Year-round commitment builds leaders

Jason Flanagan, The Examiner
2007-10-29 07:00:00.0

BALTIMORE -

One of the most important goals of the U.S. Naval Academy, officials say, is to prepare its students for leadership — in the Navy.

And that means no summer vacation.

Midshipmen spend eight weeks during the summer either on a ship, training plebes (freshmen) or doing research in what essentially is mandatory on-the-job training.

“This helps them understand — and prepare for — the role they will have as a junior officer when they graduate,” said Capt. Cindy Thebaud, director of professional development at the academy.

Rising sophomores spend part of their summers working on ships next to mid-grade enlisted sailors or Marines, getting an up-close view of ground-level naval operations.

“It’s basically a day in the life of the fleet, except it’s for four weeks,” Thebaud said.

Midshipmen rarely are sent to work on ships in war zones or on critical missions.

Rising juniors spend four weeks working at flight schools, submarines and surface ships, as well as with the Marine Corps.

Rising seniors go to sea again, this time shadowing officers, which they soon will become. The second half of their summer is spent training plebes, working with visiting high-schoolers, working on projects or serving internships.

“We have midshipmen going to the National Laboratory in Los Alamos, Calif., to do independent research during the summer,” academic dean and provost William Miller said.

Midshipmen also man patrol ships and sailing vessels to hone their seamanship skills.

Between those assignments, they manage about four weeks of vacation.

“They come back [to the academy] with an understanding and appreciation of the role of the enlisted person,” Thebaud said. “And that will make them better leaders.”

DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI

Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Alan Shepard, first American in space

John McCain, Arizona senator and presidential candidate

H. Ross Perot, former presidential candidate

David Robinson, former NBA player

Roger Staubach, former NFL quarterback and Hall of Famer

Albert Michelson, first American to win Nobel Prize for Physics

FAST FACTS

Founded: 1845

Enrollment: 4,000, with at least one from every state; Maryland has 77 midshipmen for the class of 2011, and it has the most midshipmen nominated by federal officials.

Graduation: Midshipmen are commissioned as officers upon graduation.

Campus: Bancroft Hall, the main dormitory, has five miles of corridors and 33 acres of floor space. It is one of the largest dormitories in the world.

jflanagan@baltimoreexaminer.com
Examiner

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