The Best of Zaphod - Ramblings for the class of 2XXX


15-Year Member
Founding Member
Jun 8, 2006
Bear with me....

In one of my first threads, I thought I’d have some fun and spice things up a bit with some colorful embellishments. Not this time. This time it’s serious. DAMNED serious. I’m posting this now so you will all have time to read it, ask questions, and get answers. I’ll be able to provide some, but I’m really hoping our resident current Mids chime in.

So off we go…

Well, here you are. It’s been a long, hard road, but you’re here. You have a right to feel proud of your accomplishments, and a right to be excited about the opportunities and challenges that now lay before you. Congratulations!

Some of you already know what you’re going to do. Others don’t have a clue how to answer that aside from, “Wake up tomorrow morning, not having quit today.” Both answers are right and wrong, but you’ll figure that out for yourselves soon enough. You might be surprised by the answer you come up with.

You are about to embark on a great and noble endeavor, one that will challenge you in ways you never dreamed you could be. You will have to dig deep into yourself to find the strength to keep going. The physical part is tough, but if a slug like me could do it, you can. The academic portion will be extremely challenging, but I’m no Einstein, and I managed. No, the toughest part is going to be finding the fascinating combination of patience and drive, tolerance and rage, relaxation and intensity, which you will need to have to make it through the place. Only one person can find that: YOU.

You WILL be scared. We all were. It’s normal. Some of you will be away from home for the first time. Others will have years of college and/or military experience under their belts. Those of you who are stronger must help carry those who are weaker until they grow strong enough. There will be times when the roles are reversed. That’s what makes Academy Classmates so special, and completely unlike anything you will find at any other university, no matter how prestigious. For NAPSters it will be an even stronger bond.

At your age, you think you will live forever. You won’t. Don’t make the mistakes that I did and allow wonderful opportunities to pass you by for temporary pleasures or conveniences. I would give my life to be able to attend USNA again knowing what I know now. You have no idea just how much you can do at this place, or how much you can learn, and not just about the Navy or Military. Take every opportunity. Enjoy everything you can possibly enjoy, and learn everything you can cram into your brain.

Don’t be overly afraid of the upperclassmen. That wild-eyed, high-and-tight-wearing, muscles-the-size-of-Bournemouth-packing maniac chewing you out because you couldn’t remember the 6th General Order was standing right where you are only 24 months ago. If he can do it, or if this broken-down has-been typing this can do it, then why can’t you?

Don’t make the mistake, as a Plebe or later as an upperclassman, of thinking that the Plebe System is a model of effective leadership. It isn’t. IMO, it’s one of the worst, but it serves its purpose, which is to weed out the weak. If you can’t handle someone yelling at you, how will you manage someone SHOOTING at you? Learn the lessons, then apply them when the time comes.

You WILL screw up. Period. It happens. Don’t be afraid of failure for failure’s sake. Instead, fear having failed because you didn’t give it your all, or because you quit. The upperclassmen and your classmates will admire and respect someone who fails but didn’t quit, over someone who quit, and therefore never found out if he would have succeeded. It’s a lesson that will serve you well in life.

Speaking of life, forget the one you had. Sure, you’ll still have your family, and even some friends from High School, but the life they will be leading will be so different than what you are going through that they will not be able to relate. Your parents will try (cut them some slack, you’re their kid), and your former friends will encourage you (if they’re not too busy getting smashed), but the ones to look to on a day-to-day basis are those other bald, skinny, scared, sweating, smelly kids around you wearing that ridiculous blue-rimmed Dixie cup with you. THEY are your support mechanism now.

You have earned the right to be there. You will be told otherwise, but the FACT is you worked your butt off to get this appointment. SO what are you prepared to do about it? Are you going to succeed, or are you going to join that company where they house the quitters, the ones that no one respects, and no one is allowed to speak to? The ones you see eating in King Hall in silence, unbothered by the upperclassmen, while the rest of the class continues pushing forward as a team?

Like I said in the thread title, I’m rambling. The problem is that I’m sitting here, remembering what it felt like to be on the verge of finally becoming a Midshipman, and also remembering everything that you are about to go through, and the incredible shock I felt when I saw the difference, and the urge to scream out “Wait! LISTEN! It’s DIFFERENT than they told you! WAKE UP! This is not a GAME!” becomes irresistible. Maybe I’ll add some more later when my brain is on a better track than it is now.

