Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that might answer some of your questions about our Parents Association and Plebe Summer. No one place, or one person, will be able to answer all your questions; but we hope between the combined knowledge of other parents and the resources from USNA and the web, you will be just a little more prepared.

What other sources of information are available to me?

Have another question?  Please feel free to email – Our VP of Membership, Barbara Shoap (2017)

Questions about SPPA

What is SPPA?

SPPA is the Southeast Pennsylvania Parents Association, a group of parents who provide support and camaraderie to each other during their children’s years at the Naval Academy.  The parental task of helping, guiding and inspiring a son/daughter attending the US Naval Academy is different from a civilian college.  Those that haven’t been there sometimes don’t understand how different.  USNA Parent Clubs have been instrumental in parents helping parents during their son’s and daughter’s “four years by the bay”; from preparing for I-Day, managing the struggles of Plebe Summer, Summer block training and planning celebrations for Commissioning.

What types of activities can I expect to enjoy as a member of SPPA?

Lots!  We are a very active Parent’s group that meets every other month.  In our meetings, we share fellowship, stories about our Mids, updates on upcoming activities (at the Yard and within our organization) and sometimes are privileged to have a guest speaker or two.  Most years we enjoy bus trips to some of the Navy home football games, and we always support all the Mids by providing a huge tailgate at every home game.  We get together to support the new SPPA Plebes every summer by throwing them a Plebe Picnic so that they have the opportunity to meet each other before I Day; and then later, by preparing and sending Plebe care packages to let them know that the parents of SPPA are thinking of them.  Other events include the All-Services Academies Military Ball and dinners.

What the difference between the SPPA Plebe Picnic in June and the SPPA Summer Picnic in July?

The Plebe Picnic in June is focused on the Plebes and their families.  It is a time when Plebes get to know the other Plebes in the area and are able to talk to some of the midshipmen of other SPPA members.  Plebe parents get to meet each other too and other SPPA members.  Many questions are answered over a coke and hotdog!  The SPPA Summer picnic in July is an all membership picnic.  This is a good time for new members to be introduced and old members to catch up and share Midshipmen’s summer activities.  The July picnic is also, where we pack care packages for our Plebes.

Where are SPPA meetings held? 

SPPA meetings have been held in various places over the years.  Recently the meetings have been held at the Plymouth Meeting Firehouse.

How often are the meetings held?

Member meetings are held four times a year. September is our Kickoff meeting; November is when we usually have a guest speaker from USNA; January/February, also usually a speaker meeting; and April is our Firstie Parent Recognition Ceremony and elections for the next year.

What is a SPPA Shipmate?

Each new member is linked to a member from another class who will personally welcome them into the club and be available for questions on the telephone.

What is the All Service Academies Ball?

A separate organization that is composed of parents from all the service academies, plans a formal ball each year on December 26.  SPPA supports this event financially and with committee members on their board.  Midshipmen and their families attend the ball.  Even those who don’t think they like formal events have found this is a fun evening!

Should I join SPPA even if I don’t know if I have the time to go to all the meetings?

Yes! There are many activities that aren’t meeting-related.  You will also get newsletters and email updates.  It is a good way to know what is happening and even more important when you are busy!

What is the difference between joining this parents’ club and joining as a parent member of the USNA Alumni Association?

SPPA is a local organization of parents who come together for support and camaraderie.  The Alumni Association is a worldwide organization that supports USNA as any alumni organization does.  It offers parents associate memberships. You can find more information about what the Alumni Association offers parent members on their website. You can certainly join both.

Is there a cost to join?

There is a membership fee to defray the costs of running the organization.  SPPA is a non-profit organization, and all funds are used to promote our mission.

Why does SPPA charge for four years of dues at one time?

All four years dues are collected at one time, in the May – June timeframe of your son’s/daughter’s plebe year.  This is done to reduce the time for administration duties.  SPPA is a volunteer organization and we’d rather spend time on activities and support than paying dues.  The dues are amortized over four years.

Should I wait to join the parents club until after Plebe Summer to see if my son/daughter decides to stay there?

