Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weekly Intramural Sports Update - Week 2

Under the direction of the Commandant of Midshipmen, the Naval Academy's Intramural Sports program serves as a leadership laboratory within the brigade and offers midshipmen personal development in the operations, officiating and supervision of a variety of intramural sports.

It remains a midshipman-run program, with midshipmen taking part in every aspect of organizing the brigade's athletic competitions.

Each week we will run an updated list of the current standings:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mids March in Mexican Independence Parade

A group of Naval Academy midshipmen visited Mexico last week to participate in a military parade honoring Mexican independence. They stayed with fellow students at the Heroico Colegio Militar, the Mexican military academy. Midshipman 1st Class Adriana Ayala shares her perspective on the trip.

As a historian and a native of El Salvador, my participation as an American in the Mexican Independence Parade was completely remarkable. I am grateful to have been selected for the opportunity to visit Mexico, a country I have studied for years and that I can relate to.

 I was able to share and expand my knowledge with my classmates who seemed appreciative and open to learning about the customs and courtesies of the Latin American culture. The Heroico Colegio Militar and its staff welcomed us and provided accommodations for us throughout our entire stay.

Upon our arrival at The Heroico Colegio Militar we all had mixed feelings. We stayed in open barracks where there was little to no privacy at all from the moment we woke up to the moment we attempted to sleep. I say attempted because we were all shocked to learn the cadets’ schedules start with the sound of a bugle at about 0515 for cleaning stations and ended with showers and more cleaning way past midnight.

We enjoyed typical Mexican meals which were the best time to get to know the people from the other delegations. We had the opportunity to bond with Peruvians, Argentinians, Colombians, Brazilians, Hondurans, Chileans, Belizeans, Venezuelans and of course Mexicans.

We compared our uniforms, our structure at our given academies and got the chance to exchange small yet meaningful trinkets. We were also able to bond during our time in Tenochtitlan where we got a tour and had a real fiesta with the other delegations, enjoying the food, music and a performance by the natives.

On Tuesday, Sep. 16, we were moved by how the entire city shut down for the parade. Hundreds of people gathered at the Plaza Mayor to celebrate their independence day. We climbed off the bus and noticed how people stared at us, curious and anxious to talk to us.

Women, children and men were all patiently waiting for the event to start. We took many pictures in our uniforms with the delegations, comparing and contrasting the cloth of our nations, each wearing it proudly.

As we stepped off, the feeling of excitement overtook as we watched the Mexican people look enthusiastic, cheerful and most surprisingly welcoming. They applauded and celebrated us, saying things like, “We are glad you are here.” We marched, proud to represent the United States in our neighboring country with whom we share so much history.

Our entire stay I felt humbled to be there and I hope that so did the rest of the group. We were honored with a commemorative coin that marked the centennial of the battle of Veracruz and a certificate to thank us for our participation in the parade.

Most importantly, we are left with the memories and new friends that we made in Mexico and the knowledge of the importance of reaching out to others.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Photo of the Week: Falcon Roast

The mids are ready to take on Air Force Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Photo by
MIDN 1/C Anton Ekman

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shore Up Your Ability to Withstand a Hurricane

We're still in hurricane season here on the East Coast. Here are some tips from Navy Installation Command's Ready Navy Program on how to prepare for a coming storm.

Advance notice alone is not enough to protect your family and property during hurricane season. You increase your chances through active preparation, being and staying informed, making a plan, and building an emergency supply kit.

These steps are applicable whether you are preparing for a hurricane, typhoon, or any hazard. They save lives, property, and time when seconds count in a mandated evacuation and when sheltering at home.

The terms "hurricane" and "typhoon" are regionally specific names for a strong "tropical cyclone." These low-pressure systems, which originate in the tropics, bring violent winds, torrential rains, storm surges, and flooding.

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean, east of the dateline, or the South Pacific Ocean east of 160E. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, with the peak season from mid-August to late October. 

Stay Informed

The following are some resources to find tips and information to be and stay informed before, during, and after a hurricane/typhoon.

