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U.S. Naval Academy senior selects the ship he'll serve on following graduation.

Ship Selection Night: Naval Academy Mids Explain Their Picks

Naval Academy seniors assigned to serve as surface warfare officers will select their first ship Jan. 30. You can watch the event here starting at 6:30 p.m. (EST).

Ship selection is the culmination of the service assignment process for Naval Academy midshipmen assigned to serve as Navy surface warfare officers (SWO) upon graduation and commissioning. As Navy surface warfare officers, these midshipmen may be in charge of any number of shipboard operations and activities while at sea, and are trained extensively to maintain and operate Navy ships, their crews and their systems.

For the selection process, midshipmen are placed in order by their overall order of merit, which is their cumulative class rank based on academic, military and physical standings within their class. The options available to the midshipmen for selection include a variety of Navy ships, such as destroyers and frigates, based out of homeports worldwide. Midshipmen are only permitted to choose from the selection still available at the time their name is called.

The event is also an opportunity for the midshipmen to meet their future leadership and to be welcomed into the Surface Warfare community. The Commander of Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, will address the midshipmen at the beginning of the event, and the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5), Vice Adm. Michelle Howard will also be in attendance. Many Navy surface warfare community leaders such as ship captains, executive officers and other staff members will also be present to welcome the midshipmen to the community.

The future Surface Warfare Officers of the class of 2014 will graduate May 23 and will report for duty at their selected homeports soon after graduation.

Three of the midshipmen share their picks below.

Midn. 1/c Brynn Umbach

Brynn Umbach

What platform do you want to select and why? 

My three mentors, Cmdr. Mark Carter, U.S. Navy Reserve (my sponsor dad), Cmdr. Rob Lightfoot, U.S. Navy, and Lt. Cmdr. Huljack, U.S. Navy, all encouraged me to seriously consider selecting a cruiser or a destroyer as my first ship. Cruisers and destroyers sounded appealing because of the tight knit crew size, exciting missions, and exposure to a variety of new technologies. This past summer, I trained aboard USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93) as she sailed from South Korea to Hong Kong.  I had an absolutely incredible experience which leads me to select a destroyer.

What homeport do you want to select and why?

Choosing a homeport was not as easy as selecting a ship platform.  After wavering between Rota, Spain; Mayport, Fla.; and San Diego, Calif., I finally settled on San Diego.  The Navy’s strategic focus appears to be concentrating more in the Pacific. As a native Texan, living in a warm climate is a must.  Additionally, my fiancé, Ens. Garrett Gray, U.S. Navy, is an explosive ordnance disposal officer, and there are multiple EOD mobile units in San Diego. Being close to my family is also very important to me, and I have a lot of family in California as well as in Texas.

What led you to selecting the surface warfare community?  

I do not have any immediate family in the military, so when I first came to the Naval Academy, I thought every midshipman who commissioned would serve aboard a ship. During my first class cruise aboard USS Chung-Hoon, I was fortunate enough to visit Asia. The welcoming and professional crew, the exciting missions, and the incredible port call to Hong Kong confirmed that I aspire to serve my country aboard a Navy guided-missile destroyer.

What do you look forward to doing as a Surface Warfare Officer?

I most look forward to serving as a division officer and leading a group of highly talented Sailors who have chosen the same profession as I have. I am excited to learn as much as I can from the wardroom, the chief’s mess, and the crew. Having had the privilege of visiting Europe, Africa, and Asia as a midshipman, I am thrilled to continue traveling around the world and visit even more exciting places.

Does being the first midshipman to select your ship make it easier or harder to pick?

Definitely easier! I have the honor and privilege of selecting a great ship in a great homeport where I can serve and hopefully also achieve my professional and personal goals.

Midn. 1/c Melissa Chan

Melissa Chan
What platform do you want to select and why?

I am planning to select a destroyer because I prefer a tight-knit crew. I think it’s the best way to jump-start my career as a naval officer.

What homeport do you want to select and why?

I want to select Yokosuka, Japan, as my homeport because I want to be with the forward deployed units. It is the most suitable choice as the United States “pivots” its focus to the Pacific.

What led you to selecting the surface warfare community?

Majority of my training at the Academy is SWO-related whether it’s through seamanship/navigation classes or the Yard Patrol Craft squadron, so it only seemed appropriate to go down this pipeline. From my time as a corpsman (HM), I never dreamed of driving ships, but it inevitably became part of my life. Since my enlistment, I’ve come to realize even more that you have to have an open-mind when serving in the military. No matter what area we are called to serve, we need to keep in mind the reason why we’re here: to serve our nation to the best of our abilities.

What do you look forward to doing as a SWO?

I am lucky to attend the Naval Academy. I feel blessed for having so many people put forth their time and effort in bringing me here today. Nevertheless, I am ready to get to work! I look forward to working with the men and women in the forward deployed units.

How and why did you decide to serve as a SWO Nuke?

Why did I decide to serve as a SWO Nuke? I barely know why I joined the Navy when I first enlisted. It just seemed right. I never imagined myself entering the Naval Academy, but I thank HM2 Michael Ehrhardt for that. As the years went on, I always admired the Nuke SWOs. I didn’t think it was possible until my company officer, Lt. Ryan Kelly, encouraged me to go for it!  Next thing I know, it’s ship selection!

Midn. 1/c Matthew Aiken

Matthew Aiken

What platform do you want to select and why?

I’m planning on being on a DDG destroyer that way I can get started on getting my SWO pin and get some great experience under my belt from the start.

What homeport do you want to select and why?

I am going to select Norfolk, Va. Being from Roanoke, Va., I will still be able to see my family often on the holidays whenever I’m not deployed of course. They also have a large selection of the type of ships I’m looking to be on.

What led you to selecting the surface warfare community?

Throughout my time at the academy, I have done a lot of summer training spending time in Norfolk and San Diego with the SWO community and I feel like it’s the best fit for me. I’m looking forward to getting out in the fleet and learning a lot from the people around me.

What do you look forward to doing as a SWO?

First of all, I’m ready to get out there on my own and be able to come to work everyday and learn from those guys and girls who have been in the fleet way longer than I have. I’m also looking forward to traveling the world and serving this great country.

Midn. 1/c Matthew Aiken
Midn. 1/c Matthew Aiken

How do you think being a co-captain of the football team has prepared you for serving as a SWO?

Being a captain here was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. It really forced me to grow up and be more responsible for my actions. I had the privilege of being able to be captain of a bunch of guys who are great leaders themselves and I learned a lot from them. The coaches that are a part of Navy football are incredible role models for us. They don’t just teach us plays and schemes, but they also dedicate themselves to making us better sons, better men, and better husbands and fathers in the future.

If you could pick a ship, what would you choose?



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