Friday, January 29, 2016

U.S. Naval Academy’s Future Surface Warfare Officers Choose First Ships

Two hundred and forty-nine U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen selected the ships that they will serve on after graduation and commissioning during Ship Selection Night Jan. 28 in Mahan Hall.

Ship Selection is the culmination of the service assignment process for Naval Academy midshipmen assigned to serve as surface warfare officers (SWO). Upon reporting to their first ship after graduation May 27, they will be in charge of any number of shipboard operations while at sea.

During the ceremony, all of the available ships are listed on magnetic strips and displayed on stage. Each midshipman has their moment of glory as they walk across the stage and choose their ship on stage in front of cheering classmates.

MIDN 1/C Richard Kuzma shakes hands with Commander, Surface Forces,
VADM Thomas S. Rowden

“It was an honor and a really humbling experience, especially because I would never have made it through the academy without all my classmates who are also in that room,” said Midshipman 1st Class Richard Kuzma, who chose USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) out of San Diego, Calif. “To share this moment with them and see how elated all of them are – it’s a really special time.

Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden (USNA ’82) welcomed the future SWOs to the community in his opening remarks.

“It is my distinct honor to welcome you to the surface warfare wardroom,” he said. “Think of where you were seven months ago, but more importantly, think of where you’ll be seven months from now. Many of you will be standing in front of your division, and they will be looking to you for guidance and leadership.”

Senior leaders from around the fleet also attend the ceremony, joining ship commanding officers, executive officers and junior officers in welcoming the Navy's future ensigns into the surface warfare community.

“I’m excited for the difference you’re going to make in our Navy, the difference you’re going to make on your ship, the difference you’re going to make throughout your entire careers,” said Rowden. “There’s a great big world out there, and the surface Navy sails in every single inch of it. You’re going to be the face of the Navy, and you’re going to take us to where it is we need to be.”

Midshipman 1st Class Samantha Robbins, who chose LCS Crew 109 out of Mayport, Fla., is already looking ahead to graduation and getting out to the fleet.

“I’m more excited than I thought I could be,” said Robbins. ”I’m going to be on my ship, doing my job, and nothing makes me more excited than doing that.”

MIDN 1/C Samantha Robbins chooses LCS Crew 109 out of Mayport, FL

Midshipmen choose their ships according to order of merit, which takes into account their academic performance, physical fitness and professionalism throughout their four years at the Naval Academy.

Listed are the top five future SWOs from the Class of 2016 and the ships and homeports they chose:

MIDN 1/C Richard Kuzma
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000)        
San Diego, Calif.

MIDN 1/C David Phelps              
USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108)
San Diego, Calif.

MIDN 1/C Christen Carpenter
USS Ross (DDG 71)
Rota, Spain

MIDN 1/C Mikaela Carlson
USS San Diego (LPD 22)
San Diego, Calif.

MIDN 1/C Teresa Kennedy
USS Ross (DDG 71)
Rota, Spain

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Naval Academy Chapel Congregations Contribute $270,000 to Charity

The Naval Academy Chapel’s Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations contributed nearly $270,000 to non-profit charitable and religious organizations in 2015.

Twice per year, in January and July, the USNA Chaplains Office spends down the religious offering fund to under $5,000 in order to ensure that the contributions are being spent in accordance with the wishes of the congregations.

“The donors give these funds as an expression of their faith and their desire to share with others and to help others who are in need,” said Capt. Michael Gore, senior chaplain.

Committees made up of members of each congregation choose and vet organizations to which they want to contribute and make recommendations to Gore, who administers the funds.

This year, the congregations gave $68,000 to organizations that support military members and their families, including the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, the Injured Marine Semper-Fi Fund, and COMPASS, which provides programming for military spouses.

More than $90,000 was donated to religious and charitable organizations that provide ministry to those in need, in keeping with the wishes of each faith community.

The bulk of the funds were given in direct support of the various religious clubs on the Yard or their parent organizations to support religious programming for the Brigade of Midshipmen.

"Our extracurricular religious activity groups meet the religious needs of those who are interested,” said Gore. “It helps them to grow spiritually, and as part of that, it fulfills the moral mission of the academy, because our faith groups are teaching them moral values. And I think it also strengthens resiliency for those who participate."

Resilience in future military leaders is a theme of a working group organized by the Commandant of Midshipmen that is exploring how we strengthen the resiliency of our midshipmen and, ultimately, the U.S. military. The group is looking at many factors including sleep, the flexibility required to handle constant change and, said Gore, spirituality or a sense of purpose or meaning.

