Wednesday, June 29, 2016

USNA Summer Programs Aim to Teach, Inspire Students

Every year during the month of June, high school students from around the country descend on the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) to participate in one of three programs designed to provide them with an immersive experience into the lives of USNA midshipmen.

The Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS), Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), and Summer Heroes Youth Program (SHYP) Programs feature activities that focus on USNA’s emphasis of academic, athletic and moral development.

A student attending the Naval Academy Summer Seminar practices shipboard damage
control techniques. (Photo by MC2 Jonathan Correa)

“Summer Seminar is aimed at exposing them to academics, athletics and leadership aspects that midshipmen accomplish while at the Academy,” said Amy Halligan, assistant plans and programs coordinator.

NASS is a fast-paced, six-day crash course designed to give rising high school seniors a well-rounded introduction to the Naval Academy. It exposes the students to what life is like as a Naval Academy midshipman and helps them decide if they will pursue an appointment.

For rising 9th, 10th, and 11th graders who excel in STEM, USNA offers a program that introduces them to different topics and more specific areas of study through hands-on workshops led by Naval Academy faculty and midshipmen.

“This is a way to introduce youth from all over the country who are from different backgrounds to a STEM career,” said chemistry professor Sarah Durkin. “When they come to the academy, they not only get to participate in activities, but they also get to meet and talk with people who have chosen a career path in the STEM field.”

The Summer STEM program is held in three different sessions, with more than 600 students participating over a period of three weeks.

Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter helps a student participating in the
academy's Summer Heroes Youth Program. (Photo by MC2 Jonathan Correa)

The pilot SHYP is part of the STEM center at the academy and is geared toward 7th and 8th graders from Baltimore city schools. Like STEM, it exposes students to science, technology, engineering and math, but it also adds literature and athletics to its curriculum.

“SHYP is geared toward the whole kid,” said Professor Angie Moran, director of the academy's STEM Office. “We have physical education and health, as well as literature and life skills to help go along with the STEM part of the program in hopes that students take it back with them and use the skills they learned here.”

Three Baltimore schools were chosen to participate in the first year of SHYP.

“The schools are picked based on the need to help motivate their students and help expose them to more opportunities," said Moran. "This is a way for us to give back to the community of Baltimore.”

All three programs provided a leadership opportunity for the 370 midshipmen that participated in facilitating the activities.

MIDN 3/C David Lewkowics helps students participating in the Naval Academy's
Summer Heroes Youth Program. (Photo by MC2 Jonathan Correa)

“I was very excited to take part in this new program and be able to work with young people to help them become interested in science as I am,” said Midshipman 3rd Class Tajhay Marshall, systems engineering major and SHYP instructor. “This is a great leadership opportunity for me and my fellow midshipmen, and I am happy to be part of the first year of this program.”

Moran sums up the programs’ value to these high schoolers who might otherwise not fully realize their full potential:

“The key word for these programs is opportunity,” she said. “These programs give people who are not exposed to what their potential is the awareness so they can live that dream. That is what I want these kids to take away. What I want the midshipmen to take away is that they have an incredible power to share those opportunities.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Becoming a Napster: Fleet Sailors and Marines Attend Naval Academy Preparatory School

By Terrina Weatherspoon
Defense Media Activity

Before Napster was a bad word for the music industry, it was a term of endearment for students at the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), in Newport, Rhode Island.

Napsters spend a year there with the core mission of strengthening themselves academically to prepare for an appointment to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

NAPS students line up to start the induction process into the U.S. Naval Academy.

"Out in the fleet there are probably a lot of people who don't even know that NAPS exists," said Capt. Mike Doherty, commanding officer of the prep school.

NAPS was started back in 1919 when president Franklin Roosevelt was the secretary of the Navy. The Naval Academy had slots for enlisted applicants but they were required to take an entrance exam and a lot of times they wouldn't do very well, said Doherty. So out of 100 available slots there would often only be a handful of Sailors that qualified to fill them. So the Navy decided to create a formal prep program, and NAPS was born.

"It was designed to give Sailors some formal education, especially since most of them had been away from formal schooling for at least a couple of years," said Doherty. "That's the roots of NAPS and that is still what we do today for a mixture of fleet Sailors, fleet Marines and direct accessions from High school."

