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The Purpose of Plebe Summer at the United States Naval Academy

plebe summer Apr 11, 2020
The Purpose of Plebe Summer Podcast

The Purpose of Plebe Summer at the United States Naval Academy

The purpose of Plebe Summer is to lay the foundation of the Academy's four-year professional development curriculum.

The Academy staff is there to break the habits of high school kids and develop those young women and men into the future of America’s military leaders. They are also there to mentor the detailers as they go through their first significant military leadership experience. 

The 3 main goals of Plebe Summer are

  • Indoctrinate civilians into the military way of life.
  • Create basically trained midshipmen that are ready to join the brigade of midshipmen at the end of plebe summer
  • To provide a defining leadership experience for the detailers

I think many people overlook the importance of Plebe Summer as a training evolution for the detail staff as well.  Part of what makes Plebe Summer so special is the authority Midshipmen are given to drive the training of Plebe Summer.

During my time as the Regimental Commander of Plebe Summer, Commander Mike Murnane was the commissioned officer in charge of Plebe Summer for the USNA class of 2020.

Commander Murnane, a graduate of the USNA class of 1995 became a naval flight officer upon graduation and his highly successful career brought him back to the Naval Academy as a senior officer. 

Commander Murnane is a leader I hold in the highest esteem and still consider him one of my greatest mentors and influences in my leadership development. 

I have a conversation with CMDR Murnane on the Academy Insider podcast #039.

We share many stories about the behind the scenes of running Plebe Summer and give a great insight into Plebe Summer and the Naval Academy.

At the heart of Plebe Summer lies its mission to transform civilians into well-disciplined midshipmen preparing to become members of the Brigade. This crucible, replete with physical, mental, and emotional challenges, serves as the initial trial by fire for incoming plebes. It is designed not only to instill military customs and courtesies but to forge a resilient spirit capable of leading in the face of adversity.

Yet, beyond the sweat and toil lies a deeper purpose: Plebe Summer is as much about the plebes as it is about the detailers—those second and first-class midshipmen responsible for training them. Through this process, detailers undergo a defining leadership experience, learning firsthand the trials and tribulations of command.


Lessons in Leadership


The leadership journey during Plebe Summer is intense and reciprocal. Detailers, carefully selected and rigorously trained, assume a monumental task: to guide, teach, and inspire their charges through one of the most challenging experiences of their young lives. This period serves as a proving ground where future naval leaders cut their teeth on the fundamentals of command, learning to lead by example, motivate their teams, and manage the myriad stressors inherent to academy life.


The Detailer's Journey


For detailers, Plebe Summer is a baptism of fire into leadership. Amid the relentless demands of the program, they learn the importance of servant leadership, peer leadership, and the criticality of looking after one's own physical and mental well-being to effectively lead others. It is a time for detailers to reflect on their personal growth and the impact they wish to leave on their plebes, striving to be remembered not necessarily for their strictness but for their fairness, effectiveness, and ability to inspire respect.


Embracing the Why


Understanding the 'why' behind the rigors of Plebe Summer is crucial for both plebes and detailers alike. This understanding provides the needed perspective to endure the challenges and appreciate the growth opportunities these trials present. Plebe Summer is not only about breaking down individuals but about building them up, preparing them for the rigors of the academy and the demands of military service. It aims to transition recruits from civilians to military members, fostering a culture of discipline and respect pivotal for their future roles.


Advice for the Incoming


For those about to embark on this transformative journey, the advice is universal: embrace the challenge. Plebe Summer is designed to test limits, but within those trials lie unparalleled opportunities for growth and self-discovery. It's a time to learn the value of hard work, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit. By accepting and overcoming these challenges, plebes can emerge stronger, more confident, and ready to take their place within the storied ranks of Naval Academy graduates.



At the conclusion of summer training, each Plebe class shall: 

  • Be indoctrinated in the traditions of the Naval Service and the Naval Academy;
  • Understand basic military skills and the meaning behind them;
  • Appreciate the high standards and obligations inherent in service as a Midshipmen and Naval Officer;
  • Be dedicated to excellence in a competitive atmosphere that fosters leadership, teamwork, character, and a passion for "winning;"
  • Appreciate the importance of mental, moral, and physical toughness in all aspects of duty and service; and
  • Be prepared to execute the rigorous academic year routine.

Plebe Summer at the United States Naval Academy is a crucible that forges the future leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps. Through the shared experiences of both plebes and detailers, it teaches invaluable lessons in leadership, resilience, and the power of cohesive teamwork. By understanding its deeper purposes, incoming plebes can navigate this challenging time with greater purpose and emerge ready to face the rigorous academic and military training that awaits. Plebe Summer is but the first step in a transformative journey that will shape them into the leaders of tomorrow.



Other popular Academy Insider articles about plebe summer include

Advice to Incoming Midshipmen

Plebe Summer Preparation and Advice

4 Reasons to Prepare Physically for Plebe Summer

7 Life Lessons from Plebe Summer

Parent Preparation for Plebe Summer


You may find this episode and many other tremendous resources about Plebe Summer and the United States Naval Academy may be found on our website.


Grant Vermeer The Founder of Academy Insider and Host of the Academy Insider Podcast


Grant Vermeer is the founder of Academy Insider and the host of The Academy Insider podcast and the USNA Property Network Podcast. He was a recruited athlete which brought him to Annapolis where he was a four-year member of the varsity basketball team.

He was a cyber operations major and commissioned into the Cryptologic Warfare Community. He was stationed at Fort Meade and supported the Subsurface Direct Support mission.

He separated from the Navy in 2023 and now owns The Vermeer Group, a boutique residential real estate company that specializes in serving the United States Naval Academy community PCSing to California & Texas. 

Connect with Grant Vermeer, The Academy Insider




Email: [email protected]


Academy Insider is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation and not affiliated with the United States Naval Academy.

All thoughts and opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the United States Navy or the Department of Defense.