"It's Secretary of the Navy policy to accommodate the religious needs of service members. The free exercise of religion is one of the Constitutionally-guaranteed exercises, and religion is of tremendous value to many people,” he said. “To those people who value it, it's a source of moral development, as well as resilience.”

Many of the organizations the USNA congregations choose to support are right outside the gate, helping people in the local community.

"Every week members of our congregations gather for worship, and as part of their worship, they tend to give, because giving to others is central our Christian faith,” said Gore. “They aren't only looking up, but looking out to the world around them to see where there are people who have need and how can we give in a way that helps those people."

The chapel is such a prominent historical landmark in Annapolis, it can be easy to forget that is houses “living, vital congregations,” said Gore.

“And that's why I think it's so important for the military community to support the chapel,” he said. “We're not giving those funds because we want the credit. We give those funds because we want them to be helped. That makes the people at the chapel grateful that they had the privilege to help someone."

Friday, January 22, 2016

Navy Air Boss Welcomes New Aviators to Fleet

The Commander of Naval Air Forces visited the U.S. Naval Academy to participate in the aviation community assignment dinner and reception Jan. 14.

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker (USNA ’82) addressed the 320 first-class midshipmen who were selected for service assignment in the naval aviation community and offered advice and insight about the expectations for the midshipmen in the future, as well as what they have to look forward to in the future of naval aviation.

“The future is bright. All of our aviation platforms have transitioned from legacy into something that is very new, very modern, and there are amazing opportunities in every community,” said Shoemaker. “It’s impressive how capable our platforms are, and all are integrated as we look at our warfighting capabilities moving forward. I think it’s very exciting.”

While in Annapolis, Shoemaker met with Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter in Larson Hall as well as other pilots from the Naval Academy staff.

The assignment dinner is an annual event that provides midshipmen the opportunity to meet the Navy's senior aviation officers and be welcomed into the community.

The Naval Academy Class of 2016 received their service assignments Nov. 19, a milestone that put them one step closer to joining the fleet and Marine Corps as commissioned officers. The midshipmen selected for naval aviation represent a little less than one third of the class. The Naval Academy is the largest accession source for new aviators in the Navy, with academy grads typically representing 38 percent of the aviation students in Pensacola, Fla., at any one time.

“I knew I wanted to fly during my firstie aviation cruise at HSM-40 in Mayport, Florida,” said Midshipman 1st Class Josh Mokracek. “The squadron was a very tight knit group and both the senior and junior officers were very welcoming. We had the opportunity to go on several flights, including some front seat time, actually getting to fly the helicopter. I was hooked.”

Shoemaker urged the midshipmen to work hard in flight school as it forms the foundation of their entire career.

“Performance is what drives everything so as you study hard and work hard in flight school, it gives you opportunities and options,” he said. “Stay focused while you’re down there and you’ll enjoy wherever you end up in the fleet.”

Midshipmen Prep to Help Shovel Out Annapolis

UPDATE: Due to the continuing storm and emergency conditions in Annapolis, the mids will not be shoveling snow Saturday. Hopefully they'll be able to get out there Sunday.

With meteorologists calling for a blizzard to sweep across the Eastern U.S. tonight and tomorrow, members of the Naval Academy's Midshipman Action Group are already making preparations to help shovel snow for the citizens of Annapolis.

So far, more than 300 midshipmen have volunteered.

"We are here to serve, and that service starts here in Annapolis serving those around us," said Midshipman 1st Class Michael Higgins, vice president of MAG and lead organizer for the "Big Dig" of 2016.

It's not unusual for the mids to organize snow shoveling teams after each snow Annapolis sees, but the impending storm is projected to be bigger than anything the region has seen since 2010's "Snowmaggedon."

The plan is for the mids to start digging out vehicles and sidewalks in the downtown Annapolis area Saturday afternoon, once the worst of the weather is over, breaking into multiple teams throughout Saturday and Sunday to cover as large an area as possible.

It’s a team effort, with the Naval Academy’s Public Works Department lending all the equipment the midshipmen will use.

"The people of Annapolis have done so much for the Brigade, and assisting our neighbors by shoveling snow is an easy way to say, 'Thank you Annapolis for all your help and support. Take a break, and let us help you.'"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stephen Decatur and the Impact of Consequential Leadership

by Vice Adm. Ted Carter, Superintendent, U.S. Naval Academy

January 5th marked Commodore Stephen Decatur’s 237th birthday.  Decatur was the most celebrated American naval hero of the post-Revolutionary War era.  If not for his untimely death at the age of 41, many believe he would have been elected President of the United States.

