By MIDN 3/C Daniel Kelly, Photo by USS Constitution Public Affairs
Freshmen from the Boston NROTC Consortium traveled to the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” this past weekend, September 17th and 18th, for a lesson in US Navy tradition and interactions with enlisted sailors. The USS Constitution, the Navy’s oldest commissioned warship, is a working naval command as well as a historical site. The crew are all active duty members of the US Navy who participate in outreach events and ceremonies for the mission of educating people on the rich history of the USS Constitution. The incoming 4/C had the honor of taking part in some these events.
Early Saturday, the freshmen and supporting staff arrived at the Constitution ready for a full day of training events and naval history. The weekend started with a trip to Bunker Hill and a lesson on the history of the “Battle of Bunker Hill,” one of the early battles of the American Revolutionary War where the famous order “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” was given. Then the 4/C engaged in an informative lesson in drill with Gunnery Sergeant Askew. Afterwards, the freshmen spent time at various stations where they actively participated in evolutions that the crew of the Constitution in the 19th century would have done as well.
The first of three groups started at the cannon firing station. Midshipmen gained proficiency in the workings of loading and firing a cannon, trying to attain the shortest cycle time. Another group wen to the pike station where they learned how to wield and fight with pikes. The pike, a long staffed weapon with a blade on the end, was used by the Marines on the Constitution to prevent the ship from being boarded. The last of the groups would be at the rowing station, during which the freshmen were able to work as a team and row around the Boston Harbor in gigs designed to resemble ones used by Constitution in the 19th century.
Saturday night the freshmen helped clean the warship and polish her brass, then took part in a tour of the whole ship where they were told the history of the ship and ghost stories from Old Ironsides’ crewmembers. Getting the full experience, the 4/C spent the night under the stars on the top deck of the ship. MIDN 4/C Pilepich said “I gained a true appreciation for the history and the traditions of the Navy. There is nothing quite like spending a night aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy to teach someone that.”
The next morning all of the midshipmen and staff had the opportunity to run along part of Boston’s Freedom Trail all the way to historic Faneuil Hall. The ship’s crew led the formation run and taught the midshipmen to sing cadence. The few hardy Bostonians we met along the route cheered and wished us well as we ran by.
After the run and a quick cleanup, the midshipmen went back to the gunnery station to compete for the fastest time. Team 3 won the event and received “Master Gunner” certificates and spent shell casings from the Constitution’s 40mm ceremonial cannon as their prizes. After cleaning and polishing the ship’s spar deck one last time and enjoying a hot breakfast in the galley, the midshipmen enjoyed an entertaining presentation about the ship’s history and restoration in the USS Constitution Museum and etched their names into the copper plating that will line her hull for the next 20 years.
Overall, it was an amazing learning and team-building experience, and we are thankful to the crew of the USS Constitution for this unique opportunity.