Monday, February 29, 2016

Naval Academy Midshipmen Compete in 75th Annual Brigade Boxing Championships

Twenty-four midshipman boxers competed in the Naval Academy’s 75th Annual Brigade Boxing Championships Feb. 26 in Alumni Hall.

The 75th Annual Brigade Boxing Championships

The Brigade Boxing Championships showcase the most elite midshipman boxers, each performing in three-round matches within their weight class.

The twelve champions from this year’s competition will go on to the regional competition for a chance to qualify for the National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) Championships held in the spring.

Midshipman 1st Class Danny O’Neill, 22, of Medford, N.Y. was the only boxer of the night to earn the Tony Rubino Four-Time Brigade Champion award. Only 20 midshipmen have accomplished this feat since the award was first given in 1970.

“I am proud to be a part of Navy boxing, and I have made some of the best friends I will ever have,” said O’Neill.

Midshipman 1st Class Danny O'Neill, winner of
the Tony Rubino Four-Time Brigade Champion award

The award is named after Tony Rubino, who arrived at the Naval Academy in 1947 as an assistant boxing coach to Spike Webb. In 1954 Rubino took over the head coaching duties and coached until 1963. He then became the deputy physical educational officer until his retirement in 1982, at which point he was honored with professor emeritus status.

As part of the academy’s physical education program, all midshipmen are required to participate in boxing, and boxing is also offered as a club sport at the academy. The boxing team participates in invitational competitions in the fall and spring, as well as in ongoing intramural bouts. 

“We use boxing as an opportunity to create an environment in which midshipmen have to think and react under fire or stress. Boxing allows mids to find out how they react to fear,” said head boxing coach Jim McNally.

This is McNally’s 30th year coaching boxing at the Naval Academy. In that time, his teams have won five national championships. He has coached 43 individual national champions who have won 61 national titles.

All midshipmen are required to participate in boxing, and boxing is also offered as a club sport

“At some point in [the mids’] military career, they may have to face some life and death situations where lives are at stake. That's not the time to find out if they can handle the fear they may be facing,” McNally said. “Hopefully by overcoming their fears in the controlled setting of the boxing ring, it will give them confidence going forward to deal with other stressful situations.”

The boxing program at the Naval Academy started in 1865, and today the Naval Academy’s Brigade Boxing Championship generates hundreds of spectators and fans.

The 2016 Brigade Boxing Champions:

Midshipman 1st Class Michelle Soto
Midshipman 3rd Class Paata Gujejiani
Midshipman 3rd Class Portia Norkaitis
Midshipman 1st Class VJ Sakbun
Midshipman 1st Class Danny O’Neill
Midshipman 1st Class Dave Von Savage
Midshipman 3rd Class Josh Gray
Midshipman 2nd Class Jordan Davis
Midshipman 1st Class Jourdan Looney
Midshipman 1st Class Reuben Druckrey
Midshipman 3rd Class Charles Patterson
Midshipman 2nd Class Stephanie Simon

See more photos on the Naval Academy's Flickr site.

Friday, February 26, 2016

5 Mids Spend Semester Abroad in Beijing

Five Naval Academy midshipmen spent the fall semester in Beijing, China learning Mandarin and gaining a better understanding of Chinese culture, history, and language.

Midshipmen 1st Class Amy Epperson and Joe Dinkel and Midshipmen 2nd Class Charlotte Asdal, Danny Vegel, and Anna Crutchfield enjoyed a semester away from the Yard at Capital Normal University in the heart of China's capital city.

Epperson, Asdal Crutchfield were in a language-intensive program, with a 24/7 Chinese-only language pledge, Chinese roommates, and Chinese-only classes. Dinkel and Vegel enrolled in the Chinese Studies program, which included language classes, internships at local institutions, and a Chinese history and politics curriculum. Though differing in subject matter, the two programs were equally challenging.

Academic learning was not limited to the classroom in Beijing – the Chinese continued after school. Every interaction at a restaurant, on the subway, with a roommate, or in a shop was in Chinese. The full immersion, although overwhelming upon arrival, was where the true improvement happened.

"The most satisfaction came from communicating and having important discussions in Chinese," said Asdal. "When you address a local in their language and engage them in real conversation, the reaction and the fulfilment from that exchange is worth the often-tedious process of language learning.”

All the midshipmen had similar experiences with the local populace, who were eager to talk and share perspectives on Chinese and American culture, politics, and world views. Each midshipman immersed themselves in the culture in different ways: Vegel took every opportunity to travel, even visiting Xinjiang and Tibet with Epperson, while Dinkel enjoyed the theater. Crutchfield often cooked traditional Chinese dishes with her roommate, while Asdal loved chatting with the locals, especially her roommate and traditional Chinese painting teacher.

Living in Beijing allowed all of the midshipmen to gain a more nuanced understanding of China’s contradictions.