Transcript: 039-the-purpose-of-plebe-summer-at-the-naval-academy

Grant Vermeer: [00:00:00] Welcome to season two of the Academy Insider podcast. Academy Insider is a 501 C3 nonprofit organization that serves midshipmen, future midshipmen, and their families. At its core, this podcast is designed to bring together a community of Naval Academy graduates and those Affiliated with the United States Naval Academy in order to tell stories and provide a little bit of insight into what life at the Naval Academy is really like.

I hope you enjoy it. Thank you so much for listening and reach out if you ever have any questions.

The Academy Insider Podcast is sponsored by the Vermeer Group, a residential real estate company that serves the United States Naval Academy community and other select clientele in both California and Texas. If I can ever answer a real estate related [00:01:00] question for you or connect you with a trusted Academy affiliated agent in the market, which you're in, please reach out to me directly at grant at the Vermeer group.

com. You can also reach out to me on my LinkedIn page, Grant Vermeer, and I'd be happy to respond to you there. Thank you so much. And now let's get back to the episode. Hey everyone. Welcome to the Academy insider podcast. Today I'm actually republishing an episode that I recorded back in 2019, which is all about the purpose and mission of Plebe Summer.

Although some details may change about Plebe Summer, for example, like the number of platoons or companies, and the amount of companies in the Brigade of Midshipmen. The overall purpose and mission of Plebe Summer has always remained consistent. So I'm excited to share this episode where I'm joined by Commander Mike Murnane, who is the commissioned officer in charge of the Plebe Summer evolution while I was serving as the regimental commander.

And the reason I wanted to bring him on was to just give a little bit of insight for all the appointees who may be out there. Or for all the parents, loved ones, family members who want to learn a little bit about the [00:02:00] purpose of Plebe Summer and what you're about to go through, I highly encourage you to check out this episode.

We talk about detailer selection and detail training, because you may be surprised, but as much as Plebe Summer is for the Plebes. Plebe Summer is also designed as a defining leadership experience for the detailer staff, the midshipmen that are going into their second class and into their first class year at the Naval Academy.

We also talk about the Plebe experience. We talk about the goal and mission of the training of Plebe Summer and what we are trying to accomplish by the end of the six weeks of your Plebe Summer experience. If you have any questions about anything that we talked about in this episode, please feel free to shoot me a message or reach out to me.

I'd love to get in contact with you and provide you the resources you need to better understand the midshipman experience. and really get the most out of the Naval Academy journey. Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy the episode and never hesitate to reach out. All right. Hey, sir. Thank you so much for coming on and joining us today on the Academy Insider Podcast.

Mike Murnane: Yeah. Happy to be here with you, Grant. [00:03:00] Anytime. Happy to sit and chat about our experiences and catch up with you anytime.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. And for all the listeners, I know you already heard the disclaimer, but I do just want to reiterate that everything that me and Commander Rene say on this podcast are thoughts of our own and do not reflect the Naval Academy, the United States Navy, nor the Department of Defense in any official way.

Uh, we're just sharing stories and providing our insight from the experiences that we had in the hopes that will provide value to the next generation of Naval Academy midshipmen. But before we get started, sir, if you don't mind just kind of walking through a little bit about your time at the academy, basically as an alumni, your class year, your company, things that you did at the academy, and then you kind of your career path and how you got to where you are today.

Mike Murnane: Yeah. Sure. No problem. So I'm a 1995 grad. Uh, I went there right out of high school in 1991, did my plebe summer in the summer of 91. And uh, my four years at the Academy were, were phenomenal. And like a lot of people will tell you, the people that you meet there are your [00:04:00] friends for life. You know, one of my good buddies is God parents to my children now.

And so it's, you know, just some amazing people that I met there along the way. I played hockey and lacrosse while I was there. I was a recruited athlete for lacrosse, not highly recruited. Trust me. I was not a, not a top recruit, but I came down and played JV lacrosse my freshman year, then sophomore year.

I tried to play both lacrosse and hockey. I made the varsity lacrosse team, but just could not play both sports. It was too much. And my true love was hockey. So I played hockey for the last three years. I was there. And, and could not be more happy with that decision. It was really good for me. I studied ocean engineering and believe it or not that sophomore year when I was doing both sports was when I actually had my best grades.

Uh, you know, it's that funny little thing. You look back on time management that we learned so well while we're there. I actually had so little time that I had to manage it meticulously and I probably did much better that sophomore year because of all the things going [00:05:00] on.

Grant Vermeer: Oh, absolutely.

Mike Murnane: But yeah, so I graduated in 1995 and I was commissioned as a student naval flight officer.

Went down to Pensacola, went through the training there, got winged out in San Antonio, Texas, when we used to wing guys through the naval flight officer program at Randolph Air Force Base. And then I went into the P 3 community. I did two tours as a P 3 naval flight officer. The P 3s were big sub hunters.

They've since been replaced by the P 8 Poseidon.

Grant Vermeer: But

Mike Murnane: it's still same mission out there that we did. So I did tours in Brunswick, Maine, as a naval flight officer up there with VP

Grant Vermeer: 26

Mike Murnane: tour did deployments to three different places as a junior officer. Up until I was a Lieutenant, I went to Sigonella twice.

Keflavik and Rosie Rhodes on a split site deployment. Uh, Rosie Rhodes down in Puerto Rico and flew on top of Russian submarines, hunted drug hunters, hunted friendly submarines, did surface [00:06:00] searches in the Mediterranean, all great stuff. Yeah, and then my staff tours included an opportunity to go out to UCOM as a staff officer in Germany.

So I got Stuttgart, Germany. I did a year at the War College. And then my command tour was as a provincial reconstruction team, commanding officer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I did that from 2010 to 2011. And so then after that, I went to the Bureau of Personnel for one more staff tour and then was allowed to come back to the Naval Academy as a battalion officer.

And that was, I was pretty special. I still pinch myself thinking at the opportunity that I had there. So I really, really enjoyed it.

Grant Vermeer: And how do kind of senior officers get to go back to work at the Naval Academy of Staff? What's the process for that? Is that simply just a detailing slot? Or is there an application process with that?

