Life at the Academy
It would be impossible to predict what four years at the Naval Academy would be like for you personally, but we can describe our philosophy, our curriculum and the daily life you can expect. Only after you’ve experienced the exhausting rigors of Plebe Summer, and after you have faced the responsibility of leading other midshipmen and after you have thrown your hat into the air at graduation will you really know what the Naval Academy experience is all about. Make no mistake: the four years at Annapolis are very challenging, tightly structured, and designed to push you well beyond your perceived limits.
In this section, we will give you a general description of life at the Naval Academy. Later chapters give you the details of the academic, athletic and professional training programs.
Let’s start with a few basics. On your first day at the Academy, you begin learning a whole new vocabulary of naval terms. Before long, the floor is ‘the deck,’ the wall is ‘the bulkhead’ and the restroom is ‘the head.’ Likewise, midshipmen seniority is stated in a way different from traditional college terms.
All Naval Academy students, men and women, are called midshipmen, which is a rank between chief warrant officer and ensign in the Navy. A midshipman first class is a senior or “firstie.” The student body is the Brigade of Midshipmen, or simply ‘the Brigade,’ and the naval service often is called ‘the Fleet.’ The Brigade is divided into six battalions. Five companies make up each battalion, making a total of 30 companies. The midshipman command structure is headed by a first class midshipman, chosen for outstanding leadership performance to be Brigade Commander. He or she is responsible for much of the Brigade’s day-to-day activities as well as the professional training of other midshipmen. Overseeing all Brigade activities is the Commandant of Midshipmen, an active-duty Navy or Marine Corps senior officer. Working for the Commandant, experienced Navy and Marine Corps officers and senior enlisted lead the companies and battalions.
To underscore their commitment to living a life of honor, midshipmen developed and implemented a living document known as the Honor Treatise of the Brigade of Midshipmen. The Treatise is a positive and uplifting statement directly from the midshipmen expressing who they are and what they are striving to achieve. It establishes the common goals and ideals which midshipmen envision for themselves at the Naval Academy as well as in the Fleet.
The Honor Concept and Honor Treatise are the Brigade’s way of preparing midshipmen for a life of honorable service to their country.
Midshipmen are persons of integrity: They stand for that which is right.
They tell the truth and ensure that the truth is known.
They do not lie.
They embrace fairness in all actions. They ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented.
They do not cheat.
They respect the property of others and ensure that others are able to benefit from the use of their own property.
They do not steal.
In this section, we will give you a general description of life at the Naval Academy. All Naval Academy students, men and women, are called midshipmen. The student body is the Brigade of Midshipmen, or simply ‘the Brigade,’ and the naval service often is called ‘the Fleet.’ The Brigade is divided into six battalions. Five companies make up each battalion, making a total of 30 companies. The midshipman command structure is headed by a first class midshipman, chosen for outstanding leadership performance to be Brigade Commander. He or she is responsible for much of the Brigade’s day-to-day activities as well as the professional training of other midshipmen.
All midshipmen live in Bancroft Hall, a huge dormitory complex. You and your roommates live in close proximity to about 150 other midshipmen in your company.
The Honor Concept of the Brigade of Midshipmen was established by midshipmen to urge everyone to carry out their duties with the highest sense of personal integrity and honor. It represents the minimum standard that midshipmen are expected to follow. Honor, integrity, and loyalty to the service, its customs, and its traditions, are fundamental characteristics essential to a successful naval officer. Lying, cheating, and stealing are intolerable in the brigade as in the Fleet, and may be cause for separation from the Naval Academy. The emphasis is on “doing what is right” rather than simply not breaking the rules.
The company is the most important unit of the more than 4,400-member Brigade of Midshipmen. Many of your most rewarding experiences at the Naval Academy are those you share with members of your company. You eat, sleep, study, drill, play and compete as teams with your company mates. You learn to trust and rely on each other. The company experience also gives you an idea of how things work in the Navy and Marine Corps, where small-unit cohesion, teamwork and morale are as important in peacetime operations as in combat. Each semester, companies compete for the title, ‘Color Company,’ the best in the Brigade. The semester-long color competition among the 30 companies is one way company spirit is built. Companies accumulate points for academic, professional and intramural excellence. The two companies with the most points for each semester rare recognized at the Color Parade during Commissioning Week and then enjoy special privileges for the next year, including the honor of representing the Naval Academy at official functions such as presidential inaugurations.
