It’s just about time for one of my favorite examples of N*ot College and I know I won’t be the only one tuning in – it’s SWO Ship Selection or as I like to call it, the SWO Game Show.
For those who are not 100% familiar, this is when the Firsties who received surface warfare as their service community get to select their first ship. Now, it’s pretty cool that they get to choose their first ship and home port, but the fact that USNA turns it into a combination pep rally & game show is totally next-level stuff.
There’s the big board on stage, showcasing all the ships broken down by the home port – seeing some of those tantalizing locations is pretty exciting for those of us who like to travel … Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, San Diego, Okinawa. I’ve often teased my kids that one thing they owe me is to live somewhere that I would enjoy vacationing. Almost all of these ports fit the bill!
So the stage is literally set and the pep rally gets rolling. There’s a lot of hype – some of the Firsties bring signs and last year they had Thundersticks. If you’re part of the Navy family (the Academy in particular), you can’t help but get excited.
For Firstie parents, the excitement is obvious, especially if their son or daughter is going SWO. But even if they’re not, they have come to know at least some of the Firsties participating in this “game show,” so at the very least it’s like a niece or nephew taking center stage.
For those of us with 2/C Mids, this is a big step. We are officially under 500 days until our Mids commission, so it’s finally starting to become real. This will be the last SWO Ship Selection before some of our Mids (or Mids we have come to know and love) cross that stage. Looking back, we were consumed with our son getting into the Academy. Once he got in, we were totally focused on getting him through Plebe Year. After that, we became totally absorbed with him simply being at the Academy and life as a Midshipman’s parent. Now we have to begin preparations for making the transition to life after the Academy. So as we watch to see if we can spot some of the Firsties we know, we’re also beginning (reluctantly, to be honest) to make that transition.
When I watched as a Youngster parent, it was with a certain sense of relief. After the numbing haze of Plebe Year, I had started to get beyond just hoping my son would survive the ordeal and began thinking, “hey, this could turn out to be all right.” Seeing the Firsties having a raucous good time while essentially selecting their first job was encouraging, to say the least.
Of course, as a Plebe parent, this was just one of about 1,000 things I didn’t comprehend at all about my son’s new life at the Academy. The main thing I took out of it was, these Mids seem happy, so maybe there will come a time when my now-Plebe will actually smile. It was concrete evidence that there was, indeed, light at the end of the tunnel.
I suspect parents of recent grads may find themselves tuning in, too, either looking for Firsties they recognize, seeing who may be joining their ensign on a ship or simply a sort of nostalgia. You see, I know we, as parents, have to make that transition from USNA parent to Navy parent, but it’s not going to be easy. And I am already expecting that there will be many moments when I look back at these days with fondness and even a little regret over not making the most of it.
So, yeah, I’ll be tuning in!