U.S. Naval Academy plebes arrive in Annapolis for Induction Day
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — She sits down and exhales.
"Are you ready for it?," asks one of more than 10 barbers stationed in a room next to a garage door.
"Yes I am, actually," she says.
Nearly 1,200 men and women arrived Tuesday morning at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis for Induction Day, better known as I-Day.
The 1,192 members of the academy's Class of 2018 were selected from among 17,618 applications.
But despite their prowess leading up to this day, the four years that lie ahead are daunting. It starts with Plebe Summer, which formally begins after an Oath of Office Ceremony on Tuesday night.
"Kind of scared, kind of excited," said Sarah Childress of Severna Park, as she prepared to be fitted for her standard-issue New Balance sneakers in Alumni Hall. "I don't know what to expect."
Each year, the Naval Academy welcomes a new class of plebes on I-Day.
The Class of 2018 arrived Tuesday morning between 6 and 9:30 a.m. The class includes 889 men and 303 women, the largest number of women ever to enter the academy in the same class.
Sixty-seven members of the Class of 2018 are former enlisted servicemen and women. There are 13 international students from places as far away as the Federated States of Micronesia.
When they arrived, the future midshipmen were given name tags and a copy of "Reef Points," a handbook that includes academy history, helpful tips and definitions of terms heard around the Yard.
A "Sea Lawyer" is "one who tries to get out of a fry by trivial technicalities, whose favorite expression is 'But I thought ... ' when in fact, he didn’t."
The young men and women drop their bags and get measured for height, weight and body fat. Blood is drawn, medical records checked and they're registered for the Naval Academy Alumni Association.
Hair is cut, uniforms are issued and they sign their Oath of Office.
During Plebe Summer, plebes have no access to TV, movies, the Internet or music, and have restricted access to cellphones.
A rigorous itinerary of character development and 140 hours of physical-education training stands in front of them, including 100 miles of combined distance running and interval training.
The anticipation and anxiousness can make even basic conversation challenging on the first day of "school."
Eric Hilgendorf has a brother at the Naval Academy and a father who is a member of the Class of 1989.
As part of the I-Day process, he has likely been told to expect a number of questions.
Enlisted Navy and Marine Corps officers will ask, "What are the five basic responses?
The correct answer is, "Yes, sir. No, sir. No excuse, sir. I'll find out, sir. Aye aye, sir."
But at the start of his day, Hilgendorf, of Hartland, Wisconsin, gets a question that doesn't have a corresponding answer in "Reef Points." It's one he probably wasn't told to expect, either.
"What cheese would you rather deep fry?"
Hilgendorf gets red in the face. He pauses.
"Probably cheddar," he finally answers.
This won't be easy.