In short: Congratulations. You CAN do it. Never, EVER, quit. Don’t miss opportunities presented to you. This is not a game.

That is all.

No one likes a whiner. It's one thing to bellyache, but a whiner just ets on EVERYONE'S nerves. Complaining about how many rates you need to know or how hard some upperclassman is riding you or how you got flamed for a bad rack isn't going to solve the problem. Knowing your rates and making your rack correctly will.

Some guys will speak openly about the stress and so forth. It doesn't make them wimps. My NAPS roomate and I cried on each other's shoulder about 10 days into Indoc because we both wanted to go home, but refused to leave the other guy alone in this hell. He sat about four seats to my left at Graduation five years later. Some people suck it up, others talk. That's fine, but become a whiner, and your life will be made miserable by your classmates, let alone the upperclassmen.

There is a difference between motivation and reckless or false bravado. A quiet determination and obvious drive to excel will always be taken more seriously and respected more than all the crazy stunts, chants, and other "motivational" junk you can list. You want to impress the upperclassmen and get them off your back? Simple: MAKE EXCELLENCE YOUR MINIMUM STANDARD, always strive to acheive it, and help your classmates acheive it. You don't have to be PERFECT, but you must not accept anything less than EXCELLENCE.

No one gives a damn how many clubs you were in, or how many sports you played, or that you were elected to shag the homecoming queen after the big win. So was everyone else to your right and left. You are no longer the star. You are simply one star among many. You want to be a star at USNA? Start busting your butt all over again. Oh, and help your classmates do the same.

Don't allow yourself to lose sight of the primary goal: COMPLETING THE CURRENT EVOLUTION WITH EXCELLENCE. It is not Parent's Weekend, or Christmas Leave, or Herndon, or even Graduation. Set your sights too far forward and you will either get discouraged and quit, or you will lose sight of the present and not excel, then pay the price later (I know that from painful experience). You want to be a SEAL? GREAT! You have to know your Table Salt first; you have to pass chemistry first, you have to have a GPA that will allow you to walk into Smoke Hall that night just over three years from now and pluck the BUDS billet off the board. If you don't, I don't care how many pushups you can do or how far you can run, you'll be going SWO. Congratulations.

There are few things worse at USNA than being miserable on Service Selection Night, and watching your friends partying because they got what they wanted, but you're stuck on some tender somplace awful because you didn't crack down and study. I would save you that pain, because I lived it, and it simply SUCKS.

Remember to have fun. The place is not a dungeon, a concentration camp, or a prison. It's a military academy. You will be afforded ways of having fun that the schmucks at Podunk U could only dream of. Oh, and wearing that uniform home has all kinds of benefits, too. Join clubs and activities. Play in sports. Attend shows and plays in Maury Hall (You'll be surprised how good they can be). Go out when allowed and enjoy yourself. It will be a good lesson to appreciate the simple things in life. I've only been learning that recently, and the hard way. Take advantage of these four years and make them work FOR you.

Be prepared to face the consequences if you roll the dice and draw snake eyes. So you went and hung a "BEAT ARMY" banner on the Washington Monument one night after taps, eh? Be prepared to serve the restriction if you get caught. Some would consider it a good trade. I'm not saying one way or the other, simply that if you take risks, be prepared to face the music if it goes bad.

Don't do anything stupid. You've worked too damned hard to get to wear that rediculous little dixie cup to throw it all away on something like an honor offense, or a bad conduct offense, or a blown grade you could have avoided. Never turn your brain off. Don't drink underage. Don't drink so you fall over. Keep your hands to yourself. Never discredit the uniform. Leave that idiocy to the moonbats at St. John's College. You're better than that.

If there is one thing that will send an upperclassmen into orbit, or your classmates diving for cover around you, it's being a Sea Lawyer. Don't ever try to weasle out of a duty, an answer, or a responsibility by citing regulations. No one is going to order you to machine-gun children or rape your roomate. If you are ordered to do 50 pushups and the max is 25, bite your damned tongue and pump out the 50. No one ever said life was fair.

