ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- Have you ever made a decision that locks you into a commitment for seven years of your life? A lot happens in seven years. It is a decision that must not be made lightly. The class of 2015 at the U.S. Naval Academy just made that "2 for 7" decision Aug. 17.
Freshman year at the USNA: "Plebe year." You are dealing with constant running through Bancroft Hall, tackling a full academic load in this - for many - the first semesters of one's college experience. You are memorizing military professional knowledge, fulfilling athletic commitments and learning to be a part of the Naval Academy team.
Then comes sophomore year. "Youngsters" become mentors to the new class of plebes and experience a more challenging set of academic requirements. They are extended more opportunities for liberty and are fresh from their first summer of military training and leave.
For plebes and youngsters, they all have the same option at any point of those two years - they can walk away. They have the option of resigning from the academy, transferring to another institution and pursuing another life outside of USNA ... with no commitment to the military. In a manner of speaking, those first two years are "on the house."
However, when midshipmen return to the Yard at the start of their junior year, they are faced with a decision. Having received two valuable years of education, are they willing to sign the papers that commit them to seven more years of service to their country - another two years of a rigorous physical and academic schedule followed by five years of service in the Navy or Marine Corps?
That is the decision the Class of 2015 faced during the Naval Academy's "2 for 7" ceremony: to sign, or not to sign. By signing the commitment papers, members of the class of 2015 acknowledge that they will remain at the Naval Academy for their junior and senior years, and accept a commission into the Navy or Marine Corps upon successful completion of their academic requirements.
"The risk is the commitment," said Cmdr. Daniel Olson, 3rd Battalion Officer. "You owe either service or money past this point. The consequences are much greater."
The Naval Academy marked the occasion of the class of 2015's "2 for 7" decision with a commitment dinner Aug. 20. Vice Adm. Mike Miller, USNA Superintendent, and Capt. William Byrne, USNA Commandant of Midshipmen, both attended the dinner and offered congratulations.
For some, like Midshipman 2nd Class Paul Rand from Kerry, Ill., it was an easy decision.
"I love it here," Rand said. "I had no hesitation at all. I thrive on the challenge of this place."
Challenges are not in short supply for Rand, a member of the wrestling team who juggles two practices a day with his academic major of applied mathematics.
"I find I am lucky if I get five hours a sleep a night," he said.
The demands placed on midshipmen, however, exist for a purpose. Soon these young men and women will be asked to lead sailors and Marines in real-world situations where mistakes have real consequences.
"If you are not sure, if you are not all in, then this is not the place for you," said Command Master Chief Russell Smith, the Naval Academy Senior Enlisted Advisor.
After spending time with friends on summer leave, the temptations of civilian college life can be tempting when contrasted against the rigorous schedule of a mid.
"There is always a bit of jealousy when I see my friends back home," said Midshipman 2nd Class Ben Bittel. "But then you remember why you came here in the first place, and it's all better."
For a 20-year-old midshipman, a seven-year commitment means one third of a lifetime - not something that should be signed away lightly.
On reflection, Olson added, "I graduated 22 years ago and given the choice I would definitely do it all over again."