“I'm excited to share my new understanding of how complex this country is – what they do well, what they don’t, how many people feel about that, how the government works - can’t really be defined by any one term," said Asdal. "I also want to share the ability of language to connect people and the importance of operating in the local language to connect you to the culture. My experience in China was immensely deeper because I was speaking Chinese.”

The midshipmen found that the Chinese are as complex as they are numerous. Despite fairly constricted rules about discussing politics and international affairs, the midshipmen were often part of discussions with local Chinese and foreigners from other nations about current events.

Epperson recalled discussing the politics of the South China Sea with a Chinese and Japanese friend. As a future surface warfare officer who will likely be deployed to the area as military focus pivots to the Pacific, she thinks her experiences in China will help her be a more informed and effective officer.

“This experience has transformed the way I see myself as an American and as a human being,” she said.

The experience of going to China has a left an indelible mark on the lives of these five midshipmen.

“I would really like to thank the International Programs Office and all of the donors who made it possible for us to go abroad," said Vegel. "This experience has changed the course of my life."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Letter to My Former Self: LTJG Tyler Farrar (’12)

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 LTJG Tyler Farrar, an information warfare officer and 2012 graduate. 

You have so much ahead of you and an amazing journey in store, so live every moment to its fullest. As I reflect on my time at the academy, the points listed below stuck out to me most:

1. Pay tribute to all service selection options. Make the most out of your summer cruises and take advantage of any training available to you to obtain as much exposure as possible before making your service selection decisions. Shadow officers and sailors whenever you can and spend a little time with them to get a better feel of what the responsibilities of the position will be and whom you’ll be leading. Choose your service selection only after careful consideration of what your interests are and after thoroughly investigating what each community truly has to offer – not just the ones you’re initially most excited about. Don’t just choose a community because it’s the “popular” one or because your classmates want it; examine all possibilities and spend some time thinking of how your skillset can fit within each option. Ignore the negative stereotypes that exist at USNA of some of the warfare communities available to you. Your community choice should be driven by a strong interest that aligns with your personal and professional skills. Hopefully, these tips will provide invaluable insight into what service selection is right for you and also help you to discover yourself a little more.

2. It’s okay if you find you’re not as excited about the job you thought you would be passionate about. As a midshipman, I received my first choice during service selection and was selected for naval pilot.  Following graduation, I headed down to Pensacola and began flight school, but as a few months passed, I began to see that naval aviation wasn't for me. I realized something was "off" when I noticed I lacked the excitement and passion my classmates and friends came home with after having flown all day. I was frustrated at my inability to share that delight and wondered why I wasn't feeling that same way. It just felt like "a job" to me, nothing more. After much deliberation, weighing the pros and cons of requesting reassignment and grappling with feelings of shame and guilt for considering abandoning the position, I finally decided to quit naval aviation. It was not an easy decision by any means and it took a while to build up the courage to go through with it.

Most people don't want to identify as a "quitter," nor want to admit they have given up on something in the past. The reality is though – we've all failed at some point in our lives. We've failed at different things in different ways, and I think there's a lot to be said about owning failure. You don't need to be defined by the decision to quit something. Let yourself be defined by what you made from the experience and how you handled the decision. Sometimes quitting is strategic, and it can be your best course of action. If you've realized you've made a wrong choice or an outcome isn't quite what you expected, even if you sunk significant costs into it, I encourage you to let go of your pride/shame and re-evaluate what is important to you. There could be many upsides to quitting.

3. USNA isn’t only about academia and commissioning officers. It's truly amazing to think of the personal and professional development that occurs in four short years. At the academy, we share many experiences that typical college students don't, which contributes to how deeply profound and significant the relationships that we form are. After senior year finals, school ends, but those relationships don't. They continue on through thick and thin.

Students go to the academy with the goal of earning a degree and starting a career in the Navy or Marine Corps as an officer. I applied with the same intention and hadn't considered anything else that would possibly factor into my USNA experience. The aerospace engineering degree I earned is prized, and the program is exceptional, but to me, the friendships I made are more invaluable. I could not be where I am or who I am today without the dedication and support of my friends at USNA.

While we are peppered around the world at various duty stations, we attempt to get together at any opportunity, like long weekends, football games, and weddings. If we're not stationed near one another, we stay in touch mostly through texts and social media. My core group of friends and I still keep our banter alive through group texts – something I truly appreciate as an instrument to keep these friendships fresh and fueled. It's been less than four years since we've graduated, but the depth and the gravity of these relationships will continue on for a lifetime.

4. Make an effort to slow down. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily rigors of Academy life with the continuous pressure to succeed – it can be overwhelming at times! As a midshipman, I found myself constantly focused on graduation and getting there as soon as possible. This focus can consume you so much that you can be completely blinded from many amazing opportunities that surround you and it may potentially lead you to burnout. Self-care is important to succeed. Learn to navigate the work-life balance during your time at the academy. Make it a practice to step away from your work and spend time appreciating the beauty of the campus, nurture relationships with family and friends, and enjoy what Annapolis and the D.C. metro area has to offer. Lastly, something I’ve learned that I would encourage you to adopt is to have hobbies and interests outside of the military. Don’t let your job be the only thing that defines who you are or the sole component of your identity.

