USNA It's not college

Skegs

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I thought it would be good to provide examples to potential USNA applicants and candidates as they consider their opinions of the "little things" that describe how life of a Plebe is very different from the life of a college freshman. There are many obvious differences, but there are things that you just wouldn't think about until you're live them. These are good and bad. The idea is to help people make the right decision regarding wanting to attend USNA and perhaps NROTC.

My first example is returning from winter holiday, happy to see your roommates and then being told everyone is switching rooms and roommates and you have to leave your closest friends and live with someone you don't like. This is part of the plebes training, but it is not something you most likely will have to experience at a normal college.

Another example is visiting friends during winter break and as you describe your first semester and plebe summer you feel a lot of pride over various unique experiences, good and bad. Your friends start to have the realism of "it's not college", and you discover how different your life is and is going to be compared to your friends.
 

Skegs

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Please add your own examples to assist those who need to make the decision of college or not college.
 

CTX34

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Nov 11, 2015
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In your post you talked about switching rooms and roommates after the first semester, do you switch companies also? Or do you stay with the same company for the 4 years at USNA?
 

DrMom

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Same company. When I was a plebe, we didn't switch rooms at the change of semester. That was a West Point thing--and still is. I think winter in Annapolis is unpleasant (damp and cold) and the whole get back into the routine after Christmas was a complete downer.
 

Skegs

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In your post you talked about switching rooms and roommates after the first semester, do you switch companies also? Or do you stay with the same company for the 4 years at USNA?

It changes from time to time. Individuals may change companies for various reasons, but most stay in the same company, but then they may have a year where the entire class gets switched around. The term shotgunning. This semester is starting with everyone in the same company but with new roommates. Scuttlebutt is that next year everyone will be moved into new companies. I hear there may be a desire to reduce some of the differences between the companies especially those which effect the training of the Plebes. For example some companies take pride in being harder than others, with new mixed leadership, such practices and company traditions will be weakened. But thats only scuttlebutt which I'm sharing not so much as information, but as an example how life at USNA where upperclassmen have a large impact on the "freshmen" is very different from a regular college.
 

Islandmom4

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Not all companies changed roommates after break. It was company specific. However, some have already changed two or even three times.
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
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- Everyone lives in the same dorm. All 4 years.
- Mandatory to live in the dorm.
- Subject to Uniform Code of Military Justice, as a military member in active duty status.
- Classes and many events are mandatory, unless you have an approved excuse. Mandatory fun abounds! Pep rallies, football games, Forrestal lectures, etc.
- Must participate in varsity, club or intramural sport, or other approved activity.
- Off-campus liberty privileges are mandated by class. There are certain times mids cannot simply walk off. Overnight liberty (sleeping overnight off-Yard) is similarly regulated.
- Mids are on a regular duty roster, standing watch at various places. This includes being in a duty weekend status at times.
- No alcohol for Plebes, even if 21. Unless they are on leave (different from liberty).
- Cannot have dependents, i.e., spouse or children.
- Possession of cars, driving of cars, what forms of transportation can be taken by Plebes and who can drive them - governed by regs.
- Fraternizations and dating rules - not sure what NROTC has.
- Mids are paid actual Navy pay, not a stipend.
- On the very bright side, mids are daily exposed to Navy and Marine officers, and senior enlisted leaders, from various warfare communities, commissioning sources, career experiences and years in service, in every aspect of USNA life.
- Rich variety of ECAs, summer training electives, academic year special events, and so on.
- Exposure to very senior Navy leadership on a regular basis.
- Mentors for most warfare communities.
- Active, successful and well-supported UK Scholars group (mids going for Rhodes and many others).
- All medical and dental care, and Rx, taken care of.


Most differences stem from actually being in 24/7 active duty status.

It is a highly structured environment, designed in many ways to mimic the structured environment of the Fleet and Corps. That's the value - mids are prepared for and unsurprised by watch-standing, collateral duties, mandatory fun, long hours, relentless pressure and rules in endless quantities. NROTC ensigns and 2LTs are well-prepared, bright and capable, but haven't "enjoyed" the sustained exposure to an immersion military environment.

Finally, the bonds between classmates, company mates, roommates, teammates that are formed at the SAs, and continue for years. I am sure the SA grads on here will attest to that.
 

NavyHoops

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Was gonna add changing roommates is definitely ancomlany thing and usually only a Plebe thing. Usually only upper class change if someone returns/leaves from exchange programs, out of company leadership positions, etc.

I was shot gunned after Plebe year. At the moment it seems huge, but you soon realize no big deal.
 

