To thunderous applause on Thursday night, 256 future Navy Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) selected the ships they'll serve on, at an event billed as SWO version of the NFL draft.
Vice Adm. Richard Brown, who assumed command of Naval Surface Forces and Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet on Jan. 18., had some motivational words for the first class midshipmen, now nearing the end of their time at the U.S. Naval Academy.
"Believe it it or not, in five or six months you're going to be standing in front of a division of sailors leading them at sea," Brown said.
The first ship they serve on will set the course for the rest of their career, he said.
Family members, sponsors and other midshipmen held signs and cheered from the upper level of Alumni Hall, while one by one men and women assigned to the Surface Warfare community walked down to the stage and picked their ship from a magnetic board. Ships are selected by order of merit, a cumulative class rank based on academic, military and physical standing.
The ships were organized on the board by homeport -- Norfolk, San Diego, Spain, Japan and more.
Christine Chhor of Severna Park chose the U.S.S. John Paul Jones, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer homeported at Pearl Harbor. Chhor said going into the event she knew she wanted to go to Pearl Harbor, but decided to pick the John Paul Jones at the last minute.
Chhor is a first-generation American, and her family on both her mother's and father's side came to America as refugees from Cambodia after spending time in concentration camps during the Khmer Rouge regime. That's one of the reasons she wanted to go to the Naval Academy.
"I thought that I wanted to give back to the country that gave my family a second chance," she said.
Caitlyn Vernon of Millersville chose the U.S.S. Thomas Hudner, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named for a Medal of Honor recipient and set to be commissioned in late September in Boston. She'll be one of the first officers to serve on the ship, which is homeported at Mayport, Florida.
Vernon said her father, Wayne Vernon, sent letters to every living Medal of Honor recipient a few years ago. Hudner was one of the ones who replied.
"It said 'to Officer Wayne Vernon and your children, best of luck," she said. "Once I saw he got a reply from Hudner, I was like, I have to get that ship. It was meant to be."
Hudner received his Medal of Honor for risking his life in an attempt to save his squadron mate, who was also the Navy's first African-American aviator, when the man's plane was forced down behind enemy lines during the Korean War. Hudner died in November at the age of 93.
This article is written by Rachael Pacella from The Capital, Annapolis, Md. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.