No!  Plebe Parents need the type of support SPPA provides as early as possible!  If your son/daughter decides to leave the Academy after Plebe Summer, 100% of your dues will be refunded to you.  Join now!

I’m divorced.  Who is included in my family membership?

Membership dues include family members living in one household. Each household/parent can decide to join or not to join separately. This has been easier to manage for both the parents and SPPA, especially if there are remarried parents or find communication difficult.

When do I apply for membership?

Do it now!!  It is very easy to do.  Click Here

Questions about USNA and Plebe Summer

What is it like being a Plebe?

Click here for an article written by a Plebe back in the Mid 90’s that explains it pretty well.

Why should I sign up for the official mail Listserve?  What is a Listserve?

A Listserve is an automated way that allows a group of people to share emails with each other. Once you sign up on the list, if someone sends an email to the list, you get it. If you reply to the email address of the list, all the other members of the list will get your email too.

The official Listserve is authorized and recognized by USNA. Parent volunteers, Moderators, help manage the flow of emails and have the ear of USNA in case a question needs an official answer. Most of the emails are questions for advice or sharing experiences.  Many find close friendships with other parents on the Listserve. But the most important reason to join is to gain knowledge from other parents who have been there before. You can join right now!! — enter class year and nothing for company.

What do they mean “USNA comes in Thirds?”

Some say that the Naval Academy is experienced in thirds – by parents and Mids alike.  The first third is Plebe Summer, the second third is Plebe year and the final third is the final three years.

What should I expect on I-Day?

Try to relax about I-Day and encourage your son/daughter to try to do the same. You can’t completely prepare for it, however, there are some things to do to get ready. The Academy will send your Mid instructions about what he/she should bring when they report.  Bring exactly that, and only that, everything else will be packed up and stowed away and they won’t see it again until PPW (Plebe Parent’s Weekend). Less is more. But it is a good idea for your Mid to wear a pair of running shoes that are slightly broken in – he/she will be doing lots of running. And, of course, there can’t be enough said about being physically prepared for the rigors of the summer. Start conditioning now. It’s very hot and humid in Annapolis in the summer and the physical demands are tough.

You’ll say your good-byes early in the morning at the assigned report time, and won’t see each other again until the evening, following the Oath ceremony, and that meeting will only last about 30 minutes. You’ll see each other again on PPW in August.

What is a personal swearing in ceremony?

On I-Day, there is an option for a personal swearing in ceremony.  If you know an active duty, or retired, officer who would like to offer your son/daughter this honor it can be arranged.  There will be a special form in your packet to sign up for this.

What should I include in my summer care packages?

What items to send will really depend on what your mid likes.

  • Food: some items that seem to appeal are beef sticks, nuts, dried fruit, fruit cups, granola bars, licorice, power bars, peanut butter crackers, powdered Gatorade and a container to mix it in. Pack anything that is healthy and that can be eaten quickly, without making a mess.  And, whatever you send, send lots of it, as everyone shares. Stay away from home-baked gooey foods and candy. One, these packages don’t always get delivered in a timely manner and can get very hot and melted sitting around in the summer heat, and two, there are many stories about cadre confiscating goodies and eating them in front of the heart-broken plebes!
  • Notepads: The little 3×5 wireless memo notebooks.  They stick them into the pockets of their whiteworks and use them to write down everything they need to remember.  You will probably receive letters from your Mid on these tiny pages of paper during the summer.  The wireless ones fit in their pockets and leave less mess.
  • SASE: Self addressed stamped envelopes are a real time saver and every minute counts during plebe summer.
  • Gold Bond Powder:  Showers are so short and humidity and sweating is unavoidable.
  • SHOUT wipes:  These wipes help keep the whiteworks clean. Some also like the CLOROX Bleach pens (warn your Mid about what too much bleach will do) and the TIDE sticks work great too.
  • Cleaning Supplies:  The Mids receive a full supply of cleaning supplies, but some appreciate additional products.  In your first letter, ask your mid what he/she needs.  Febreeze is always a good idea because everybody and everything stinks pretty much most of the time!
  • Bottom line Mids do a good job of asking for the things they need.

