KINGS POINT, N.Y., August 19, 2015 – Fingers sweeping for dust. Eyes peering into drawers and closets. Plebes trembling at attention. These were common themes at last Saturday’s U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Command Inspection, in which members of the Regimental staff and guests examined more than 600 barracks rooms with an eye to ensuring the health and welfare of Academy midshipmen.
The Command Inspection is conducted twice per year, in the fall and spring, and gives both rotations of midshipmen officers the leadership opportunity to experience setting up and executing a large scale inspection event.
“It’s not easy to pull together a large inspection such as this,” said the Deputy Superintendent, Rear Adm. Sue Dunlap, who was participating in her fourth Command Inspection. “It takes organizational skills to plan the inspection and perseverance to get enough guests to participate. Mostly, it takes leadership to get everyone pulling in the same direction and working toward the same objective.”
Regimental Operations Officer, Midshipman 1st Class Emily Bull, was the driving force behind the inspection. She wrote the Operations Order, took RSVP’s from guests and paired up guests with members of the Regimental staff. Guest inspectors have long been a feature of the Command Inspection, with members of the faculty, coaches and Academy administration participating.
Even four year old Jadyn Jell participated in the inspection, accompanying her mother Tamara Jell, the Academy’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Coordinator. “I expect to see a lot of neat and orderly rooms and disciplined, groomed Midshipmen today,” said Tamara Jell, as Jadyn twirled around her legs.
Professor Mike Ales, Marine Engineering Department, began attending Command Inspections in 2003, and his wife Pam started coming with him in 2005. “I think the students like to have members of the faculty see another side of their life,” said Pam Ales.
Mike Ales remarked that he had seen tremendous changes in the barracks over the years. “I’ve seen a big upgrade in the material condition,” he said, noting that renovation of Jones and Rogers Halls had just commenced when he started to attend Command Inspections. “The Capital Improvement Program has made a big difference,” he said, “like night and day.”
Plebes spent hours preparing for their first formal inspection. Plebes Danielle Christmas and Kelly Flynn said they had spent about 8 hours dusting, cleaning, scrubbing and arranging their room. “We’ve been working since 1600 yesterday,” Christmas said.
Midshipman 1st Class Bull said that for the plebes, the Command inspection was “the culmination of everything they have learned since indoctrination.”
For Midshipman 1st Class Shawn Wehking and Midshipman 1st Class Devon Shinkle, however, Saturday’s event was just the latest in a long line of Command Inspections. The Midshipmen decided to add a touch of whimsy to their room, and a computer screen flickered with a scene of a burning fire, complete with wood crackling sounds.
At the conclusion of the inspection, the Superintendent, Rear Adm. James Helis, praised the Regimental staff for a job well done. “This is the fourth inspection I’ve done,” he said, “and this one has run as smoothly as I’ve ever seen.”