By Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Nathan Wilkes, U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- Thousands of family members and friends arrived at the U. S. Navy Academy (USNA) to witness the culmination of the Class of 2019's Plebe Summer training during Plebe Parents' Weekend, Aug. 13-16.
Plebe Parents' Weekend provided an opportunity for parents to reunite with their sons and daughters after the intensive six weeks of Plebe Summer that leads into a midshipman's freshman year.
Plebe Summer, which began July 1, is a demanding, fast-paced boot camp-style orientation that begins four years of preparation before commissioning as naval officers. Plebes are subjected to physical and mental challenges, with the purpose of developing leadership ability, motivation, moral strength and physical skills.
Of the 1,191 men and women that began Plebe Summer six weeks ago, only 13 voluntarily dropped from the training; one of the lowest attrition rates of recent history. The USNA staff attributed the success to a focus on safety and well-planned training.
"The Class of 2019 has worked hard and done extremely well during their six weeks here at the academy," said Commandant of Midshipmen, Marine Corps Col. Stephen Liszewski. "This year we had one of the lowest attrition rates that we have seen in a long time, and by no means has the summer been easy. We have pushed them; molded them. They have endured and earned their place here."
The Class of 2019 is composed of 859 men and 324 women from all over the United States, as well as 12 international students. Ninety-two percent of the class competed in varsity athletics during high school and 32 percent come from college and post-high school preparatory programs.
"We are proud to say that this new class is one of the most culturally diverse and highly competitive that we have ever had at the academy," said Vice Adm. Ted Carter, USNA superintendent. "This is also the largest class of women and varsity athletes that we have ever had."
Many parents said they didn't recognize their sons and daughters, as, in just over a month, most of them had changed drastically. They stood taller and straighter, saying "sir" and "ma'am" and use Navy terms, acronyms and abbreviations with ease.
"This being the first time that we have been away from our child, it's been really hard and a huge adjustment for our family," said Wynette Bodily, mother of Midshipman Fourth Class Kalib Bodily. "We couldn't be more proud and we are so excited to see him."
During the three-day weekend, parents watched the plebes' formal parade, toured the dorms at Bancroft Hall, and met with faculty and staff members to get a glimpse of the life at the Naval Academy.
"We are incredibly excited and this is all really a lot to take in," said Mary Colton, mother of Midshipman Fourth Class J.P. Colton. "It's great to have the opportunity not only to support him during this huge time in his life, but to be able to get involved in some of the things that the plebes experience just makes you feel better about the whole thing."
The Class of 2019 is scheduled to join the entire Brigade of Midshipmen during a reform ceremony, Aug. 18. After the ceremony, plebes will move to their permanent company spaces in preparation of the academic school year.