The Ballard Talisman

Student pursues future in naval academy

A look into student military aspirations and what it means to serve

Senior Elliot Johnson stands outside of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland during the Candidate Visit Weekend. The school has a nine percent acceptance rate. (Photo courtesy of Elliot Johnson)

Senior Elliot Johnson stands outside of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland during the Candidate Visit Weekend. The school has a nine percent acceptance rate. (Photo courtesy of Elliot Johnson)

Senior Elliot Johnson stands outside of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland during the Candidate Visit Weekend. The school has a nine percent acceptance rate. (Photo courtesy of Elliot Johnson)

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The end of the semester for all seniors is known to be both exciting and stressful all at once. With applications finally over, we start to get a newer sense of where we may end up this time next year. For some this means university, an internship, a new job or even a gap year abroad. For others, like senior Elliot Johnson, they envision their future enlisting in the army or applying to some form of military school. As Johnson prepares for his finals and submits college applications just like the rest of the school, he has the added stress of applying to a naval academy—a longtime dream of his.


Family Tradition

This dream stems from both of his grandfathers being officers, his love and avid participation in the school’s maritime academy, and from growing up around many family friends with military backgrounds.

“Seeing firsthand the presence that someone [in the military] can command right away just by entering a room was huge for me. It was just this awakening point of what a true leader was, and that’s exactly what I aspire to be,” Johnson said.

The difference between enlisting and going into a military academy lays in ranking. During the time at the academy, a student will be considered a cadet, and upon graduation the student will be an officer. Johnson is applying to the United States Naval Academy in Maryland.  This school is the only military academy close to a major city— Washington D.C— but Johnson put a huge emphasis on just how wonderful he thought the campus was.

“There’s a special kind of calling to service that is hard to explain. I found that what was once a logical conclusion about what the navy could do for me manifested later as an altruistic desire to serve,” Johnson said. The desire to serve in the military at any level is different for everyone, but to apply to an academy, the candidate must hold a strong passion due to the heavy application process and even heavier commitment upon acceptance.


Academy Experience

There are five military academies in the country, each with a specific branch in mind— the Military Academy, Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy and The Merchant Marine Academy. The acceptance rate among the different schools varies, but all have an under 20 percent rate.

“There are a million deadlines and trying to be five places at once to get letters of recommendation, transcripts, exams and interviews done on time is stressful,” Johnson said.

Similar to applying to university, military academies require not only an application and essay, but also interviews, securing a congressional nomination, and passing both medical and fitness exams. Johnson went in for many interviews and received many recommendations including some from a lieutenant commander, the coast guard and even Senator Reuven Carlyle.

It is a highly selective process bound to give anyone a sense of amplified anxiousness beyond a typical senior’s anxiety toward the future. However, to those who aspire to serve, the stress is worth it. Additionally, applications open up a year before they are due in order to combat any complications such an intensive process may create.

“I didn’t want to put a burden on my parents, they already have done so much for me,” Johnson said. “I learned about the academy in 8th grade and knew right away that it was the school for me. Beyond the fact that it’s free to attend and you’ll be able to receive a great education, I was really attracted to the idea of becoming the best version of myself that I could be.”

Johnson described what life at the academy would be like as intensively challenging, yet completely worth it. For his upcoming freshman year, he would have no access to electronics, have to ask permission to leave campus every time, and would be expected to be studying, training or in class at all times. For many this seems daunting, but for Johnson it’s all very exciting.

“You get more out of the whole experience if you want to be there, and I definitely do,” Johnson said. “Sure it may seem strict, but it comes with the territory. If anything, it’ll keep me focused, and it’ll be easy to study without everyday distractions.”


Military Benefits

Johnson is not alone in envisioning a career serving our country as evidenced by the military fair on Tuesday, Jan. 23 which shed some light on the option of a future in service for students. The counseling center was transformed into a few stations lined with pamphlets, free water bottles and bags emblazoned with a “U.S Army” or “U.S Navy” logo as well as a few recruiters there to speak with students. Students of all grades came during both lunches to learn what they could about this alternative path for after high school. Sergeant First Class Julio Diaz and Sergeant Jacob M. Welch were among some of the recruiters there representing the army branch.

“People typically don’t realize what the army can do for you. Even if you just sign up with the Reserves, you still get college tuition assistance and many other benefits for only one weekend of work per month.” Sergeant Welch said. Both sergeants were clearly serious about their jobs as recruiters, giving the facts and having an answer to any kind of question, but they also presented themselves as regular people who have a passion for service.

“Serving isn’t just guns and training like many people believe. When you enlist, you can sign a contract that states exactly what you’re signing up for,” Sergeant First Class Diaz said. “The military gives people the opportunity for experience in whatever field they choose, but in a non-traditional way.” This includes arts and media, a medical focus, cooking, science, technology, computers, etc.


Call to Service

For Johnson however, the aspiration to serve goes beyond just benefits. For him, the journey is all about honor and pride. “The sense of accomplishment you’ll receive upon completing your entire application, especially if it’s been your dream from an early age, will be the high point for sure,” Johnson said.

Senior Nigel Hawkins is a close friend to Johnson and shares physics with him. To Hawkins, it’s clear that Johnson is serious about his future. “Every day he comes into class equal parts excited and exhausted about this whole process. He’s been working really hard, and it’s clear for everyone to see,” Hawkins said.

Johnson has already sent in all of his application requirements and taken his tests. For now, Johnson will wait to hear back from the academy before he’ll know where his future lies; similar to many other seniors waiting for their acceptance letters as well.

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Student pursues future in naval academy