We’re a small band of brothers and sisters. Just 1,200 USNA midshipmen are accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy each year, and a bit over 1,000 of us will graduate four years later. We’re a hardy lot, accustomed to long hours and late nights, tough physical training sessions and hard leadership lessons. While we enter as plebes, we leave as commissioned naval leaders, ready and equipped to help protect our country and preserve its freedoms. Along the way as midshipmen (and as midshipgoat) for our four years here, we learn what it takes to survive and thrive. We also learn the tips and tricks that get us there.
For maybe the first time ever, we’re letting you look past the USNA Library, the USNA Barbershop and more—and peek behind the curtains of our dorm rooms in Bancroft Hall to see how we do it….
The Physical Mission: Tricks to Power Through It
The U.S. Naval Academy is known for its rigorous academic curriculum. As one of the most highly selective colleges in the country, its reputation is top-notch. Along with the academic challenges, the physical challenges are just as demanding. In fact, the “Physical Mission” is one of the pillars of the Academy’s tenets—and its success. It starts the moment the plebes are sworn in on Induction Day, and continues throughout our career here. Plebe Summer is famously hard, with the Annapolis heat and humidity and a tough fitness regimen. It’s easy to get blisters and other cuts and scrapes. So we keep bandages, Neosporin®, and moleskin on hand (and hoof) to keep us moving.
At the end of the year, we face another milestone. It’s one of the most grueling physical activities, and it happens just before we graduate from plebe-dom and become 4th class midshipmen. That is the event known as Sea Trials, an incredibly exhausting test of fitness, strength, resolve, persistence and teamwork that lasts for fourteen hours. Since we can’t let any obstacles keep us from working with our fellow midshipmen to achieve this awesome goal, we guzzle mustard to keep cramps at bay. It sounds crazy, but it really works! For some midshipmen the taste is worse than the stitches, but they power through to complete the Sea Trials.
Related: Can You Handle the Midshipmen Fitness Routine?
The USNA Uniforms: Tips To Keep Them Pristine
We also have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to keeping our uniforms in top shape. Years ago, plebes would use a toothbrush with shoe polish to get in between the sole of the shoe and the leather upper, where dirt and dust inevitably settled. We also use white-out or white paint to mask any scuffs on our white shoes and paint and gloss for our black shoes to keep them shiny and like new.
To ensure our white uniforms remain spot free, we dab q-tips in bleach and touch them up. We also use stain-removing wipes or pens, and we rely on simple white chalk to cover any stains. How do we tackle inevitable odors? Fabric softeners to the rescue!
To keep our uniforms sized right, we depend on the lowly safety pin. It also works wonders on my USNA blanket. For female midshipmen who want to keep their hair out of their eyes and in regulation, Bobby pins do the job. They’re also great when we dress up for the Ring Dance and other festive occasions. We all also line the inside of our covers with socks to avoid any staining from the metal insert on the liner. These little tricks make a big difference!
Our Racks: Put Disorder to Bed
Since we regularly undergo room inspections with little to no notice, one big hack that helps save prep time is how we sleep. Instead of crawling into our beds, we often sleep on top of an already-made rack so we don’t have to make it every morning (this is a trick you can try at home). We’ve also been known to put shirt stays on the bottom of our racks. They keep the corners tight—and safety pins can help here too. Our rooms also benefit from a little help.
Meal Time: Ways to Make It Last Longer
We all love King Hall, but we can only access meals at certain times. So when those late-night cravings hit, we need to think ahead. Many of us have grabbed peanut butter and yogurt from King Hall during dinner so we can enjoy it later as we burn the midnight oil. It’s a great way to refuel late-night study sessions. Also, we never say no to SnackMagic boxes if you want to send a care package!
Related: Treat a Midshipman: How to Order Essentials for Your USNA Student.
So there you have it. It’s been said by Scottish essayist, historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle that “Man is a tool-using Animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.” These tips, tricks and hacks are the tools we use to make our experience as midshipmen (and midshipgoats) even better. We know there are more out there, so let us know your favorites!
Come visit too. Every time you visit the Yard, take a tour, eat at our restaurants and shop at our stores, you’re supporting the midshipmen. See us and learn some more about the midshipmen's life!
Please Note: The events, companies, destinations and/or products mentioned in this article are only suggestions. Readers should not consider these suggestions as an endorsement by the United States Naval Academy or any other component of the Department of Defense.