In closing, I just want to say how much I appreciate my years at the academy. Remember the reason you’re there, but enjoy the experience along the way. Don’t get such a strong tunnel vision towards the goal that you miss out on all that the academy can offer personally, as well as professionally.



Thursday, February 18, 2016

Director of National Intelligence Visits USNA for Cyber Lecture Series

By Brian Murphy, ODNI Public Affairs

James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, participated in the U.S. Naval Academy’s Cyber Lecture Series at Alumni Hall, in Annapolis, Md., Jan. 29.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper participates
USNA's Cyber Lecture Series in Alumni Hall
(Photo by Brian Murphy, ODNI Public Affairs)

During the event, Clapper delivered his remarks to more than 1,100 midshipmen currently enrolled in the academy's two mandatory cyber security courses.  The lectures are coordinated through the USNA Center for Cyber Security Studies, and are used to augment the cyber education experience for all midshipmen, particularly those majoring in Cyber Operations.  The recently established Cyber Science Department will graduate its first class of Cyber majors in May.

“This afternoon, knowing I’m talking to a room full of future intelligence customers, I want to discuss the big picture on the threats to our nation, get into some specifics of cyber security, talk about service to our nation and try to throw in a few sea stories," Clapper said.

According to Clapper, the biggest threat to national security in 2016 isn’t what many people might guess.

“A lot of people find this surprising in our post-9/11 world, but in 2013, ‘cyber’ bumped ‘terrorism’ out of the top spot on our list of national threats,” said Clapper. “And cyber has led our report every year since then.”

Cyber doesn’t top the national threats list because of the threat of some massive, Armageddon-scale strike that would debilitate the entire U.S. infrastructure, he added.

"Our primary concern is low-to-moderate-level cyber intrusions from a variety of sources which will continue and probably expand," Clapper said. "They impose increasing costs to our businesses, to U.S. economic competitiveness and to national security."

DNI James R. Clapper meets with Midshipman 1st Class Thomas Wester prior to a
speaking engagement in USNA's Alumni Hall, in Annapolis, Md., Jan. 29.
(Photo by Brian Murphy, ODNI Public Affairs)

Due to the country’s heavy dependence on the Internet, nearly all information-communication technologies – as well as IT networks and systems – will be perpetually at risk, Clapper added.

Additionally, cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of impact.

“The U.S. Intelligence Community is working to help our national leaders understand that threat, so that they can take action,” Clapper said.

Because of the difficult nature of this mission, the DNI explained the importance of having “the best minds of our nation working this range of cyber problems.”

“The cyber threat is here. It’s upon us now and we need the people here today to help us defend our systems and our nation,” said Clapper.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mids Win International Military Academy Sailing Regatta

By Midshipman 2nd Class Molly Robertson

Two midshipmen recently traveled to the Indian Naval Academy in Ezhimala, India where they proudly brought the Admiral’s Cup trophy back for the United States.

The Admiral’s Cup Sailing Regatta is an international event that began in 2010. The event hosts sailors from the world’s military academies as they compete in the laser radial class.

This year featured 40 sailors from 18 countries: Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mauritius, Netherlands, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Representing the Naval Academy at this event was Midshipman 2nd Hannah Hughes of 15th  Company and Midshipman 3rd Class Gary Prieto of 29th Company. Both midshipmen sail on the Navy intercollegiate sailing team and have been racing in the laser class for numerous years.

Hughes won the women’s fleet and Prieto took second in the men’s fleet. Their combined score was enough to take home the overall victory.

Although they sadly had to miss this year’s Army-Navy football game, the experience in India was well worth it. Both will be able to cherish the proud memory of holding the Admiral's Cup up as fireworks were fired off in the background and knowing that the Admiral’s Cup belongs to Annapolis now.

“The regatta went beyond just sailing. They also had cultural programs and tours for us,” said Huges. “It was an amazing event, and being able to bring home the trophy was a wonderful feeling.”

The Admiral’s Cup was truly an amazing testament to the talent of midshipman on and off the water. Be sure to keep track of Hannah, Gary, and the intercollegiate sailing team as they try to keep the victory streak alive this season!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Brigade Commander Encourages Fellow Midshipmen to “Change Lives”

Brigade Commander Midshipman 1st Class Jenna Westerberg and her staff have a practical approach in mind in their plans for leading the 4,500-member Brigade of Midshipmen this semester.

“My motto for it is ‘Change Lives,’” said Westerberg. The idea is to encourage the leadership within the brigade to focus less on the metrics and more on teaching habits that future officers can bring with them to the fleet.

In other words, it’s not just about raising someone’s PRT score, but teaching them how to build a plan for lasting fitness – and how they can do the same for their people when they’re standing in front of a division.

