Life as a Midshipman

A Day In The Life of Midshipman Browning

Hi all, my name is Lindsay Browning and I am a junior Marine Option at Cornell’s Naval ROTC unit. I am majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in biomechanics and mechanobiology, and I am also a part of the Women’s Varsity Ice Hockey team. Every one of my days is different (which is why I love what I do), but they always include hockey, ROTC and studying. With that in mind, I want to take you through my typical Tuesday as an ROTC midshipman.

The day starts at 0445 when I wake up for PT (physical training). Navy options and Marine options always PT together Wednesday afternoons, and Marine options have additional PTs Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We PT for an hour from 0600-0700 and then immediately transition into our Maneuver Warfare class with Major Cunningham. This class is designed to teach us the basics of maneuver warfare and prepare us for Officer Candidate School (OCS) this summer. OCS is six weeks of training where we learn how to be leaders under stressful situations.

As a side note, every midshipman has a few additional class requirements. Nearly every semester we take a class taught by one of the active duty staff. These classes are used to develop us as future officers in the Navy and Marine Corps. In addition, every semester we take a one credit drill lab that meets every Wednesday afternoon for two hours. The first hour of drill lab takes us through various required military trainings, and the second hour is dedicated to PT.

 

Ok, back to Tuesdays! After Maneuver Warfare ends at 0845, I go to trillium with members of our class to get breakfast. We talk and do homework, and sometimes run into members of the hockey team. After breakfast, I have a molecular biology lab at 1010. Last lab we gathered our DNA for sequencing, and I can’t wait to get the results back! Our lab usually goes for three hours, but if we finish early my lab group goes on a lunch run at a dining hall.

After lunch, our group heads back to Weill Hall (the big white building behind the hockey rink) for our Mechanobiology class at 1325. This is the first class we are taking that is specific to our concentration, so everybody is thrilled to work on our favorite parts of biomedical engineering. After Mechanobiology we speed walk across campus to our molecular biology lecture at 1455.

Once we finish lecture a little after 1600, it’s time for hockey! My Tuesday practice starts at 1630. I can usually count on spending 4-5 hours at the hockey rink every day. It sounds like a lot of time, but it is really fun and I find it to be a great stress reliever at the end of a long day. My teammates are some of my best friends and they are always there to push me to be better. After practice, we quickly try to find any dining halls that are still open (the latest ones close at 2100), or go home to make dinner and do homework.

 

While my activities might seem to have nothing in common, they actually compliment each other very well! From the very first time I stepped foot in the NROTC unit, it has been all about teamwork. Everything we do revolves around helping each other, whether it is completing various tasks around the unit or pushing your squad during PT. ROTC has also taught me how to work under pressure. Our MIDN and active duty staff are always pushing us to our limits so that we can learn from our mistakes now and grow. Hockey does the exact same thing. We cannot function individually, and without being good teammates we would not be doing as well as we are now. Nothing has pushed me physically more than hockey fitness testing, and pushing ourselves to the limits physically helps when we are being pushed in the same way as midshipmen.

It is definitely difficult being a midshipman, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Every challenge that is thrown our way has a lesson behind it. Being a midshipman pushes me each and every day to become a better organizer, worker, leader and person. Choosing to join ROTC was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I highly recommend it to others who want to make the most of their college experience and beyond.

A Day In The Life of Midshipman Alanko

Wednesdays are one of my busiest yet most enjoyable days of the week. Waking up at 6 AM may not sound ideal to some people, but once you get used to a good sleep schedule, it’s nice to smell the crisp morning air, see the sun rise, and the moon fade away. When my alarm goes off, I sit up in bed to do a twenty minute meditation to start my day. For those who are curious, I practice Transcendental Meditation®️. I’ve found that it has improved quite literally all aspects of my life — my focus in class, happiness levels, physical fitness, and also my relationship with others. After I come out of my meditation, I quickly get ready and head out to ride my bike to Barton Hall. Barton Hall is the “home base” for the ROTC units on campus. By the time I get there, it’s roughly 6:40 AM and I change into uniform for the day ahead.

My first class starts at 7:00 AM sharp — Naval Ship Systems II, Weapons. It’s always a treat to come to class.  It may sound cheesy, but I truly enjoy learning with my fellow midshipmen. We are a diverse group of people with majors all over the board. I’m a Psychology major, and my peers are majoring in Government, Applied Economics and Management, Biological Sciences, Operations Research, Mechanical Engineering, Hotel Administration, and more. As such, you can imagine that some people grasp certain concepts more quickly than others. When this happens, we help each other by explaining how we understand the concepts. It’s a wonderful supportive and collaborative environment. Though this class is for juniors, I’m taking it as a sophomore (in addition to my other Naval Science course in Navigation) so that I can study abroad next year.

