U.S. Naval Academy trains future Navy, Marine Corps officers

U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen stand in formation before a color parade in Tecumseh Court in Annapolis, Maryland. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – “Inspiring,” “impressive,” and “historical” are three adjectives often used to describe the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, about an hour drive from Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The USNA was established Oct. 10, 1845, under Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft. It is the second oldest of the five service academies. Most graduates are commissioned as ensigns in the U.S. Navy or second lieutenants in the U.S. Marines Corps, but a small number can commission as officers in other U.S. services, and in the services of allied nations.

The Naval Academy Chapel is a well-known U.S. Naval Academy landmark. Completed in 1903, it has a high dome that is visible throughout Annapolis. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy
The Naval Academy Chapel is a well-known U.S. Naval Academy landmark. Completed in
1903, it has a high dome that is visible throughout Annapolis. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy

With an acceptance rate of nine percent, USNA is one of the most selective four-year colleges in the country. Candidates must apply and be recommended, usually from a member of Congress.

USNA midshipmen complete rigorous coursework, are graded on military leadership performance, are required to participate in competitive athletics and must uphold the “Honor Concept” honor code.

Weekdays, during semesters, are regimented, starting with reveille at 6:30 a.m. and ending with taps at midnight. A typical weekday for a midshipman includes two formations, six class periods, athletics practice or extracurricular activities and a three-hour study period.

During the weekdays in the fall and spring, visitors can observe roughly 4,400 midshipmen participating in “noon formation” in Tecumseh Court to take roll and ensure accountability before marching into King Hall for lunch.

More than 1,000 midshipmen graduate from the academy each year with Bachelor of Science degrees. At least two thirds of USNA students are encouraged to major in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

Notable USNA alumni include President Jimmy Carter; Senator John McCain; television personality Montel Williams; 1992 and 1996 presidential candidate Ross Perot; astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space; and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Keenan Reynolds.

USNA landmarks

Ensign Drew Anderson, with the USNA Public Affairs Office, called the campus a “beautiful and scenic piece of our nation’s history.” The entire 338-acre campus, or “The Yard” was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1961. Several USNA buildings were designed in the Beaux-Arts style by Ernest Flagg, a renowned American architect.

“Visitors can see and learn about the foundational training ground of generations of American leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps,” Anderson said. “They can also witness the current midshipmen in their transition from civilians into leaders and naval professionals of our country at one of the top-ranked public schools in America.”

A bronze statue located in front of Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland is called “Tecumseh" by the academy's midshipmen. It serves as an unofficial mascot. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy
A bronze statue located in front of Bancroft Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland is called “Tecumseh” by the academy’s midshipmen. It serves as an unofficial mascot. | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Academy

One of the most recognized landmarks at the academy is Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory in the U.S., which is home to the entire Brigade of Midshipmen. This massive dormitory, often referred to as “Mother B” or “The Hall” by midshipmen, has 4.8 miles of hallways, about 1,700 rooms, and 33 acres of floor space.

“It even has its own zip code,” Anderson said.

In front of the main entrance of Bancroft Hall is a bronze statue dubbed “Tecumseh,” a Native American Shawnee tribal chief.

According to Anderson, Tecumseh is one of the unofficial mascots of the midshipmen. They often toss pennies on Tecumseh before exams and athletic competitions for good luck, and each year, the midshipmen decorate the statue in “war paint” for Parents’ Weekend, Homecoming, the Army-Navy Game and Commissioning Week.

Another well-known landmark is the Naval Academy Chapel, located at the center of the campus. Completed in 1908, the chapel has a high dome that is visible throughout Annapolis. It also contains the sarcophagus of John Paul Jones, the nation’s first well-known naval commander from the American Revolutionary War. The Naval Academy Chapel is open for visitors most weekdays, except when it is being used for special events.

USNA Museum

Visitors can learn more about the history of the Navy and the USNA by visiting the free museum in Preble Hall, which features two floors of historical artifacts and interactive exhibits. More than 100,000 people visit the museum each year.

“Whether you are a casual visitor, a student of naval history, or a member of the Brigade of Midshipmen, the museum stands ready to make your visit a memorable one,” Anderson said.

USNA youth programs

Teens, ages 13 through 15, can participate in the USNA Junior Leadership Program. The half-day program, held on Saturday, features presentations about preparing for college and career opportunities in the Navy and Marine Corps. The cost of the program is $50. For more information, email jopp@usna.edu.

Students who have completed their junior year of high school and are considering attending USNA can apply for the Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar, or NASS, a fast-paced six day experience. Tuition for NASS is $450, which covers room, board and educational materials.

Visiting the USNA

The USNA is located at 121 Blake Road, Annapolis, MD 21402. Public guided walking tours depart at the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center and last one hour and 15 minutes.

Visitors 18 or older must show a valid, U.S. government-issued ph

to identification card, driver’s license or original passport to enter USNA grounds. Visitors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington State will need to show a second photo identification in addition to a driver’s license. A valid U.S. passport will gain admittance to anyone regardless of the state they are from.

Sources: http://www.navysports.com/trads/ usna-facts-figures-history.html; http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews. com/best-colleges/naval-academy-2101; www.wikipedia.org; https://www.usna.edu/homepage.php

Story by Rachel Ponder, APG News