Midshipman 1st Class Jenna Westerberg, this semester's
brigade commander

It’s also about holding people to higher standards and encouraging them to do the difficult right in the face of an easier wrong, said Westerberg.

“It's something that will be important in the fleet, because there are a lot of easy wrongs to do out there that can have bigger consequences than not shining your shoes,” she said.

Though Westerberg wanted to be on the brigade staff, she wasn’t expecting to be selected for the top position.

“The thing that has surprised me the most is how much time I spend just talking to people. I've met a lot more people than I knew before the semester,” she said. “It's cool to see what ideas people have, what they're passionate about. There's a huge talent pool in the brigade.”

She brings a lot of previous leadership experience with her. As a second class midshipman, she served as the brigade sergeant major, what she described as a “very task-oriented, organizational kind of billet.” In that role, she supervised and made recommendations to the brigade commander on the performance, training, appearance and conduct of underclass midshipmen.

The experience helped her become more organized and that, along with humility, are two important leadership traits that she feels will help her in her current role and beyond.

“Bringing that experience in helps,” she said. “Sometimes people are better at the visionary and not so good at the details. I'm better at the details and sometimes struggle with the visionary a little bit. It's a different perspective.”

She also served as a company commander during Plebe Summer and a squad leader during fall semester her second class year.

"It's cool to work with a small group of people you get to know very well. It's most relevant to what we'll be in the fleet,” said Westerberg. “Realistically, the squad leader's the backbone of the brigade. When you're a division officer, you're not going to be leading 4,000 people."

Westerberg, a naval architecture major, will be going into the submarine community when she graduates. Serving in the Navy was something she wanted to do since she was a child.

“I knew I wanted to do something with my career that focused on service,” she said. “The military fit that, and I liked the structure and discipline and, more importantly, the fact that the Navy's very technical. I felt like that fit my skill set better.”

Having attended a high school that offered exposure to engineering classes, she knew when she got here she wanted to study some kind of engineering.

“It’s kind of a childhood dream I’m living out,” she said.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Astronaut Convocation Educates Midshipmen on Future of Space Flight

By MC2 Jonathan Correa

Five of the U.S. Naval Academy's 53 astronaut alumni served as panel members for the annual Astronaut Convocation Feb. 11 in Alumni Hall.

The presentation was designed to educate the Brigade of Midshipmen about the future of space flight and exploration from leaders in the field.

“You are the future, and you are the people who are going to take us to Mars one day,” said Marine Maj. Nicole Mann (USNA ’99), NASA newest astronaut and test pilot. “The good news is there is not just one way to get there so whether you become a submariner, surface warfare officer or you go aviation, that opportunity is there for the taking.”

The panel members took turns discussing a variety of topics including NASA’s role in commercial space travel.

“When Apollo launched, the Kennedy Space Center was a single-user platform,” said retired Marine Col. Robert Cabana (USNA’71), director of NASA’s John. F. Kennedy Space Center. “Now it has become and continues to expand into a multi-user platform – restoring buildings, launch pads and other areas once used only by NASA and now allowing commercial business to come in and use these areas to help develop new technology for human exploration in space.”

In addition to the growing commercial spaceflight business, the panel showed the midshipmen how advancements in robotics are playing an important role in space, creating a safer environment for astronauts to operate.

“We have been testing robotics that will be able to go outside of the space station and do maintenance,” said Capt. Chris Cassidy (USNA '93), chief the NASA Astronaut Office. “It will not require us to put an astronaut outside.”

The astronauts also took the time to share their own experiences in becoming part of the space program. For Cabana, the goal of becoming an astronaut came later in his career. He credited his time at the Naval Academy for helping him achieve this accomplishment.

“I never thought I would be an astronaut,” said Cabana. “It was something I would have liked to do, but I just wanted to fly. There were several moments I could have given up and taken a different path but what I learned here at the Naval Academy prepared me to face those challenges. Now, when someone asks me, ‘How do you become an astronaut?’ I say persistence.”

The annual convocation provided an opportunity for mids interested in the space program to meet professional astronauts who began their own careers as Naval Academy midshipmen.

“Who didn’t want to be an astronaut when they were young?” said Midshipman 1st Class Nick Skeem, aerospace engineering major. “This was a great opportunity to talk with a few of them and listen to their experience and advice.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Naval Academy AMODS Program Granted $200,000 to Build Repair System … in Space

The Naval Academy’s Autonomous Mobile On-orbit Diagnostic System (AMODS) has been selected for funding pursuant to the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP).

Sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, the UNP selects just 10 universities to design and build their own satellites over two years under a sponsored research grant of up to $200,000.  At the end of two years, the projects are judged and the winning satellites are selected for launch into space.

Conceived by Midshipman 2nd Class Edward Hanlon and initially funded by a scholarship awarded to Hanlon by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, AMODS offers a cost-effective way to provide diagnostic, repair and maintenance services to spacecraft in orbit.