I'm off to make (more like "burn") some dinner, and to continue to unpack. I'll see what else comes tumbling out of my brain.

- Z
You have all heard the comment before: "What the heck am I learning this for? I'm never going to use it!"

You may be tempted to use that logic at USNA. Don't.

The fact is, you will use a surprising amount of it. Sure, you may not be balancing glucose equations, but when the water chemistry in the Primary Loop goes awry, you'll use part of it for sure. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because you studied Economics, you won't need Fluid Dynamics. You may be an Econ major, but that CIWS mount you're in charge of as the FCO (Fire Control Officer) doesn't move around on hamster power. It moves based on hydraulics, and when FC2 Schmuckatelli is explaining to you how the high-speed Whamadine caused the Hoozit to crack the casing on the Whatchamacallit, and therefore the Hydraulic doohicky isn't working, you'd better be able to do something more impressive than just standing there with your thumb up your ass.

Along the same lines, you may find yourself wondering why you are made to memorize all these "useless" rates. Well, it's not the rates that are important, it's the ability to assign things to memory. Just like a muscle, the brain needs exercise. Your ability to quickly memorize the menus, the Officers of the Watch, the events in the Yard, the Days, etc., translate directly into being able to remember your course, speed, rudder angle, propeller pitch, shaft RPM, time-to-turn, power-plant lineup, firemain lineup, and the ID and CPA of 30+ skunks while standing OOD in the dark while passing through the Straits of Gibraltar.

Oh, and the yelling in your face while required to answer all this crap?

It translates into keeping all the information I listed above clear in your mind when suddenly you lose steering, experience high water in 1A Boiler, have three skunks CBDR, and the Captain is yelling at you to find the CHENG because his shower has no hot water.

(Note: If the CO is worried about hot water at a time like that, start worrying. He's lost his mind.)

So study your rates. There is a method to the madness.
This one may prove controversial....

Do not date another Mid.

Yes, I know it's almost impossible to avoid on SOME level, and that the circumstances certainly lend themselves to it. I am also well aware that there is nothing morally wrong with it. However, it is frought with perils you would best consider avoiding.

First off, USNA is a surprisingly tight place, even if you don't know everyone. Stories and rumors defy Einstein and move at warp speed. The last thing you want is to be the subject of a Salty Sam column (do they even have The Log magazine anymore?). Additionally, an ugly breakup will simply guarantee you're going to have to interact with the other person, perhaps closely, in the future. No way around it, really.

Having the GF/BF in the Hall is also a source of easy distraction which you don't need, and more than one Midshipman's career has been shattered because things got out of hand. Is it really worth it?

Remember what I said above, "Don't allow opportunities to pass you by for temporary comfort". Well, don't allow your entire future to be jeapordized by a temporary misjudgement or raging libidos.

If you DO decide to date within the Brigade, just bear in mind the risks. Frankly, you're not going to have time during Plebe Year anyway, and strictly speaking you won't be allowed to date (or anything closely resembling the term) off the yard, either. The distraction will most affect upperclassmen, who will be too busy schmozzing with their Significant Other to realize they are failing Strengths of Materials and blowing their chances to be a Marine Aviator.

Just think about it, OK?

You are there to get an education, to become a leader, and to lay the foundation for a career in the Naval Service. You're not there to get laid. Keep your hormones under control, your zipper up, and your hands to yourself. You have more important things to worry about. If you find someone on the outside, that's great, but never let them interfere with what you're doing on the inside.

That's the advice. I know reality is different because I lived it myself. It doesn't mean the advice is wrong.

You've been warned.

ETA: Oh, and the advice applies out in the real world, too. Never get your love where you get your living. There are other, more vulgar, versions, but you get my drift. Don't mix business with pleasure; it makes a lousy cocktail.

I copied this from the other place, but not the whole thread. There was a good deal of discussion, especially on the topic of dating. Some agreed with me, others (including at least one current Midshipman) didn't. That's fine. What is above is entirely MY opinion based upon MY experiences (not all of them good). The idea is to get the conversation going again.

Lord knows, I don't want to have to TYPE all that crap again! :thumbdown: