1,200 plebes navigate controlled chaos of Induction Day, as class of 2026 begin its Naval Academy journey

By Brian JeffriesCapital Gazette

Jun 30, 2022 at 5:45 pm

The Naval Academy welcomed 1187 incoming freshman, or what they call, plebes, during Induction Day, Thursday, June 30, 2022, to begin their plebe summer. 

A new class of Naval Academy midshipmen was inducted into the academy Thursday for Induction Day.

The sun had only barely risen when the first wave of plebes, the term used for new midshipmen, and their families lined up, preparing to say their goodbyes before they were ushered into the building to start their academy journey.

Among the the first to receive his nametag was, Jackson Nguyen, 18, of Huntsville, Alabama. Nguyen and his family arrived at Alumni Hall at 8:30 a.m. Unlike some of the other future midshipmen, Nguyen’s demeanor was composed, looking more adult than his young face.

“I’m so impressed with how calm he is honestly,” said mother Jill Nguyen. “He’s just prepared and it shows. … It’s bitter sweet for me. I’m happy for him, but I’m nervous not knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Nguyen is the son of retired Army Col. Thomas Nguyen, a 1986 graduate of Annapolis High School who went on to serve nearly three decades in the Army.

“I’m just so proud to be able to carry on a lineage of service that’s been going on in my family since World War II,” Jackson Nguyen said in an interview ahead of I-Day.

Nguyen has spent much of his life moving between military bases with his family. He said he was excited to follow in the footsteps of his father, mother and sister — all of whom have served or are currently serving in the Army.

“I knew I wanted to do something different than the Army, so getting into the Naval Academy gave me an opportunity to fulfill my goal of service at the highest level,” he said. “Being here [in Annapolis] just resonates with me.”

Along their I-Day journey, plebes were poked, prodded, sized and had their hair cut short, as they navigated Alumni Hall.

Everyone at the academy was excited to greet the class of 2026, including Capt. Robert Mcfarlin, plebe summer officer in charge.

“The plebes checking in today have a lot on their minds, and I hope they have a lot of pride for making it here because it is very challenging”, Mcfarlin said. “We just need them to come encouraged, motivated and ready to go and we’ll take it from there.”

With uncertainty and nervousness evident on plebes’ faces, the summer sun offered them no relief as they waited patiently to be processed.

Those jitters turned to confusion and anxiety as upperclassmen barked orders, urging the plebes to “move,” “go faster” and “hurry up.” It can come off as a bit over the top, but it’s controlled chaos, said Andre Rascoe, the 2022 graduating class’ president who will be joining the submarine community in Connecticut later this year.

“The goal is to help prepare them to handle the rigors of life here on campus as much as possible,” he said. “And that preparation begins today.”

Jackson Nguyen may perhaps be more prepared than some of his fellow mids.

Not only has he seen the military life first hand but he is reporting to the Naval Academy after spending the last year at the Peddie School, a college preparatory school in Hightstown, New Jersey.

“I don’t think I can ever truly be ready but I’m certainly prepared,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen’s family immigrated to America in 1975 during the Vietnam War just weeks before the capital of Saigon fell. Thomas Nguyen was eight years old. The family ended up in Annapolis.

After graduating from Towson University in 1990, the elder Nguyen was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and retired as an Army colonel with 27 years of active duty service.

Now it’s his son’s chance to serve his country, Thomas Nguyen said, though he never required Jackson to do so.

“There was never any pressure for my children to join the military but I’m extremely proud of Jackson deciding to go to such a great institution, and I can’t help but reflect on how amazing life is in coming full circle,” Thomas Nguyen said.

Once he gets situated Nguyen plans to run cross country as he did in high school back in Alabama. Ultimately he, like so many other midshipmen, wants to end up in a cockpit flying fighter jets but concedes even if that doesn’t work out the Navy has copious opportunities that would satisfy him.

One of the most important steps for the new mids was getting their own copy of Reef Points — a book that serves as their introduction to the Naval Academy, explaining its mission, history and traditions. Plebes are expected to memorize the book’s 225 pages and more than 1,000 facts.

As soon as it’s issued, plebes are pushed to start reading.

The day culminated with inductees participating in an oath of office ceremony at 6 p.m. in front of Bancroft Hall. After the ceremony, plebes say goodbye to their families until Plebe Parent weekend starting Aug. 11. Plebes then muster on Stribling Walk and are led into the massive dormitory.

For Jackson Nguyen and his fellow mids, the grueling six-week Plebe Summer officially begins. Jackson’s family will leave Annapolis for Alabama. The waterfront city will always be home to him, Thomas Nguyen said, but now it has even more meaning.

“I come back here once or twice a year, when I can anyway, because it’s where my heart is. But now I have extra incentive to visit the city since Jackson will be here,” Nguyen said with a smile.