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The Top Ten Questions about Graduating from a US Service Academy
Every year, I have the honor of working out with more than 2000 high school students seeking acceptance into the Naval Academy during the Summer Seminar program. Hundreds of emails each year concerning all of the Service Academy programs have prompted me to write the most frequently asked questions I receive. These emails are from many of the young men and women seeking to serve their country as an officer in any of the services.
Here they are:
1 - Do all of the services have their own academy? If so how do you get into them? This is a monster of a question so I recommend thorough research on the websites of the Service Academies below. All services have their own academy however the US Naval Academy has around 20-30% of its class to join the Marine Corps.
2 - What are the Physical Fitness Tests at the Academy? They are all similar and some identical but here are the actual tests they take before and during the Academy:
USNA - USAFA - USMA - All take the CFA - Candidate Fitness Assessment:
Basketball throw, pushups, situps, pullups, 1 mile run
USCGA - USMMA - pushups, situps, 1.5 mile run
All academies take a pushups, situps, 1.5 mile run every six months while attending the 4 year school. However, West Point - (Army) does a 2 mile run.
3 - What is up with the basketball throw - where did they get this test? Ha - good one. It is actually part of an older exam called the PAE - Physical Aptitude Exam which basically measures one's potential to be a strong candidate / athlete. The test does demonstrate athletic ability to a degree and shoulder girdle and torso rotational power as well. I agree it is a bit different from ALL tests out there, but the Army, Navy, AF use it so who am I to argue?
4 - Can you fail the CFA? Well, since the academies are very competitive, it helps to have good to great scores in EVERYTHING you can to set yourself apart from the other 10-12,000 or so applicants most academies receive. Notice - there are no minimum standards! I love this personally as striving for a minimum standard CANNOT be a part of your work ethic IF you want to get into and especially if you want to graduate.
5 - On average what are the numbers who apply / get accepted / graduate?
Using the Naval Academy as an example, in recent years around 10,000 -12,000 people apply, about 4,000 get nominations, and around 1,200-1,300 get accepted each year. Usually, graduating classes drop to under 1000 after four years. My class was 1350 and we graduated a little over 900.
6 - How do you become a Marine at the Naval Academy? As with any service selection opportunity, you will be given a course to follow through your four years there that can take you directly to the graduating ranks of the USMC. Usually, it requires a few summer training periods with Marine units, attending a summer program for midshipmen seeking USMC officer slots at Quantico, VA, taking the USMC PFT - pullups, situps, 3 mile run and of course keeping up with your academics and leadership experience positions as it is competitive to become a Marine officer.
7 - How do you become a SEAL from the USNA? Very similar to the way you become a Marine. You should attend the Navy SEAL PTs, join the extra curricular activity (ECA) Spec Ops Team / Club, score extremely well on your BUDS PST:
500yd swim - sub 8 min (recommended competitive scores - though these are the average scores for most candidates)
1.5 mile run in boots / pants - sub 9 min
Also you will have to endure a 24-36 hour event called BUDS Screening which is run by the SEAL instructors at USNA and actual first phase BUDS instructors - basically it is all the tough events that occur during the six months training at BUDS compounded into a 24 -36 hour period. This gets you a ticket to go to the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection the Summer before your Senior year.
This training is no longer mini-BUDS.
It is very intimidating, but if you are prepared you will test out
well. Relax, be yourself, show confidence, not arrogance and you
fine. Have some knowledge of the SEAL Teams, read books on SEALs,
etc as you will be asked many questions on your potential future
8 - Can you join the military even if you go to
the Merchant Marine Academy?
YES - I know of several who have gone onto serve in the military, in
fact a few have become Navy SEALs too. SEALs also have a few
billets each year coming from USMA and USAFA. In fact, the
COMNAVSPECWAR (1 star admiral in charge of all SEALs) is an USAFA
9 - Are the Service Academies "real" college? Depends how you define real! The answer is yes - they are accredited universities and actually very competitive with Ivy League schools with challenging curricula. Now - will you have a "real" college experience? Up to you, you get to leave on weekends and relax and have fun, but during the week, it is work - workout, go to school, do a sport, eat, study, sleep!
10 - Why did you choose the Naval Academy - why a service academy? I knew I wanted to be in the military at about age 16. I just did not know what I wanted to do. I figured if I can be in the military AND go to college that was even better so I looked into ROTC and Service Academies. After some research (before internet) I noticed the Navy bases always were near a beach. Being from Florida, that seemed nice. After pondering pilot or Navy SEAL, I eventually came to the Navy SEAL decision after meeting several of them on campus. Also five guys on my rugby team all became SEALs too. So we were all workout buddies. It just seemed to fit.
For best results, visit the Service Academy websites and read their frequently asked questions pages. That will be your best source of information for the specifics of all the academies.
Thanks for all the emails that help me write weekly articles. Keep them coming and I will answer them personally. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any comments / questions on fitness.
The U.S. Service Academy Candidate Fitness Assessment
Video - This 30 minute video will help you ace one of the most
competitive fitness tests in the nation. Getting into West Point, Naval
Academy, Coast Guard Academy and the Air Force Academy is extremely tough to
do. Put your best foot forward by mastering the skills of the CFA:
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy) - Available in book / ebook
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author
certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National
Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a
workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the StewSmith.com
Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at StewSmith.com. To contact
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