Skegs

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- Everyone lives in the same dorm. All 4 years.
- Mandatory to live in the dorm.
- Subject to Uniform Code of Military Justice, as a military member in active duty status.
- Classes and many events are mandatory, unless you have an approved excuse. Mandatory fun abounds! Pep rallies, football games, Forrestal lectures, etc.
- Must participate in varsity, club or intramural sport, or other approved activity.
- Off-campus liberty privileges are mandated by class. There are certain times mids cannot simply walk off. Overnight liberty (sleeping overnight off-Yard) is similarly regulated.
- Mids are on a regular duty roster, standing watch at various places. This includes being in a duty weekend status at times.
- No alcohol for Plebes, even if 21. Unless they are on leave (different from liberty).
- Cannot have dependents, i.e., spouse or children.
- Possession of cars, driving of cars, what forms of transportation can be taken by Plebes and who can drive them - governed by regs.
- Fraternizations and dating rules - not sure what NROTC has.
- Mids are paid actual Navy pay, not a stipend.
- On the very bright side, mids are daily exposed to Navy and Marine officers, and senior enlisted leaders, from various warfare communities, commissioning sources, career experiences and years in service, in every aspect of USNA life.
- Rich variety of ECAs, summer training electives, academic year special events, and so on.
- Exposure to very senior Navy leadership on a regular basis.
- Mentors for most warfare communities.
- Active, successful and well-supported UK Scholars group (mids going for Rhodes and many others).
- All medical and dental care, and Rx, taken care of.


Most differences stem from actually being in 24/7 active duty status.

It is a highly structured environment, designed in many ways to mimic the structured environment of the Fleet and Corps. That's the value - mids are prepared for and unsurprised by watch-standing, collateral duties, mandatory fun, long hours, relentless pressure and rules in endless quantities. NROTC ensigns and 2LTs are well-prepared, bright and capable, but haven't "enjoyed" the sustained exposure to an immersion military environment.

Finally, the bonds between classmates, company mates, roommates, teammates that are formed at the SAs, and continue for years. I am sure the SA grads on here will attest to that.

Fantastic list!
 
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Dial the gate

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Is weekend (Saturday or Sunday) Liberty (is that the correct term is this scenario?) reserved only for visiting Host Families or can a Plebe have family come in from out of town and spend the day with them (if they don't have duty, etc)?
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
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Plebes get roughly from midday Sat to midnight for town (off-Yard) liberty. They can use as they wish - get picked up by sponsor family, spend time with visiting family, walk around DTA and eat pizza and ice cream or get to the mall area for a movie and Five Guys. Sunday is Yard liberty - free time, but on-Yard.
 

nuensis

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The little things you won't find in a brochure or the website. The things that suck, but you look back upon with fondness and laugh about because you've developed a sick sense of humor. Things that NROTC mids and OCS grads won't understand.

  • Standing--literally--twelve hours of CMOD in Service Dress Blues. The feeling the first time you sit down after that.
  • Two minutes, PT gear in 7th Wing to SDBs in Main Office to make it in time for watch.
  • 7 minutes to get from dripping wet in Lejeune to Rickover because swimming didn't let out on time.
  • Taking a Chemistry test, face still covered in sweat from boxing, head still throbbing because you didn't keep your hands up.
  • When you forgot to pack white socks for PE and sprint back to your room.
  • The NROTC guys are anxious about going underway on a DDG, and you're just glad it's not a YP cruise.
  • Duty section musters. Watch musters. Restriction musters. Breathalyzer musters. 0200 Sexual Assault Prevention musters. Urinalysis.
  • Liberty plans. Counseling. Evals. Ac Tracking. Aptitude for Commissioning Rankings.
  • The feeling when you finally get off swimming remedials, and your squad leader and classmates are there to celebrate with you.
  • Being the guy that has to collect reports accounting for 4500 people from 36 people of questionable reliability every night, and correcting the same mistakes every time.
  • When King Hall has steak and lobsters and cannonballs with hard sauce. And you learn why the next day.
  • You forgot to lock your rifle, and now Gunny has it.
  • Walking in your room, and everything you own is on the ground because your roommate rigged his uniforms.
  • Your chit was disapproved. Forget whatever plans you thought you had.
  • When you're a striper, and that one professor holds you until 1155. You have ten minutes to get from Rickover to your room, unlock your sword, rig your sword, and get back down to formation.
  • Stripping the floor with a scrub pad because plebes don't rate technology.
  • Liberty is secured for the company because three rooms failed inspection. All three rooms are in your platoon. It's your fault.
  • The SDO decides to use the hour to give a good story and some life advice instead of making you march in circles with a rifle. You can make mistakes and still have a great career.
  • That feeling of hatred and disdain when that firstie pulls up a chair, steps onto it, and shoves his gloved hand into your A/C vent.
  • Taking summer school and hating every single detailer and plebe in Foxtrot, every single morning.
  • When the Alpha Inspection coincides with laundry day and everyone suddenly has tons of laundry to take out.
  • The great happiness that comes with Buff Chicks that makes a garbage day into a good day.
  • Stacking Cafe Pronto Coffee cups on your desk during finals week, as if building a monument to your collective misery.
  • You've worn SDBs and Summer Whites more often than you have civvies.
 
