A line of thousands snaked around Alumni Hall and down toward Stribling Walk Wednesday morning as members of the Naval Academy's Class of 2019 said good-bye to their families and prepared to leave their civilian lives behind.
The academy planned to induct nearly 1,200 new students, ushering waves of plebes-to-be through a battery of stations to take a physical, get their uniforms, cut their hair and learn to render a proper salute.
The Class of 20195 is 27 percent women and 36 percent minority, according to academy statistics, with 12 international students from Albania, Cambodia, Georgia, Korea, Montenegro, Taiwan, Thailand and two each from Turkey and the Philippines.
Sixty-one are prior enlisted, as well — 50 sailors and 11 Marines.
"I'm a little excited," 18-year-old Daniel Buckley, of California, Maryland, told Navy Times as he thought of his upcoming crash course in uniform wear and saluting from a gaggle of stern Marine lieutenants.
"I think the shots and giving blood was the most traumatic, but it wasn't bad," Buckley he added, seated in a barber chair while barber Leroy Evans, a veteran of 33 -year Iinduction Ddays, veteran barber Leroy Evans shaved his Buckley's shoulder-length mane down to a regulation buzz cut.
While Naval Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes, Illinois, has started a pilot program to stop buzzing men and cutting women's hair into bobs — instead letting them follow fleet grooming regulations — the academy is keeping the plebe haircut tradition alive.
Buckley said he's following in the footsteps of his father, an academy grad and former P-3 Orion pilot, as well as his brother, a current P-8A Poseidon pilot. He also has his eye on P-8s, he said.
2nd Lt. Ben Pope was one of those Marines spending his day teaching the new plebes the finer points of blouse tucking and cover placement, starting his day at 6 a.m. with the first wave of inductees.
"It's great right now and then you hit hour 12 and, it's still great, but you're a lot more tired," he said.
It's also great to be on the other side of Induction Day, he said, adding that he was confident that the new plebes would enjoy themselves.
"It's all a big laugh from here," he joked.
While most of his fellow Marines from the class of 2015 are heading off to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, soon, Pope landed a coveted graduate school spot straight out of the academy.
He's heading to Georgia Tech in the fall to study operations research, one of eight second2nd lieutenants and 20 ensigns from the academy chosen to go directly to a master's program and begin their obligated service afterward.
Throughout the day, the inductees weaved their way through more than a dozen stations at Alumni Hall, as officials inspected everything from their going through inspections from vision and blood pressure to their tattoos and piercings, ensuring everything was within regulationsto make sure everything's in regulation.
Into the fray
I-Day is the plebes' introduction to nearly all aspects of Navy, which included a chance to meet their campus chaplains and get acquainted their first brush with to the Navy's sexual assault prevention and response program.
"Our purpose today is to introduce ourselves," said Capt. Lyn Hammer, the academy's SAPR program manager. "And really, depending on the to-be plebe — if they came from college they're probably familiar with the program; if they came from the fleet, they're certainly familiar."
They'll get their first official SAPR training in two days, Hammer said, but it's important from day one to let them know that that the staff is there for them, particularly on the response side.
"The truth is, folks do come here that have already experienced sexual assault in their lives," she said. "It could be that maybe, in the next few weeks, they need to talk to someone, or finally would like to. We like to let them know we're here."
When they've made it through the check-in labyrinth, the plebes will go getto their rooms at Bancroft Hall and spend a few hours unpacking and organizing their quarters.
In the evening they'll meet back up with their parents after they take the oath of office, and then it's two weeks without contact and another five weeks after that before they begin classes.
"It was a blur, the first two days," said Ensign Matt Faber, who is heading to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, this fall.
"I remember talking to my parents after the oath, and the rest of it was just, 'What happened?' " he recalled.
Thursday will mark their first day of Plebe Summer, as it's called, a crash course in basic military skills, including seamanship, navigation, damage control, sailing and handling the academy's fleet of handling yard patrol craft.
During those seven weeks, the plebes have no access to media, including TV, Internet or music, with only three total phone calls allowed.
"It's a mixture of nervous and excitement," said Gayle McNamara, as she watched her 20-year-old son, Pierce, walk into Alumni Hall. "He's thrilled to be here, and he's a little bit nervous about the uncertainty."
McNamara spent a year at the Marion Military Institute in Alabama, closer to his New Orleans hometown, before getting the call to Annapolis, his mother said.
An appointment to the Naval Academy has been her son's lifetime dream, she added, though it was bittersweet to watch him go.
"I'm happy for him," she said. "Everyone has been very wonderful and very welcoming, so I know that they'll take care of him."