In honor of his recent birthday, I think it appropriate to take a moment to remember some of Decatur’s career, reflect on his legacy, and consider how we might go about producing more leaders like him.

Captain Stephen Decatur

First let’s talk about Stephen Decatur’s naval education and the early wartime exploits which made him a household name.  The son of a merchant captain, Decatur obtained an appointment as midshipman in 1798.  He served aboard USS United States, captained by his good friend and mentor John Barry.  Barry was a hero of the Revolutionary War, and is recognized as the American Navy’s first flag officer.  Decatur was also tutored by Talbot Hamilton, a former officer of the Royal Navy who instructed him in navigational and nautical sciences.  While serving aboard United States, Decatur received formal naval training not only from Hamilton, but through active service aboard a commissioned ship.  This experience, as well as his continuing education aboard other ships, would serve him well when it came time for him to lead in combat.

Before I recount Decatur’s heroism in battle, let’s briefly set the stage.  In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson sent our nation’s tiny naval force to the Mediterranean to protect our expanding trade against the Barbary pirates, who had long demanded ransom for the safe passage of our merchant ships.  President Jefferson’s refusal to pay for safe passage led Tripoli to declare war against the United States.  “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute” became our rallying cry for the ensuing conflict – the First Barbary War.

On 23 December 1803, only a month into his command of the schooner Enterprise, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and his crew captured the Tripolitan ketch Mastico as she sailed from Tripoli to Constantinople under Turkish colors.  Mastico had taken part in the capture of the frigate USS Philadelphia earlier that year, and was thus deemed a legitimate prize.  Refitted and renamed USS Intrepid, she was taken into service under Lieutenant Decatur’s command.

The burning of USS Philadelphia

Because of her appearance, the Intrepid was well-suited to enter Tripoli's harbor, where Philadelphia remained, without raising suspicion.  In February 1804, Decatur sailed the Intrepid close enough to the captured Philadelphia for his crew, a detachment of U.S. Marines, to board, capture, and burn the frigate, which was not seaworthy.  The mission was executed flawlessly, and subsequently deprived Tripoli of a powerful warship.  Lord Horatio Nelson, then a Vice Admiral in the British Royal Navy, called Decatur’s mission “the most bold and daring act of the age.”

Later in 1804, during a month of sustained attacks on Tripoli, Decatur's younger brother, James Decatur, was mortally wounded by a Tripolitan captain while boarding a corsair feigning surrender.  Stephen Decatur received word quickly, and diverted his own vessel to the corsair to exact revenge.  He was the first to board the Tripolitan ship, outnumbered five-to-one, but ready for a fight.  Decatur immediately found the man who had wounded his brother.  The Tripolitan captain outweighed him by 40 pounds, but Decatur ferociously thwarted the captain with his cutlass and after a direct hand-to-hand fight, killed him with his pistol.  The story of this fight made Decatur a household name, shaping the image of our still developing U.S. Navy.

For his leadership and bravery in the First Barbary War, Stephen Decatur became the youngest naval officer in history to be promoted to captain at the age of 25.  His naval career continued far beyond this initial success.  Decatur would further distinguish himself while fighting in the War of 1812 and the Second Barbary War.  He would achieve the rank of commodore and serve on the Board of Navy Commissioners until his death in 1820 following a duel with another naval officer.

The Tripoli Monument at USNA

The story of Decatur’s life and career is a rich one – I’ve only scratched the surface here.  Now let’s explore how and where he is remembered.  Beyond the 48 cities and seven counties named for Decatur, the longest road on the Naval Academy’s 338-acre campus is named Decatur Road.  The road ends next to Preble Hall, the Naval Academy’s Museum, which is named for Commodore Edward Preble, under whose command Decatur fought in the First Barbary War.  Adjacent to both Decatur Road and Preble Hall sits the Tripoli Monument, the oldest military monument in the United States.  It was carved in Italy in 1806, and moved to the Naval Academy in 1860.  The Tripoli Monument honors six heroes of the First Barbary War, including James Decatur, Stephen’s brother.

Another name on the monument is Richard Somers, who died aboard the same USS Intrepid that Decatur captured and used to sneak into Tripoli’s harbor.  Somers was a close friend and midshipman with Decatur aboard United States, and assumed command of Intrepid one month after James Decatur was killed.  Intrepid had been fitted as a “floating volcano,” loaded down with 100 barrels of powder and 150 shells.  The plan was to sail her into Tripoli’s corsair fleet, light a 15-minute fuse, and abandon ship before she exploded.  Unfortunately, the Intrepid exploded prematurely, killing her entire crew of volunteers.