Make a Plan

Every member of the family should understand what to do, where to go, how to communicate with each other, and what to take if a hurricane is predicted in your area. Be sure to learn and include community evacuation routes and an out-of-town contact everyone can call if separated. Plan how you will protect your property and home, giving yourself plenty of time to finish before the storm.

Build an Emergency Supply Kit

Make a portable kit with enough water, non-perishable food, medicine, and supplies for every family member to survive at least three days. Include a battery or crank powered all-weather radio, extra batteries, and cash in case power goes out.

Last, but not least, follow the direction of emergency management and local authorities. Never ignore an evacuation order. If told to evacuate, do it immediately and take only essential items and your emergency kit. Disconnect all appliances, and turn off gas, electricity, and water.

For more information on how to prepare for a hurricane/typhoon, visit http://www.ready.navy.mil/BeInformed/NaturalHazards/Hurricane/index.htm.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Weekly Intramural Sports Update - Week 1

Brigade intramural sports started last week!

Under the direction of the Commandant of Midshipmen, the Naval Academy's Intramural Sports program serves as a leadership laboratory within the brigade and offers midshipmen personal development in the operations, officiating and supervision of a variety of intramural sports. 

It remains a midshipman-run program, with midshipmen taking part in every aspect of organizing the brigade's athletic competitions.

Each week we will run an updated list of the current standings:

Monday, September 22, 2014

USNA Mids Visit Mexico

A group of Naval Academy midshipmen visited Mexico last week to participate in a military parade honoring Mexican independence. They stayed with fellow students at the Heroico Colegio Militar, the Mexican military academy. Midshipman 1st Class Annie-Norah Beveridge writes about their experiences in the first couple of days after their arrival.

Upon arriving at the Heroico Colegio Militar, the first thing that you see is the huge Mexican flag.  It is definitely the biggest flag that I have ever seen and stands in stark contrast to the Space Age-looking buildings that form Mexico's equivalent to West Point. 

The inside of the barracks that we stayed in are just as institutionalized. For the next three days we shared the area with members of the Colombian, Argentinean, and Mexican militaries.

We started the next morning with a three-hour long parade practice followed by a talk from the Mexican chief of naval operations.  He welcomed each of the foreign delegations stressing that we were more than just “milirares extranjeros” (foreign military), but also friends who had been invited to participate in one of the most important events in Mexican history.

He told us how the people of Mexico City welcomed us with open arms.  After a presentation of gifts to and from each delegation, we headed out to see the Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan. Our lunch that was planned for 2 p.m., soon became a dinner and a dance.  Greeted by actors in elaborate feather headdresses, the meal was a banquet fit for royalty.  The entertainment was constant and the food was delicious.

While the schedule had us returning for another meal around 7:30 p.m., it wasn’t until 9 that we headed back to the academy.  But there was no stress, just a general “go with the flow” attitude, and the mariachi bands and salsa dancing helped us to realize this.  It didn’t take long for all of the delegates, no matter their country of origin, to start dancing and chanting together.  Inevitably, such an event was able to encourage relationships that may one day work in favor of diplomacy.

The ruins at Teotihuacan were impressive.  Our guide explained that they were built around 100 B.C. and used for hundreds of years after that.  Known as “The Birthplace of the Gods,” Teotihuacan was the largest pre-Colombian city, and its Mesoamerican pyramids still stand out as some of the most architecturally significant.

The long bus ride to what was once the center of a state empire offered us not only a chance to get some sleep, but also an opportunity to  see some of the different areas of Mexico City.  We passed by numerous plazas, and what struck us most was the contrast between western establishments – such as Walmart, Sears, and Burger King – and the more traditional street vendors, intricate street adornments, and stray dogs.  The juxtaposition of old and new is present in Mexico City, though for the most part the  image of the native Mexican selling furniture made out of pigs hide seems to be overshadowed by industrialization and rapid growth.

The cornucopia that awaited us at the hotel and reception area was impressive.  Our mouths watering, we raced to line up for the guacamole while inhaling the smell of grilled meat, relishing the sweetness of the platanos, and curiously trying every juice on the menu.  Tamarind, horchata, and jamaica are not often served in the United States. 

