If you blinked, you missed him, and now he’s gone again, back to the grind of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.
Class of 2016 Riverbank High grad Eli Vernon returned to the academy this past week, following a brief visit home. He returns to his studies of Systems Engineering as a Midshipman 3rd Class, a second-year student. Last year, as a “plebe,” or novice, he was a MS4.
“Now, got a stripe on my shoulder and a 100 percent pay raise. Now I’m paid $200 a month,” he said with pride.
Vernon was selected as the 2015 Youth of the Year, for his volunteer activities, by the Citizen of the Year Committee. While at RHS, he enjoyed sports, including track and basketball.
“Between eighth grade and freshman year, I grew from 5-feet-9 … to 6-foot-3,” he said. “Since then, in boot camp and such, I’ve gained 50 pounds, mostly muscle."
After high school graduation, Vernon had a month of vacation before leaving. At the end of June 2016 he shipped out for seven weeks of boot camp, then jumped right into the academic year, in the middle of July.
He said his daily schedule consisted of waking up at 4:50 a.m., getting dressed and shaving, then working out.
“Terrible things like bear crawls in the snow and pull-ups until your arms don’t move anymore, until about 6:30 a.m., then we do chow call, then go to school,” he explained. “After that, at 3 p.m., you have another mandatory workout, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., dinner, study period is from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., then go to bed.”
He also had some time off at the holidays.
“I came back in time for the parade (Christmas Parade, the Saturday after Thanksgiving) and I had two weeks at Christmas.”
The school term ended in April. May and June were spent on a destroyer, the U.S.S. Carney (DDG-64), out of Rota, Spain. The Carney has a complement of 33 commissioned officers, 38 chief petty officers and 210 enlisted personnel, according to official stats.
“I saw the sun rise over Morocco ... it was a good time,” Vernon said. “June to mid-July, I spent on a sailboat off the coast of New York. It was basically just small unit teamwork and team building.”
The boat was about 44 feet long, he added.
“There were 10 of us, only four beds, you’re on a four-hour sleep cycle. And you’re throwing things up, throwing things down (sails and equipment) on the halyards. It was adventurous, to say the least.”
Vernon had 22 days leave in Riverbank and he left to return to Annapolis on Aug. 16. His school year began this past Monday, Aug. 21.
He is studying Systems Engineering, including computer and mechanical systems of all types.
“Systems Engineering is pretty much a little bit of every study of engineering and then how to make it all work together, so ... think robots and space ships and what not,” Vernon said. “And sailing ships. So I have to learn everything from how satellites work and communications works to how the power plant works and the weapons systems.”
When asked about his first year’s study, and how much engineering study he got compared to Navy training, he said, “Engineering, zero, Navy training, about as many hours as they could put into the day. And tests every Friday night, on professional knowledge, so I had to memorize every type of ship there was, every type of gun we use in every branch of service, all the different rates and ranks, very extensive.”
Vernon is looking forward to taking his first engineering course this year.
“I’m taking Esthetics, Physics, Differential Equations, and then the Intro to Systems Engineering classes, the mandatory PE classes and whatever else comes my way.”
The course load is also scheduled to include Seamanship, Officers Law, and Ethics.
“I have three more years at the Academy, then a five-year commitment afterwards,” Vernon noted.
He’ll complete his education with a Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering.
At this point, with a year’s schooling under his belt, he’s not sure, yet, of making the Navy a career.
Although it’s early in his education and his career, Vernon said much of his training is about leading sailors.
“I’m being groomed for the profession of war, leading men and women into harm’s way,” Vernon said. “In the civilian world, that could easily apply to business, to any corporate position. I’d really like a Research and Development job, in any of the big industries.”