The U.S. Naval Academy has announced the cancellation of all Commissioning Week 2020 public events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This was a very difficult decision to come to,” said 63rd Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck, “but due to the national impact of the coronavirus, I have canceled our traditional Commissioning Week public events in order to safeguard the health and welfare of the entire Naval Academy family and local community, which has been my number one strategic priority since the onset of this pandemic.”
The USNA graduation and commissioning ceremony will now be conducted virtually.
“I still intend to accomplish my second strategic priority, which is to graduate and commission each member of the Class of 2020,” Buck said. “My team is diligently planning on how, when, and where this special event will occur. It won’t, unfortunately, be the traditional event we’ve all grown accustomed to witness. The Class of 2020 has worked tirelessly for nearly four years for this milestone — I believe we owe it to them to exhaust all efforts in our decision-making and planning process to make this special for them, within the guidelines we’re operating under.”
Other traditional class milestone events, such as the Herndon Climb and Ring Dance, are postponed until social distancing protocols will permit large-scale events.
“There are certain rites of passage unique to the Naval Academy that every graduate reflects positively upon and thus helps to define and strengthen the Naval Academy experience,” said Commandant of Midshipmen Capt. T.R. Buchanan. “Even if not held this May, our midshipmen still deserve the opportunity to enjoy those milestone events.”
Separately, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) announced April 10 the cancellation of all in-person commissioning ceremonies and related events at its Naval ROTC units around the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I regret that this was necessary,” said Rear Adm. Jamie Sands, NSTC Commander. “But having groups of midshipmen and their families, many of whom are already away from their schools due to the virus, travel and gather together is not worth the risk to the welfare of them and our communities, which remains a priority for not just NROTC, but the Navy as a whole.”
NROTC midshipmen who would have participated in the ceremonies will still commission, with virtual events coordinated directly by their units.
In the Naval Academy’s storied 175-year history, there have been 26 early graduation and commissioning ceremonies in order to support several war efforts (Civil, Spanish-American, and World Wars I and II). At the end of the Civil War, half the class of 1865 graduated early, in November 1864 in Newport, Rhode Island, and the other half graduated late, in September 1865, when the school was moved back to Annapolis. In 1907, three separate ceremonies were held - two early, one on time. In 1917, Congress authorized the Naval Academy to reduce its four-year program to three; the Class of 1917 was graduated early on March 29, and three months later, the Class of 1918 was graduated on June 28, 1917.
The NROTC program is supported by Rear Adm. Jamie Sands, NSTC commander, and his headquarters staff at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. NROTC was established to develop midshipmen mentally, morally and physically. The program also imbues in them the highest ideals of duty, loyalty and Navy core values in order to commission college graduates as Navy and Marine Corps officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the Naval service and have a potential for future development in mind and character so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.