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Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
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Very good list - and over four years, the sheer grind of it is the engine behind the sheer joy I note at every Commissioning as the covers go in the air.
One minuscule quibble - OCs get an intensive sampler version of much of the craziness above, though admittedly over a significantly shorter period of time, and understand more than you might think. Inane watches, mad sprints between evolutions, practice parades, mandatory whatevers, disapproved chits, cancelled liberty, screaming upper-section OCs failing our room because of condensation on the outside of the window, helping my roommate at Stupid Swim (less kind names back then) every morning before breakfast till she passed, missing breakfast because I was on cleaning detail for the heads and p'ways (OCs did all the cleaning, and I totally get stripping decks) - and then landing in the Fleet in a matter of months to compete with SA and ROTC grads with years more exposure. My "holy crap what have I done" factor was massive. Hats off to all SA folks who are grinding out or who have ground out four years. I have always conceded SA grads are the most professionally prepared right after commissioning. All that "grind stuff" goes hand-in-hand with world-class education and military development.
 

usna1985

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On the positive side . . . and something I didn't realize until years later.

At most colleges, the members of your class change significantly over the four+ years it takes to graduate. The bulk start in August. Some join the class in January (deferred admissions). Some are on the five-year plan. Or the six-year plan. Some take off a semester, or a year or more to "find themselves." New folks join the class (transfers from other colleges) each year. So, the class that graduates can be very different from the class that entered four years prior.

At USNA (and other SAs), you start with a certain number of people on I-Day. During the next four years, some folks will leave for various reasons. But, other than the RARE medical turnback, etc., no one joins the class. Thus, the people you start with are the people you graduate with, less those who left. And you all do it in 4 years.

As a result, the entire class goes through the exact same experiences as a group. This is what bonds you not only to the school but so tightly to your class. SAs are the only colleges like this.

You really internalize it at reunions years later, when you refer to some major event your class experienced, and EVERYONE remembers it. For us, that included the entire brigade being called out of bed at 0200 and being put "in hack" by the Dant because someone had tried to move the A-4 and injured a Jimmy Legs. Of course, we didn't even know what being put "in hack" meant. Trust me, everyone in our class remembers that night. :)
 

Old Navy BGO

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I think CAPT MJ hits it on the head -- all of those things add up to a "Long Grind."And USNA1985 nails it with the upside --the comradery and sense of group accomplishment. I absolutely remember the night we were put "in hack", and everybody ...from First Class to Plebe , all of us equal at the time, looking at each other with the same question..."what is hack ?" Of course, memories fade over time and stories get embellished --my recollection of the incident was some enterprising and enthusiastic Midshipmen, showing their spirit during Army week, and perhaps moving the A-4, got a little overzealous when the Jimmy Legs got out of his patrol car to give chase--they circled around, took the car and parked it in T-court with the lights a flashing ...maybe even siren). 'Dant called us into formation in the middle of the night, and put us in hack. I vaguely recall the hack being lifted the next day at lunch or dinner, the culprits 'fessed up, and 'Dant ended it with an acknowlegment of a bad idea poorly executed.
Those things don't happen a a "regular" college.
 

NavyHoops

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I don't remember the term hack being used in my day, but I did stand my share of restriction, both officially and unofficial. The unofficial one was the worse. Plebe Year my squad mate got caught listening to music. This was late March so the end of Plebe Year was so close. The 3 of us Plebes in our Squad were given the choice to go on restriction or "take the hit" meaning unofficial in company restriction. Remind you we (the other two of us in the squad did not live with this Mid and had zero idea he was doing this) were not guilty of anything, yet got to stand watch every weekend until Herndon with no liberty. The Mid who was caught was also in D&B and they traveled nearly every weekend to competitions during this time, so he was off in fun cities traveling around while we took the punishment. To this day the guy who stood all the watch with me is a good friend of mine and we still joke how miserable we were. Luckily he was from Norther VA and his parents would bring us some food every weekend and say hi. I think that saved my sanity along with two firsties who were on restriction. They watched out for us and we had a blast in a weird way. Mass punishment is a way of life at USNA. There is no he or she did it. Be prepared to all take the hit.
 
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