For enlisted Sailors and Marines, their services see in these Sailors the ability to be a very good officer, but maybe they are not quite ready for the Naval Academy based on academics, age, maturity, or whatever, said Jason Phillips, and English instructor at NAPS and a commander in the Navy Reserve. So they can come to NAPS, work on their academics and experience the military lifestyle and discipline that will be required at the Naval Academy.

"We are a prep school, so we are not expecting our students to come in here college ready, we want them to come in here ready to become college ready," said Karen Chang, Chemistry instructor at NAPS. "So we do more hand holding, but that's the whole point of NAPS."

"It's pretty stringent," said Luca Bielenda, a former ET3 and current Napster.

A normal day at NAPS looks something like this:
Reveille is at 6 a.m., and then students march to chow in waves. Morning formation is at 7:35 a.m. Right after that it's class at 7:40. Typically there are three classes that each run 75 minutes with a five minute break in between. Then march to lunch in waves. After lunch they come back for their last class. Then there is an extra instruction period. After that there is a sports period from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., which is time for physical fitness. After that there is some down time from 5:30 to 7 p.m. That's when students can eat dinner and take care of personal things. Then from 7 to 10 p.m., it's time to study and do homework. After that, students clean for a half hour, then there is an hour of personal time, and then it is lights out by 11.

"At first it was weird because you are used to having all of this freedom and then you go to having essentially no freedom, especially in the first marking period," said Bielenda. "In the first marking period you have to go to all three meals together. You march everywhere. The hardest part was taking a step backward, going from being treated as an adult and able to do what you want, and here it's kind of like being treated like a child, but not, I don't know how to explain it. However, you learn a lot. You can sit back and observe and see what you like and what you don't like and there is really an opportunity to mold yourself. And I like that aspect of it."

"It was hard at first to adjust," said Nicholas Fortune, a fleet returnee. "The first indoc period, they bring in detailers to teach us about military discipline and give us basic instruction about military life and those detailers were as old, or maybe even younger than I am, so it was tough at first to get used to that, especially since I had been in the fleet for a while, but overall I think fleet life definitely prepared me better than anything else for this place."

NAPS happens to be located in Newport, which is also home to the Senior Enlisted Academy, Surface Warfare Officer School, Navy Officer Candidate School, Supply Officer School among others. It may be intimidating for Napsters to be surrounded by so many of the Navy's senior leaders.

"There is some culture shock," said Doherty. "There is a shock and awe affect to any starting of military life. I don't think that's as applicable to fleet returnees, but there is a shock affect for direct accessions. However, I think having senior leadership here is a positive. We have a sponsor program where families out in town can open their home to one, two or three of our students, and a lot of the staff at these other schools are the ones that open their homes and provide that mentorship, so they really help with breaking down those barriers."

It's not hard to believe that militarily fleet Sailors and Marines are better prepared for NAPS. But academically, it makes sense that direct accessions from high school would have the upper hand. However, that isn't the case.

"Fleet Sailors and Marines that do apply and are offered appointments to NAPS are high caliber," said Doherty. "They are smart people. Right now nine of our top 10 students are fleet Sailors and Marines. 25 of our top 35 are fleet Sailors and Marines. They are knocking it out of the park - they are leading the battalion militarily and leading the battalion academically."

But just to be clear, there is no application process for NAPS. Sailors, Marines and civilians all apply as candidates to the academy and the academy decides who to accept, who to reject, and who to send to NAPS. The basic requirements for eligibility to the academy are: United States citizen; good moral character; at least 17 and not past their 23rd birthday on 1 July of the year they would enter the academy; unmarried; not pregnant; no dependents.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

USNA Graduate Receives Commission to U.S. Coast Guard

By MC2 Tyler Caswell

Every year, more than a thousand new junior officers enter the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, earning their commissioning through the U.S. Naval Academy. In rare cases, the academy will endorse a midshipman to inter-commission to another military service.

Ensign Anna Wade was afforded the opportunity to commission as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.

 Originally enlisting in 2009, Wade served two years as a mass communication specialist before receiving acceptance to the academy. While on deployment on the USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) in 2011 Wade had her first experience working with the Coast Guard, an experience that stuck with her throughout her time at USNA.

“There was a USCG detachment that had spent some time on the ship,” said Wade. “I was able to see how they interacted with Sailors and performed law enforcement capabilities during anti-piracy operations. I was specifically intrigued about their mission set.”

