Several Anne Arundel residents were among the U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen who chose the next step in their military career Thursday night, selecting the first ship they will serve on when they are commissioned later this year.
More than 250 midshipmen participated in Ship Selection in Alumni Hall, an annual tradition held in front of peers, faculty and family who have seen them navigate nearly four years at the academy. The ceremony had a similar atmosphere to a sports draft, with announcers calling midshipmen one by one to select from a lengthy list of ships stationed at naval bases around the world. The draft order is based on a combination of academic, military and physical conditioning achievements.
“These men and women will get a great leadership experience, enjoy camaraderie with their shipmates and have one of the greatest adventures they will ever have,” said Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Sarah Blank, 22, of Millersville, was the fourth midshipman to pick her destination. Blank is an oceanography major and Japanese minor. She selected the USS Dewey, a destroyer ported in Yokosuka, Japan.
Blank was presented with a katana from representatives of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, a long-standing tradition that goes to the first midshipman choosing Japan. A similar gesture is made for the first Spain selection and a sword is given to the midshipman who chooses the USS Carney located in Mayport, Florida.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Japan since I was in middle school,” Blank said. “Once I came to the Naval Academy, I had my focus on getting the chance to go. I’m excited to get out there and get qualified and become the best I can be.”
The first midshipman to select her ship this year was Cathy Meehan, 22 of Western Springs, Illinois, a mathematics and economics major. She chose the USS Makin Island, home-ported in San Diego. She was also presented with a katana from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
“I have learned a lot these past four years at the Naval Academy and have formed the strongest friendships of my life,” Meehan said. “I am looking forward to graduating with my best friends and going into the fleet to do jobs that we have been training for. It will be bittersweet to part ways with my classmates, but I am excited for all of us to get started on our greatest adventure.”
In addition to Blank, three other Anne Arundel County residents in the class of 2023 chose in the top 50.
Henry Rentz, 23, of Edgewater, a cyber operations major, chose 23rd. He selected the USS Ronald Reagan out of Yokosuka, Japan.
“I have always wanted to go on an adventure, always had a hard time sitting in one place, so I’m excited for the journey to come,” Rentz said. “There are so many unknowns in the world but being abroad and being able to make a difference is important to me and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
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Picking 42nd was Gerad Berzins, 22, an Annapolis native and Saint Mary’s High School graduate with deep ties to Annapolis and the academy. One of 15 children born to Tim and Eileen Berzins, he is just the most recent sibling to attend the academy as his brother Timber did just a few years prior.
Berzins is a cybersecurity major. He picked the USS Jason Dunham located in Mayport.
“I just wanted to get away since I’ve spent my entire life in Annapolis,” Berzins said. “I went on a summer cruise down there and I loved it. Great weather, beautiful beaches and it’s a great ship too.”
Picking a few spots later was Maggie Aumiller, 21, of Crownsville. Aumiller is a St. Mary’s graduate and an English major at the academy. She selected the USS John P. Murtha, stationed in San Diego.
“I had my eye on this ship because I am excited to explore the world outside of Maryland,” Aumiller said. “It’s time to spread my wings a little bit. Can’t wait to get out there and see where it goes.”
Later in the evening, Jackson Sky Smith, an Annapolis resident and Key School graduate, selected the USS Delbert D. Black, based in Mayport, Florida. Smith, 22, is a naval architecture major at the academy.
Ship selection is a culmination of the service assignment process for the academy. As surface warfare officers, the midshipmen will be charged with any number of shipboard operations and activities while at sea. All the Midshipmen in the class of 2023 will graduate and be commissioned May 26 and report for duty at their selected home ports soon after.