It wasn't too terribly long ago (white lie) when I was on the other side of this panel in the hot seat hoping and praying that the judges would pick me. I got lucky or something (not sure) and I did receive a pass to the next step in the process. Then an academy picked me as an alternate candidate. A few weeks later they offered me an actual slot and by July of 94 I was on my way to NY for day one of my plebe year.
The irony comes into play though in many forms. My academy experience was less than blemish free and it ended prior to graduation. At the start of my JR year I ended up transferring to a state maritime school, with a similar maritime focus and military program. Why? Mostly out of necessity but there is more to that story than meets the eye. I would say it was just the way my life was meant to unfold.
Also, because if my life had not diverted from my carefully laid path I would not have learned more about myself at the age of 22 then most folks will ever know. I learned what it feels like to get taken down a peg, to hit a wall, and to rise from the ashes. Hard when your used to being the top dog and a success at most of the things you've tried.
With the transfer came a new direction and that included a new major (Environmental Science) in the sciences, which for that alone I am forever grateful. I also learned about academic preparation and why it's important. Finally I learned not to take the chances in life for granted. So it makes me an interesting panel judge don't you think?
We receive copies of the candidates packets ahead of time to read over. I can tell you a lot about some of the students because I was one of those overachiever doing everything students. It was my dream to go to an academy and I did everything that was told of me to be a great candidate. So I can pick those kids out of the mix. I can also tell you the ones that are doing it because Mom and Dad think it's a great idea. However, there are those students that you get no real feel for and those are the ones I always love to meet. You never know what's going to happen and I LOVE surprises.
So this will be my second year serving on the panel. Last year was a real honor and I would like to hope that I helped the students with their goals. Because of my background I try to assist a student who on paper may appear to have a harder time at the academy then another. My only goal is to hopefully steer them away from the early pitfalls I faced. Nobody really told me how hard I was going to have to work. HS had been rather easy so I guess those around me assumed the academy would be the same. However, on paper I know I was not the ideal candidate and would have benefited from some academic guidance. Hindsight and all... I also try to stress extensively that if this is Mom and Dad's idea then bail now. It's not worth it.
You might wonder, how did I end up on this panel? Well, because of my Mom and Dad. Irony wouldn't ya say?
(Side note my Dad ran for state house of representatives and happened to attend a meeting where he met a staffer for our Congresswoman. The staffer was working on academy stuff and my Dad just happened to mention I attended one. She called, we talked, I'm on the panel.)
If you are interested in attending a service academy check out the following links.
Service Academy Forum - An online forum for hopefuls, attendees, and parents.
United States Military Academy at West Point
US Naval Academy
US Coast Guard Academy
US Air Force Academy
US Merchant Marine Academy