After a year at Naval Academy Preparatory School, Wade began her Plebe (freshman) year at USNA. Focused on becoming a U.S. Navy officer, Wade concentrated her efforts towards her academic and leadership qualities. The performance and impression left by the USCG detachment was pushed aside, but kept recurring, said Wade.

“When I came to USNA, I didn’t think the Coast Guard was an option, but I was still really intrigued by it,” said Wade.

It wasn’t until her 2nd Class (junior) summer, that Wade was able to take a closer look into the operation tempo and day-to-day lives of Coast Guard service members.

“I was visiting friends and family in Sitka, Alaska, and there was a Coast Guard base close to where I was staying,” said Wade. “I was able to spend a lot of time with personnel and really observe their mission set, and I loved the pace of everything.  From maintaining fisheries, environmental support, search and rescue and maritime security, I just loved what they did, and how they did it every day.”

Wade returned to USNA for her 1st Class year and was made aware of USNA’s inter-commissioning program. Immediately she set out to find a mentor to help guide her through the process. She sought out the one-and-only Coast Guard officer at USNA, stationed here as an instructor in the Seamanship and Navigation Department and part of the USNA Inter-Service Commissioning Board.

“Wade first spoke to me right after she came back from summer break,” said Coast Guard Lt. Timothy Bonner. “What is obvious about Wade is she has a serious passion to serve in the law enforcement community.”

Wades’ inter-commissioning process required approval through the chain of command at USNA and ultimately from the chief of naval operations. Her application was reviewed by the Coast Guard, accepted and approved through its chain of command and the Secretary of Homeland Security. The process required dedication and serious commitment, said Bonner.

“The last inter-commissioning we had for the Coast Guard from USNA was about four years ago,” said Bonner. “I get a few people a year that approach me for information about USNA’s inter-commissioning process, but most of the time they shy away because it is fairly intense and highly selective. It says a lot about Wade.”

Immediately following USNA’s Class of 2016 graduation ceremony, Wade took the Oath of Office for the Coast Guard and will receive her commission through the Coast Guard Direct Commission Officer Program. This will be her fourth time receiving boot-camp-style induction and training.

“I feel like the dynamic experiences of being enlisted and my training and leadership development here at USNA have helped prepare me for this new experience,” said Wade. “I’m not sure what the next few years are going to bring, but I know I’ll be in the right place and my heart is already in the right place.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Class of 2016 Graduates Take Part in Traditional First Salute

By MC3 Brianna Jones

The ceremonial silver dollar first salute of a newly commissioned officer is a long-standing tradition that requires a new ensign or Marine Corps second lieutenant to give a silver dollar to the person rendering their first salute.  Typically, the new officer will choose someone who has made a significant impact on their life or career to salute them.

Navy custom states that the officer has to buy their first salute and then earn every salute thereafter through performance and by gaining the respect of their subordinates. Although the origin of the silver dollar first salute is murky, it is a rite of passage that new officers share with the friends, family or mentors rendering this special salute.

Petty Officer Mario Medina salutes his daughter, Ensign Brissa Medina, at the
USNA Class of 2016 graduation ceremony. (Photo by MC3 Brianna Jones)

Ensign Brissa Medina gave her father, retired Petty Officer First Class Mario Medina, the honor of delivering her first salute. Petty Officer Medina immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua and enlisted in the Navy in 1970. During the span of his career, he participated in Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom.

Medina said her father has been her biggest supporter and her inspiration for a naval career. From a young age, she would see her father in his uniform and would think that one day, she would follow in his footsteps and wear the uniform too.

“I chose my dad as my first salute to let him know how proud of him I am,” she said. “It’s not easy to come to a new country, make a home and accomplish as much as he did. I’m so inspired by his hard work. I wouldn’t be here without him.’

Ensign Sally Anderson chose to have her mentor, retired Chief Petty Officer Ron Hardgrave be the one to present her first salute. Hardgrave and Anderson met when she was only 12 years old. Hardgrave started an Honor Guard within the ROTC program that Anderson was enrolled in. She quickly took interest and assumed a leadership role within the honor guard, working closely with Hardgrave.

The two have stayed in close contact through the years, but Anderson really began to look to Hardgrave for guidance after her father passed away in 2013.