The Brigade of Midshipmen leadership staff

I mention Richard Somers because six U.S. Navy ships have been named the USS Somers in his honor, the second of which has a crucial connection to the Naval Academy.  In December 1842, Midshipman Philip Spencer, son of Secretary of War John C. Spencer, was hanged for intention to commit a mutiny aboard USS Somers.  This high profile hanging became known as the Somers Affair, and contributed to the decision to create a land-based academy where midshipmen could learn their craft instead of doing so only at sea.

The same midshipman experience which greatly benefitted Stephen Decatur was not always as successful.  The United States Naval Academy, established in 1845 by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, would seek to formalize a curriculum for aspiring naval officers, producing a fresh crop of talented leaders each year.  170 years later, the scope of our operation has changed, but our goal hasn’t.  I mentioned earlier that Decatur had his own tutor aboard the United States to teach him the technical skills and naval science he would need to succeed as a naval officer, and eventually as a naval commander.  He also had on-the-job training aboard a real ship, filled with opportunities to practice and hone his craft.  That’s exactly what we endeavor to provide today’s Naval Academy midshipmen, and how we go about developing leaders has been my number one priority since taking over as Superintendent.

Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter speaks to the Brigade of Midshipmen

My major focus is experiential leadership.  Leadership cannot be taught exclusively in the classroom.  The technical skills required of a competent leader can be learned at a desk in many cases, but that’s not enough.  Leader development must be immersive.  It takes repetition, with allowance for failure and success.  It’s also all about being given the opportunity to try, fail, try again, and eventually succeed when the stakes are manageable.  Today’s midshipmen get a world-class education from our outstanding faculty, just as Decatur had Talbot Hamilton – a seasoned officer of the Royal Navy – to keep him on track.  But they also get chances to lead, be it aboard smaller ships during summer training or amongst their peers in the Brigade leadership structure.

I don’t know exactly how many modern day Decaturs I have in the Brigade, but I am confident that we provide the conditions and the opportunities for our future Navy and Marine Corps heroes to thrive and grow.  Time and again, Stephen Decatur found himself where the action was.  Time and again, he proved himself with his leadership and bravery.  I am confident that our next generation of leaders will be up to the task as well.

A first-class midshipman helps a Plebe learn how to salute

I’d like to end with a brief mention of my own distant connection to Decatur.  His first full command was the USS Enterprise, fighting piracy to protect American trade.  The Enterprise he commanded was the third U.S. Navy ship of its name.  My most recent fleet command was the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG-12), whose centerpiece was the eighth USS Enterprise.  In 2012, I took the Enterprise on her 21st and final deployment in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and – yes – multiple anti-piracy missions.  Soon, the keel for CVN-80, the ninth USS Enterprise, will be laid, extending the connection to Decatur for thousands of future Sailors who will follow his legacy.

Times have changed since Decatur proved himself a naval hero, but the principles for which we fight have remained constant.  I’ll leave you with the oft-misquoted and misapplied words of Decatur himself, a post-dinner toast at a social gathering in April 1816.  “Our country – In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; and always successful, right or wrong."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

U.S. Naval Academy’s STEM Director Receives MLK Award

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyler Caswell

The U.S. Naval Academy's (USNA) Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Center for Education and Outreach Director, Dr. Angela Leimkuhler Moran, received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award Jan. 15 at the 28th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner.

The event highlighted accomplishments of 11 honorees, recognizing local leaders who keep Dr. King's dream alive through their words, deeds and extraordinary acts of service and commitment.

“Dr. Moran leads our STEM program, which helps reach underserved youth throughout our nation,” said USNA Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter. “It’s an outreach program that inspires youth, women and diverse groups across the nation whom we want to bring, enjoy and develop here at USNA.”

Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter speaks at the 28th Annual Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. Awards Dinner Jan. 15.

Dr. Moran joined the faculty of the academy’s Mechanical Engineering Department in the fall of 1993 as an expert in materials manufacturing and engineering. Her leadership role allows her to bring STEM education to underserved students in Anne Arundel County and surrounding counties.

“What I do has been amplified many times over by the faculty, staff, administration, and especially by the midshipmen,” said Moran. “These people have contributed over 20,000 hours to help reach underserved populations and promote STEM activities.”

Coordinating with many of USNA’s departments, Moran oversees training of faculty members and midshipmen, and coordinates hosting numerous events each year at USNA.

“Through the help of many departments at USNA, we’re able to reach more than 18,000 students and more than 1,000 educators through our STEM program,” said Moran. “We are able to engage our lessons with exciting hands-on project-based learning activities.”

The outreach program encourages students to use hands-on projects to engage in non-conventional learning experiences.