“Spacecraft cannot return to Earth for repair,” said Hanlon. “Unless you have a team of astronauts, a launch pad and $300 million available, even simple, non-catastrophic failures can cripple a satellite and severely impede research efforts.”

AMODS proposes to overcome this frustrating challenge using a fleet of 3U Cube Satellites (spacecraft about the size of a grapefruit) consisting of one transport unit, called BRICSat, and several repair units, called RSats. While BRICSat will be able to transport and navigate itself through space, RSat is equipped with robotic arms and manipulators, allowing it to securely and harmlessly latch onto and spider around another spacecraft in order to perform diagnostics and repairs.

“In building these spacecraft, AMODS is originating innovative advancements with respect to propulsion and navigation of small satellites, not to mention that RSat represents the first time space robotic arms have been installed on platform this small,” said Hanlon.

Boasting a team of nearly 70 midshipmen, AMODS is the largest project ever developed within the academy’s Small Satellite Program. The team launched its first spacecraft in May 2015 and will launch three more satellites over the next three years.

In addition to Hanlon, AMODS is helmed by Midshipmen 2nd Class Morgan Lange and Ben Keegan. Midshipmen 3rd Class Eryn Culton and Jacob Pittman are leading the development and build of the transport unit, BRICSat. Dr. Jin Kang, of the academy’s Aerospace Engineering Department, is the program’s official faculty advisor, though Hanlon says they have been receiving valuable input and suggestions from many USNA faculty.

“The AMODS team has its hands full, but it’s certainly a worthy goal,” he said. “A successful AMODS will prove invaluable to extending the life of spacecraft and the effectiveness of humans in space.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Naval Academy Service Assignment Dinner Honors Future Marines

By MC2 Tyler Caswell

The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps was the keynote speaker at a dinner and reception Feb. 4 honoring the future Marine officers of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2016.

Gen. John M. Paxton Jr. addressed the 269 first-class midshipmen who were selected to serve as Marine ground officers and aviators after graduation and offered advice and insight about the expectations for their future.

“The Marine Corps is going to ask you to do two things: Make the hard decision, and set the good example,” said Paxton. “That’s why you are there. I want you to think about what you are going to do for the Marine Corps. I want you to think about the hard decisions you are going to have to make out there.”

Other Marine Corps senior leadership in attendance included Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command as well as commander of Marine Corps Forces Strategic Command and deputy commandant for combat development and integration; retired Gen. John R. Allen, former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command; and retired Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden Jr., NASA Administrator.

“This is a celebration of the midshipmen who have gone above and beyond the cut, have been tried and tested and want to be a different breed,” said Col. Jon M. Aytes, director of the academy’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division. “We welcome them to the Marine Corps by sharing a wealth of experience and knowledge. We want to epitomize what Lt. Gen. Lejeune often emphasized – not a superior and subordinate relationship, but teacher and scholar mentorship.”

The assignment dinner is an annual event that provides a unique opportunity for the midshipmen to meet senior Marine 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. After graduation May 27, these midshipmen will attend training the Basic School in Quantico, Va.

“It’s really amazing we have this many of the most senior leadership here to speak with us,” said Midshipman 1st Class Nick Sloan. “We have combat veterans from all ranks with us tonight, welcoming us into their ranks. It’s inspiring.”

Friday, February 5, 2016

Letter to My Former Self: ENS Bobby Nefzger ('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 Bobby Nefzger, a supply officer and 2014 graduate.

To preface this “letter to my former self,” I must first say that I am honored to have an amazing Naval Academy family, education, and an opportunity to serve in the U.S. Navy. This letter is a reflection on my first 18 months of post-Academy life.

My mini-bio: I am a former member of 11th company and an economics major. The group Navy Beats is my legacy; two of my best friends and I started the group in the fall semester of 2011. In May of 2014, I commissioned as a student naval aviator, but after several months in Pensacola, I made the choice to leave flight training due to medical and personal reasons. Fortunately, I was blessed with the opportunity to laterally transfer into the Navy Supply Corps. After five months of training, I now serve as a division officer on a destroyer, scheduled to deploy to the Middle East in just a few short months.

I never imagined that my post-Academy life would unfold this way, but my story is not as unpredictable as you would think. When you leave Annapolis, you’ll watch your friends go through significant life changes for months and years to come.

Many examples come to mind. Here are a few, fresh in my memory:
- My Academy roommate/best friend was dead-set on a career flying fighter jets, only to be selected for a different platform.
- One friend was moved from pilot to NFO training after a full year in the pilot pipeline.
- Some SWO friends arrived to their first ship only to be surprised by news of a homeport switch across the country or overseas.
- Classmates have endured intense breakups or even divorce.
- One SWO friend who survived a life-threatening medical situation while underway was forced to return to shore.
- One friend who selected SWO at the Academy now operates in the backseat of jet aircraft.