Mike Murnane: It is just a detailing slot, but certainly the senior officer program, the way to get there as a battalion officer is to go through your warfare community in the standard fashion. Do your junior officer tour, do your [00:07:00] department head tour, screen for a milestone or command billet. So I'm a little bit of an exception to the rule.

I commanded a provincial reconstruction team, not a squadron. So my career wasn't exactly standard getting to the Naval Academy, but the standard way of doing it is working through and having the opportunity to command within your warfare, whether you're a submarine officer, a surface warfare officer, aviator, occasionally we get some spec war guys come back through.

But for the most part, sub surface and air guys get the opportunity to come back and, and the men and women I got to serve with as battalion officers are just incredible people and such a great time.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. All right. Well, uh, thanks for that. Let's, uh, jump into here. So. Again, the first series, really, of the Academy Insider Podcast is about Plebe Summer, and I think a big part of preparing for Plebe Summer is understanding what you're actually going to go through and embracing the why behind everything that's happening.

And for everyone who knows me and knows my story, I didn't really [00:08:00] know the why behind Pleap Summer, and I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. And that kind of led to some rough times during Pleap Summer. So, again, I just want to talk about the purpose and the why of Pleap Summer, and why you're going to experience everything that's going to happen.

So, we're lucky to have Commander Murnane, because when I was the Regimental Commander for the Class of 2020 Pleap Summer, Commander Murnane was the officer in charge of CLEAP summer. So sir, if you don't mind just explaining a little bit about what the OIC is and kind of the roles and responsibilities you had while you were the officer in charge.

Mike Murnane: Yeah. So with everything we do at the Academy, there is a lead follow relationship. There's an officer structure. That's there to help guide midshipmen through these leadership experiences. And so really my primary role was to do all of the staff work to get things set up for Plebe Summer and to do all of the administrative things that would be required to get this thing going.

But then once we went, really once [00:09:00] Plebe Summer starts, my job is to help you as the regimental commander and make sure that you have the leadership experience. That you're supposed to get out of that. And I think by and large, you and I were very successful at doing what we needed to do to get plebe summer going and then make it a success as it went.

And so I really enjoyed the time and I felt as you know, I was just in that mentor role and I had other officers underneath me that I was mentoring through their roles as well. And so I, you know, there's, there's a whole huge staff. Underneath you, but by and large, it's just a mentor role trying to help the cadre of midshipmen that run plebe summer, go get that leadership experience.

And that's what I think makes plebe summer such a valuable part of what we do at the academy and for the candidates out there that are coming in, that part obviously isn't clear to them. And like you said, the why. Of what they're about to [00:10:00] experience. That's not really wrapped up or clear to them in, in all of the stuff that we do.

But the why for them is that transition from being either a fleet returning sailor or a civilian off the street, like I was, and you've got to be assimilated within the brigade. You've got to learn military customs, courtesies, and culture. And you've got to learn what it means to be a midshipman. And so that in August, when we turn those plebes over to the brigade of midshipmen, they're integrated, they're a part of the brigade.

And so that that's the other why to what we did. I believe with the class of 2020, we did it pretty well.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. And I appreciate you talking about your role as a mentor, because from listening, I learned so much from Commander Renane, and the two of us working together was so much fun, like there were so many times where, and don't get me wrong, Plebe Summer is extremely stressful as a detailer, where I would just walk into his office, and sit down in his chair and be like, Sir, I [00:11:00] don't, I don't know what's going on, and I need some help, I need some advice, and just bounce off ideas, and um, It was just truly phenomenal.

And then also as the reg commander, we get to partake in all of the like operations briefs that go on at the officer level, like the actual plebe summer staff. So to get to sit in and watch how plebe summer runs from an extremely high level was a really unique and interesting experience. So, it led to me and Commander Murnane having a phenomenal relationship, which we then got to continue into the academic year as well, which was also a ton of fun.

It ended with, so crazy enough, Commander Murnane actually took us to, uh, climb the Chapel Dome. So the Naval Academy Chapel, you can actually go up and climb. Commander Murnane climbed the Chapel Dome. I climbed about half of it before I got way too scared and stopped. But, you know, heights are not my favorite, but It just goes to show an example of the detailer and officer staff, whether it's at the company level between the company detailers and their company officer, or at the regimental [00:12:00] level between the regimental staff and the plebe summer.

Oh, I see those mentor mentee relationships that the officers have with the detailers is just truly a really special piece of plebe summer. Yeah. I couldn't, couldn't agree more. Absolutely. So kind of with that, we talk a little bit about detailers. And I'm sure a lot of people are wondering again, because detailers, they seem so scary coming on like on the way in, but at the end of the day, really, they're just mid shipment.

But then when you think, Oh, well, they're just mid shipment. How do we know they're qualified? So, sir, if you don't mind just talking a little bit about how detailers make bleep summer, what it is and what training do they receive in order to be qualified and competent to do that?

Mike Murnane: Sure. Yeah, we go through a pretty rigorous process of selecting.

The midshipman that will participate as plebe summer detailers. Many of them come to us during the academic year asking to be a part of it. Some of them have to kind of have the arm put around them and be told, I think you'd be really good at this and I want you to [00:13:00] experience this. And so there's a little more coercing for some folks, but by and large, we put a staff together that is Some of the best midshipmen we have in the brigade and I think midshipmen intuitively know The importance of what plebe summer is.

Grant Vermeer: I

Mike Murnane: know that they know it's hard And so the midshipmen that sign up to do it They know they're getting themselves into a big challenge and so right away you've got folks that have had two or three years of time at the Academy under their belt And they want to give back and they want to get that leadership experience.

And so those folks are always inspiring to lead. It's obviously not every single one of them that is itching to come back and do that. And like I said, some have to be told. And so, yeah, we have a training program in the spring semester called the leadership development and education program. LDAP that we put the detailers through to make sure that there's [00:14:00] a baseline level of knowledge, what they're about to embark on.

You never know, you know, as a plebe, you're just following orders and you're going and doing what they tell you to do. And you feel like you can never do it fast enough. You can never do it well enough. You can never get it done exactly right. And of course that's by design. It is always a demanding, challenging, difficult environment.

