ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The future surface warfare officers (SWO) of the Naval Academy's Class of 2014 chose their first ships during a ceremony Jan. 30 in Mahan Hall.
Ship selection is one of the most significant events for the future SWOs of the senior class.
Of the 243 Midshipmen assigned to surface warfare, 184 will fill conventional surface billets, 32 will enter the nuclear surface community, and 27 are "option" SWOs. These mids will serve as conventional SWOs until they achieve their warfare qualifications. They then have the option to go into specialized fields such as meteorology and oceanography, information dominance and engineering duty.
The Midshipmen chose from 252 available billets, including 110 at Atlantic ports, 135 at Pacific ports and six in Bahrain. Pacific ports included Bremerton, Wash.; San Diego; Sasebo or Yokosuka, Japan; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Atlantic ports include Norfolk, Va., and Mayport, Fla.
Senior leaders from around the fleet attend the ceremony, joining ship commanding officers, executive officers and junior officers in welcoming the Navy's future ensigns into the surface warfare community.
"It's a very important night to the midshipmen," said Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander, Naval Surface Forces. "They spend their whole academic career getting ready to do this, and the night when they pick their ship where they're going to spend the next two to three years is a big deal. We should make the night as special as we can."
Ship selection is especially exciting for these Midshipmen because, unlike other service communities that require extensive in-school training before their officers reach the Fleet, surface warfare officers report to their ships directly after graduation.
"In very short order, they will be standing before a division at quarters and they will be asked to lead those people, possibly into dangerous situations," said Copeman. "They have to very quickly make sure they understand all the lessons that were taught here at the Naval Academy."
Midshipman 1st Class Brynn Umbach, who selected guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) out of San Diego, said she was attracted to that platform because of the small crew size, variety of missions, and newer technology on board.
"This past summer I trained on board USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) as she sailed from South Korea to Hong Kong," said Umbach, of The Woodlands, Texas. "I had an absolutely incredible experience which led me to select a destroyer."
Choosing a homeport was harder. In addition to the warm climate and being near her extended family in California, Umbach felt that a West Coast port offered more action.
"The Navy's strategic focus appears to be concentrating more in the Pacific," she said.
Midshipman 1st Class Michael Madrid, of Vancouver, Wash., chose guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, for the same reason.
"I want to be forward deployed and get a lot of experience up front, and I think there's going to be a lot of action out in the Pacific," said Madrid. "If you look at the news any day, there's definitely a lot going on in that region."
The U.S. has shifted its attention to the Asia-Pacific region in recent months to rebalance the power that was largely focused in the Middle East for more than a decade and ensure that the U.S. can respond to operational requirements in that area.
Midshipmen choose their ships according to their order of merit, which takes into account their academic performance, physical fitness and professionalism throughout their four years at the Naval Academy.
Listed are the top five Midshipmen from the 2014 surface warfare community and the ships and homeports they chose.
Midshipman 1st Class Brynn Umbach
USS Sampson (DDG 102)
San Diego, Calif.
Midshipman 1st Class Justin Chock
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Midshipman 1st Class Audrey Petro
USS Donald Cook (DDG 75)
Midshipman 1st Class Jillian Coughlin
USS Donald Cook (DDG 75)
Midshipman 1st Class Michael Madrid
USS Mustin (DDG 89)