From the moment we enter the Academy on I-Day, Reef Points is our go-to handbook for critical Naval Academy information and instructions. This little blue guide has over 300 pages and more than 175 years of history within it. I always keep mine close at hoof so I can look important things up at a moment’s notice. In fact, I must have it any time I’m outside of my dorm room—no exceptions.
During Naval Academy Plebe Summer, we memorize the contents. It is our compass throughout our entire time on the Yard. It may be pocket-sized and look good enough to eat, but it’s an integral part of midshipmen life at the Academy, so I don’t dare take even a nibble. While we cannot possibly begin to cover the tremendous depth and breadth of its contents, we can pull out a few highlights. Let's take a peek inside this mysterious little book, familiar to all who have come through the Academy as midshipmen since 1905!
Reef Points Chapters
The book opens with the Sailor’s Creed, which states:
I am a United States Sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution
of the United States of America and I will
obey the orders of those appointed over me.
I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy
and those who have gone before me to defend
freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat
team with honor, courage, and commitment.
I am committed to excellence
and the fair treatment of all.
These are the words we live by every day, and all midshipmen and midshipgoats commit them to memory in our hearts and minds. We are beholden to serve our country and those who have served before us, and we take that responsibility seriously.
IntroductionThe next section of the book is the “Introduction,” which delves into the biographies and philosophies of some of the highest officers in our chain of command, including:
- Chief of Naval Operations
- Commandant of the Marine Corps
- Deputy Commandant
- Brigade Senior Enlisted Advisor
- Deputy Commandant (PRODEV)
- Deputy Commandant (LEAD)
- Senior Chaplain
After these inspiring articles from our leaders, the next chapter recounts our mission, which is as follows:
“To develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of Naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.”
These words are imprinted upon our hearts and minds as we pursue our degree and commission here at the Academy. As the mascot of the Academy, I am proud to make this mission mine.
The next part, called the “Academy” section, provides a detailed look at daily life, starting with the “Midshipmen Creed,” and then diving into Naval Academy facts. This includes the training continuum, sailing directions, rates, regulations, the table of priorities, a description of the Center for Academic Excellence, a list of ECAs (Extracurricular Activities), and more. This section contains an incredible amount of detailed information that we plebes must absorb. Some of it centers on the tasks that midshipmen (and midshipgoats) complete each year, from Plebe Summer, to academic training during the school year, to offshore training in the summers following.
We especially study the daily rates, which are military rules of decorum that help midshipmen transition from civilians into our nation’s future military leaders. These rules are deep and varied, from memorizing daily meals and the names of various officers on duty that day, to knowing the names of all in-season Varsity captains and four-stripers and above—as well as countless other instructions for how to properly interact with others, all to prepare us for life in the military.
A highlight of this section honors Theodore Roosevelt, a large advocate and supporter of both the Navy and the Naval Academy. His famous “Man in the Arena” speech is reprinted here. First given at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910, this short but powerful part of the speech called “Citizenship in a Republic” has inspired countless people to be that man in the arena “whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Wow. These words never fail to inspire me.
Then there’s the more practical “Table Salt,” a series of different (and sometimes nonsensical) phrases to memorize that plebes are called upon to produce at mealtime and other times by upperclassmen, all in an effort to build the essential memory skills we’ll need as naval military leaders. This section includes other important information, including “Irish Pennants” or a loose collection of facts, a glossary of terms, how to address superiors, what a proper uniform consists of, weapon safety, and more.
Traditions and Customs
After these more technical sections, the book tackles many of the traditions and customs of the Navy and the Academy, like the iconic Naval Academy ring and the Ring Dance that commemorates it—plus parades, songs, slang, notable accomplishments of graduates, and much more.
Naval Service Section
The Naval Service Section is more straightforward. It lays out current chains of command and provides a snapshot of today’s Navy in terms of personnel and number of ships. It also covers the Mission of the Navy, Navy Core Values, how to render a salute, and other important topics.
Other Service Academies
Finally, the book ends with summaries and histories of “Other Service Academies,” including the U.S. Military, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine Academies, our brother and sister academies with whom we share a common goal to protect and preserve our nation.
Phew! We have only scratched the surface of this little book, and it is fascinating. Since its first publication, Reef Points has been helping midshipmen navigate the rigors of the Academy and prepare for their futures as military leaders. From traditions, to the philosophies of today’s leaders, to some of the lesser known historical points of the Academy, it’s all in this little book, which I’ve dog-eared and digested (though not literally—at least not yet!).