We put people in to ensure that there's a stress component to doing. Our job, our job in the fleet is going to involve a lot of stress. And this is the first inoculation. This is the first time you get to experience it, but when you experience it as a plea, you have no idea how hard the people running it are working.

One of the things I know is, is you see from, from our side of things as a detailer or a staff running plebe summer, you see that folks finally understand. It's so much harder to run plebe summer than it is to be a plebe within plebe summer And it's [00:15:00] just so it's so true and one of the things that everyone looks back on, you know Their own plebe summer and and many academy grads will tell you they had the last real plebe summer And you and I both know that's not true You never experience plebe summer twice, you never get that point of ignorance, that point of not knowing what you don't know, and that's part of the anxiety of being a plebe.

You just don't know what you don't know. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and as Major Antonelli liked to say, You get comfortable being uncomfortable and you start to understand that it's okay not to know everything and to get yelled at and to learn on the fly. You're going to get yelled at in your life.

And that's a part of what we do. It's

Grant Vermeer: a

Mike Murnane: tough business with exacting standards. And so this is the very first inoculation. It is not the most intense Navy training that is out there.

Grant Vermeer: Yep.

Mike Murnane: But it is intense Navy training for folks that do it for the first time. It's quite difficult from the [00:16:00] plea perspective and from the detailer perspective and like you and I both know, you look back on your own detailers and remember them.

And some you remember fondly and some you don't remember fondly. And we tried during our plea summer to make sure that our detail staff were the kind of people that were going to be remembered and respected.

Grant Vermeer: Yep.

Mike Murnane: It's okay not to be remembered fondly, but to be respected and to know that you gave it your all and did everything you could do.

That's what it takes. And so that leadership development program that we put the detailers through prior sets that baseline. There's, there's a few courses that we take care of and some tests that we do right before the detailing set. But by and large, we have a qualified staff ready to go and they don't know what they don't know either.

And once the plebs hit the deck, that's when the real learning starts.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. And that's so true. When you talk about the detailed staff, like you don't have to be liked, but you need to be respected. And that was kind of something that I really. [00:17:00] Wanted when I was reg commander, we talked a lot with my staff about, Hey, we need to set the standard and set the expectation of what being a detailer is going to be about.

And for us being a detailer was embracing a culture of discipline where we treated everyone with dignity and respect. Like you're saying it is a difficult Navy training, but it should never cross the line into anything. That is inappropriately degrading in any way, shape, or form. We're here to transform and develop people to get them ready to become members of the Brigade of Midship.

And that was our goal, that was the whole purpose of this. Transition from being a civilian to a military, break the old habits and create new ones. And then build them up to be ready to join the brigade. And while you were doing that, it's very easy to have a memorable experience when you're doing that with a lot of enthusiasm and energy.

You never remember the detailers that were like, just kind of there and not really doing anything. So we always talked about having a really positive attitude and working extremely hard and practicing exhaustive leadership. When [00:18:00] you're a detailer, you only have three weeks. There are two sets to Plead Summer.

There's a first set and a second set of detailers. So you have three weeks to make the impact and leave kind of your training legacy on them. And so you need to not miss a single moment of doing that. So practicing exhaustive leadership, having enthusiasm, having energy and doing all of that with Aspect of dignity and respect that was kind of my intent when I was the reg commander for our detail staff Because I wanted everyone like commander Murnay was saying to be remembered as memorably but in a positive Fashion and not necessarily for like being nice like oh, they were cool, but it was like no they were good at their job They worked hard.

They treated everyone with respect and They were a great detailer and so that was kind of what I Wanted for all of our detailers and like commander Murnay said I think it went extremely well like I The company and platoon staff that we had for the class of 2020's Plebe Summer was phenomenal. There were like zero issues at all.

Everyone was [00:19:00] doing extremely well and it was just fun to watch and I have such fond memories of being a detailer that summer. It was a really good time.

Mike Murnane: Yeah, well, for those of you listening out there, you can hear now why we selected grant to be the regimental commander of that plebe summer class. That was so well stated.

I could not have said it better myself. And grant impressed us back then when we interviewed him. Right? So the, the very, I want to add that in there, the very senior staff, we convene a panel of senior officers, all the battalion officers and the deputy commandant. And we interview these midshipmen that want the high leadership positions.

And the competition is fierce. There are like 70 midshipmen that come into that room and it's a tough room. Senior officers, 05s, 06s, and a command master chief sitting in there. And they've got to come in and answer about eight minutes worth of questions. By the time they get comfortable answering questions, we're telling them to leave.

And, and that year I do remember just really [00:20:00] enjoying the interview process. We had a great staff, like you said. In between you and Julia Arthur, who was the other regimental commander, I could not have asked for two better leaders to be at the top of the midshipman chain of command, and it made my life so easy.

So thank you again, Grant.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. I appreciate it. If you don't mind. So I was actually going to bring up the whole Striper interview process next. What were you? Um, actually looking for in people during their interviews when it came to filling the spots and the billets that were available, um, for Plebe Summer striper staff.

Mike Murnane: Yeah, and that's a, that's an interesting question, because the first time I sat on the striper board, I realized as a midshipman, I never went to a striper board. So what am I looking for? Nah, it was, it was humbling, man. I'll tell you there, Grant, you and Julia and so many others that came into that room to interview had such great composure, were articulate, You could [00:21:00] convey a sense of command and leadership philosophy and an ability to respond.

And we knew we knew how pressurized that room was. Shoot. Even one of us walking in and even though we know each other in there starting to get grilled by that group of people, man, nobody's comfortable in that situation.

Grant Vermeer: It's intimidating. And so

Mike Murnane: it sure is. And I mean, I know it's hard. by design and you sit across the table and everybody else is on the other side of the table and man, there's no glass of water in sight, get parched real fast.

