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Service Assignment at the United States Naval Academy

midshipman life Nov 18, 2019

One of the main questions about the Naval Academy is what happens AFTER the Naval Academy, and how the entire process of service assignment, which you will commonly hear referred to as service selection which helps think we (the midshipmen) have total control over what happens. 

This article will contain all the information you want to know about the actual service assignment day and all of the communities people can commission into from the Naval Academy.  With multiple fun traditions and events going on at the Naval Academy, service assignment is a tremendously fun (or disappointing) start to a future officer’s career in the Navy or Marine Corps.

Service Assignment Day

Service Assignment takes place right before the beginning of the Thanksgiving break leave period and has been long awaited by the First Class midshipmen.  On service assignment day, after lunch in King Hall, each company will return to their respective wardrooms, a common space for upper class midshipmen in their company’s living area.  Most wardrooms at the Naval Academy have a big TV and couches, and are large enough to fit about 40-50 people, which makes it the ideal spot for the service assignment ceremony.

Once everyone is gathered in the wardroom, the Senior Enlisted Leader (SEL) and the Company Officer will individually announce each midshipman in the company, and disclose what community that midshipman will join after graduation, hand them a certificate and a color-coded T-shirt for their respective community, and take a picture as everyone cheers.

This video newsletter from 7th Company shows each community in their color-coded shirts.

 Those t-shirts will then be worn at a service assignment party later that night!

Additionally, plebes will be tasked with purchasing and presenting small warfare pins that midshipmen will then wear in their working blue uniforms to represent what community they will be joining after graduation.  There is also a special treat for our Marine Corps selectees, which usually comes in the form of some direct application of hair clippers.   

There is one major exception to the normal service assignment day process: for varsity athletes that are “in season,” it is possible they could be on the road and not able to participate in service assignment with their company.  This was the case for me, as we had an away game for the basketball team. Instead of my company officer announcing my service assignment, the basketball officer representative, Major Krusinger, conducted a reveal for all of the firsties on the team at the end of our practice.  That was the day I found out I was going to be a Cryptologic Warfare Officer and it was one of the best days of my time at the Naval Academy.  

But how do midshipmen “choose” what they are going to service select? They submit preferences.  How do they submit preferences for service assignment? The short answer is that at the beginning of their firstie year, midshipmen will enter their service selection preferences into MIDS.  

Yes, literally as simple as listing, in order, what you want to do most in a drop down tab online.  If you have not seen the video in which I talk about MIDS, I encourage you to watch the video so you can learn all about MIDS.  But those preferences are entered into MIDS, looked at, and then those are used in what I’ll call the “service assignment calculation.”  That service assignment calculation is based on three factors: Your selected preferences, your Order of Merit (ranked performance at the Academy), and the needs of the Navy and the Marine Corps (the overall deciding factor).

The Naval Academy is proud of the fact that, on average, roughly 90% of midshipmen get a service assignment that was in their top 2 of preferences (which truly is awesome!)… however, that also means about 10% (roughly 100 midshipmen) don’t get their top two choices, so it is important to be ready to acknowledge that it might not go in your favor. 

So what are all the different service community possibilities for Naval Academy graduates? 

Well let’s start with the breakdown from the Class of 2019 and then I’ll briefly explain what each of these communities do.  An important note, if you are not tremendously familiar with the Military, the United States Marine Corps is a component of the Department of the Navy, and therefore the Naval Academy graduates Marine Corps officers.  There is no Marine Corps Academy, just the Naval Academy!

In the class of 2020, 1021 midshipmen received a service assignment (763 Navy and 258 Marine Corps):

  • Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) -259
  • Submarines -138
  • SEALs -30
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) -16
  • Navy Pilot -228
  • Navy Naval Flight Officer (NFO) -46
  • Medical Corps -8
  • Supply Corps - 3
  • Civil Engineering Corps (CEC) - 4
  • Intelligence Officers - 8
  • Cryptologic Warfare (CW) -16
  • CWE (Cyber Warfare Engineer) - 1
  • Information Professionals (IP) - 4
  • Oceanography - 2
  • USMC Ground -161
  • USMC Pilot -91
  • USMC NFO - 0
  • USMC Cyber - 6

An often overlooked fact is that the United States Naval Academy is tasked with commissioning what we, in the Navy, call unrestricted line officers.  Therefore, as you will see with the numbers above, the VAST majority of Naval Academy Graduates will be Marines, Surface Warfare Officers, Submariners, SEALs, EOD officers, or Aviators.  

The restricted line communities (Intelligence, Cryptologic Warfare, Information Professional, and Oceanography) and staff corps communities (Medical, Supply, or Civil Engineering) are usually comprised of people who were deemed medically ineligible to commission, as a result of medical examinations during their time as midshipmen, into an unrestricted line community, which makes it far less common to get one of those communities for your service assignment. 

