ALL RIGHT, DIRTBAGS! LISTEN UP! FALL IN! RIGHT NOW! WHAT PART OF "NOW" DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND, MUNGHEAD? MOVE IT! HUSTLE, HUSTLE! I WANT YOUR GRUNGY LITTLE TOES ON THIS LINE AND YOUR EYES IN THE BOAT RIGHT THE HELL NOW! Do I have your attention? Good. Listen up. You've been to the Hall as candidates. You've read the literature. You've seen the movies. You've browsed the web sites. You've been to the games. Some of you have had parents or siblings or cousins stand where you are now. Additionally, you've had your mothers jump up and down in a crazed frenzy you've likely never thought she was capable of at the announcement of your appointment. Some of you may have even gotten lucky with the significant other at the news. Congratulations. Now get your a$$es back into reality right now! You are about to embark on the toughest challenge offered by the United States Navy short of BUDS. In some ways, one can argue it's tougher than BUDS, but I won't be the one to make the argument. I just want you to understand that it's not all pretty sailboats, flashy uniforms, and football games. So, you're the Class President, eh? The President of the Physics Club? The Athlete of the Year? A member of Who's Who Among American High School Students? Winner of Regents Scholarships (for those in my home state of NY)? Winner of full rides to Perdue, or Fordham, or the University of Colorado? BIG FRIGGIN' HAIRY WOOP! SO IS EVERY OTHER WORTHLESS PLEBE SHRED OF HUMAN DEBRIS TO YOUR LEFT AND RIGHT! NO, YOUR OTHER LEFT AND RIGHT, NUMBNUTS! Am I beginning to get through to you? You need to understand something: you are starting over. Nobody gives a damn what you did in HS anymore. They care what you did on the drill field this morning. No one cares who your parents are, or even if they are Alumni. If they are, you will be expected to be BETTER than your classmates. No one cares how rich your family is. No one cares what titanic deeds you accomplished in HS or before now. It's a blank slate, and the person writing on it is someone else who is evaluating you, not someone who loves you. You are going to be scared out of your mind. You are going to be moving in ten different directions simultaneously, and will be expected to rattle off required information while doing so. Oh, did I mention this happens seven days a week for ten months? Did I forget to mention you need to hold a 2.0 GPA during all this excitement, while carrying an academic load the equivalent of 40 hours at the schools your less-than-worthy HS classmates are at? Welcome to Plebe Year, and you haven't even started yet. Do I still have your attention? Good. You need to do something TODAY, and you need to do it ALONE. Go off someplace where you can be alone with your thoughts. No noise, especially from still-crowing parents. Bring a mirror. Look into the face in that mirror, and decide right now what you want to do. Do you want to be a pilot? Yeah? WRONG ANSWER! You need to want to be a USNA Alumni FIRST, and everything else SECOND. Eyes go bad (mine did). Grades suck (mine did). As such, dreams collapse (mine did). The thing is, the ONE dream you CANNOT allow to collapse is to WEAR THE RING! (Mine DIDN'T. I wear it every day. Screw those who don't like it!) You need to want to graduate because YOU want it. Not because Daddy did it. Not because Mommy will be sad. Not because your girlfriend gets all hot under the collar at the thought of her studly man coming back in uniform. If you go to the Academy for any reason OTHER than "I WANT TO BE A GRADUATE BECAUSE I WANT IT FOR MYSELF MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD!", then I hate to break it to you, but you WILL FAIL. So look into that mirror and DECIDE! If you're not sure, then kindly do my alma mater and my tax bill a break and don't bother to show up. Fall out now. So, how many are still with me? GOOD! Now, lesson number two is TEAMWORK. Individuals FAIL at USNA. To borrow the phrase, "There is no 'I' in NAVAL ACADEMY". You will have classmates. They are going through the same nightmare you are. Lean against each other. Use your strengths to butress their weaknesses. Think "TEAM" first and "I" NEVER! Classmate loyalty needs to be utterly ferocious (short of violating the honor concept, which would help no one). Do not bilge your classmates. Not only will this tick off the upperclassman (who have learned these lessons the hard way already), it will tick off your classmate, which you cannot afford. You don't even have to like some of them, you just have to accept them as your classmates. Welcome to reality. Lesson number three: That distorted red face one inch from your nose and bellowing louder than your dad did when you wrecked the family Mercedes was standing EXACTLY where you are two years ago. If that SOB can make it, you can too, right? Lesson number three: Excellence is the minimum standard. Do everything with that in mind and you'll be fine. Don't, and you'll catch a lot of heat (like I did). I was no ****screen, but I did garner some unwanted attention once or twice. Roll with the idiocy. Chow calls, come-arounds, bracing up, chopping. All are things that bear no resemblance to reality ANYWHERE, let alone the Fleet. The reason it is done is to see how much emotional flak you can take. You'll laugh later. Trust me. Understand that your parents love you and that they are prouder about what you are doing than you think anyone has a right to be. Be patient. They will ask questions. Stupid questions. Answer them. They will never understand what you are going through, but you can help them get an inkling. Use them as sounding boards. Vent your rage and frustrations with them. Then apologize, square yourself away, and get back into the fray, because it won't wait for you. Enjoy the place. I'm serious. When you can, enjoy it. I regret not having done more while I was there, and that was because I was always too tired, or stressed, or broke, or whatever. It's a beautiful place with TONS of opportunities. Take advantage of them. Don't get cocky, especially among yourselves or anyone else in uniform. You ain't jack until you've been in the Fleet at least three years. Don't forget that. You're wet-behind-the-ears newbies who don't know that there is no such thing as a bulkhead remover or an overhead buffer. If you are so stupid as not to know THAT, then don't expect to be taken seriously as warriors. Instead, be taken seriously by being a warrior-in-training who is willing to learn ANYTHING that will make them a better warrior. Keep your mouth shut (unless answering rates, in which case you better speak up), and always keep your eyes and ears open and, most importantly, your BRAIN IN GEAR. I have to get back to work. More to follow. Dismissed!