And I've seen great midshipmen go into that room and have a hard time being able to articulate their thoughts and plans and goals and, and their leadership philosophy and that sort of thing. And it's, you know, that the pressure of plebe summer is to the point we can't have someone that's going to.

underneath the pressure. And so that room is designed to be a little bit pressure packed, but we bring the stripers in and we grade each one of you guys out. And when I say stripers, I'm talking [00:22:00] about the people that have the high leadership positions. And so we, we grade everyone out. And you know, I, I know when you came through grant, I gave you the highest marks of anyone that came into that room.

And that it was an easy decision for me and I know my colleagues in that room, many of them just put their pens down and sat back and smiled in their chair as you conducted that interview. So it was inspiring then as your, your last speech was, it's inspiring now to listen to you. I know you're, you're already doing great things in the fleet and, and that's as a result of some of the great lessons that you got to learn going through the tribulations that you had to go through at the academy.

Grant Vermeer: I really, really appreciate the kind words, sir. Okay. Yeah. So once we get to the summer now, so everyone has been slated, everyone's been picked. We have the plebe summer detailing staff all set out during the lead up time and during the summer. What lessons were you trying to. teach your officer staff. So all the oh threes working for you.

[00:23:00] And then what were you trying to get the like the company level leadership to teach their detailers? Like what were some of the big lessons that you wanted people to get out of plebe summer from the detailing side of things?

Mike Murnane: Yeah. So everyone needs to understand one that servant leadership is way harder than just being a follower.

And you know, everyone talks about, Oh, plebe summer or plebe year is, is the worst year and it's difficult and everything else. I definitely believe that the harder thing is leading and inspiring your peers.

Grant Vermeer: Mm-Hmm. .

Mike Murnane: And so I talked with the officer staff a lot about peer leadership, about how difficult it is to inspire your peers and to get them to do what you need them to do.

And you know, you guys. During the academic year, all have that same rank or, you know, close to it. And so, or at least coming in as second class midshipmen, you were all just second class midshipmen juniors at the United States Naval Academy. And so now here you are with someone who's been through the same amount of training as [00:24:00] you and you have more stripes on your shoulder and you're told to go ahead and lead them.

Hey, that is the way of the military. And that happens in, in actual, uh, you know, the military, once you, once you get out there and join the fleet, you know, people will be promoted up the ranks faster. And so at some point in time, you'll be looking at a peer and they'll either have a rank higher than you or lower than you.

And dealing with that, that peer leadership aspect is so key. Time management. It's so difficult being able to predict. All of the different things that are going to happen, which are, it's impossible to predict the future. We know that, but to predict the trouble spots and to have plans and courses of action and things ready to go for when things don't go right.

Everyone has a plan. But no plan survives first contact. And, you know, we had a great plan for how I day was going to go. And we had to shuffle multiple times just on induction

Grant Vermeer: day

Mike Murnane: to make sure that it worked. And, you know, every day there's that challenge. [00:25:00] And then as the fatigue sets in after the three or four day point, I remember talking a lot to the staff about, okay, they're going to now feel the exhaustion.

Of the adrenaline pump is done. Idea is coming, gone. We've had that experience. We've gotten into a little bit of a rhythm and now exhaustion is going to start setting in and they're going to realize, Oh my God, I'm working 18 or 19 hours just to try and make sure that they're, you know, 14 hour day goes smoothly

Grant Vermeer: and,

Mike Murnane: and it is not easy.

And so the ability to mentor and help people see that they need to develop rest plans and they need to take care of themselves so that they can do their job well. And again, it's another great fleet lesson, but that's, that's one of those things where the officer staff has to really be sharp and monitoring their people and looking out for those signs of fatigue and for those small mistakes and those little things.

That, you know, when, [00:26:00] when the little mistakes happen, that's when, you know, big mistakes start to follow. And so you want to catch it at the little mistakes, correct it, do

Grant Vermeer: it,

Mike Murnane: you know, in a good tactful manner. And, you know, typically as we like to say, you know, praise in public and reprimand in private. You take someone aside in private, make those little corrections and then move them on.

And then, you know, you watch that growth and development that, that aha moment of, Oh, I get what you're saying now. And you see that happen. And, and man, from the, from the officer side, it's so inspiring to watch it. It's trust me, it was just as exhausting for me. And I remember ordering me to take a weekend off and go.

Let Lieutenant Colonel Coleman take charge of things. And we don't like to do that. We don't like to let go of things, but it is, it's a great lesson. And it was an example that I had to, I'm trying to teach it to you guys. If I don't follow it, what kind of an example am I setting? And so it's, it's an amazing way of [00:27:00] looking at the prism of your own career and all of the experience you've had and what you've learned and the ability to share it.

I know, I know I said this many times when I got back to the Naval Academy and to a lot of different people, but I felt like every tour that I had led me to my battalion officer tour, because every tour that I did in the Navy, there was a story I could tell and share with you guys. that could somehow marry up to what we were learning, what we were doing, what was going on, and it could help teach a lesson.

And you know, if we learn, if we learn lessons from anecdotes and stories, it's a lot better than learning it the hard way.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. And Sir, so one of the big things that, that stuck with me that you always, uh, would talk about is the idea of being a teacher, coach, and mentor. And, I just like, I love that you're talking about the idea of a rest plan and making sure that you are properly getting the right amount of rest.

that you're going because that was something that felt [00:28:00] like again, I didn't want to do it. It's the same thing I was talking about earlier with exhaustive leadership where I was like, I only have three weeks. I want to do everything. But it was those conversations with you and realizing that you not need to take that time off because.

I am a big believer in the power of presence and that's something that I tried to incorporate every single day was constantly walking around Brankhoft Hall, constantly being present, all of the different companies just so I could be there and see that everything that was going on. But if you are not ready, you are not rested.

If you are too tired to really be present in the moment, like you might actually physically be there, but you're not there. You're not present in the moment. And that was such a major lesson that I learned during clebsummer because of your coaching and your mentorship that like in order to be present somewhere, you really need to be present.

In order to be present, you have to be focused on that situation. The only way to do that is to making sure that you are taking care of yourself. So that way you're adequately able to do that. So I just want to say thank you because that was one of the biggest lessons I learned. [00:29:00] And going out onto deployment now, where I've been on three different deployments.

