The academy supports 33 varsity and 12 club sports teams. The men's and women's teams are both known as Navy Midshipmen, or "Mids." If they are on a team that defeats Army in any "Star" tournament, they are additionally given a gold star ("N-Star") to place near the "N" for each such victory. If they defeat Army in any other sport, they are given a silver star.
In addition to these victories, the Midshipmen have also been awarded a gold star for each of their eight appearances in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. These stars are placed below the "N" in an area now called the "Academy Star."
Army has a similar system for its athletic teams. Three gold stars are used to denote Academy victories in baseball, basketball and football. In fact, the only major difference between the two academies' systems is that Army gives out silver stars for other sports than those mentioned above. However, since Navy does not use gold stars for other victories, only silver ones are available for other awards. For example, an Army hockey team could be given a gold star if it were to win the National Collegiate Hockey League title, but only a silver star if it lost in the championship game. Similarly, an Army track & field team could be given a gold medal if it won the Olympic event in Rio de Janeiro this past summer, but only a silver medal if it came in second place.
Stars on Navy streamers follow the tradition established for ribbons and medals during World War II, with a bronze star for each action and a silver star in place of five bronze stars. The number of stars indicates the success of the mission or event.
There are three classes of stars: major, minor, and identification tags. A major star (5 points) is awarded for successful attacks on an enemy warship, while a minor (4 points) is awarded for other significant successes. Identification tags (3 points each) are used to recognize missions that did not result in any combat damage but were still considered important.
A gold color is assigned to ships that have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. These vessels are designated by a golden star added to their streamer.
Navy streamers are 60 inches (152 cm) wide and based on the award they should be ordered according to size. However, due to budget cuts only some officers are able to order their own streamers which results in some variation in size. Streamers are made of silk and nylon fibers with small amounts of polyester to make them stiffer and more durable. Each ship has the option of having its name printed on the streamer along with the class designation. If this is not done then an identification tag is used instead.
Bronze and silver 3/16 inch stars represent further awards of the Navy Good Conduct Medal; silver stars are worn in place of five bronze stars. The phrases "Fidelity, Zeal, and Obedience" are overlaid in a semicircle on the back side of the medal.
The first Navy Good Conduct Medal was awarded to an Ensign Joseph Mitchell of New York City who served on the gunboat USS Pocahontas during the War of 1812. He received his medal after being absent without leave for three months. The first civilian recipient was Mary Ellen Chiles of San Diego who had been imprisoned by pirates in the Caribbean. She received her medal after successfully lobbying Congress to pass legislation making good conduct a requirement for all sailors serving in the nation's military service departments.
Good conduct is the most common basis for awards to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Those who exhibit exemplary behavior while serving in certain high-risk positions can earn promotions or additional medals.
The training concludes with a ceremony to verify that they have earned their "wings." Military wings have a mark of their branch of duty as well as symbolic wings on the side. The wings of the United States Navy are gold, whereas those of the United States Air Force are silver.
Training naval aviators involves teaching them how to navigate by sight and by map and compass, how to operate aircraft controls, and how to fly different types of planes. Pilots also practice landings on water and other surfaces. Finally, trainees must complete about 70 hours of flight time in various types of boats before being certified as pilots.
All of this is done to make sure that new naval aviators are ready to handle any situation that may arise during missions. Even though pilots only fly planes, their jobs are very important because without them there would be no one left behind when enemies attack countries' air forces. That's why it takes a lot to become a pilot; you need to be smart and strong enough to handle stressful situations while having enough experience to know what to do when things go wrong.
Piloting planes is just part of being a naval aviator. They also have ceremonial duties at air stations all over the world. These include wearing uniforms during inspections by their superiors, calling orders during drills, and giving speeches at events such as graduations.