Monday, July 21, 2008

Anchors Aweigh

Our Country’s Best and Brightest

Military Academies: Years ago, it seems like it was in the 1800s, I graduated high school. My academic career was not stellar, I was no athlete, but somehow I stumbled through college and earned a degree in Psychology. Four years after my high school graduation a young cousin was completing his high school career. He was a superb student, a brilliant football player, and had leadership qualities that attracted many colleges including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He chose West Point, had an excellent career as a student and quarterback and upon graduation served his hitch in the Army. After his obligation was completed he decided to become a “lifer” meaning he made the Army his career. My cousin retired from the Army last year at the rank of Four Star General. The son of an ordinary family was able to perform extraordinarily because he had the right stuff for one of the United States Military Academies.

Seven Days Without a Blog Entry can make One Weak: Last week I had the opportunity to visit another of the United States Academies. The United States Naval Academy is located in Annapolis, Maryland. I’d been there only once before on the occasion of graduation of a Midshipman who happened to be the son of a close family friend. I was taken by the beauty of the campus and community but did not realize the depth and breadth of education provided. I had often wondered what it takes to become a Midshipman and had questions like, “Is the Naval Academy Coed?” as well as How many minorities are represented? Can foreign students attend? and Where do Marines go for their Academy training? I started my search at even before I made the trek to Annapolis. What I discovered between my research and the time spent at the Academy restored my faith in the younger generation as well as my faith in the leadership of our Navy.

From Gawky Kid to an Officer and a Leader: Any young person who is interested in becoming a Naval officer can follow one of three routes: Navy ROTC programs found in many colleges around the country offer full scholarships which not only pay college expenses but provide a stipend for pocket money while attending. A second option is for a young person to join the Navy, (referred to at the Academy as the Big Navy), and apply for Officer Candidate School. The third and most competitive way is to pass through the Naval Academy in Annapolis. To do this a high school student contacts the Naval Academy via their web site. They are then assigned a Blue and Gold Officer from their neighborhood who becomes their liaison.

Standards are High – Not for Sissies: The candidate must demonstrate scholarly ability with transcripts showing good grades in challenging courses, solid College Board Exam scores, good character, and leadership. The standards are high, the training rigorous, and the classes intense. But the reward is an education worth hundreds of thousands of dollars plus around $ 10,000 per year while attending the Academy, a guaranteed job upon completion and the education and training to become one of our nation’s leaders. Midshipmen have gone to Naval and Marine Corps careers in aviation (there are more pilots in the Navy than in the Air Force), business, engineering, and many other fields including the presidency of the United States. There are 19 majors to choose from and yes, the Academy looks like the country and includes women, varied ethnic backgrounds, and even Midshipmen from foreign countries. The essence of this builder of leaders cannot be captured in one blog entry. Even the great web page cannot capture its essence. One must attend an event at the Academy to fully appreciate it.

A little blogging music Maestro... The official Navy song, “Anchors Aweigh.”

Dr. Forgot
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