PEARL HARBOR - Far removed from the ivy-covered halls of college and university campuses, Hawaii might be the most tropical center of learning for the continued education of 26 Midshipmen who arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in this year's Pacific Training Midshipmen Summer Cruise.
The summer training session provides a significant portion of Midshipmen's instruction during their four-year curriculum.
It offers real-world application of their classroom lessons.
About half of the Midshipmen were participating in their first summer session, while others were back for their second and even third cruise.
While some of this year's future officers were serving in the Middle East aboard USS O'Kane (DDG 77), approximately 19 of the 26 Midshipmen who were assigned to Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific (COMNAVSURFGRU MIDPAC) converged June 19 at Merry Point to meet and hear words from Rear Adm. Frank Ponds, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.
Touching on subjects of service, commitment and patriotism, Ponds delivered a speech that praised and encouraged the men and women in attendance.
"They are very excited," said Ponds, who added that he was extremely impressed with the group of Midshipmen. "They came out here at the waterfront, and they found shipmates that received them very well. They looked to leaders that are already commissioned officers as examples, and they also looked to the enlisted community on how to lead."
In his speech, Ponds called the Midshipmen patriotic and pointed out that their commitment to serve our country represents a positive response to a higher calling.
"Serving the country is not about paycheck, it's about patriotism," Ponds explained. "It is a higher calling. It's something that's greater than yourself. It's about the nation, the community, families, it's about everything you can think about that's not about you."
Alice Wu, a senior at University of Missouri at Columbia, was on her second cruise. She said she found the talk by Ponds to be very inspiring and could relate to a lot of what he advocated.
"He talked a lot about caring for your people and learning," Wu said. "That's something that I find really important."
Capt. Dave Sheridan, chief of staff of COMNAVSURFGRU MIDPAC, said he fondly recalls his two summer Midshipmen cruises more than 26 years ago and added that the sessions provide valuable training in preparing future naval officers, while also giving them direction in the selection of their careers.
"One was in Norfolk, Va., on a submarine, and the other was on a little amphib out of Little Creek, Va.," said Sheridan. "It's really finding out what being in the fleet is all about. You hear about it from instructors and read about it in books, but this puts the sights, the sounds, the smells to what it's like to really be on a ship and learn what the life of a Sailor is like. You have a better appreciation for what you're getting yourself into and what the life is like for the people you're eventually going to be leading as a division officer. So it's a good experience."
Both Sheridan and Ponds agreed that this year's group of Midshipmen appeared sharp, eager and ready to serve.
Ponds said that while they seemed to be off to a good start, he told them to keep up their enthusiasm and continue to strive to be the best.
"You got to be hungry or you're not going to advance," he said. "For us, it's about being hungry, so you can climb to the top. You want to excel. That's what you want to do."