Dr. Angela Moran (second from left) received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major
Award Jan. 15

“Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character, that’s the goal of a true education,’” said Moran. “Our STEM midshipmen and our STEM faculty know the value of this education extends beyond the formal classroom. This includes shaping the attributes of the 21st century learner. We strive to do that through our outreach efforts.”

USNA STEM events are sponsored by the Security of Defense, Office of Naval Research, the Naval Academy Foundation, the Northrop Grumman Foundation and the Bauer Foundation.

Founded in 1988, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee was designed to honor Dr. King’s legacy in Anne Arundel County.

For more information about STEM at USNA, visit

Friday, January 15, 2016

Naval Academy Class of ‘78 Shines with Four 4-Stars

U.S. Naval Academy graduate Adm. Kurt Tidd assumed command of U.S. Southern Command Jan. 14, making him the 4th active duty member of the Class of 1978 to be a serving 4-star.

Tidd was promoted to his current rank in a ceremony held at the Naval Academy Jan. 2.

Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa; Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command; and Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, are all members of the Naval Academy Class of 1978.
“The Naval Academy has a tradition of graduating leaders for the nation; men and women of character and consequence," said academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter. “For one class to have four current 4-star admirals is an amazing feat, and it’s a testament to our mission and the quality of our graduates.”

The admiral rank did not exist during the first 87 years of the U.S. Navy. David Farragut was the first naval officer to achieve the rank, in 1866. George Dewey was the first academy graduate to be promoted to admiral, in 1899.

In the 170-year history of the Naval Academy, 215 graduates reached the rank of four-star admiral. Four of those 215 eventually reached the 5-star rank, or "Fleet Admiral," including Chester Nimitz, Frank Leahy, William "Bull" Halsey and Ernest King.

Only four other USNA classes have had four or more active duty 4-stars serving at the same time:

Class of 1897
Adm. Thomas C. Hart
Adm. Arthur J. Hepburn
Fleet Adm. William D. Leahy
Adm. Orin G. Murfin
Adm. Harry E. Yarnell

Class of 1927
Adm. George W. Anderson Jr.
Adm. Charles D. Griffin
Adm. Ulysses S. G. Sharp Jr.
Adm. John S. Thach

Class of 1933
Adm. Charles K. Duncan
Adm. Ignatius J. Galantin
Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
Adm. Waldemar F.A. Wendt

Class of 1973
Adm. John C. Harvey
Adm. Eric T. Olson
Adm. Gary Roughead
Adm. Robert F. Willard

Naval Academy Sponsor, Volunteer Leaves Legacy of Selflessness

By Jessica Clark

Naval Academy sponsor families provide more than just a bed to sleep in on liberty and a full refrigerator for hungry midshipmen. When midshipmen and grads talk about their sponsors, they express appreciation not just for the weekend laundry services and the chance to get away from the Yard, but also the mentorship, the genuine care, the home away from home.

No one deserves that appreciation more than John VornDick, who sponsored more than 340 midshipmen and touched the lives of countless others before his death Jan. 12 at age 76.

Photo by Roger Miller

“I have been asked about the impact of John as my sponsor,” said Tim Disher (USNA 1981), director of the Naval Academy’s International Programs Office and one of the many midshipmen VornDick sponsored. “There is no easy response for this since he was someone whose love and support has lasted a lifetime, much like the most cherished of your closest relative.”

“John … was always there for his midshipmen and served as an example of true ‘selflessness,’” said Disher.

VornDick started unofficially sponsoring midshipmen in 1975, before the program was established. His mentorship and dedication is evident in the long list of sponsorees he’s influenced over over a 40-year period, including Marine Expeditionary Force Commander Lt. Gen. John Wissler (USNA ’78), Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden (USNA ’82), Commander of Naval Air Systems Command Vice Admiral David A. Dunaway (USNA ’82), and Commander of U.S. Southern Command Vice Adm. Kurt Tidd.

“His legacy lives on through all of those sponsor brothers and sisters who have this common bond that John has nurtured for forty years,” said Disher. “I am happy that we will be able to share this for as long as we all live on this Earth.”

Photo by Roger Miller

He sponsored four brigade commanders and numerous company commanders. Five of his sponsorees were presidents of their classes. And many of his midshipmen went on to great achievements, serving as Top Gun instructors, doctors, Marine Corps aides to the president, a Blue Angel pilot and a pilot for the presidential helicopter squadron.

But the memories mean more than the numbers.

“He meant the world to me,” said Cmdr. Craig Mattingly (USNA ‘95), who met VornDick during Plebe Summer chapel services.

