End of Line for Academy Tradition?

Annual obelisk climb may end

By Jack Heinbaugh
|  Monday, May 24, 2010  |  Updated 1:15 PM EDT
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End of Line for Academy Tradition?

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ANNAPOLIS, MD - MAY 19: Annapolis Naval Academy "Plebes" try to make a human wall to climb a monument covered with lard May 19, 2003 in Annapolis, Maryland. The freshman class, known as "plebes," climbed Herndon Monument at the Naval Academy to retrieve the Plebian Sailor's hat and replace it with an officer's hat. The tradition is one step in marking the end of wearing freshman headgear and moving up to headgear more like a Naval officer. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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For 60 years U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen have been climbing a 21-foot greased obelisk to celebrate the end of their first year.

But that tradition may be nearing an end.

Each year a small group of students piles on each other to climb the lard-greased Academy monument.

The mission is to replace a plebe's hat on the top of the Herndon Monument with an officer's hat.

But the climbing part of the tradition may be on its way out, said Vice Admiral Jeffrey Fowler, the superintendent at the Naval Academy.

Officials are concerned that some students have been injured over the years.

Plus, first-year students now have a different exercise considered to be a greater gauge of teamwork for the entire class rather than just the small number that climbs the monument.

But those who don't want the tradition to end have been voicing their opinion to Navy Times in e-mails.  One of those summed things up as such:

“I can tell you the loss of the Herndon ceremony will leave a Herndon-shaped hole in the hearts of all [Naval Academy] graduates, past and present,” said Lt. Jim Elmore, who graduated in 2002. “The Herndon experience was much different than Sea Trials. If the admiral really thinks that more teamwork is required to finish Sea Trials, then he needs to pull the blinders off and take a look around during these two vastly different events.”

 In total, Navy Times said it received more than 30 e-mails in support of the climb and just one against it.

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