Like the Class of 2014, you will watch your classmates’ life stories be written and re-written by the demands of military life. I focus on these real-life examples to articulate a few key points:

1) The Academy is generally certain; little about military life is certain. Rigorous though it may be, Naval Academy life is filled with one thing: certainty. In comparison to your first years as a junior officer, the Naval Academy can seem clear and simple. I like to reconnect with graduates from prior classes to ask about life in the fleet. They all wished they knew how volatile life could be as a junior officer: trying to earn their pin, lead enlisted personnel, and competently do their job while adjusting to the needs of their superiors. When you add in your new freedoms, a family, or self-improvement, JO life becomes a challenge all by itself. Expect to be tested, just in different ways than at the Academy. I also feel compelled to stress the fact that luck and timing will heavily play into your career. Future SWOs: Your life will be heavily dictated by the command climate and general attitude of your ship. Do your research and choose your ship wisely! Future student aviators: Your platform selection will be primarily influenced by the needs of the Navy. Several classmates of mine did not receive their first choice of platform. Understand this prior to choosing a career in aviation. Though I was lucky to be selected for the Supply Corps, some of my classmates from the aviation community who applied for lateral transfer were separated from the Navy outright.

2) Know yourself. I remember a phrase repeated over and over at the Naval Academy: “Stay the course, the best is yet to come.” Even though this phrase helps midshipmen survive the Bancroft grind, this is no way to live your life! If you’re constantly anticipating a presumably-brighter future, you’ll miss out on what’s right in front of you. Remember, the military is just one component of what makes you a whole person. If you place your identity in only the military, it will define you. Know what you value in life. Don’t count the days; make the days count!

3) What it (really) means to graduate. Finishing the Naval Academy is a notable accomplishment that deserves recognition, but it is not an entitlement. Your Academy background is of little importance to your seniors, peers, and most importantly, your enlisted personnel. Like thousands of college graduates around the country, newly commissioned ensigns and 2nd lieutenants have too much “education” and little real-world experience, having come straight from the Naval Academy. Welcome back to the bottom, where your job is to learn. Observe everything. Ask questions. Fail early and often in order to achieve excellence in your profession.

4) Invest in and develop yourself. Roughly half of a typical Naval Academy class leaves active duty within their first ten years of service. Whether you serve five or forty years, you’ll need to invest in and develop yourself in order to lead a successful life. I expect every Naval Academy graduate to reject complacency in their degree alone, and to continuously improve themselves outside of their naval careers. Constantly ask yourself, “Am I growing my professional network? What books am I reading? What new topics am I studying? What skills am I improving? What qualifications am I working toward?”

5) You’re not alone. In the age of the social media highlight reel, it’s easy to feel isolated in the regular stream of your friends’ most picturesque moments – engagements, aviation solos, port visits on deployment, graduation from training commands, etc. We’re hungry to prove that all our hard work at the Academy was worth it. We demand a high, immediate return on our four-year investment. The raw truth is that most graduates ask themselves, “Where will I go from here? Will my time at the Academy have been worth it? Will I have time for family?” These feelings are completely normal, considering the shift from a life of total certainty into a life where you are paid, not to obey, but to think critically and direct a team to drive tasks to completion.

If you find yourself a few months or years into your post-Academy career reflecting on your life, remember these points. Stay humble about your background as a Naval Academy graduate. Continue to learn and experience a well-rounded life. Keep in mind that even though junior officer life can be scary and unpredictable at times, you are never alone – reach out to your classmates and know that you can relate to each other for life.

To my future alumni, I wish you the best of luck in your naval careers, and I look forward to connecting with you in the Fleet and beyond. Feel free to contact me, and know that our shared experience is one that will last for the rest of our lives.

Bobby Nefzger

Blue and Gold Goes Green

By MC2 Tyler Caswell

Naval Support Activity (NSA) Annapolis held a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house Feb. 3 celebrating recent upgrades to the U. S. Naval Academy Water Treatment Plant.

The event marked the completion of the Utility Energy Service Contract (UESC) water conservation project with Baltimore Gas & Electric at NSA Annapolis.

The $7.7 million project will save money by reducing disposal costs, chemicals, electricity and groundwater.

“I'm very excited about the project,” said Paul A. Bianco, water and wastewater plant engineering technician with Public Works Department Annapolis. “The project will drastically reduce operational costs, $1.5 million annually, through an improved sludge removal process, recapturing of filter backwash, reduced energy consumption and a reduction of chemical treatment. My colleagues and I have been working hard to bring this project to fruition.”

In 2016, as part of the Department of the Navy’s Great Green Fleet initiative, U.S. Navy shore installations will highlight energy conservation methods that aide the transformation of the Navy’s energy culture and enhance energy security. The Navy’s goal is to produce 50 percent of its shore-based energy requirements from alternative energies.

“Part of the Great Green Fleet mindset entails a number of energy conservation measures,” said Capt. Logan Jones, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Annapolis. “Making better use of our tax payer dollars allows us flexibility and the ability to contribute that money toward our operations and presence overseas.”