VornDick had volunteered with the Naval Academy Chapel since 1983 as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist and head of altar servers.

Having served as an enlisted sailor prior to his appointment to the academy, Mattingly was wearing award ribbons that you wouldn’t typically see on a plebe. When VornDick asked about them, Mattingly jokingly said he picked them up at the exchange because he liked the way they looked on his uniform.

That initial banter led to a life-long relationship. VornDick became Mattingly’s sponsor as he did to hundreds of midshipmen. He served as a surrogate father, a friend, a mentor, and even the best man at Mattingly’s wedding shortly after graduation in 1995.

Mattingly attended church services regularly as a midshipmen and can’t remember a single service that VornDick didn’t attend as well.

“The strength that he had in his faith resonated with his midshipmen, and continues to this day,” said Mattingly. “John was a best friend. John was a mentor. John was everything that you needed when you needed it even though you didn’t know you needed it, without ever showing any sort of discontent or dissatisfaction in anyone he met. He was the most respectful person.”

He always knew when a midshipmen was struggling, either academically or on the playing fields, said Mattingly.

“He had that sixth sense to help people when they didn’t know that they could get help.”

Mattingly said his own hardest year was his third-class year, juggling academics, varsity sailing and his other responsibilities, and VornDick was instrumental in helping him find that balance.

“The impact he had in my plebe year set the foundation for how I did as a midshipman, but also in my naval career, and even how I am as a father,” he said.

More than 2,000 members of the Annapolis community volunteer as sponsors, giving their time and opening their homes to help midshipmen as they progress through four academically and physically rigorous years at the academy.

“The sponsor program at the United States Naval Academy is one of the finest aspects of midshipman support in Annapolis,” said Disher. “No midshipman truly appreciates it until they experience firsthand how the citizens of Annapolis open their homes and hearts to the nation's finest young men and women.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Mids Study Abroad at Japanese National Defense Academy

By MIDN 1/C Thomas Ernst

Each fall, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Japanese National Defense Academy participate in a semester student exchange.  Each year American midshipmen and Japanese cadets are provided the opportunity to travel abroad and become immersed in foreign language and culture while making professional contacts among their peers and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Japan.

This year the Naval Academy sent MIDN 1/C Thomas Ernst and Christina Hardie, and MIDN 2/C Carl Trampenau and Steven Zakravsky to Yokosuka to study at the JNDA.  Joining them were three cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy and one cadet from the U.S. Military Academy as well as exchange officers from France and Australia.

MIDN 1/C Thomas Ernst and Christina Hardie practice kendo at the Japan National
Defense Academy 

A day at JNDA began with a morning formation and calisthenics at 0600.  Following cleaning stations at 0610 and breakfast at 0630, the cadets would gather for morning colors at 0800 and subsequently march to their morning classes. The cadets participated in a formal lunch at 1205 followed by the third formation of the day at 1300 to march to afternoon studies.

Cadets at JNDA are all expected to participate in club sports and activities from 1600 to 1800.  Dinner for the cadets began at 1815 and a mandatory study period is enforced between 1930 and 2205.  The final formation of the day took place at 2215 before lights out at 2230 and the process would be repeated the next day.

But not all their time was devoted to military duties. The midshipmen had plenty of opportunities to get to know the country and its’ people.

Early in the trip, the midshipmen and the other exchange cadets travelled to Yamanashi Prefecture to climb the famous Mt. Fuji.  The summit was so cold that it reminded MIDN Ernst of the 2013 Army-Navy football game.

The exchange students began their climb around 2130 and reached the summit just prior to daybreak.  After viewing the sunrise from the highest point in the country, the group spent the rest of the day returning to the foot of the mountain and back to to JNDA.

The International Programs Office at JNDA also arranged for sightseeing outings in Tokyo and nearby Kamakura.  Guided by Major Furukawa, the International Programs liaison officer,  the midshipmen received extensive tours that broadened their understanding of Japanese history and culture.

Major Furukawa's office also organized sponsor family arrangements with local Japanese officers.  The Japanese cadets did much to acquaint the midshipmen with their country.
“For me, some of the best moments were just going out with the Japanese cadets on the weekends,” said Trampenau. “Those personal groups of friends that took us in really made us feel welcome.”

The midshipmen also participated in the JNDA swim meet and water polo tournament representing their respective battalions.  In the end, it was MIDN Trampenau and 4th Battalion who were victorious, but the day was great fun for everyone and was a perfect opportunity for bonding between the Midshipmen and cadets.

