERB) flag. The process may be elongated, but most of it is checking off bubbles on the on-line application and most of what is used for the application is redundant to what is used to apply for the nomination.

    The absolute easiest thing I ever did was drop my DD off at USNA and I bet I would have had an entirely different reaction (worry wise) if I had dropped her off at Plan B.
     
  10. coachkarl

    coachkarl Member

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    Thanks for the perspective. As I said, everyone has their own unique experience, as does every Mid. I am glad it was easier for you and your daughter.
     
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  11. DesertCaliMom

    DesertCaliMom Member

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    Plebe Summer is akin to the outdoor classroom of Boy Scouts- a game with a purpose. Once a boy (or plebe) can ask themselves "what am I supposed to be learning?" things will become easier.

    DS inherited the last Blue Jackets Manual Captain LB Blaylock, class of 1924 (first to use sonar as a tactical tool), owned along with his memoirs. Here's one of his snippets on hazing. So glad these days are over!

    1497402878499.jpg
     
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  12. MIHOSER

    MIHOSER 5-Year Member

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    My S (Class of 2014) told me that Plebe Summer was like a summer camp with really weird rules and that if you try to fight it, you'll have problems. His advice to others that went subsequent to him was "go with the flow."
     
  13. coachkarl

    coachkarl Member

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    Yep. And so much of it is company-specific. Some companies have what the Mids refer to as "Camp Cupcake" while others are in for a real grind. Either way, you have to grind it out.
     
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  14. Old Navy BGO

    Old Navy BGO 5-Year Member

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    Yeah, just like summer camp ... we used to laugh about writing home , and telling how we got to go swimming . boating , shooting, and play sports...just like Summer Camp.
     
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  15. anne99

    anne99 Member

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    Since my son is a college re-applicant, I am MUCH more confident in dropping him at USNA than I was at the college. It will be tougher on him this time, just maybe not for me.
     
  16. mjm

    mjm 5-Year Member

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    I have seen more of a "profound change" in my DS as a Firstie...... USNA is not just plebe year. They go through a lot those first 3 years and during their training in summer....
     
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  17. coachkarl

    coachkarl Member

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    I'm picking my son up today after his first cruise. Really interested to download with him about that!
     
  18. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Super Moderator 5-Year Member

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    It goes to show you that no matter how much an appointee prepares and along with their parents mentally preparing for the transition, no two journies are the same. Each Mid's adaptation to the stress of Plebe Year is different. Each Mid matures at different rates. It's all a part of the journey and what makes the four years fun in many ways.
     
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  19. coachkarl

    coachkarl Member

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    100% spot on, Hoops. Everyone's experience (both mid & family) is different. And there is no right or wrong way, from what I've seen.
     
  20. jl123

    jl123 Member

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    Goodbyes at the END of I Day? Isn't there something in the eighth amendment about cruel and unusual punishment?
     
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