Last night, I attended Ship Selection night for the First Class Midshipmen at the Naval Academy who had earlier selected surface warfare for their service selection. It was a real privilege to participate in the event, 39 years after I made my own service selection. I was joined by VADM Hunt and VADM Miller and we were all extremely impressed (and inspired!) by the motivation and excitement of these young men and women as they made the very important decision on where to begin their shipboard careers.
On the board were warships in every homeport and of every ship class. Where possible, representatives from some ships were present for the selection. Each selecting Midshipman walked to the board when called up according to his or her order of merit in the Class of 2012, picked their choice of ship from the board and proudly displayed their selection to the audience (who often responded with loud cheers!). Whether the decision was based on ship class, homeport, prior experience on a midshipman cruise, or to simply share the experience with classmates on the same ship, each Midshipman made the choice that was right for him or her.
The first selection off the board was USS MOMSEN (DDG 92) homeported in Everett, Washington and homeports of San Diego and Japan were definitely popular. But I know that each of these future officers will thrive and excel aboard their selected ship. In all, over 280 members of the Class of 2012 selected their ships yesterday. At the end of November, the other members of the class had received their service selections. 344 chose Naval Aviation, 272 selected USMC, 140 opted for Submarines, and 44 were selected for Special Warfare or Special Operations, with the remaining Midshipmen selecting medical school, intelligence, civil engineering, or information warfare communities.
When it was my turn to speak to the group of future Surface Warfare Officers, I talked to them about Commodore Stephen Decatur and the comments he made to his wardroom officers aboard the Frigate USS UNITED STATES as they headed off to war with Great Britain in the War of 1812. Commodore Decatur is prominently featured at the Academy, and his capture of the Royal Navy Frigate, HMS MACEDONIAN, is commemorated by the Macedonian Monument at the end of USNA's Stribling Walk. That monument is one of many reminders around the yard about the history of the War of 1812, but over time we lose awareness of the humanity that formed the basis for those monuments. People become paintings and plaques, but they were not so. They laid their lives on the line. When Decatur spoke to his crew, he did not speak to them of seamanship or tactics. What he desired from them was courage, both physical and moral. I reminded the Midshipmen that the same sort of challenge is ahead of them. As they sail their ships into harm's way, much will be asked of them. There is no place we sail today that is a benign environment. We need them to be ready from day one of their tour.
When I spoke with these young men and women last night I saw the same determination Decatur sought in his wardroom of officers so many years ago. It was a strong reminder to me that our traditions are strong and we have the finest Sailors in the world. And I know that the future Surface Warriors I visited with on this important day in their career will BE READY!
Congratulations Class of 2012 – I was honored to share your evening with you and I am very proud to serve with you!
All the best, JCHjr
Click here to watch the full video of the event, including my brief remarks to the Midshipmen.