However, the one exception in the recent past has been Cryptologic Warfare.  Starting in 2016, due to the increased need for officers in the field of military cyber operations, the Naval Academy began to commission fully medically qualified midshipmen, although very few in number, into the Cryptologic Warfare community (lucky me!). 

Surface Warfare Officers

These are our courageous Naval Academy graduates that report to surface warships after graduation.  They will get the opportunity to pick their ship (all types of ships minus aircraft carriers) and homeport for their first duty assignment before graduation, and will typically serve as a division officer in charge of a division of anywhere from 10-50 people.  If you want to learn more about being a surface warfare officer, check out this podcast I recorded with Teresa Meadows, USNA ‘16, where we talk all about the life of a SWO!


Included in our number of SWOs include our Nuclear SWOs, commonly referred to as “Nuke SWOs” will follow the same process as normal SWOs after graduation.  However, after their first duty assignment (~2 years), they will report to Nuclear Power School in Charleston, South Carolina and then report to an Aircraft Carrier after they graduate from Power School.  They will then alternate between conventional powered ships and aircraft carriers for their career.


As members of the silent service, these graduates will serve onboard nuclear powered attack, guided missile, and ballistic missile submarines.  Following the completion of Nuclear Power School, nuclear reactor prototype school, and the Submarine Officer Basic Course (SOBC), they will report to their submarine and serve as a division officer.  If you want to learn all about the submarine force, and the life of a junior officer in the submarine fleet, check out this podcast with Andrea Howard, USNA ‘15.



Naval Aviation

Top Gun 2 is being released soon, what else do you need to know? Want to be a pilot like Maverick or a NFO like Goose?  Pilots fly the aircraft while naval flight officers serve as weapons systems officer and tactical coordinators. If you go back up and look at the numbers, many people are surprised by the number of midshipmen who graduate as aviators.  Between the Navy and Marine Corps, roughly 400 people per year commission as aviators. 

Check out this video I recorded with my sponsor dad from the Academy, USNA ‘96 and P-3 pilot, to hear all about Naval aviation.

Naval Special Warfare (SEALs)

USNA graduates who receive Naval Special Warfare as their service selection will prepare to head to the notoriously difficult training known as BUD/S in Coronado, California.  Once they make it through that training, they will join one of the world’s most elite fighting forces and lead sailors in combat.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)

Another community comprised of complete physical studs, these special operators will go through a tremendous amount of training following graduation in underwater mine countermeasures, diving and salvage operations, countering improvised explosive devices, and other specialized skill sets before leading highly competent sailors.

Marine Corps

Close to 300 midshipmen graduate and commission as Marines with either an air contract or a ground contract.  Following graduation, all Marines will report to The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico Virginia for Marine training.  They will find out what their specific occupational speciality will be during their time at TBS.

Continue to follow Academy Insider as we have lots of information about the Marine Corps to be released in the near future!

Medical Corps

Yes, Naval Academy graduates can become doctors, and they can do it right after graduation!  While they are still midshipmen, these medical corps selectees will be able to apply to medical schools and receive their entire medical or dental education paid for by the Navy.  There is a very small number of slots for this opportunity, and many criteria that must be met by competitive midshipmen.

Supply Corps

After graduation, Supply Corps officers will head up to Newport, Rhode Island for supply school before reporting to their first duty station.  Most midshipmen who go Supply Corps will either end up as the “Supp-O” on a ship or the “Chop” on a submarine, handling all aspects of supply and logistics for the crew.

Civil Engineering Corps

With hands on training and experience, the civil engineers can focus their work in three areas, Contract Management, Public Works, or Construction Battalions.  Whether at a Naval Base in the United States or a port around the globe, the Civil Engineering Corps work on construction projects that support the Navy’s equipment and personnel.


A sub-community of the overarching Information Warfare Community, Intelligence officers are crucial in the analysis and dissemination of critical information to Naval forces around the world. With exposure to the IC at large, Intel officers get to lead highly motivated and trained sailors in a top-secret environment to support our warfighters around the globe.

Cryptologic Warfare

Also a sub-community of the overarching Information Warfare Community, Cryptologic Warfare Officers lead teams of Cryptologists in the realms of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Cyberspace Operations, and Electronic Warfare (EW).  I am totally not biased at all, but this is the coolest community as you can get the opportunities to deploy with surface ships, submarines, Naval aircraft squadrons, Naval Special Warfare, or work on cyber projects at the NSA and other Intelligence Community Organizations.

Information Professional

Also a sub-community of the overarching Information Warfare Community, Information Professionals focus on providing secure communications to Naval personnel around the world.  With knowledge on cyberspace, space, and all forms of communications, they are our comms experts in the Navy.


Service assignment concludes on a Thursday in November, but the process of preparation begins once you become a midshipmen.  If you would like to hear more about this topic, please see my video on service selection/assignment.

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Public Domain Photo credit:  The United States Naval Academy Flickr