Naval Academy to hold in-person commissioning ceremony for class of 2021 after COVID changed 2020 plans


Navy graduation 2014

Navy graduation 2014

Midshipman Christopher Junghans of Dunkirk, Md., celebrates after receiving his diploma. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)1 / 102

The Naval Academy will be holding an in-person graduation and commissioning ceremony.

Graduation on May 28 will be held at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, with limited guests allowed to attend Commissioning Week events, according to a release from the Naval Academy.

Midshipmen in the class of 2021 are expected to be allowed between two to four guests, depending on the events. The Yard will be closed to visitors outside of the invited and authorized personnel.

Details were limited, with more expected to come. The schedule will keep as many traditional events as possible, according to the release. The Blue Angel’s rehearsal and demonstration, the Color Parade, graduation and the commissioning ceremony are all on the schedule.

The Ring Dance for the Class of 2022 will be postponed to the fall semester, according to the release. The release did not include the Herndon Climb, which usually occurs during Commissioning Week. The climb, along with a traditional Commissioning Week, was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer an in-person celebration of Class of 2021′s hard work and accomplishments over the last four years with their families here in Annapolis,” Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in the release. “We tried to preserve as many of the events that graduating midshipmen and their families look forward to as part of Commissioning Week while also prioritizing the health and safety of our soon-to-be graduates and their families, as well as our local community. We look forward to welcoming the families of the Class of 2021 to Annapolis in May for this joyous occasion.”

The release did not include who might give the keynote speech. Last year, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gave the speech, which is usually delivered by the president, vice president, or secretary of defense.

The Naval Academy held its first digital commissioning in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced midshipmen home after spring break.

Instead of a large ceremony, first-year midshipmen returned to the Yard to participate in one of five private swearing-in events. Those were filmed and shown during the live-streamed graduation.

In a surprise, the Blue Angels flew over the Naval Academy, despite the flyover initially being canceled.

Commissioning Week can bring an economic boost for Annapolis, Gary Jobson, chairman of the board for Visit Annapolis, previously told The Capital. People visiting tend to populate local restaurants and stores.

People will also rent local properties, through agents or Airbnb, with rentals sometimes arranged years in advance. However, renters noticed more hesitancy in 2021, in part due to not knowing if commissioning would be held in person. In 2020, people sought refunds after having to cancel their reservations. While many people received refunds, some Naval Academy families did not.Heather MongilioCONTACT 

Heather Mongilio is the Report For America corps member with the Capital Gazette, where she covers military affairs. Mongilio previously reported at The Frederick News-Post and the Carroll County Times. She earned a master’s degree in science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree from American University.