All midshipmen begin the four-year program with Plebe Summer, a period designed to turn civilians into midshipmen. Plebe Summer is no gentle easing into the military routine. Soon after entering the gate on Induction Day, you are put into uniform and taught how to salute by the first class midshipmen who lead the plebe indoctrination program. For the next seven weeks, you start your days at dawn with an hour of rigorous exercise and end them long after sunset, wondering how you will make it through the next day.
When the upperclassmen return to the Academy in late August to begin the academic year, you begin a routine that becomes very familiar during your four years. A typical weekday schedule looks something like this:
- 5:30 a.m. Arise for personal fitness workout (optional)
- 6:30 a.m. Reveille (all hands out of bed)
- 6:30 - 7:00 a.m. Special instruction period for plebes
- 7:00 a.m. Morning meal formation
- 7:15 a.m. Morning meal
- 7:55 - 11:45 a.m. Four class periods, 50 minutes each
- 12:05 p.m. Noon meal formation
- 12:10 p.m. Noon meal
- 12:50 - 1:20 p.m. Company training time
- 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. Fifth and sixth class periods
- 3:45 - 6:00 p.m. Varsity and intramural athletics, extracurricular and personal activities; drill and parades twice weekly in the fall and spring
- 6:30 - 7:15 p.m. Evening Meal
- 8:00 - 11:00 p.m. Study period
- Midnight. Taps for all midshipmen
When you add to this schedule the time required for military duties, inspection preparation and extra academic instruction, you can see the demands on your time are considerable.
Summer training events are specifically sequenced into the Naval Academy’s four-year education and training plan and reinforce your experiences in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in Bancroft Hall. The focus of your summer training is Fleet alignment. Each summer you will spend approximately four weeks immersed in the Fleet, maximizing your exposure to Navy and Marine Corps personnel, operations, and training.
Third Class Summer
Your cruise onboard a surface ship or submarine provides you a snapshot of a “day in the life” of Fleet enlisted personnel. You will become part of the crew, taking part in ship’s operations and drills and standing underway watches. This opportunity allows you to experience the lives of the men and women that you will lead after commissioning.
Second Class Summer
You will complete Professional Training of Midshipmen (PROTRAMID), a program introducing you to the missions, equipment, and people of the major Navy branches and the Marine Corps. In one action-packed summer, you fly in Navy aircraft, dive in a nuclear-powered submarine, drive Navy ships, and participate in Marine Corps combat training.
First Class Summer
In the final summer, you get a chance to act as a division officer in training, interacting with a Wardroom and the Chief Petty Officer. Warfare cruise options are surface, submarine, aviation, Special Warfare (SEAL), and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) cruises, as well as Marine Corps training (Leatherneck and Marine Air-Ground Task Force). This cruise experience will help you decide upon your warfare community preferences prior to service assignment during your final fall semester.
As you progress through the years at the Academy, leadership responsibilities grow. Each year, you and your classmates assume more important roles in running your company, your battalion and the Brigade. By the time you are a first class midshipman, you are making daily decisions affecting the morale and performance of other midshipmen. You are teaching them the fundamentals of the naval profession and helping them through difficulties. You are leading through personal example, ability, authority and techniques you learned in the classroom and through three years experience. Your leadership responsibilities also increase in summer professional training, from learning to appreciate sailors during “youngster” cruise, to gaining a basic understanding of all warfare areas and the careers behind them before junior year, and finally, developing junior officer leadership qualities during the summer as you head into your final academic year.
You build your leadership skills in these and other settings, where you can learn from mistakes and benefit from the guidance of seasoned officers and senior enlisted. By the time you take your position as a naval officer responsible for leading Sailors and Marines, you have had practical leadership experience and in developing teamwork to accomplish goals and objectives.
The Naval Academy’s Religious Ministries Program fosters spiritual fitness and promotes the moral development of midshipmen within the context of an individual’s personal faith and spiritual community. The Chaplain Center serves the religious and spiritual needs of the Brigade by ministering to midshipmen through spiritual and religious mentoring, ritual and sacramental opportunities and by providing pastoral care for all, regardless of faith.
The Academy embraces freedom of religion in all that we do.
Even with a demanding academic and athletic schedule, midshipmen have time for extracurricular activities (ECAs).
Local and Area Attractions
The Naval Academy adjoins historic downtown Annapolis, which is famous for its state capitol, colonial homes and waterfront. Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore, is approximately 30 miles from Annapolis.
Due west of Annapolis lies Washington, D.C. our nation’s capital. Washington is home to the Smithsonian Institution with its museums of Natural History, National Gallery of Art, American History and Air and Space.
