Arriving at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, was the first step in their journey. Induction Day (I-Day) was a proud day for the new applicants as well as for their parents, some of whom are prior service members themselves. Each new cadet will become part of a whole, part of a team.
"Making a career out of the military is always something I've been interested in," said Titus Kilpatrick of the class of 2021 - better known as a plebe. "I heard it's really rigorous. They're trying to develop us morally, mentally and physically."
Kilpatrick was one of only about 1,200 cadets to be accepted out of around 16,300 applicants. On I-Day, he joined a seemingly endless line of young men and women waiting to get through the doors, soon to trade shorts and T-shirts for white plebe smocks.
"I think it's definitely going to be a good start, all of the stress we are going to be under," said Hannah Lyon, another plebe. "As we all start this adventure, we're not all alone. We're on the same team, working through the hardships together."
The first day consisted largely of militarizing the former civilians. They received the first of many uniforms and learned basic military practices, such as how to wear a cover and salute. Plebes went through medical checks and immunizations, then had their hair cut.
"I've been cutting hair at the Naval Academy for 31 years," said Paula Clarke, USNA staff barber. "People come here for all different reasons, sometimes for sports, but always to serve their country."
Plebes then met with upperclass midshipmen, known as detailers, who were responsible for plebes during I-Day. They will help mold and guide the new midshipmen through the summer's challenges, starting with the plebes' living arrangements. Along the way detailers will not only teach their plebes how to organize their dorm rooms, they'll help them navigate the path to becoming officers.
"I think you can see it on I-Day, that transition from civilian to military," said Midshipman 1st Class Jason Clarke. "One of the biggest things they will learn is time management, how to get things done fast and efficiently. We get them in shape and teach them the honor concept."
Once they finished moving into their rooms, the new midshipmen marched out for the first time as plebes to Tecumseh Court and took their seats, followed by their detailers. The upperclassmen lined up in two rows, then were commanded, "Center face!" All at once, they turned toward their plebes. Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr. led the oath asking the detailers to teach and take care of the plebes. All at once, they let out a roaring "I do!"