Students check out Academy day in Hedgesville

September 13, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - With dreams of flying military fighting planes or being part of amphibious units in the U.S. Navy, area students gathered at Hedgesville High School Sunday to learn about the competitive process of trying to get into one of the country's military academies.

High school students who are selected to attend a military academy receive schooling for four years and are officers when they graduate, said Mary-Margaret Chandler, who handles constituent services for U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Although she did not attend, Capito sponsored a "Congressional Academy Day" at the school, during which students can meet with representatives from the academies and learn about the admission process.


Students are admitted into military academies through a lengthy process that includes being nominated by members of Congress, Chandler said.

Each member of Congress can have five students at a time at each of following: the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Chandler said.

Capito is expected to have at least one opening at each institution this year, Chandler said.

Students who want to attend one of the academies fill out an application and then are interviewed by a military academy review board, Chandler said. Members of the military review board and Capito then decide who will be nominated. Officials at the academies make the final decision on who will be admitted, Chandler said.

Chandler told high school students Sunday that military officials "evaluate the whole person." Military officials are looking for students who show good moral character, a distinguished academic record, strong leadership skills and strong physical characteristics, Chandler said.

About 15 students showed up at the academy day. One of the students, 15-year-old Daniel McCullom, who lives in Shannondale, W.Va., in Jefferson County, said he wants to fly fighter jets from aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.

McCullom said he is excited about a chance to serve in the military and the fact that the casualty rate in Iraq recently passed 1,000 soldiers does not bother him.

"If I have to go to war, I will. I'm not scared to," said McCullom, who is in the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Jefferson High School.

John Batis wants to fly military planes, too.

Military pilots must have certain physical characteristics, like good eyesight, and can't be too tall because of the space restrictions in cockpits, parents said.

The issues did not dampen Batis' outlook.

"I got pretty good eyesight," said the 15-year-old Martinsburg (W.Va.) High School student.

Like McCullom, mounting casualties in Iraq do not bother Batis.

"I would like to fight for the country," Batis said.

The admission process begins in the junior year and students are selected in their senior year, officials said. This year, applications are due by Oct. 31 and interviews will be conducted Nov. 20, Chandler said.

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