Weapons class ends at 8:15 AM and my next class starts at 10:10, so I have a good chunk of time to eat breakfast, relax or finish other homework. If I’m craving a breakfast burrito or omelet, I’ll go to Trillium dining hall — my favorite breakfast place on campus. Other times I’ll go “topside,” the top floor of our Navy Blockhouse where we have our student lounge area, to buy a bagel from our unit store.

From 10:10 to 11:00, I have my German language course. It’s a small class of just twelve students. We develop our fluency by giving oral presentations, reading articles, discussing our impressions and opinions, and of course by learning new vocabulary. I really enjoy learning languages so this course is one of my favorites this semester. Then from 11:15 to 12:05, I have my physics lecture which meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. It’s in a larger lecture hall with roughly 150 students. Being in uniform makes me pop out from the crowd of normal students, but I don’t mind because I’m not alone. There are a few other midshipmen in the same class so we sit together.

My next class, starting at 12:15, is my oboe lesson. Music is a passion of mine. I’ve studied piano and oboe, and have been in several bands and orchestras over the years. I also started voice lessons last year to further expand my musical horizons. Taking music lessons here at Cornell is always a nice break from academic studies and ROTC activities. After I come out of my lesson, I always have a clearer mind and a happier mood, and am ready to work on the next thing on my to-do list.

At 1:15 PM after my lesson, I walk quickly from Lincoln Hall back to Barton Hall to make it to my weekly “NROTC Mindfulness and Meditation” session. Our unit is student run and my billet is the Morale, Wellness, and Recreation Officer. My job is to organize recreational activities that raise the morale and help the wellness of the unit. Examples of events that I organize are a holiday gift exchange, hiking day trip, movie night, bowling night, an ice skating night, and a talent show. I also put together intramural teams for midshipmen, such as soccer, volleyball, basketball, and dodgeball, where the midshipmen compete with other teams that are formed around campus. Since I’m a psychology major, I’m very passionate about mental health and maintaining a good school/work-life balance. To address the wellness portion of my MWR billet, specifically psychological wellness, I hold a weekly meditation session where any midshipmen or staff can join for a guided or silent meditation.

The meditation session ends at 2:00, and from 2:30 to 4:30 we have our “Drill Lab.” This class is for the whole battalion, but this year it’s different from past years. In the first hour, we’re all in a classroom and we’re given briefs about what we need to know as future Naval Officers. In the second hour, we have our “PT,” or physical training. Sometimes we mix it up a bit and do some actual drill work to practice our marching.

After Drill Lab, I quickly change back into civilian attire and rush back over to Lincoln Hall for orchestra rehearsal which runs from 4:45 to 6:45 PM. I’m in the Cornell Symphony orchestra and for our upcoming concert, we’re performing Frank’s Apu, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 6, and Hüe’s Fantasie for Flute and Orchestra. I love bringing beautiful music to life with a large group of talented people. But after rehearsal, I’m ready to go home to my co-op. The co-op I live in is on the smaller side with just over ten residents, all Cornell students. We’re great friends with each other and always have a fun time studying together in the living room, laughing, and occasionally having house dinners that turn into feasts.

For my usual Wednesday night dinner, I heat up some beans and rice for an easy Mexican meal. Since I know I spend the day always on the move, I try to get all of my homework for Thursday done in advance so that I can relax at night. After dinner, I spend time hanging out with my housemates and then head upstairs to hit the sack.

Wednesdays are definitely eventful, but time passes quickly since each activity is fun and engaging. Back in high school, I never imagined that I would one day join ROTC and eventually work for the U.S. Navy. I thought briefly about applying to the Naval Academy or Air Force Academy, but I ended up only applying to Cornell because I wanted a “normal” college life. In high school I didn’t know anything about ROTC. I learned more about it half way through my senior year and it sounded like the perfect mixture of a normal college life and the military experience that had peaked my curiosity in the academies. No one in my immediate family had ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces, but that clearly didn’t hold me back from joining. I’m not going to lie — adjusting to life as a midshipman was difficult, especially since I took a gap year before starting university. But the people at the unit quickly became family. I always had someone willing to help me out with anything I needed, and I learned that I wasn’t alone in my struggle to adjust. Sometimes you just have to go through the motions and not get caught up in your thoughts because you’ll figure it all out in time. That time came for me the summer after freshman year when I went to San Diego for “CORTRAMID,” a Naval training experience where we got to tour the different communities of the Navy that we can join after graduation. It was lots of fun and I learned a lot about what I can expect once I commission. I also made many new friends from different NROTC units around the country and got to compare our college experiences with each other. I felt right at home with them and knew that joining the Navy was going to be an adventure. Now in my sophomore year of college, I really enjoy my life as a midshipman at Cornell and I’m excited for what the future has to offer.