It's very easy to drive yourself to the point of exhaustion where you are not operating at the level you should be and making sure that you take the appropriate rest and trusting in your chiefs and trusting in your first class to lead so you are able to. Kind of take the rest that you need in order to be leading at the, like your prime ability is so important and that was just such a major lesson I learned through my time as a detailer and as a direct result of your teaching, coaching, and mentorship.

So thank you so much. And for all the parents and everyone listening out there, if you have a son or a daughter that is going to be a detailer or eventually wants to be a detailer, like building these relationships with the officer staff. I mean that's where you learn all of the major life and leadership lessons because.

Those are things that just You can't have they just don't happen unless you make an effort to build these relationships. So, sir, I just want to say thank you so much because it was a tremendous [00:30:00] opportunity and experience.

Mike Murnane: Well, it was always humbling and inspiring to work with you, Grant, because I recognize that.

My time as a midshipman, I was not quite as successful as you were as a midshipman. And so it always made me feel better that I had something to offer now, later on in my career, rather than, uh, not offering much back when I was a midshipman and there's, you know, there was nothing wrong with my time as a midshipman.

I learned a lot of great lessons and there were amazing things that I got out of it, but I can honestly say it's a gift that keeps on giving, you know, as I see you guys out in the fleet. Anyone that I worked with, it's, it's been so rewarding to run back into you guys and the fleet and to hear the stories about what you're doing in the fleet and how it relates directly back to things we did.

And, and so those plebe summer lessons. I knew I wasn't just trying to teach you some abstract theory that you would never use again in your life. I was teaching you something that, you know, hopefully you'd put to use right away and it sounds like you [00:31:00] sure did. And so again, it's, it's really rewarding to me to, to, to hear those stories back again, and you were one of the easy ones to teach, coach and mentor.

Grant Vermeer: I appreciate it, sir. All right, moving on now to, um, we talked about the detailing staff. We, we mentioned that there's a company officer and a senior enlisted leader with each plebe summer company, sir, if you don't mind just explaining a little bit about the role of each company officer and senior enlisted leader during plebe summer.

Mike Murnane: Yeah, well, I'll tell you even I'll dial it back a little bit further that senior enlisted leader thing started when I was a midshipman. They started sending enlisted personnel back to the academy. It's one of the greatest things we've done at the naval academy is incorporating, you know, chief petty officers, you know, gunnery sergeants and senior enlisted personnel.

You know, they get to look at you guys and they know that in a couple months, a year or two, you're going to be the one leading them. And they are, have a real vested [00:32:00] interest in making you the product that they want to be led by, man, that it's magical. So those, those senior enlisted leaders in the plebe summer companies.

Man, they offer just an amazing insight to life in the fleet. They're a great conduit between our fleet returning sailors that are going to go through it, go through the Academy experience, and they can translate a lot of things. And so that experience is so invaluable. The senior chiefs, the gunnery sergeants, all of those folks.

Participating at the senior enlisted level. And so they're paired with a company officer. And so the company officer is a, you know, a lieutenant who has come back off of sea duty from their first operational tour. And so they're in their first shore duty tour. Where they're, you know, many of them have come back to the academy, you know, their academy grads themselves, and many of them have not, it's not a majority, but you know, a sizable minority of them are not [00:33:00] academy grads and they, it doesn't matter whether you have an academy grad or not, all of them come back and they, they learn more about managing larger numbers of people and that, that mentoring role and the fleet experience that they can share.

It's so close to what you guys are going to go experience. That it's just an invaluable resource for the, for the midshipmen and then for the company officer to practice that, that kind of leadership. And so they get to mentor each one of the companies. So a smaller number of midshipmen underneath them, uh, they have a smaller group to kind of look out for the day to day operations while the more senior folks look at the, the entire operation and the, in the larger picture.

But they kind of get involved right knee deep in it with the company level leadership. And so that, that mentorship role, I think really works well. [00:34:00] And some of them just their fleet experience drives them to be superb. Company officers, and it's, it's so fun to watch the mentorship and their ability to connect to the detailers and inspire them to, you know, to lead boldly and to do great things and to understand that they're going to work harder than they perceive the plebs to be working.

And so that I got to witness a lot of that during really both plebs summers that I served in, but certainly our plebs summer, it was, it was great to watch and observe.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. Now we're going to get a little bit more personal to you, sir. Do you have a favorite memory or a story from either your Plebe Summer or from your time as the Plebe Summer OIC?

Mike Murnane: Well, shoot. Uh, I would say my Plebe Summer, my favorite memory, which still to this day makes me and several of my friends laugh, but, uh, I remember. We were in the [00:35:00] hallway and there was some squad leader instructional period going on, which really translated into a lot of PT for us, please. We were doing a lot of flutter kicks and pushups and that sort of thing.


Grant Vermeer: you not to suck so bad, right? That's right. And

Mike Murnane: just trying to inspire me to be a better version of me. Well, I do remember at one point in time, I got put down in the pushup position and a copy of midshipman regulations made it on the floor underneath my face while I was doing pushups and the squad leader told me to read from the paragraph while I was stuttering and stammering while he's saying down and up and, and I was having a really hard time reading it.

Well, the reason I was having a hard time reading it is the book was upside down in front of

Grant Vermeer: me. That's it.

Mike Murnane: All of my buddies that were standing on the wall getting yelled at in a position of attention Couldn't you know, they were not allowed to look down and see what was happening with me Well, one of my very good friends shared with me later that [00:36:00] year that he thought I was illiterate and he couldn't He couldn't figure out how I got into the Naval Academy and I couldn't even read a book.

This is a name guy. It was totally that sort of thing. And of course I didn't find out about it until four months later, we wound up striking off his friends and, and hanging out together and we'll, you know, after the first army Navy game that we went to, which was a Navy win. My plea beer makes it all, all that much better.

