Nearly 1,200 Students Arrive at Naval Academy for Induction Day: 'Plebes Come in Knowing That They Know Nothing'

U.S. Naval Academy welcomed approximately 1,200 members into the Class of 2028
Ensign Michael Boukhaled, right, instructs incoming plebes on how to proceed outside Alumni Hall. The U.S. Naval Academy welcomed approximately 1,200 members into the Class of 2028 when they reported for Induction Day. (Paul W. Gillespie/Staff photo)

Jack Clark had a sense of familiarity when he arrived at the Naval Academy on Thursday morning to be inducted into the Class of 2028. For 10 years, the Broadneck High School graduate and his water polo team practiced there, a sport that got him recruited to the institution.

“Once he started playing [water polo] and got exposed to the Naval Academy and seeing all the midshipmen, it just strengthened his desire to come here,” said his dad, Shane Clark.

One of 23 incoming freshman from Anne Arundel County, Clark lined up with the nearly 1,200 students from around the country at Alumni Hall Thursday morning for the first day of Plebe Summer, a rigorous six-week program that prepares first-year students for the next four years at the academy.

“I have a family background of military service and I’ve always just wanted to serve, and I felt like the Naval Academy was just right,” said Jack Clark.

Throughout the day, the plebes — as freshmen are known — received uniforms, underwent medical examinations and the men got a mandatory buzzcut. Once they looked the part, they were taught how to salute and received a copy of “Reef Points,” a 225-page introduction to the academy they are expected to memorize.

The plebes were encouraged to use any downtime to start studying the guide and may be quizzed on it at any point.

“The plebes come in knowing that they know nothing,” said Brigade Master Chief Jay Holley. “Plebe Summer is just as much an opportunity for the first midshipmen to learn how to lead and to put into practice the things that they’ve learned over time.”

During the summer session, students lose access to their phones and most of their personal possessions. Each inductee was issued a large white bag, known as a “Santa sack,” which they carried throughout the day, gathering the uniforms and gear that will be their sole belongings for the summer. At the end of the day, they hauled the stuffed sack back to their new dormitories.

Midshipman MaryClare Oliver spent the day helping during the induction process. She remembers her induction day fondly, as it took place during the height of the pandemic in summer 2020. Though her family couldn’t be there because of the quarantine requirements, she settled in quickly.

“Plebe Summer feels really long, your plebe year feels really long, but then the rest of the time goes really fast,” Oliver said. “You get to do fun stuff. …We got to go to the rifle range, and you get to do obstacle courses.”

The first years will spend the next several weeks learning the basics of military protocol, seamanship, weaponry and physical training.

“Knowing that this connects me to 200 years of naval officers, it’s just amazing,” said Rockville native Elizabeth Pearson, a recent graduate of St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.

The day culminated at 6 p.m., when the plebes took an oath to become midshipman in front of their families and academy leadership. Guests included school Superintendent Yvette Davis and Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. Walter Allman III, who administered the oath, as well as U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro.

“Today, you have chosen to embark upon a new and more arduous journey than any of you ever faced before,” Davis told the plebes. “You will be pushed past yourself perceived limits. You will face adversary head on, and in the process, you will learn more about yourself and the leader we need you to become every single day.”

Following the ceremony, the freshmen had 30 minutes to say goodbye to their families, who they won’t see again until mid-August.

Many of those family members went through the Naval Academy themselves. Caleb Kang, a freshman from Louisville, Kentucky, arrived with his sister Samantha, a rising sophomore. He’s been interested in attending since watching his sister’s induction.

“I feel ready now,” Kang said. “I came last year and I was just sitting, and now I’m actually here. I am excited to learn how to shoot … wear all the uniforms and be engaged in everything.”

Induction Day marks the beginning of a nine-year commitment for the plebes; four years at the Naval Academy and then five years of active military service.

Clark says he feels a sense of pride for this next journey.

“I want to take away a good experience, learning the military background, the military experience more and be able to put that in my life,” Clark said.

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