Wildman’s tour of the U.S. Naval Academy

U.S. Naval Academy students line up for lunch in platoons.

U.S. Naval Academy students line up for lunch in platoons.

Editor’s note: Coming soon to Off Campus with Lance & Asher presented by FootJoy: Asher Wildman shows you the daily life of a Navy Golfer, as well as life on the U.S. Naval Academy Campus. Be sure to check back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for new video’s on Off Campus.

• • •

The Wildman is flying back home today from Annapolis, Md., site of the U.S. Naval Academy. Today, I thought I would share some experiences and thoughts from my time with the future leaders of America.

Arriving at the Naval Academy, I had an idea of what to expect. Part of me thought the campus would be filled with body-building-looking men running all throughout campus. On the other hand, it was often difficult to determine if there were more tourists on campus or students. The Naval Academy has 4,400 students, but there are tours on the campus all throughout the day.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re the animals in the zoo,” Navy senior golfer Ben Hayes said. “People point at us, take pictures, and we just go about our business acting like we don’t see them. It’s a bid odd at times.”

The day started by meeting Hayes in the courtyard in the morning, followed by watching his presentation in his polar oceanography class. I was lost when the teacher started reading off coordinates from somewhere in the Arctic.

While Ben had class for two hours, it gave me an opportunity to tour the Navy Golf Club. From the tips, the course is no more than 6,800 yards, has small greens, thick rough and, of course, great scenery. After wishing I were playing rather than touring, it was time to get to my lunch reservation with 4,400 future naval officers.

Lunch was intimidating. Before the midshipmen can enter the dining hall, there is a mandatory lineup at noon, when they fall into formation with their platoons. From there, they march their way in to the music of the Navy band.

At the lunch tables, students sat with their platoons and were served family style. All 4,400 sit in a cafeteria that could be considered the largest Thanksgiving dinner ever organized. On the menu that day was grilled and fried chicken, along with fresh-baked cookies and bagged Sun Chips. “The only thing we don’t like to eat are the casseroles,” Hayes said. “We don’t like them because we never know what the meat in them is.”

Fortunately, that was something I didn’t have to experience.

After lunch, Hayes took us to his dorm, which holds four desks and beds for himself and three roommates. The room is small, but they don’t hold many possessions. Everyone gets a desk, bed, chair and closet with their uniforms - and that’s it. In fact, when freshman come to campus on move-in day, their parents are given a plastic bag with what their child wore to the academy that day. After they move in, all their clothes are now uniforms.

Hayes continued the tour of the relatively small campus to the athletics facilities, gym, class buildings and chapel. There were some interesting anecdotes, along with some even more juicy traditions and rituals they do on campus.

The tour concluded back at the golf course, which is a luxurious getaway for the golfers from their hectic, fully-loaded schedule at the academy. A typical day for a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman starts at 6 a.m. and won’t end until midnight.

It’s not uncommon for student-athletes across the country to have long days, but seeing a Naval Academy’s daily itinerary made me stop and think if I ever had a single day that hard in my four years of college.

The day was unique and eye-opening at the same time. I entered not knowing what to really expect or think, and left kind of feeling the same way. One thing I do know for certain is how much I appreciate the people that choose to commit a large portion of their lives to serve and protect our country. That’s something that goes overlooked.

Walking around campus, hearing the bells go off signaling classes getting out, it at times felt like high school. Everything was so structured, everyone walked with a purpose. It was an amazing day, and it was great to be a part of that world for a day.

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