What is the best way to get the care package to my son/daughter?

You’ll hear recommendations about getting the free flat rate boxes from the US Post Office and mailing them for one price, regardless of the weight. These are a great deal for people shipping from the Mid-West and West coasts, but I had many a postmaster look at me and tell me that I just wasted money to ship my package that way. From Pennsylvania to Maryland, the cost is usually slightly less than the flat fee. In the end, I think it was worth the extra money so that my Mid received boxes that looked just like everyone else’s.

Can’t I just drop off the care package to the front desk or some receiving area?

No. This security measure was put in place after 9/11.  After Plebe Summer, if you are down to Annapolis for a weekend, you will be able to give your son/daughter goodies and they will be able to bring them to their room.

Why is it recommended to send care packaged in a plastic box?

The first couple care packages of food should be in plastic boxes the size of shoe boxes with lids.  Your Mid can keep food items in them and away from any mice. After they have a few plastic boxes for food, you can send replenishments in normal cardboard shipping boxes. Midshipmen only have a small space for storage, so don’t send too large a container. More often is better than too much at one time during Plebe Summer. SPPA sends a care package in a plastic box in July for our Plebes.

What are the TOP TEN SUGGESTIONS for a plebe-to-be Parent in June?

  1. Learn how to use e-mail and Instant Messenger, you’ll be using it a lot once the Brigade reforms
  2. Buy a good plastic box with a tight fitting lid for the first care package.
  3. Compile a list of jokes and quotes to send to your Mid over the summer
  4. Locate your nearest Post Office and pick up the free flat rate boxes (can also be ordered over the internet).
  5. Take your Mid with you to the grocery store and find out what health food your Plebe enjoys (have him/her try out various power bars)
  6. Sign up for the official Parent’s Listserve – Subscribe.
  7. Buy a copy of “Brief Points” the parents guide to “Reef Points”
  8. Buy tickets to the Army Navy game.
  9. Teach your Plebe to be how to use the cleaning supplies that will be in the first care package you send.
  10. Join SPPA

What are the TOP TEN SUGGESTIONS for a plebe-to-be in June?

  1. RUN
  2. RUN….and don’t do anything to get hurt
  3. RUN….and get your hair cut
  4. RUN….and practice manual shaving
  5. RUN….in the new running shoes you just bought
  6. RUN….and don’t do anything stupid
  7. RUN….and apply for a passport
  8. RUN….compile your friend’s e-mail addresses so your parents can keep them up to date on how you are doing over the summer
  9. RUN….while memorizing Navy Blue and Gold and the 5 basic responses
  10. RUN….and then get lots of sleep!

What are the words to the song NAVY BLUE AND GOLD?

Now colleges from sea to sea
May sing of colors true.
But who has better right then we
To hoist a symbol hue?
For sailors brave in battle fair
Since fighting days of old,
Have proved a sailor’s right to wear
The Navy Blue and Gold.

So hoist our colors, hoist them high,
And vow allegiance true,
So long as sunset gilds the sky
Above the ocean blue,
Unlowered shall those colors be
Whatever fate they meet,
So glorious in victory,
Triumphant in defeat.

Four years together by the Bay
Where Severn joins the tide,
Then by the Service called away,
We’ve scattered far and wide;
But still when two or three shall meet,
And old tales be retold,
From low to highest in the Fleet
Will pledge the Blue and Gold.

The words were changed slightly in 2004 to recognize both female and male midshipmen.

Click here for a video of the USNA Men’s Glee Club performing the Navy Blue and Gold.

What are THE  FIVE RESPONSES?

As a Plebe during Plebe Summer, there are only five responses appropriate to a question.

  • Yes, Sir. (or Ma’am)
  • No, Sir. (or Ma’am)
  • Aye-aye, Sir. (or Ma’am)
  • I’ll find out, Sir. (or Ma’am)
  • No excuse, Sir. (or Ma’am)
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