They watched clumps of their hair tumble to the floor, lined up for physicals and got a crash course in saluting -- all in hopes of someday becoming Navy and Marine officers. Last week, 1,220 young men and women -- most just weeks out of high school -- endured the grueling annual ritual known as Induction Day at the U.S. Naval Academy, trading in their civilian status for the lowly rank of plebe. Now the lessons really begin.
The Class of 2009 immediately began "Plebe Summer," a punishing six-week boot camp of 16-hour days during which they'll run obstacle courses; learn to shoot, sail and tie knots; and immerse themselves in learning the academy's traditions, regulations and rigid honor code.
They'll also take 38 hours of academic placement exams that will test them in science, mathematics, English and a foreign language.
Among this year's incoming freshmen class are 76 midshipmen who previously served in the Navy or Marines, including two combat veterans and one Purple Heart winner. The class also includes 11 international students from Guyana, Honduras, Ireland, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
-- Ray Rivera