Recruiting for Annapolis

November 2011


Last week, I had the opportunity to leave the Naval Academy a few days early for Thanksgiving in order to visit high schools in my hometown, Richmond, Va. My orders were simple: to promote the Navy and the Naval Academy.

Wearing inspection-ready SDBs and carrying a briefcase full of USNA pamphlets, I surprised the schools’ front desk workers who were not used to seeing a service-member in their school. At most of the schools, I set up a table in the school cafeteria during the students’ lunch break. Interested, or just curious, students would trickle over to my table to find out what this guy in uniform was doing in their school cafeteria.

Many students did not understand the purpose of the U.S. Naval Academy. However, what surprised me the most was how little the faculty knew about the Naval Academy. Several high school teachers did not know where the Naval Academy was, or what the institution had to offer. I understand that less than 1% of the nation serves in the military, but I think high school teachers especially should know about the great opportunities offered at the Naval Academy.

Not that the Academy is lacking applicants. Reading through the Naval Academy Class of 2015’s profile reminded me of how selective the Naval Academy is. This year, the Academy will likely have over 17,000 applicants (another new record) and admit 1,400 of them. About 1,200 of those admitted will arrive on Induction Day. Many students left my table when I told them the admission rate. For those who stayed behind, I added how the acceptance rate was 0% for those who didn’t submit an application. I think the increased cost of higher education in the U.S. coupled with the poor economy incentivizes prospective candidates formerly on the border of applying to at least throw their hats in the ring. The free tuition and guaranteed job convinced many of the high school students I spoke with to research the Academy.

One school had me speak for an Air Force JROTC class. Many of the students in that class were in the process of applying to one of the service academies. For this group, I tried to emphasize the difference between the service academies and civilian schools. The service academies stress leadership; civilian schools stress academics. I did have a difficult time answering why a student should chose the Naval Academy over an ROTC program. After stalling for a minute by discussing how military training at the Academy is more intense, I came up with a better answer. I told the student that the lifelong bond between midshipmen at the Naval Academy would be stronger than the bond among students at most civilian schools.

Overall, I enjoyed talking about the Naval Academy with these kids. The experience certainly caused me to reflect on where I was four years ago, and why I came to the Academy.

Posted by jjames in Navy, Training & Education

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • Peter Orlowicz

    For high schoolers without any substantial military experience, the service academies might be a better choice than an ROTC program; based on my own negative experience, I wouldn’t ever recommend the service academies to a prior enlisted candidate, though. Personally, I feel enlisted basic training does a much better and more thorough job of teaching the essentials than Plebe Summer does, without much of the institutional arrogance that the Academy tends to impart to its cadre members. This is far from the best place to be critiquing the Academy model, and better Sailors than I have done that in the appropriate forums; still, this sort of outreach and recruitment is valuable not just to the service academies, but to the military as a whole, I think, just by getting a military career on the radar screen for a lot of individuals who otherwise would never have thought of it.

  • Rich B.

    Anytime the military performs outreach to the civilian community it really should be part of a larger plan. Simply sending an individual out to “wing it” has lead to many problems with how our services are represented in society. There really should be a set of “talking points” we send our officer out with.

    It is just as important, if not moreso, to educate the “educators” who talk daily to students than the students themselves since often students will turn to these mentors for guidance.

    I recommend for future engagements; request 30 minutes to talk to the staff and give a short well prepared presentation focusing on both the history of the service academy and the opportunity it offers.

    Answer the questions, “why do we have the service academies?” and stress the unique nature of the life of miliary “service” and leadership. Many educators do not understand the “service” portion of our career and treat us as a hostile entity when at our core are not only entrusted with defending their ideals but the precious lifeblood of their sons and daughters and at such an early age.

    If you want to stress the difference between service academies and ROTC without Hubris; simply state it is about regimen and history. Life aboard a service academy is disciplined from sunrise to sunset; there are less distractions from your focus of study while providing you great opportunity for personal growth. A student participates in part of the American history and acquires a legacy which dates over 165 years.

    Life in an ROTC unit offers a more liberal student lifestyle and more eclectic experience. You get to participate in the unique atmosphere of your chosen university while covering much of the same coursework.

  • Brian Grubbs

    I’ll take the bait. If I have confidence and pride in the Academy, am I supposed to act sheepish around officers from ROTC or OCS so they don’t get their feelings hurt. It would seem their lack of pride and confidence in their institution is their problem, not my enthusasim for USNA.
    The arrogance I’ve seen between commissioning sources has been ROTC officers being critical of OCS officers. Oh yeah, I guess there was the USMC Captain in the movie “Heartbreak Ridge”.

    Let’s not confuse condifence in ones abilities as arrogance.

    Peter Orlowicz: Certainly boot camp does a better job of teaching military essentials, as that’s where those recruits will be in a few months time. Pleabe summer teaches USNA essentials because that’s where they are going to be the next four years. Fleet essentials can be learned during summer training and self-taught when they actually show up to the fleet.

    I do agree with your comment that we just need get out there and expose civillians to the military. As a reservist, I spend more time with civillians and my opinion is that they get 99% of their info from Hollywood. The questions I’ve get asked are pretty crazy some time.