Chief midshipman felt early yearning for Naval Academy FULFILLING HER DREAM

September 06, 1995|By Kris Antonelli and Adam Sachs | Kris Antonelli and Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writers

As a kindergartner visiting the Naval Academy on a field trip, Amy Morrison watched in awe as the midshipmen, dressed in neatly pressed white uniforms, marched in front of Bancroft Hall. She knew right then she wanted to wear that uniform.

Sixteen years later, Midshipman Morrison, a resident of Columbia's Dorsey's Search village and 1992 Centennial High School graduate, is not only marching in that daily parade, she is leading it as the brigade commander -- the third woman to hold the highest midshipman leadership post.

"I remember that trip clearly," said Midshipman Morrison, 21. "They all had name tags and were in uniform. It was very impressive.

"The academy is everything I thought it would be and more. It's picture-perfect pretty here, and the research and technology available to us is amazing."

When Midshipman Morrison first visited the academy, women had just begun to attend. The first female brigade commander, Julianne Gallina, was named in 1991. Midshipman Morrison was chosen for the job in February.

Lt. Cmdr. Evelyn Siu, whose Performance Office helps select midshipmen leaders, said the selection committee seeks well-rounded individuals with strong academic records and involvement in athletics to command the nearly 4,000 midshipmen. The committee interviews about four dozen midshipmen before selecting two brigade commanders -- one for fall semester, one for spring.

The committee identified Midshipman Morrison as "someone who has a lot of talent and is not reticent to share that talent with the rest of the brigade and the local community," said Commander Siu.

Midshipman Morrison is the only midshipman to wear six stripes on her sleeve and is responsible for representing the brigade to the public and Navy officers on the Yard. She has a staff of eight midshipmen, including four women, who help her lead the brigade.

A political science major, Midshipman Morrison began working toward her Navy career as an eighth-grader at Dunloggin Middle School in Ellicott City. She knew she had to get good grades and be athletic. She was captain of the varsity lacrosse team and played soccer at Centennial High School while taking advanced placement courses and being named to the National Honor Society.

"My mom is really my role model," said Midshipman Morrison. "She always works hard to make things happen for me and my sister."

Annette Morrison said her daughter has exhibited qualities of a born leader and overcome obstacles growing up in a single-parent household.

"She was very motivated, very energetic, always a leader," said Annette Morrison, an occupational health nurse at Fort Meade. "In preschool, kindergarten and elementary school, her teachers, faculty and friends always told me she led the way and helped her friends.

"We've been through some hard times, but she became stronger having gone through it."

The brigade commander's typical day begins at 5:30 a.m. with a five-mile run before morning classes. At noon, she leads the brigade in formation in a march to the dining hall. After afternoon classes, she participates in athletics, then spends evenings in meetings until 9 p.m. Studying usually is completed by 1 a.m.

She has lettered in lacrosse at the academy and earned most valuable player honors, and she is training to run in her third Marine Corps Marathon in Washington next month.

The brigade commander's job had always held an attraction for her since she was a plebe. "Once as a plebe I sat at the lunch table with the second female brigade commander and I thought that was the neatest thing," she said. "Now I look at plebes and wonder if they look at me and think the same thing."

Midshipman Morrison said being female has little bearing on a brigade commander's job. While it sometimes seemed uncomfortable as a plebe to be the only woman in a class, she has adjusted.

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