The project is the first in a series of Naval District Washington’s regional contributions towards the Great Green Fleet initiative. Within five years, the facility will have recouped upgrade expenses and will continue to save the U.S. Navy money every year after.

“Often conservation projects like this one are realized by local subject matter experts who take the initiative,” said Jones. “The members who worked on this put their best efforts forward with great energy and brilliant ideas. It’s an opportunity that was made by their dedication to doing the best work they can.”

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Submarine Force Commander Welcomes Future Officers to Fleet

By MC2 Jonathan Correa

The Navy’s top submarine commander welcomed the future submariners of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2016 to the fleet at a dinner and reception Feb. 2.

Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic, Vice Adm. Joe Tofalo addressed the 137 first-class midshipmen who were selected for service assignment about the history of U.S. Navy submarines and the part they will have as future submarine officers.

“You are that future of the submarine community, and we need you to do what you are doing and step up to be part of this legacy we have,” said Tofalo. “If you think about a submarine, there is not one single defensive weapon on a sub. We are all teeth. During World War II Navy submarines made up less than two percent of the forces but were responsible for about 55 percent of maritime losses. Now submarines are responsible for over 50 percent of our nation’s nuclear weapons.”

The assignment dinner is an annual event and represents a unique opportunity for the Midshipmen to meet the senior submarine officers in the Navy and be welcomed into the community.

“I am very proud of what you have done,” said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter. “The submarine community has been our asymmetric advantage going back to World War II and still continues to be today. You, the Class of 2016, are going to lead that into the future.”

Midshipmen were able to sit and talk with senior submarine officers including Adm. James F. Caldwell Jr., director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program; Vice Adm. William H. Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command; Rear Adm. David J. Hahn, senior technical advisor to the deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance; and Rear Adm. Michael E. Jabaley, program executive officer for submarines.

“It is very motivating to hear from some of the top submarine officers in the fleet,” said Midshipman 1st Class Riley Miller. “I am so privileged and honored to be one of the women selected, because it was really competitive in my class. I cannot wait to go out in to the fleet and hopefully get on a fast attack.”

“It was a very exciting process to become the first class of women to enter the submarine community,” said Lt. Kayla Barron, flag aid to the academy superintendent.

Barron was part of the Naval Academy Class of 2010 and in the first-ever group of women to enter the submarine community.

“I would tell the midshipmen to work as hard as they can in power school and prototype, so they can show up to their first command with a good technical foundation and then work to develop a really good relationship with the crew because that’s what makes or breaks a junior officer," she said. "The sailors are willing to help train and help with your development in becoming a strong leader.”

The Naval Academy Class of 2016 received their service assignments Nov. 19, a milestone that put them one step closer to joining the fleet. After graduation May 27, these 137 midshipmen will attend power school and prototype training before heading to their first command.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Naval Education and Training Commander Visits USNA

Commander, Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) Rear Adm. Michael White toured the U.S. Naval Academy Feb. 2.

For White, a 1983 graduate of the University of Colorado, it was his first visit to the historic institution, which has been training and educating future naval officers for 170 years.

His tour included visits to classrooms, physical exercise facilities and the many monuments that scatter the Yard.

“The grounds at USNA are something to behold,” said White. “I am very interested in how we mold our Sailors, morally, ethically and of course in their technical field. This gave me an interesting perspective on how we can do better in the schools we run.”

NETC’s mission is to transform civilians into highly skilled, combat-ready warfighters and enable their career-long growth and development. The amount of time spent in NETC schools is significantly shorter than the 4-year program at USNA, but both institutions share the goal for creating better, smarter and ethically stronger students.

“It is slightly different in that USNA has its midshipmen for four years, and we have ours for a much shorter period of time,” said White. “USNA does an incredible job of molding the ideas of technology into training, bringing ethical decision making into its learning, and overall character development. We want to be able to further incorporate those ideas into our schools.”

While observing the faculty, staff, and facilities and interacting with midshipmen, White recalled the initial impression he had of USNA, further clarified by today’s visit.

“I have had many peers over the years who have graduated from USNA,” he said. “I’ve always had great respect for the institution both educationally and professionally, and what I saw here today matched that exactly – incredible professionalism by everyone I met today on the staff, and a compassion for learning and developing our country’s future officers. All matched by the spectacular venue that is USNA.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

USNA Fencing Team Takes on Alumni

The U.S. Naval Academy’s (USNA) fencing team held their annual alumni versus midshipmen fencing meet in MacDonough Hall Jan. 30.

The meet brought midshipmen and alumni fencers, representing classes ranging from 1960 to 2013, together for competitive matches that tested each other’s wits and skills.

Among the honored guests was Admiral Harry Harris, Jr., commander, U.S. Pacific Command, 1978 USNA graduate, and varsity saber fencer from 1976-1978.

“It's special to watch the future leaders of our Navy carrying on the proud legacy of fencing at the Academy," said Harris. "Fencing instilled in me a sense of focused aggression, not just individually, but as part of a team, something that has been valuable to me throughout my career."

