Naval and Air Force Academies welcome class of 2028 with ‘I-Day,’ plenty of yelling

There is one experience at the core of every military career, and it is that first day — even that first hour and minute — when your civilian life crashes to an end as you run straight into the reality of basic, Day-1 military training.

It’s loud, fast and bewildering, as it has been for generations before you and everyone who has come since. It’s also, when viewed from calmer later days, hilarious to watch others suffer through.

Two military academies held that day Wednesday for their newest rising freshmen, an annual tradition known at both the U.S. Naval Academy and Air Force Academy as “I-Day” — though perhaps predictably for the rival campuses, the “I” stands for different words: “Induction Day” at USNA, “In-processing” at USAFA. New classes at the other three service academies will get their high-volume welcomes next week. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point holds “R-Day” — for “Reception” — July 1, the same day as the Coast Guard Academy’s “Day One.” The Merchant Marine Academy’s “Zero Day” is July 5.

U.S. Air Force Academy -- (U.S. Air Force photo/Trevor Cokley)
An incoming Air Force Academy cadet and a student instructor on I-Day. Trevor Cokley

The admissions department of both schools released images and videos on social media Thursday of the intake process which will look familiar to any veteran of any military basic training: teenagers in civilian clothes being hounded, yelled at and pursued by yelling instructors.

They look scared. They look shook-up. They look just like everybody else who’s been in the same spot.

Initial training for all first-year students at all military academies runs for close to two months, with rituals and routines that any veteran of any boot camp would recognize — shaved heads, marching, standing at attention, group fitness, learning rules and never, ever getting anything right. Unlike the campaign-hatted training NCOs who oversee enlisted training, academy students are trained mostly by upperclassmen at the school.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 27, 2024) U.S. Naval Academy midshipman candidates, or plebes, of the class of 2028 receive instruction from detailers during I-Day which marks the beginning of a demanding six-week indoctrination period called Plebe Summer that is intended to transition the candidates from civilian to military life. As the undergraduate college of our country’s naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. (U.S. Navy photo by Stacy Godfrey) (This photo has been altered for security purposes by blurring out identification numbers.)
U.S. Naval Academy midshipman candidates, or plebes, of the class of 2028 receive instruction from detailers during I-Day, 2024. photo by Stacy Godfrey Stacy Godfrey

But while being yelled at by fellow students may sound like an easier path than traditional boot camp, all three military schools maintain a small cadre of fully-qualified training NCO — Army Drill Sergeants at West Point, Marine Drill Instructors at the Naval Academy, Air Force Military Training Instructors, or MTIs, at Air Force — to join in the fun-, err, maintain standards during summer training.

Click here for more pictures of future officers getting yelled at in their first hours at the Air Force Academy and others at the Naval Academy, also known as Annapolis.

Correction, June 27, 2004: This story has been corrected to indicate that summer training at all three military academies includes a cadre of traditional NCO drill instructors.

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Matt White

Senior Editor

Matt White is a senior editor at Task & Purpose. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.