“I thought it was great how the corps of cadets got together and competed in a day of aquatic events,” said Zakravsky. “Cheering people on in the water polo match and swim competition was a unique experience. This event was an interesting way to build camaraderie and have a good time.”

The crowning event of the semester abroad was the midshipmen’s trip to the island of Iwo Jima. Military training receives a major focus at the JNDA. Part of this program of military indoctrination is a trip for all 3rd-year cadets to Iwo Jima.

The midshipmen and the other exchange students were lucky enough to join their friends on their educational excursion.

“I thought it was really cool visiting Iwo Jima with the Japanese students,” said Hardie.  “It was nice to see how far our countries have come since the war and be able to pay respects to those who fought and died there alongside our Japanese counterparts.”

Upon returning from Iwo Jima the semester came to a conclusion.  Their four months spent abroad proved a positive learning experience for the midshipmen and deepened the connection between already staunch allies.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Naval Academy Professors Team Up to Address Energy Security

In the fall semester of 2015, a group of U.S. Naval Academy professors collaborated to offer a unique new approach to teaching energy policy.

The elective brought together professors from Economics, Oceanography, Political Science, and Mechanical Engineering to address the issue of Energy Security.  It was the first course at the Naval Academy to span three academic divisions and four different academic departments.

A total of sixty-eight midshipmen took the class, meeting both as a large group for overview lectures on topics, and in discipline specific sections for deeper discussions related to the midshipmen’s major.

“Our goal was to educate upper-level midshipmen with a high-level view of energy analysis, policy, and security, and in particular, to show how energy issues affect critical missions of the U.S. military and U.S. national security,” said mechanical engineering professor and Department Chair Karen Flack, who organized the effort.

The course was divided in four major sections: Overview and Introduction, Fossil Fuels, Nuclear Power, and Renewable Energy. Specific topics included underlying energy science, best estimates of energy supplies and current usage profiles, energy policy trends, current and developing energy technologies, the economics of energy development and usage, and the competing interests and worldviews that drive the energy policy debates.

“Underlying all these topics was the question, ‘how do innovation, policy, technology, and economics of energy affect the ability of the U.S. military to successfully and efficiently succeed in its various missions?’” said Flack.

The professors who taught the course knew that teaching a course with this many moving parts was going to be a challenge, but they believed the rewards to the students were well worth the extra effort.

“Energy security is an inherently interdisciplinary issue and demands an interdisciplinary approach,” said political science Professor Howard Ernst, who was one of the course’s co-instructors. “This was the central vision that we all shared. Our objective was to design a course around this central idea. The challenge was to make sure the course was better than the sum of its parts.”

To help achieve this synergy, the professors decided to divide the students into interdisciplinary teams that worked on assignments related to the energy analysis of a specific country, ranging from Pakistan to Korea to France.

“The small teams, what we called core learning groups, forced the students to work across disciplines and to gain a holistic understanding of the energy security issues in their assigned countries,” said Professor Kurtis Swope, Economics Department chair and co-instructor of the course.

The course was also designed to expose students to high-level leaders in the energy security field. To achieve this end, prominent guest speakers included Marine Col. Jim Caley, director of the Marine Expeditionary Energy Office; Mr. Paul Kolbe, director of international security affairs for British Petroleum; and Assistant Secretary of Navy for Energy and Installations Dennis McGinn. Assistant Professor Joe Smith, co-instructor of the course from the Oceanography Department, organized a day-long session with energy security leaders at the Department of State.

“It was important for us to go beyond classroom discussions and expose our students to energy leaders who address these issues on a daily basis,” said Smith. “Our partners in the Pentagon and State Department were incredibly generous with their time.”

The final culmination of the course was a student-led poster presentation to faculty and Navy energy leaders.

“While the course took months of planning and long hours to implement, it was a tremendous success. The students gained insights that they could not have gained in the traditional single discipline class,” said Associate Professor Patrick Caton a co-instructor of the course from the Mechanical Engineering Department. “As a faculty member, I was energized by the collaborative experience and look forward to being part of the team again in the fall of 2016.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

USNA Midshipman Interns With Naval Medical Research Unit in Peru

Courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Craig Stoops, U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6

Naval Academy Midshipman 2nd Class Nicole Hadler recently took part in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative in Peru, hosted by Naval Medical Research Unit No. 6 (NAMRU-6).

MIDN Nicole Hadler gives a scientific seminar on spatial repellents and spatial
repellent research in Iquitos, Peru during the NAMRU-6 scientific seminar series.
(Photo courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Craig Stoops)

NAMRU-6 is in a unique position to provide comprehensive research exposure to aspiring scientists in Peru. With more than 200 scientists and technicians conducting numerous ongoing projects, students interested in biology and in scientific research or medicine get to see up close how research on infectious diseases is conducted.