The annual event has taken place for the better part of the past 40 years.

“The alumni meet dates back to the 1970s, perhaps the late 1960s,” said Capt. Emil Petruncio, head coach and officer rep of Navy Fencing. “There was a hiatus after the varsity fencing program was terminated in 1993, but fencing re-emerged as an organized activity in 1999, and it was just a few years later - 2001 or 2002 - that the alumni meet was reinstituted.”

This year’s meet welcomed three USNA Athletic Hall of Fame fencers. Among them, Frank Hewitt (USNA ’67) explained fencing as a way to not only stay healthy, but build teamwork skills.

“Team sports like this help midshipmen when they go into the fleet. They can also carry this over to the civilian world when they are done,” said Hewitt. “I compete in national fencing competition even at the age of 70.”

The Naval Academy has been involved in intercollegiate fencing since 1896, and has a long tradition of outstanding fencers and coaches. There are 57 fencers included in the USNA Athletic Hall of Fame, spanning the classes of 1917 to 1994. Many were selected as members of the U.S. Olympic, Pan-American, and NCAA All American teams. Others qualified as U.S. National Champion, NCAA or AIAW Individual Champion, Eastern Collegiate or National Regional Champion, said Petruncio.

The meet provided a valuable opportunity for midshipmen to gather knowledge from alumni.

“It is exciting because we get to fence some of the greatest names that have come from this school, and it is a chance for the alumni to come back and relive that legacy that they started for us,” said Midshipman 1st Class Naomi Ngalle, Navy Fencing Team club president. “This is really a privilege to have them come here and compete with us and at the same time teach us and help us grow as Navy fencers.”

“I'm proud of the leadership of our club officers and weapon squad captains, and of the energy and dedication of each the fencers who come out to practice each afternoon,” said Petruncio. “I'm also happy that Midshipmen still have the opportunity to learn, practice, and refine fencing techniques and tactics, and develop their judgment and confidence on the fencing strip. Honorable conduct and quick decision making in the heat of battle is what our program is all about.”

For information about Navy Fencing, visit

Monday, February 1, 2016

Army-Navy Football Legends Honored

Naval Academy and West Point leadership and alumni gathered in Coral Gables, Fla., January 31 to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1946 Army-Navy game and pay tribute to two academy football legends.

USNA Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter presents a Navy football helmet to
former Navy running back Pete Williams (USNA '49) 
Those legends, Pete Williams (USNA ’49) and Arnold Tucker (USMA ’47), lined up on opposite sides of the ball during the 1946 game and remain friends and neighbors at the Palace at Coral Gables, a retirement facility not far from where they attended high school together at Miami High.

The 70th anniversary celebration was hosted at the Palace and organized by members of the Alumni Associations for both Army and Navy.

Williams was Navy's starting running back in the 1946 game. Tucker was the quarterback for Army, leading a backfield that included legendary runners Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.

USNA Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter speaks with former Army quarterback
Arnold Tucker (USMA '47)

Army emerged victorious in the game only after Navy's Williams failed to get out of bounds as the clock expired with Navy driving for the winning touchdown. Army was favored by 30 points in the game and was a perennial football powerhouse at that time, having won the national championship in 1944 and 1945. They entered the game against Navy undefeated, and Army would eventually become national champions again in 1946 after the victory over Navy.

It was the close margin in the 1946 game and the performances of Williams and Tucker – as well as their lifelong friendship – that was noted in the anniversary celebration. And, as always, the purity of the Army-Navy rivalry was a constant theme.

Vice Adm. Ted Carter, Naval Academy superintendent, attended and gave keynote remarks.

"The 1946 game is not entirely unlike the game we just played this past December," said Carter. "We were heavily favored as Army was back then. And yet, in this game, the teams always find a way to play admirably and keep it close. We should never lose respect for the history of this game, the performances of the men in this room today and the fact that this is the best rivalry in the country. Period."

Army-Navy football history on display

Lt. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo, a 1981 West Point graduate and current deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command in Miami, gave remarks for Army and noted the significance of the 1946 game and the importance of the rivalry based on who attended.

"President Truman was in the stands, as were a host of other names like MacArthur, Eisenhower, Marshall, Halsey, Nimitz and Leahy," said DiSalvo.

"As is always the case, this game goes beyond the final score," DiSalvo continued. "It is never about who wins and losses, but rather how special these two institutions are and what the academies mean to America."

Williams and Tucker were joined by friends and family and approximately 100 guests, who rose for a standing ovation for each of the men at the conclusion of the ceremony.

The men were presented with commemorative footballs and helmets from West Point and the Naval Academy respectively and posed for pictures with Carter and DiSalvo.

In the end, after 70 years, the day came down to the bond that exists between Army and Navy and the friendship that has lasted between two great men from the time they were in high school to now, as they reside in the same retirement community.

"I tried to get him (Williams) to come to Army," joked Tucker to the crowd. "His being a member of the Navy football team never infringed on our friendship."

The rivalry continues.