We went back for seconds and thirds, and yet the party was just beginning.  We conversed with our Latin American counterparts: The Brazilians told us that they would beat us in the soccer match tomorrow and the Argentinians taught us to roll our “r’s,” stating that “language must be music, speak like you sing!” 

Every country helped to chant for every other country.  We yelled “Pe-ru, Pe-ru, Pe-ru” for a while before shouting “E-cua-dor, E-cua-dor,” and so on before chanting “USA USA USA !”  There was an abundance of noise makers, confetti, and hollowed out spicy cucumbers with gum drops, a truly eclectic mix of sweet and spicy that is often found in Mexican cooking. 

The fiesta was not supposed to have an end time and we gladly followed suit, heading out into the city to experience more of what our welcoming host nation had to offer.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

USNA Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

The Naval Academy held a kickoff ceremony for Hispanic Heritage Month in Smoke Hall Sept. 15.

Coordinated by the Naval Academy's Diversity Department and the Latin American Studies Club, the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans, their heritage and culture in the United States and its Navy.

"It is important for all midshipmen, especially those of Latin descent to understand and know what part our heritage played in American and naval history," said Midshipman 1st Class Manuel De La Cruz.

Approximately 510 midshipmen, which is 11 percent of the midshipmen population, identify with Latin descent.

"This year we had Mrs. Yolanda Maria Martinez, Chair for the Governor's Commission on Hispanic Affairs as our featured guest speaker," said Cruz. "She was our guest speaker last year for our banquet, and I thought having her back would be great for the plebes to hear her story and that of her family."

"Hispanics take tremendous pride in their record of military service, holding great honor to their status as members of the naval service - active, reserve, civilian and veterans - to advance equal treatment and integration of Hispanics within U.S. society," said Martinez.

Maritnez remarked how her father inspired her and how he was proud to serve in the Navy.

"I learned the meaning of service through him and witnessed the pride he exuded when he spoke of his military family," said Martinez. "Through his service he was given the opportunity to better himself in many ways."

After her remarks, Martinez presented the 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month proclamation from Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to Capt. William Byrne, commandant of midshipmen.

Observation of Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15.

The start date for National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries on Sept. 15: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"It's On Us" to Prevent Sexual Assault

By CDR Lynn Hammer, USNA Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program Manager

Today the White House officially launched the “It’s On Us” Campaign.  It is an unprecedented national cultural movement, addressing prevention of sexual assault and is designed to inspire commitment not just from college students, but our society at large.

VADM Carter, participated today in this White House event, and we all look forward to the Naval Academy’s important role in this campaign.  Stand by for the creativity and positive energy unique to midshipmen and that we have come to expect when they rally behind a worthy cause!

In our last blog, we laid out how the Naval Academy takes SAPR extremely seriously and how the academy family is committed to being part of the solution and of creating an environment of dignity and mutual respect for all.  We work hard every day to truly commit to these ideals and remain flexible in our approach.  Our SAPR program continues to evolve, and we are smarter in identifying behavior, and wiser in knowing how and when to step in.  Our Response Team is institutionally recognized for their role and has received full support and respect for confidentiality in care.  Are we at the finish line? -  absolutely not, and I would argue, there is no finish line.

This past year our service academy counterparts were committed to collaborating.  We brought cadets and midshipmen together for the first time in April at West Point to specifically talk about sexual harassment and assault prevention.  They also talked about the challenges of peer leadership, and the many influences on culture and sub-cultures at service academies.  Students compared programs and ideas; confronted challenges; and learned each academy’s best-practices, and it was clear we all had clear strengths.

There has been an increased focus on sexual assaults on civilian colleges and universities, and they are being challenged to address this, as a priority, on their campuses.  In this regard, I have had the privilege in participating in a growing number of civilian institutional forums, including the Dartmouth Summit on Sexual Assault on College Campuses.  At this particular event, I was among over 200 civilian counterparts and experts in the field, participating in a broad range of discussions as well as problem solving on the working group level.  Collaborating with civilian institutions, I have learned that no matter which institution we represent, we all want to make significant, positive change and to help each other get there.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released a report this past May, titled Not Alone, outlining a number of action steps and recommendations for colleges and universities.  It was rewarding to note that the Naval Academy has already  been hard at work on each of these steps.   USNA values, for example, student climate surveys and the important feedback they provide.  Another key step in Not Alone addressed the importance of a comprehensive, response plan when a student is sexually assaulted. During this past year USNA put tremendous effort in re-invigorating and building trust in our sexual assault response team.  We hired two new Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and two new Victim Advocates.  This team works very hard to be recognized, approachable members of the Academy. The addition of a Victim’s Legal Counsel is an important piece of the response plan.  Our responders recognize the importance of successfully meeting the unique and individual needs of a victim of sexual assault.

