posted on March 16, 2007 12:12
I got an interesting note today from Bill Aston through the USNA-At-Large mailing list. At issue was this article in the Chicago-area Kane County Chronicle, about a local high school running star. Here's the passage in question:
Unlike most of the people he will compete against this spring, Jackson has one headache out of the way. Jackson is headed to the Naval Academy in the fall to continue his running career and earn his degree.
“I got a letter from them at the end of the summer,” Jackson said. “I kind of put it off to the side thinking the Navy was not my thing. But then I brought it out and dusted it off and realized it was a good thing.”
Jackson will enroll in the Naval Academy Prep School for two years before becoming a freshman at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. That means Jackson will likely be 24 years old when he graduates.
When I transferred to NAPS from the 12th Marine Regiment in 1990, it was a grueling 10-month program of academic, physical, and military drill. The class was about a third active-duty military folks like myself, and the rest were recent high-school graduates—mostly athletes—whose only experience in uniform was on the sporting field.
And the program was tough! Well over a third of my class washed out, including not a few combat vets. NAPSters tend to do well once they arrive at Navy, for the simple reason that anybody who won't is already gone.
For guys like me, though, the real challenge posed by NAPS wasn't academics, but time. To graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, you must be under 26 years of age. Since NAPS eats up a year, any active-duty sailor or Marine headed to Annapolis by way of Newport has to have made his decision and started the process fairly early on. In my case, I went to boot camp the day after my 19th birthday and arrived in Newport the summer before my 21st, and I still barely made it under the wire.
Add another year to the Newport end of the equation, and a lot of great active-duty candidates just won't have time to get the message about the service academies and complete their packages before it's too late.
Fortunately, though, the Kane County Chronicle's Paul Johnson appears to have written in error. A quick perusal of the NAPS website offers plenty of detail about this year's 10-month schedule, and no mention of plans to extend the schedule in the future.
So, to that nameless, smelly, grizzled old (19-year-old) grunt out there sweating his congressman's USNA nomination board in between firefights and street sweeps, now hear this: your dream of becoming a know-nothing, green-assed butterbar will live another day!