Although there have been a few years between me and my Service Seletion Night, I remember it like it was yesterday. The process has changed over the years, but I did see where the ship selection seems to remain the same. For those who are not USNA grads, Service Selection Night was the night when we would line up by class rank and choose our job in the Navy (ie, Pilot, SWO, Submariner, Marine....). Then based on your selection, you advanced to another line where in order you would make further choices about your life following graduation.
Well, let's just say my class rank was in the portion of my graduating class that made the upper 4/5 possible. Consequently, I waited for a long time before heading to the first line to select your "service". My roommates departed well before me -- they were both in the top 1/5 of the class. Finally, my group of numbers were called to proceed to the first line.
When I finally arrived at the moment of truth, I tried to say Marine, but was totally unsuccessful. The most I could get out was "MmmmMMmmm". So, I knew it was fate I was to choose Surface Warfare Officer. Not sure why I tried to say Marine. But I am glad I chose SWO!
Off to the next line I went. Here was a room full of my classmates who had chosen SWO. We would stand in line again based on class rank and choose our future ship. I looked at the board and chose 3 ships. One of those would be the ship for me. There were 4 people ahead of me. Certainly one of those three would still be on the board when I was to choose.
NOPE! The guy in front of me took the last of my three choices. So, there I stood in front of the line. No choices left. No idea what to choose. A Commander looking at me, waiting for me to choose.
I quickly narrowed the choices by coast, West Coast. Half the board gone.
Next was homeport. I am from San Diego. That is where I want to go. A small group of ships remain possible.
Next ship type. I don't want to go to an amphib. Ok, I am down to three ships. But I have no idea what to do.
"Commander, I am not sure which ship to choose. I have narrowed it down to these three ships." Pointing at a portion of the board. "Can you tell me anything about them?"
"Sure! The BROKE.... I mean Brooke is a Brooke class FFG. But she is always broke. Ramsay is no better. And the Albert David....she is a P-fired ship."
OK! Brooke and Ramsay don't seem like good choices. P-fired???? What was P-fired? I remember talking about it in Plebe engineering but that is about it.
"Thanks, sir. If you were me, which would you choose?"
"Simple. I would choose Brooke or Ramsay. They have a missile launcher. Albert David just has 2 5 inch-38's."
OOOOoooooK! They are always broke and never get underway but I should choose them because they have a missile launcher. Well, snap decision occurs.
"Thanks again, sir. I will take ALBERT DAVID."
"Are you sure?"
"As sure as I am ever going to be."
He takes the name down and hands it to me and sends me to the next line. When I get to the front of the line, a Lieutenant hands me a ballcap and picture of the ship I have just chosen. Another asks me to rank Operations, Weapons and Engineering department. Rank them in the order I desire to serve. I think quickly again. Engineering has a reputation of not being fun. Why not start there? If it is as bad as they say, 18 months from now I will get to do something else. Better that, then be doing something fun and 18 months later transfer to the bad thing. That's my thought process.
"Engineering, Operations and then Weapons."
Shocked the Lieutenant says, "Are you sure?"
I think quickly. "You're right, sir. Better make that Engineering, Weapons then Operations. I would rather shoot the gun then write schedules."
Still a look of shock. "They are either gonna think you are stupid or gutsy."
"I hope it's gutsy!"
Sometimes we have to make snap decision which start us down a path. I did end up in engineering and loved it. Ok, not every minute of it AND I never knew if they thought I was gutsy or stupid. But that tour was one of the memorable.
Of course, when I returned to my room that evening, my roommates offered their opinion of my choice ..... Well, that's for next time.