The timeline for Midshipman First Class Joe Wiedemann’s decision came to an end as he approached the stage in Alumni Hall at the Naval Academy.
Would he choose the USS Tripoli out of San Diego or the USS Ronald Reagan out of Japan? The decision was a large one. Whatever ship he chose would be his first job after commissioning.
Wiedemann, who is from Bethesda, had been leaning toward the Tripoli until Wednesday when the Ronald Reagan was added to the list from which midshipmen could choose.
Wiedemann approached the stage around 6:30 p.m. Thursday and made his way to the board with all the ships. He pulled off the nameplate with USS Ronald Reagan listed on it. He will now be heading to Japan once he graduates from the Naval Academy.
Wiedemann was the first midshipman to select his ship as part of the ship selection at the academy. Ship selection allows the midshipmen assigned to surface warfare to pick on which ships they will start their naval careers.
Each of the 273 midshipmen got to walk up on the stage, as a song played, and pull the ship nameplate off of a board. Midshipmen could choose ships out of Everett, Washington, Norfolk, Virginia, San Diego, California, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Mayport, Florida, Rota, Spain, Yokosuka, Japan, and Sasebo, Japan.
There were 100 ships listed on the boards this year, said Cmdr. John Tobin, chairman of the Seamanship and Navigation Department. The first midshipmen to pick a ship in Japan and in Spain were given gifts from the attachés from each country.
The most popular locations were Spain and the two Japanese bases, Tobin said. Sure enough, the first base to have all of the ship spots taken was Rota. Pearl Harbor, another favorite among midshipmen, was second, with Yakouska going third and Sasebo going fifth.
San Diego is another popular base, Tobin said, as midshipmen gravitate away from the East Coast following graduation. San Diego was one of the largest ports listed on the board, with the largest in Norfolk.
Midshipmen were ordered based on the order of merit, which factored in grades, military grade, physical education and leadership, among other categories, Tobin said.
Wiedemann had the privilege of being first, which meant he was guaranteed the ship he wanted.
This was the first time the academy did ship selection during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the 2020 ship selection was done shortly before the first cases in the state were reported.
Instead of a full Alumni Hall, midshipmen were spaced out to follow social distancing guidelines. Friends and family got to tune in via Facebook Live or YouTube.
Any midshipman who could not attend in person were able to make the selection via FaceTime so they could still be part of the celebration.
Wiedemann’s parents were watching, he said. He planned on calling his grandparents to announce the news that he would be going across the world.
He chose the USS Ronald Reagan because it offered him a chance to go to the front lines.
Midshipman Logan Spilker, of Severna Park, was the 19th midshipman to choose a ship. He will head to San Diego to join the Anchorage.
His family, who watched Thursday night, is excited and supportive of him, he said. And now they are excited to visit him in California.
As a surface warfare officer, Spilker will get to lead soon after graduating. If he had been assigned to be a pilot, as an example, he would be heading to more training following his time at the academy.
Spilker, who was the midshipman of the semester for the fall, said he had considered every possible assignment. However, he knew the surface warfare community was where he belonged.
Choosing San Diego was another hard decision, he said, especially when there was a chance to go to Spain or Hawaii. One of the reasons he ultimately chose San Diego is that he will be heading there with some of his Naval Academy friends. Plus the weather is great, he said.
The ship selection took about an hour and a half.
By the end of the night, as Tobin predicted, only Norfolk had spots remaining.
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