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Plebe Issue: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Monumental Quest to Outfit Incoming Midshipmen

Jun 30, 2021 8:15:00 AM

plebe issue blog

Plebe Summer is here! That means the herculean effort of Plebe Issue, preparing the Plebes for summer and beyond in a few short hours, is also here! The incoming class of 2025 consists of approximately 1,200 men and women with a 32% female / 68% male split of students.

On I-Day (Induction Day), these young men and women spill onto the Yard in their casual clothing with casual demeanor. By the end of the day, they’ll begin and end each sentence with “Sir” or “Ma’am” and be outfitted and ready to begin their careers as Midshipmen. The total transformation has begun.

The transformation is wonderful to see in the students, but the magic also happens behind the scenes in the Naval Academy Business Services Division (NABSD). Over 80 NABSD team members labor for months, forecasting quantities and sizes, then ordering, receiving, unpackaging, repackaging, storing and distributing over 300 items to each of the Plebes. That’s over 360,000 total items! This labor is a great illustration of how the team at NABSD lives and breathes its mission “to excel in delivering retail products and services to the Brigade of Midshipmen.”

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To give you an idea of how dedicated NABSD is to making the transformation as smooth as possible for everyone involved with the Plebe Issue, read below. Mike Stevens, Deputy Director of Midshipmen Services, and Tom Alfonsi, Warehouse Manager, provide some insight and background into the undertaking of making the “magic” happen.

Plebe Issue: A Year in the Making

Incoming Plebes show up with literally just the clothing on their backs. To outfit approximately 1,200 Midshipmen with clothing, personal items and school supplies, we must start early; it takes a year to orchestrate this monumental task and tradition.

Predicting Plebe Issue: Autumn Ordering Begins

Our work readying the upcoming Plebe class gets underway as soon as the current Plebe class begins their academic year in the fall. That’s when we start ordering a number of sized and unsized items, based on our best approximation of the makeup of the incoming class (since we won’t know actual numbers until around three weeks before I-Day). The male/female split factors into these calculations, so we also make a best guess here, too, since we’ll need to order female specific items, like sports bras, as well as male specific items, like different shaving cream and razors. In October, we take inventory and begin adding more sized, customized items, like uniforms.

Personal Plebe Issue: Warehouse Winter Wonderland

Then, in the January/February timeframe, we’ll order personal items like deodorant, sheets, pillows, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and much more. The warehouse deck fills its belly with supplies, boxes, crates, palettes, and extreme organization!

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Packaging Plebe Issue Items: Springtime in the Brigade Sports Complex

Now that we’ve accumulated approximately ten storage trailers of goods, we wait for the moment that they melt the ice at the Brigade Sports Complex (BSC) in May. Since the space is no longer needed for hockey, the ice rink is the perfect location to assemble the Plebe Issue boxes. The clock then starts ticking—we have about 30 days to make a successful issue happen! This includes unpackaging all bulk items and re-packaging them in an assembly line.

We’ve become pros at boxing the items as efficiently and expertly as possible, filling nearly 6,000 boxes. We can store approximately 200 boxes in each of 30 dorm rooms in Bancroft Hall, all lined up for easy accessibility.

Providing Plebe Issue items: Summer at the Academy

On I-Day, Plebes receive the uniforms, shoes, textbooks, school supplies, personal items, sheets and pillows - and more - that they need to make it through this next year at the Academy. They’ll also move through 23 stations, including haircut and blood draws. It’s an exhilarating and exhausting day!

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Ready for Reform: The Academic Year Begins

As summer turns into autumn, we look back at how to better ourselves and our processes to continue to excel in our mission to provide for the Brigade. We listen to the Midshipmen's suggestions for better items, and we research those items for possible inclusion in the next year’s issue and in the Mid Store this school year. The urgency of the Plebe Issue may be over, but our supply cycle begins again. We want to provide the best functioning, most durable items for the most reasonable costs for Plebe use and for the returning Midshipmen.

This is just one of the ways that Midshipmen Services, NABSD helps to welcome the Plebes to the Academy. How will you show your support and welcome the incoming Plebes?

Bill the Goat
Written by Bill the Goat

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