The Naval Academy is leading the way among colleges and universities in training, educating,  preventing and responding to sexual assault.  We are committed to an environment of dignity and mutual respect for all.  It’s On Us!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

USNA Mids Swab to Save Lives

The U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) hosted a bone marrow registry drive Sept. 18, collecting 2,014 new registrations into the C.W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Program.

Midshipmen from the Medical STEM extracurricular activity organized the bone marrow drive on campus with the assistance of the Midshipman Action Group.

Midshipmen, staff, faculty and family members volunteered to enter their DNA, collected from a cotton Q-tip cheek swab, into the National Marrow Donor Registry so to be available as a potential match for someone in need of a life-saving transplant. Within the first hour, there were approximately 1,250 new registrations in the program.

"This bone marrow registry drive is yet another example of the great things midshipmen do," said Cmdr. John Schofield, USNA public affairs officer, a registrant in the program and former bone marrow donor. "This entire effort was conceived and run by them. It is a testament to their caring and dedication. As a former bone marrow donor, I truly hope we get as many people as possible into the registry. It makes a difference."

The swab samples are sent to the C.W. Bill Young Donor Center in Rockville, Maryland, for testing and registration. It is here that the DNA information is coded and stored in the Defense Department and National Marrow Donor Program registries.

"We set up a good cause but on a deeper level we provided an emotional movement for the Brigade which was evident in our success," said Midshipman 1st Class Riley Miller.

The 2,014 entries into the registry set a USNA record for most collections in a single day.

"As leaders of true character and positive impact, midshipmen imagine great outcomes for those in need and they execute bold plans to achieve a better future for their communities; so too today with the Brigade-wide C.W. Bill Young DOD Bone Marrow Drive," said Miriam Stanicic, USNA community relations director. "Being excellent is innate to the Brigade, as witnessed by the very high number of donor samples collected in just one day."

The C.W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Center, has been in operation since 1991 and works exclusively with military personnel and their dependents, DoD civilian employees, Reservists, and Coast Guard and National Guard members to facilitate marrow and stem cell donations.

According to the center, more than 12,000 people are diagnosed each year with diseases that require an infusion of stem cells. More than 70 percent of blood cancer patients are unable to find an appropriate match within their own family and will require an unrelated donor.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

USNA Marathon Team Competes in Navy-Air Force 5 Miler and Half Marathon

The USNA Marathon Team traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 14 to compete in the 2014 Navy-Air Force 5 Miler and Half Marathon. The Navy Marathon Team placed first for the Navy 5 Miler and Half Marathon Military Challenge.  

The half marathon race started and finished in the shadow of the Washington Monument. During the half marathon, runners passed many historical sites, some of which were D.C. memorials and the scenic Rock Creek Parkway and East and West Potomac Parks. The 5 miler also started and finished in the shadow of the Washington Monument, taking runners from South to East Potomac Parks.

After the team successfully finished both races, they were honored to have the opportunity to meet Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.

Winnefield gave each midshipmen a Challenger’s Coin and spoke to them about leadership and the importance of holding one’s sailors and marines to the highest standards while taking care of them to the best of one’s ability. The midshipmen on the Marathon Team and Admiral Winnefield shared more than one thing in common:  a love of running, country, and service.