Retired Chief Petty Officer Ron Hardgrave salutes newly commissioned Ensign
Sally Anderson at the USNA Class of 2016 graduation ceremony.
(Photo by MC3 Brianna Jones)

“He has always been a positive person in my life since I was 12 years old. He is really like my father,” said Anderson.

Anderson said that when it came time to choose someone to be her first salute, Hardgrave was the first person to come to mind.

“I feel like I am a part of her family now, and it was such a great honor for her to ask for me to be here and be her first salute,” said Hardgrave.

On commissioning day, the Navy stadium is filled with misty-eyed parents, pride-filled mentors and brand new Navy and Marine Corps officers sharing this special moment with one another. Whether it is a friend, mentor or family member taking part in the time-honored tradition of the silver dollar salute, the moment is one that these new officers – and their loved ones – will never forget.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

USNA's Class of 2016 Chooses Three Honorary Class Members

By MC2 Jonathan Correa

The U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2016 chose three individuals to be honored at this year’s USNA Graduation and Commissioning ceremony at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium May 27.

The selection of honorary members of the graduating class is designed to recognize individuals who have had an impact on the graduating class throughout their four years at the academy.

The honorary members of the Class of 2016 are James McNally, professor and head boxing coach; Dave Brandt, head men’s soccer coach; and Gunnery Sgt. Elizabeth Abbott, brigade drill master and 6th Company senior enlisted leader.

USNA Brigade Drill Master Gunnery Sgt. Elizabeth Abbott, one of the
Class of 2016's three honorary grads

“All three have had an effect on Midshipmen, whether it is through coaching, teaching in the PE Department or LEAD Division, instructing the brigade on drill, and mentoring midshipmen,” said Midshipman First Class Eric Kellogg, Class of 2016 president. “These three awardees went above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of midshipmen, and we are beyond excited to welcome them into our class.”

Each year it is the class president’s responsibility to coordinate the election and calculate the votes to determine that year’s honorary class members.

“As we get ready to graduate and everyone is congratulating us, it is important for the graduating seniors to recognize people who have helped guide us through our journey,” said Kellogg. “The academy can be a difficult four years, and no one makes it through alone.”

This year’s honorees were selected based on their unique contributions to developing midshipmen morally, mentally and physically.

Abbott has been at the academy for over a year and was hand-picked by Marine Col. Roberta Shea, former deputy commandant of midshipmen. Abbott works directly with midshipmen on a regular basis in drill instruction and professional training. Her’s leadership, dedication, and respect toward the midshipmen and are some of the reasons why she was picked to be an honorary member of the Class of 2016.

“I am more than honored and flattered that the Class of 2016 would even consider me,” said Abbott. “I feel as if I have bonded the most with 2016. Although I am happy to see them spread their wings and get out to the fleet forces to lead Marines and Sailors, they truly will be missed.”

USNA Boxing Coach James McNally, one of the Class of 2016's three honorary grads

McNally has been with the Acadamy for 30 years in physical education and is the head boxing coach at the academy. All midshipmen experience his boxing and martial arts classes, from Plebe Summer and throughout their four years at the academy. While coaching at Navy, his teams have won five national championships and been runner-up ten times. He has coached 43 individual national champions who have won 61 national titles.

“I am happy to have been picked by the midshipmen,” said McNally. “I like to think that they feel more confident in themselves having gone through my classes in boxing and martial arts. A great team player will be a major asset in their future.”

Brandt has been coaching the men's soccer team for seven years. In those seven years he has been a major influence in the success of the program. He is the winningest active coach in Division I men’s soccer and a four-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Coach of the Year. Brandt led the Naval Academy men’s soccer team to perhaps their greatest stretch of two-year play in the program’s history from 2013 to 2014. During this stretch, his team won a combined 27 matches – tied for the highest two-year win total in the program’s history.

USNA Men's Soccer Coach Dave Brandt, one of the
Class of 2016's three honorary grads

“I came to the academy because of what I felt was the very strong connection between my own values and philosophies of leadership and the institution's values and leadership emphasis,” said Brandt. “Teaching, coaching and mentoring has always been for me a dynamic relationship-oriented thing. There is constant give and take in that relationship, and we are constantly impacting and learning from each other.”

Brandt's selection as an honorary member of the class is especially poignant as he is leaving the academy this year to take a job as head coach of the pro team the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.