It was a lot of fun and we were sharing stories and that story came out. So I think that one I've told many, many times and I, and I really, I really love it. But, um, you know, I think my favorite memory of our plebe summer actually occurred before plebe summer started. And that was when, you know, I got you and Julia together and we started talking about What was in front of us and the work that we were going to have to put in.

And I just remember that from the previous year, my experiences, the assistant officer in [00:37:00] charge, I learned a couple of lessons that I thought were really important. So I started to try and share them with you guys. And before I could even elaborate on what I was talking about, you and Julia had it, man.

It was so inspiring. And I think I remember starting to relax. Once we named our stripers and you and Julia were in charge and you guys would come to the meetings And you would have input you would have just really good insight into what was going on and what needed to be done such that when You know Right before I day getting ready for first set and then right before the turnover to second set All of that hard work was already done before we got there And I knew it, you know the year before as the assistant officer in charge that those are critical periods Those are hard times And you and Julia made it that much better because you guys put hard work in ahead of time.

And so my memory of that is pretty acute and pretty great. I won't lie [00:38:00] and say that as the last parade of plebe summer went by, I did have a smile as I got on the, got on the bus to ride back over to alumni hall with the distinguished visitors and, and just said, Oh, thank God. I think, you know, there's one other picture that I savored.

Up on the podium at pep, someone took a picture of me just enjoying watching all of the plebs run off the field. It may have been you that took it. Uh, but I savor that picture because I remember it was close to the end of the summer, it was one of our last pep sessions. And I, I do remember feeling pretty rewarded at that point in time.

So I gave you a couple extra memories more than what you asked for. But, uh, as we reminisce, I have a lot of fond memories of, that summer.

Grant Vermeer: Oh, I absolutely love it. Thank you for sharing all those. I really appreciate it. All right. So, sir, the majority of our listeners are people actually that are about to come for plebe summer.

So a lot of people who have received their appointments to the Naval Academy. [00:39:00] So as we talk to them, what is your best piece of advice for anyone about to go through plebe summer?

Mike Murnane: Yeah, it is going to be. A stressful event and right now, be comfortable with the fact that it will be stressful. My mother still remembers dropping me off at alumni hall at the doors to go in and start the induction day I day process.

And I don't know who it was. It was a member of the plea summer staff, but someone came up to my mother, grabbed my mother and she could, they could see the concern on her face. And they said, don't worry, ma'am, we haven't lost one yet. And to this day, to this day, I don't know if he was talking about a mother or a plea, but either way it was comforting to her.

And so I will tell the parents that have anxiety about that moment. That it's it's okay. It's a great journey. You'll see them at the end of the day And you will be amazed already at the [00:40:00] transition that has happened to your son or daughter at that point in time As they're standing in front of you in a uniform with a new haircut of sorts and and a new look on their face What you're going to embark on is going to change who you are in a profound way for the good.

It's going to teach you the sacrifice of hard work. It's going to teach you how To prioritize time, manage and become the best version of yourself. And so if you embrace it, if you embrace it as a challenge, don't think about all the things that you're giving up, you're missing out on or anything else. If you embrace that challenge and understand that that four year road.

Is lightning fast. It happens before you know it. It's not that long of a seven week or eight week summer from when you get dropped off to when you, when you have parents weekend. And then when you join the brigade and then, and there's just little [00:41:00] milestones all along the way that you have to look forward to.

And man, you know, that climbing of Herndon at the end of plea beer, boy, that's, that's something that you think about all plea beer long, what that's going to feel like. And it feels as good as you imagine it.

Grant Vermeer: to

Mike Murnane: feel. And then every one of those milestones along the way feels as good as you imagine it.

And so just understand you don't run a marathon in one big step. You run it many short steps and you have to persevere and you have to have, you have to have some tenacity and you got to learn about yourself along the way. So be open to learn about yourself, show up in good shape, be physically fit when you get there.

You don't want. So you have to try and get into shape over plebe summer that makes plebe summer. Markedly more difficult if you have remarkably. Yeah. So do show up in shape and then enjoy it. It is. You're going to, you heard me, you know, that was 1991. [00:42:00] I hate to admit that 28 years on. I can still vividly remember.

Doing pushups over the top of that midship and regulations book. And so you're going to create some memories that are going to last. They're going to last,

Grant Vermeer: embrace

Mike Murnane: that and know that it's a fundamental experience to who you will be, whether you eventually graduate or not, it doesn't even matter. It's a fundamental part of who you will be for the rest of your life is that you're going to experience something that not a lot of people get an opportunity to experience.

Grant Vermeer: So I'm just going to go ahead and try and summarize what we've been talking about a little bit really quickly. And so I think after all of this discussion, which has been absolutely tremendous and extremely valuable, I think we can simplify it as this, is that there are detailers and officer and senior lists of staff that are carefully selected, well trained, And they did it because they want to be a part of this development and growth process, right?

The objective [00:43:00] of Plebe Summer is to indoctrinate you into becoming military members, to transition from being a civilian into a military member, and then basically build you into a basically trained midshipman that is ready to join the brigade. And all of this Allows the detailers to get this defining leadership experience that we talk about with all the the teaching coaching and mentoring in this real world experience of leadership in leading plebs that I want to get across to the point that everything that happens during plebs summer, a lot of it will not be fun and it will be very stressful and there'll be a lot of pressure.

But it is not personal. None of it is ever personal. We are there with a job, and we do it because we care, and we do it because we care about the plebs, and we want them to become the best versions of themselves as people and leaders as they can possibly be. So that's always my best advice, is realize that whenever you feel like you may be getting a lot of negative attention, potentially, It's never personal and it's always in the best interest of you whether or not, [00:44:00] whether or not it feels like it in the moment.

So, I think those are kind of some of the really, really big things. And Commander Rene, thank you so much for coming on to talk about it. But before we finally wrap up, we do have a lightning round of quick questions here. For you to answer. Ready to go. First of which is what is your favorite spot on the yard?

Mike Murnane: There's a chestnut tree across from the chapel. And for whatever reason, walking from my house to Bancroft hall every day, for some reason, just walking underneath that chestnut tree, it's out on, just off of stripling walk, but on, uh, I forget the name of the, the walk that it's on, but it's one of the curved paths along the way.

