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Three Hoorays for Commissioning Week!

May 2, 2019 11:24:27 AM

U.S. Naval Academy Commissioning Week - Navyonline.com


Updated May 29, 2019: Watch acting Defense Secretary address the 2019 Naval Academy graduates.

What to Expect

It’s one of the most exciting weeks at the Yard, and it’s quickly approaching. This time of celebration features a series of events that culminate in an incredibly moving graduation ceremony for graduating Midshipmen, who receive both their diplomas and their commissions to serve in the Navy or Marine Corps.

Commissioning Week has been a part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s history since the first group of four-year Midshipmen graduated in 1854. But it wasn’t always a formal graduation, and it wasn’t always called Commissioning Week.

During both world wars, commissions were assigned early, and there was no “graduation week.” In fact, it wasn’t until Superintendent Admiral David Dixon Porter added parades, dances and athletic activities during his 1865-1869 tenure that graduation week became what we celebrate today. In 1912, graduates also started receiving their commissions on graduation day at the culmination of what was then known as “June Week.” In 1979, the graduation dates were moved to May, and the week became known as “Commissioning Week.”

Over the years, its location has jumped around, moving from the Academy chapel to the armory (now Dahlgren Hall), to the Halsey Field House – and in 1966, moving to its current home at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. And Alumni Hall, completed in 1991, is the alternate location in the event of inclement weather.

What’s Happening When: The Events Lineup

This year, Commissioning Week kicks off on Friday, May 17th with the Seamanship & Navigation Awards Ceremony. You can find the most updated event schedule here. It includes the following festive activities:

The Ring Dance (May 18th):

This tradition, which hearkens back to 1869, has each Naval Class choosing a committee to design its own class crest. Along with the coat-of-arms, this design is then integrated into the class ring for that year. You can see collections of past rings at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. At the dance, second class Midshipmen (juniors) have their rings “baptized” with water collected by the Seven Seas of the world. Then they can start wearing their rings. Although this is a private event, an exciting fireworks display marks this stirring occasion for all to enjoy.

The Herndon Climb (May 20th):

This joyous and sometimes onerous event is a true display of grit and teamwork, as the plebe class attempts to form a human pyramid to ascend the 21-foot Herndon Monument obelisk, which has been slathered with more than 50 pounds of vegetable shortening. It celebrates the end of plebe year and commemorates the tight unit that the class has become. The goal is to replace a plebe “dixie cup” with an upperclassman’s cover. This struggle has lasted as long as four hours (when the dixie cup was glued and taped), and as short as the standing record of twenty minutes (for a greased obelisk) from 1972. Navy Academy legend says the first plebe to switch the covers will be the first to become an Admiral.

The Color Parade (May 23rd):

There are several parades that honor Commissioning Week, and the Color Parade is one of the most prominent. This tradition of incorporating dress parades in Commissioning Week started on June 27, 1846, when exercises in the manual of arms and infantry tactics were performed. The Color Parade is the oldest continual parade, started in 1867. It’s the last full dress parade for graduating Midshipmen. Here, the “Color Honoree,” Brigade Commander and Superintendent present the color company pennant to the company that has shown excellence in academics, athletics and professional accomplishments.

Graduation Ceremonies (May 24th):

It’s a thrilling experience to witness a sea of Midshipmen in their dress uniforms, listening intently to a commencement address typically delivered by the U.S. President of the United States, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, or Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The graduating class is sworn into the Navy and Marine Corp by taking an oath of office, to become Ensigns or 2nd Lieutenants.

The Blue Angels make several heart pounding entrances during the week, with the culmination at Graduation. For 50 years, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron has amazed and inspired spectators during Commissioning Week with their incredible in-air tricks featuring amazing synchronicity and skill.

When the final diplomas are awarded, the graduates sing a rousing “Navy Blue and Gold” and the new 1st Class Midshipmen lead three cheers for “those who are about to leave us.” The graduates, led by the class president, respond with three cheers “for those we leave behind.” On the final “hooray” of this cheer, the graduates do the “hat toss” and throw their midshipman caps high into the air; these are saved by spectators to commemorate this remarkable day. The hat toss has been tradition since 1912. Prior to this, they kept their hats for the two required years in the fleet after graduation. Once this changed, the spontaneous gesture became tradition. Then family members and friends pin the new Ensign’s shoulder boards or 2nd Lieutenant’s gold bars onto his or her uniform.

One of the most meaningful gestures occurs directly after new ranks are in place. Called the “Silver Dollar Salute,” it’s an old tradition across the armed services which stipulates that a newly commissioned officer give a silver dollar to the first enlisted person or Midshipman that salutes him or her. Many times, this is orchestrated so a special friend or relative that’s served or an enlisted person at the Academy does the salute. The exchange symbolizes the graduate’s deep gratitude for this special individual’s service, the knowledge they have passed along as well as the respect for them. Many times, the family buys two coins – one to give and one for the newly commissioned officer and graduate to keep. Both are full-sized coins with a date that’s important to the graduate.

If you can’t make it to these momentous events, there is live streaming for many of them; just check the link near their time slot.

What to Wear to Commissioning Week?

You can find that information here. And check out Navyonline.com for men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing, where 100% of your purchase supports the Brigade.

Where to Park during Commissioning Week?

Parking information is available here.

Congratulations to the graduating class of 2019, and Fair Winds and Following Seas to all Midshipmen and their families. Enjoy the week!

Topics: Insider

Bill the Goat
Written by Bill the Goat

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