Hadler split her time between Lima and the NAMRU-6 site in Iquitos, attaining a detailed look at tropical diseases rarely seen in the United States. With Peruvian Navy Doctors, she interacted with Peruvian soldiers who contracted Leishmaniasis on deployment and saw how medicine is conducted in facilities in a developing nation such as Peru.

In Iquitos, she interacted with the Dengue teams, collecting mosquitoes and while simultaneously developing a thorough understanding how the Dengue virus is transmitted. NAMRU-6’s mission is to conduct research to develop ways to protect U.S. military personnel from infectious diseases at the same time NAMRU-6 makes every effort to inspire the next generation of scientists and physicians.

“My objectives for this training were to become familiar with the research at NAMRU-6 to gain a better understanding of the infectious diseases common to this part of the world and to continue to improve my cultural awareness and language proficiency from my daily interactions with the patients and local healthcare workers,” said Hadler.

After four weeks with NAMRU and the local hospitals Hadler was impressed by the extent to which the program fulfilled those objectives.

“One of the best parts about this experience was witnessing the unconditional passion that every doctor, nurse, technician, and researcher at this institution possesses with regards to their particular research cause or study,” she said. “On a daily basis they selflessly devote 100 percent of their time and energy, working towards preventing and/or treating a wide variety of infectious diseases that are prevalent among the local people.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Naval Academy Midshipman Receives Inaugural Stephen Decatur Award

Naval Academy quarterback Midshipman 1st Class Keenan Reynolds accepted the White House Historical Association’s inaugural Stephen Decatur Award Jan. 5 at the Historic Decatur House in Washington, D.C.

The award was named in honor of War of 1812 hero Commodore Stephen Decatur Jr. and presented on his 237th birthday.  It recognizes a young leader in the country who embodies the ideals of honor, courage and commitment set forth by Decatur during the formative years of the United States Navy.

“There’s so much that can be said about what Decatur meant to the Navy and the nation,” said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter. “Stephen Decatur defined us as a maritime nation. He left a legacy for all of us to follow.”

Carter noted that under Reynolds' leadership as the team captain the football team this last semester had a GPA of 3.13, a higher average than the rest of the Brigade of Midshipmen.

“It’s a special team, and he’s a special captain who led them for such a wonderful season,” said Carter.

Reynolds finished his college football career with a 32-13 (.711) record as Navy’s starting quarterback. Under his leadership, Navy won a record 11 games this fall, including the recent Military Bowl against the University of Pittsburgh.

"I'm truly honored to be the inaugural winner of this award,” said Reynolds. “I try every day to learn.  There are great leaders all around us, so I try every day to learn something new. I go to a school full of leaders. All of them are probably more qualified than I am for this award, so I am very appreciative."

The Associated Press named Reynolds a Third Team All-American, and he ranked fifth in the  recent voting for the Heisman Trophy. He is the first quarterback in the history of the Army-Navy game to go 4-0 against the rival academy, and he helped lead the midshipmen to three Commander-In-Chief trophies.

His 88 career touchdowns and 530 career points are the most in Football Bowl Subdivision history, while his 4,559 career rushing yards are the most in FBS history by a quarterback.  He is just the sixth player in FBS history to rush and pass for more than 4,000 yards in a career.

Former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton presented the award on behalf of the White House Historical Association.

“Keenan Reynolds is a winner,” said Dalton. “He is also selfless. He is not being recognized because he is a great athlete.  He is being recognized because he's a great leader. Keenan is following in the footsteps of the man whose birthday we celebrate today.”

Summer STEM Program Applications Are Open

Applications are now being accepted until April 15 for the Naval Academy Summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Program.

The 2016 Summer STEM Program will be held in three sessions: June 6-11 for rising 9th graders; June 13-18 for rising 10th graders; and June 20-24 for rising 11th graders.

The Summer STEM Program is an overnight academic program designed for rising students in good academic standing who have a keen interest in math and science.

The STEM Program gives students the opportunity to experience real-life applications of math and science principles through hands-on practical learning.  Students will learn from distinguished Naval Academy professors in world-class lab facilities that provide a unique learning environment outside the traditional classroom.  The academy’s current students, called midshipmen, help run the Summer STEM Program and act as mentors to students.

Summer STEM accepts 640 students for their three sessions from roughly 6,300 applications each year.  

All students selected to participate pay $550 for this academic summer program and are responsible for providing their own transportation to and from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Read more about summer programs at the USNA Admissions website.