Early this morning, 274 new candidates from the Class of 2016 reported to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy for their first official day of Indoctrination.
Surrounded by proud parents and happy siblings, candidates appeared somewhat relaxed standing underneath the hot sun. Ricky Fisher, 18, from Nashville, TN, turned down West Point and the Coast Guard Academy to attend Kings Point. He said he felt a little nervous, but was more excited about starting his four-year journey. “I know it’s going to be hard, but worth it,” he said. As he walked away, Rosemary, his mother, wiped away tears. She explained that Ricky is the first of seven, soon-to-be eight, kids. “He’s a leader in our family,” she said. “We’re all very proud of him and can’t wait to see him on his breaks.”
Christine Patlovany, 19, from Denver, CO, also claimed to be more excited than nervous about her start at the Academy. “I’m expecting that my legs are going to hurt, it’s going to be hot, and people are going to yell at me,” she smiled as she spoke. “But I’m really grateful for this opportunity and very excited.”
After warm goodbyes and tight embraces, candidates anxiously lined up outside O’Hara Hall. They entered the building in groups of five. “Gear down, shoes off, and shirts tucked in!” a female upperclassman barked at the candidates who quickly lost the color in their faces. Height and weight measurements followed, and the young men and women obeyed every order without hesitation.
Candidates moved into the gym where they picked up name plates, filled out forms, dropped off luggage, and began training. They lined up. They ran. They yelled. Elizabeth Rose, 17, from Hamilton, OH, said she didn’t mind the shouting. “I’m not used to it, but I’ll get used to it,” she said.
Outside O’Hara Hall, on Barney Square, upperclassmen separated candidates into five companies. “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” they screamed. Standing tall, candidates began reading their Bearings Book, which shook in their unsteady hands. They memorized as much information as they could about the Academy.
Candidates were soon directed to the Barracks. Janay Weathers, 1/c, checked them in and assigned them rooms. “Ma’am! Good morning, ma’am!” quivering voices approached her. Weathers described the constant screaming and ordering around during Indoctrination as “a training period intended to break down the candidates and build them back up as one.”
Families were finally reunited at a distance on Barney Square just before noon. Candidates, wearing their PT gear of gray shirts, navy shorts, camelbacks, and caps, chanted and marched in line within their respective companies. After a brief speech from the Commandant, Capt. Jay Kennedy, and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, candidates waved goodbye to their parents, and marched off to the booming sound of cadence drummers.