Naval Academy midshipmen sworn into a plebe summer like no other

The oath of office for incoming midshipmen hasn’t changed much since 1884 — language-wise. But this year, everything surrounding those words is different.

“Class of ’24, it is great to see you all in person,” Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said Saturday afternoon.

Buck greeted the class twice, as the midshipmen were split into two groups of about 600 for their Oath of Office ceremony.

The ceremony is usually one of the last moments of an event filled Induction Day, but coronavirus restrictions meant this year new midshipmen signed an oath of office on paper more than two weeks ago at the start of their unusual Induction spread across four days.

For the last two weeks, plebes have been undergoing strict restriction of movement, confined mostly to their dorm rooms with meals delivered and classwork online (with restricted internet access).

So while they’ve technically already been sworn in, Saturday marked the end of their quarantine. After standing for the oath and before raising their right hands, midshipmen were ordered to remove their black cloth masks.  

“Nothing about this summer has been traditional so far,” Buck said before the oath. “From here on out, we’re getting back to what we do best here in Annapolis, and that’s to build and develop leaders.”

The Class of 2024 includes 364 women and 424 minority midshipmen, 30% and 35of the 1,194-strong class made of students from every state, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico, as well as 13 countries.

Following the academy’s spirit of innovation and adaption, COVID restrictions may make this the hardest plebe summer yet.

“Every aspect of pretty much everything we’ve been doing and are going to do is different. it’s unprecedented,” academy spokesperson Cmdr. Alana Garas said.

“It’s definitely going to be tough.”

Selene San Felice is a features and enterprise reporter at The Capital in Annapolis, where she survived the newsroom shooting on June 28, 2018. She graduated in Dec. 2016 from the University of Tampa, where she was honored in 2019 as the school’s first distinguished alumni in journalism.