The Navy pays for the tuition, room and board, medical and dental care of Naval Academy midshipmen. You also enjoy regular active-duty benefits including access to military commissaries and exchanges, commercial transportation and lodging discounts and the ability to fly space-available in military aircraft around the world. Midshipmen pay is $1,017.00 monthly, from which laundry, barber, cobbler, activities fees, and other service charges are deducted. Actual cash pay is $100 per month your first year, and increases each year thereafter. The remaining balance is stored as an individual’s “Held Pay” and is maintained by the Midshipman Disbursing Officer to cover future educational expenses.
Upon graduation, Midshipmen will be commissioned in the paygrade of O-1 as an Ensign or 2nd Lt. In addition to the monthly pay of $2,905.20, they will be entitled to a monthly subsistence allowance of $246.24, and a monthly housing allowance based on their assigned geographical location (currently $1,845.00 for Annapolis, MD).
The Naval Academy’s combined academic, military and physical development programs demand a lot of effort, requiring you to spend more time on campus than the typical civilian college student. But midshipmen enjoy traditional holiday season and summer vacations (leave) plus shorter periods of time off (liberty). All midshipmen are generally granted leave for:
- an end-of-semester leave during the holiday season;
- mid-term leave during spring semester;
- a short liberty period at the end of spring semester and before Commissioning Week;
- three weeks of summer vacation
Alcohol and Drugs
As a future naval officer, you are expected to not abuse alcohol and to shun illegal drugs entirely. Plebes, regardless of age, are not allowed to consume alcoholic beverages. As an upperclass midshipman, you may drink if you are the minimum legal age for drinking (21 in Maryland). The use of illegal drugs (to include ‘designer drugs’ such as ‘spice’, as well as using drugs that are prescribed to another person) is strictly forbidden and results in expulsion from the Academy. As a midshipman, you are subject to random drug testing through urinalysis, consistent with Navy-wide policies and procedures.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services
The Naval Academy does not tolerate sexual harassment or assault. Academy staff and faculty seek to provide the safest possible learning environment for midshipmen by maintaining a professional command climate that promotes dignity and respect. Our goal is to prevent sexual harassment and assault from occurring through comprehensive education and awareness training. The Academy programs are dynamic, proactive and consistent with those in the Fleet and Marine Corps.
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program provides training to midshipmen through an extensive four-year curriculum that covers a broad range of topics such as: date rape awareness, prevention and intervention. Midshipmen are also educated on victim support, victim’s rights, and the medical and legal aspects of sexual assault cases. Various guest lecturers, specializing in the topic of sexual assault awareness and deterrence, provide further education throughout each year. Midshipmen are expected to exercise responsibility in preventing and deterring unacceptable behavior from occurring, and to conduct themselves as officers.
In the rare event that an incident does occur, the Academy has created an environment that encourages victims to come forward by providing multiple paths of reporting, with twenty-four hour on-call support, prompt response to allegations, and immediate protection for the victim. Key members of the Naval Academy’s staff ensure the sensitive, coordinated and effective handling of a sexual assault case, including referral to a victim advocate, counseling, and medical services. All allegations are thoroughly investigated and perpetrators are held accountable, under due process afforded by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In 1998, the Secretary of the Navy established The Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics to be a thought leader in the field of military ethics and serve the Academy, the naval service and national institutions of influence. In 2006, the Center was renamed The Vice Admiral Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership to recognize the extensive professional contributions of Admiral Stockdale in the field of ethical leadership and expand the Center’s role to integrate the study and application of both ethics and leadership.
The Center’s mission is to empower leaders to make courageous ethical decisions. The Center’s priority audience is at the Naval Academy, yet the Center has a broader mandate to impact the nation and the world, exporting lessons from the Academy to influential leaders.
The Center accomplishes this critical mission through research, consultation, innovation, dissemination and oversight. The Center undertakes research to identify and study the most important emerging ethical leadership issues; consults with high-level leaders to assist them in tackling complex ethical leadership issues; develops innovative products that provide new ways to strengthen and accelerate the ethical leadership development process; disseminates concepts, principles and ideas through lectures, published materials, and the Web; and insures all Academy leadership, character and ethics programs and activities are aligned and integrated.
The Center’s vision is to help prepare the future Jim Stockdales; men and women who will, as Admiral Stockdale once said, “not only exhort others to be good, but elucidate what the good is.” For that is the true challenge for our future leaders . . . not only must they choose right at the moment of ethical decision, they must also ensure those entrusted to their care do the same. And it is to this challenge that the Stockdale Center is called . . . to prepare our future leaders for an uncertain, complex, and volatile world . . . a world where tactical decisions have strategic implications.