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Grey Space at the United Space Naval Academy during Plebe Summer

plebe summer Jul 21, 2019

What is Grey Space?

Grey space is defined as that time in which a Platoon does not have an event scheduled on the Master Training Schedule.

The Plebe Summer Master Calendar contains every evolution for the entirety of the summer planned and coordinated down to the half hour for each day.  And I’m serious when I say EVERY planned event during plebe summer is in the master calendar. Whether it be sailing, the O-course, the E-course, a PE class, or anything of that vein, any type of scheduled event is included in the calendar and is color coded to a specific category.

However, there are times during plebe summer when nothing is planned, no scheduled event lies in the cards for the plebes, and therefore all that fills that time block within the calendar is grey space.

The Notoriety of Grey Space

‘Grey space’ is time for the detailers to do what they deem necessary in regards to training.

Usually, and unfortunately for the Plebes, what this means is they will work to fix any discrepancies that they have noticed from their company in the past couple of days. As one can assume, ‘fixing' things within the context of plebe summer is generally not pleasant for the plebes.

Because of this, grey space has a bad connotation and is often the plebes’ most feared time.

While it is usually not fun, it can be on occasion. Whether or not grey space lives up to its bad reputation depends on how each specific company has been performing throughout the summer.

For example, if a company has some plebes still struggling with their ‘rates’, or required knowledge, the detailers might “play a game” that has to do with rates. One that I distinctly remember relating to rates was where my company mates and I lined up against the bulkhead (wall) and would have to say a rate, but with each word being said by the proceeding person. So, if we were stating the mission of the Naval Academy, the first person would say “The,” the second would say “mission,” the third would say, “of,” and so on and so forth. If anyone would mess up - if they would talk out of order, say the wrong word, speak too slowly, etc. - we would get ‘dropped’ or ‘PT'd’,  which is basically a version of push-ups, flutter kicks, or other exercises.

During the Summer of 2013, the 26th company detailers would give the plebes ‘time hacks’  or deadlines to meet in every training exercise we did. They also kept a ‘time bank’ on the chalk board in the p-way (hallway) where they would, if we were late and did not meet a time hack, add up all of the excess time. 

Once all of the time we were late added up to a certain amount, the detailers would ‘get their time back,’ which usually resulted in a pretty brutal game of chutes and ladders — basically where we would run all the way to the basement, then back up to the top floor, and then back to our deck (floor) with backpacks full of books… and then do pushups with the backpacks on our back for not making it back in time.

Yeah grey space kind of sucked…

**Side note, every company has there own version of what they do during grey space, and trust me, detailers are VERY CREATIVE. 

In most cases, asking your plebe what they did during grey space will definitely prompt them to reveal some pretty entertaining stories.**

The Better Side of Grey Space

A lot of times grey space can be really hard, and other times it can be really boring and consist of a lot of standing around (I stood on a wall staring at my reef points pretending to study for far too many hours than I would ever like to for a lifetime). But if a company has been performing well, grey space can also be a positive thing and turn into an educational experience.

If a company has been successful in its training, a grey space can turn into many things such as shoe shining instruction, learning how to iron uniforms, talks about leadership and how the Navy works, or even DPTs. 

DPTs (Discretionary Physical Trainings) are physical activities that are meant to be educational in purpose rather than be disciplinary or punishment-based, and they have been priorly approved by the company officer.

For example, if the O-course is the following day, a company that has been performing well might do a DPT where the plebes go to McDonough Hall (Mac-D) to climb a rope. While this initially doesn’t seem all that great, climbing a rope happens to be the final obstacle of the O-course. In this way, these plebes get to practice climbing and get instruction from their detailers for about an hour, and therefore are set up for success with the O-course. In this way, DPTs are rather positive.

A DPT that I remember distinctly was when our detailers took us on a cemetery run. We ran out to Hospital Point, which is approximately a one mile run, to the cemetery and then just walked around and got the opportunity to thank those who had gone before us and reflect on them. This DPT was especially emotional because just over a year earlier, our detailers’ brother and fellow 26th company mate, Nick Tarr, passed.

When we went out to the cemetery, our detailers sat us down and for the first time talked to us like normal people.  There was a love and pain in their voice as they explained to us that the reason that they were so tough on us, and why they do what they do, is so that we can be as good of midshipmen as we possibly could to properly honor the memory of Nicholas Tarr.

As we all sat by his tombstone, they told stories about what an incredible man Nick was, and how much they loved and missed him. When we could see how human our detailers were, everything started to make sense.

We could see how special the bond of company mates was, we could see how these tough times would make us closer than we could possibly imagine, and we started to realize their great intentions for us.  The detailers wanted us to be as close of a group as they were. They wanted to make us as good of midshipmen, as motivated, as strong, as physically and mentally tough, and as dedicated to a career of professional Naval Service as Nick Tarr.  

Rest in Peace, sir.

DPTs are meant to be educational, motivational, and inspirational, and my DPT in the cemetery was all of these things. I hope your plebes are fortunate enough to experience a DPT, and hopefully, even one that truly inspires them.

If you have any further questions about Grey Space or DPTs, let me know!