And it's just, it's just a neat, really old tree. And I can't imagine the number of amazing military people that have walked past that chestnut tree. So that's, I think that's my favorite spot on the yard.

Grant Vermeer: That's really cool. That's a unique answer and I love it. [00:45:00] Alright, sir. Well, what, uh, either from your time as a midshipman or, uh, as battalion officer, what's your favorite meal in King Hall?

Mike Murnane: Chicken tenders with Poulet sauce. Come on, man. I didn't, I instruct you on this. God, I feel like I failed. I know. So you guys, we, so captain Hughes, the suppo while we were there brought it back your senior year, there was a picture of this mushroom cream sauce. Oh, that's right. The sauce. The sauce. And I tried to get you guys to dig it and no one in your class really liked it.

But when we were mid shipment and the bin of chicken tenders would come out, especially as a plead, you would get dispatched from your table and you would have to go politely ask the King Hall workers if you could get one extra tray of chicken tenders, if there were any extras left. And so when the chicken tenders and Poulet sauce were out, that was always my job in my squad as a plead.

So that was my favorite meal.

Grant Vermeer: Fantastic. All right. The next one, and I [00:46:00] forgot to put it in the outline, so sorry, uh, is what's your favorite book? And then kind of along that is, is there a book that you would recommend for someone who is about to head to the Naval Academy for Plebe Summer? They can be the same book, but I just kind of preface it in two ways.

Mike Murnane: Yeah, I've read, so this is going to take me full circle to where The people listening are on my interview with the folks, the blue and gold team to get my nomination to the academy. They asked me about, tell us about the books you've read and I gave them an answer and I hope some of you recognize it. I said, I've read dozens of books about heroes and crooks, and I've learned much from both of their styles.

And so, that's a Jimmy Buffett quote, okay? But I used it in my interview, and no one called me on it when I used that line in the interview. But, I'm sorry. But I have read a ton of books, and I will tell you a couple books that are always on [00:47:00] my shelf. One is Gates of Fire by Pressfield. I

Grant Vermeer: love it.

Mike Murnane: You know, we, we read it when we were there, it was assigned to us to read and it was a second read for me.

It's what the movie 300 is based on. But I I love that book, and as a military person, I find a lot of great joy in that one. I read a book in high school called Siddhartha. Hermann Hesse is the author of that one, and it was kind of an Eastern philosophy Buddha. Sort of thing, but it's about the journey of a young man to adulthood and finding that inner peace.

And it's a short read, but it's one I would recommend to everyone and anyone. Another book I read while I was at the Academy recommended to me by one of my company officers, because he felt that a lot of things that I talked about We're within this book and it's called resilience. Resilience is a book written by a former, uh, former Navy seal, Eric Greitens.

He's got a bit of a colorful past here recently. [00:48:00] And so I hesitate to lead with that one, but I will tell you. That resilience, the book is a phenomenal read for anyone that's undertaking difficult tasks, whatever it is, resilience is the key to life. And there's, there's a book out there. I haven't gotten to yet, but I'm going to read, it's called the obstacle is the way, and it's a little bit of a stoic philosophy.

I really believe in embracing challenges in your life. Nobody writes books about how easy it was to do what they did. Everyone writes books about the challenges they overcame. And so that resilience book talks a lot about the qualities and characteristics of a resilient person. And it's, it's a bunch of personal letters from Gritens to a former CLT member who was having a real hard time coming back to the civilian world and living as a civilian.

His marriage was on the rocks. His job was on the rocks. He just had a hard time, but [00:49:00] the letters that he writes back to him are absolutely filled with wisdom. And I was really impressed by that book. So, so real quick, those are, uh, are three books that, that I could tell you, I think would fit for anyone.

About to embark this journey.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely, man. That's great. I need to read two of those gates of fire is one of my absolute favorite. Um, and for anyone, let's say it just provides so much commentary and insight into leadership, but specifically military leadership and the role of an officer within a military unit.

And so on top of it, just being an entertaining story, there's so much insight and, uh, and great wisdom that you get out of it. So, uh, thank you for those recommendations. And the last question is, what advice would you give to any of your children if they were attending the Naval Academy?

Mike Murnane: That's funny you would ask.

I tried, I tried to make that happen. My oldest daughter is going to college this year. So she's, she has chosen not to go to a service [00:50:00] academy and that's okay. I'm all right with that. But if I was going to sit one of my children down, the advice I gave a few minutes back, About embracing the challenge about understanding that this is shaping who you are someone who is willing to take on something harder than most other people embrace that opportunity thrive in that environment and you will succeed no matter where you go.

Those qualities they get learned. This is why Naval Academy grads have a good reputation around the world, regardless of whether they serve a career in the military or not, the things that you learn in all service academies, the things that you learn in a service academy, it just shows that you have a humble nature, willing to work hard and that you'll take on the big challenges and I love that reputation and I do everything I can to.

To maintain that reputation. And I've [00:51:00] tried to instill it in my own children as I've got four crazy children of my own.

Grant Vermeer: Well, sir, thank you so much for coming on the Academy Insider Podcast and sharing some of your, your insight and just true wisdom and kindness. And so thank you so much. We'll really, really appreciate it.

Mike Murnane: My pleasure, Grant. Anytime for you, certainly. Uh, but I really enjoyed that role in that time at the Academy and, and I love our Alma Mater and I love to call it our Alma Mater now.

Grant Vermeer: Absolutely. I'm glad to call it our Alma Mater too. For sure. All right. Well, uh, thank you so much. And for everyone listening, thank you for tuning in and, uh, I hope you all have a great day.

Thanks. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Academy Insider Podcast. I really hope you liked it, enjoyed it and learned something. www. During this time. If you did, please feel free to like and subscribe or leave a comment about the episode. We really appreciate to hear your feedback about everything and continue [00:52:00] to make Academy Insider an amazing service that guides, serves, and supports midshipmen, future midshipmen and their families.