2014 Navy Air Force 5 Miler
Navy Air Force Half Marathon
2014 Navy Air Force 5 Miler

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Letter to My Former Self: ENS Logan Wilk (USNA '14)

In the "Letter to My Former Self" series, USNA graduates lay out the advice they would give themselves as midshipmen based on their experiences as junior officers in the Navy or Marine Corps. This week's letter was written by ENS Logan Wilk, who is serving on board USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), which recently moved homeports from San Diego, California, to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The one thing that nobody ever prepares you for when you graduate the Academy is this: TAPS only exists at the Academy! Trust me. You don’t need to go wandering around the ship at 2200 after hearing the announcement for TAPS. There is no paper for you to sign.

Prior to that embarrassing scenario and after graduating the academy, I spent my basket leave at home with family and exploring the Riviera Maya with my boyfriend. Soon the weeks of leave I had turned to days and then days to hours.

On 23 June 2014 at 0615 I reported to the Starbucks at Pier 3 in San Diego, California, in my summer whites. Now if you thought it was easy to recognize a female plebe by their short hair, imagine walking on board your new home in whites while everyone else is in NWUs. There is no hiding.

But, contrary to popular belief, SWOs do not eat their young. Instead I found myself welcomed with open arms handing me CASREPs, EVALs, Energized Work Chits, 8 O’clock Reports, and other confusing documents. Lucky for me behind those documents were friendly faces willing to explain every single acronym that came my way, and the old phrase “I’m a plebe, sir!” came out of my mouth once more, except this time it was “I’m an ensign, sir!”

Since that fateful Monday morning, I have now had my two-month anniversary on board USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53). And while I’m still just a baby ensign, here are a few tips I’m glad I knew and some I’ve picked up along the way.

It’s ok to say you don’t know the answer. Humility is the biggest piece of advice I can give any young officer. While it may seem hard or embarrassing to say you don’t know – for instance, the load of one of the ten shore power cables –admit it, and then find out the answer. The people around you will respect you a lot more if you admit your lack of knowledge, then search for the answer. There is a reason we learned the phrase “Sir, I’ll find out and report back.”

There is a huge difference between interacting with a LT at the Academy and a LT on the ship. Due to the high number of LTs at the Academy I became incredibly desensitized to the two silver bars. On the ship there are only five. Every now and then I need to remind myself that my Department Head is not my Company Officer. He is not here to help me decide my service selection or do well academically. He is here to do his job and make sure I do mine. Do not desensitize yourself to the two silver bars!

Learn the Rules of the Road. You roll your eyes now, but you will be tested, and they are important. Especially when you have the 0000-0400 watch and you see that the white, red, and green lights are getting bigger. As my CO said, “There are only two tests I have been scared to fail my entire Navy career: Rules of the Road and the PFA.”

Get to know the other JOs. These people are your family now. While it may seem familiar and comfortable to hang out with only Academy friends, you will find that ship life is very similar to Academy life. You eat together, live together, and work together. No matter how much you try to avoid it, these JOs will play a huge part in your life.

Learn to cook. If you already know how to cook, great! If you don’t, learn pronto. Eating out every night will get expensive and you want to save some of your money. Plus now is the time when you finally get to decide for yourself what you are going to eat every night. Cherish the freedom!

Lastly, don’t shy away from your mistakes. Embrace them and learn from them. The last night of our transit to Pearl Harbor, I was conning during DLQs (Deck landing Qualifications for helicopters.) The whole situation was a mess. The pilots had been given the true winds as relative winds. There was a miscommunication regarding the number of DLQs that the pilots were going to do. The ship was at trail shaft and needed to come up to split shaft (go from one running propeller to two), and basically the entire exercise was a huge flop. The CO told me to order starboard engine ahead, indicate 1 PCL. I gave the order; the helm repeated it back, lost control of the rudder and put his port engine ahead 1 PCL. The Captain took the conn. Rather than become embarrassed by the entire situation, I learned so much from those ten seconds. I learned how quickly the bridge can turn to chaos and how loud the bridge can become when those on the bridge are allowed to chat. I learned that I need to sound off when giving conning orders. Failing is not a career-ending event. Allowing your failures to control you is what ends your career. But I chose not to, and five minutes later I took the conn again. I look forward to my next mistake because it will show me how I can improve.

Take from this what you will. I don’t have all the answers, nor do I pretend to. But if I could go back and write a letter to myself this is what I would have said.