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Midshipmen get choice of ships at Naval Academy ceremony

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman 1st Class Ashleigh Share celebrates after choosing the guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) during Ship Selection Night, Jan. 31, 2013.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Norfolk, Va., or Yokosuka, Japan? Sunny San Diego or Everett, Wash.? Destroyer or cruiser?

Those were some of the decisions 251 midshipmen made on Ship Selection Night at the U.S. Naval Academy on Thursday.

Each midshipman first class had a chance to step before a boisterous crowd in Mahan Hall and take a turn picking the ship he or she will serve on for the three years following graduation and commissioning in May.

The event was for only the midshipmen in this year’s graduating class assigned to surface warfare. The remaining first class mids — about 800 — bound for submarines or destined to be pilots in the Navy or U.S. Marine Corps, weren’t included.

In November, members of the Class of 2013 were informed of their Navy and Marine Corps career assignments. They were picked based on merit, physical and medical qualifications, and the results of interviews.

While 94 percent of mids in the Class of 2013 were assigned to their first- or second-choice assignment, the academy said, Thursday’s ceremony was their first opportunity to have 100 percent of the say on where they go next.

Midshipman 1st Class Jonathan Poole, of Yarmouth, Maine, walked on stage second because he was the second-ranked mid among all headed to surface warfare careers.

Three white boards covered with names — those of ships based in ports around the world — were propped in front of him. Poole didn’t hesitate, selecting the USS Momsen, a destroyer based out of Everett, Wash.

Poole was named a Mitchell Scholar in November, which means he’ll receive a full scholarship to study public policy and diplomacy at University College Cork, part of the National University of Ireland. But he said he’ll be thrilled to head to Everett after a year at Cork.

“I heard so many things about (the Momsen),” Poole said. “And I’ve heard the Pacific Northwest is beautiful. This is just the beginning of a hopefully amazing career and I can’t wait to get to the fleet.”

While Poole knew he wanted to be in a destroyer built in Bath, Maine, and was able to narrow his choices down, 1st Class Midshipman Jennifer Jones, of Alexandria, Va., couldn’t say the same.

Jones, who was the Brigade’s commander this semester, chose the USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer based in Norfolk.

But that wasn’t because the Donald Cook was based close to home, she said. The destroyer will change its home port to Rota, Spain, to beef up European ballistic missile defense capabilities.

“It was a toss-up,” Jones said. “But when I got on stage, I thought it was a great opportunity to be on a surface ship that will be home-ported there.”

As the mids begin the final stretch of their careers, some said they’ll miss Annapolis.

But 1st Class Midshipman Kelsey Davis, of Huntingtown in Calvert County, said she was aiming for sunny skies. She chose the USS Preble, based in San Diego.

“I’ve always been East Coast,” Davis said. “I want to go West Coast.”

Ship Selection Night has come a long way, said Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mark Ferguson. Thursday night’s ceremony was streamed live online and broadcast on the Pentagon Channel.

Thirty-five years ago, Ferguson picked his ship at a less digital ceremony. “Before cellphones,” he said.
 

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