LTC Brechin, USAF, Ret.
The "Military Part" of the U.S. Service Academies
Wearing a uniform, cutting your hair, and keeping your room neat are just the start!
Students interested in the U.S. service academies must 'recognize, research and embrace' the military training integrated into the daily lives of cadets and midshipmen. Effectively, you live in this environment, 24 x 7, every week for four years. It is not a prison sentence, but during your interviews, in your application essays and during your discussions with your admissions officer, you must be clear about your understanding and acceptance of this lifestyle.
First, recognize that military training and a military service commitment are a key component of a U.S. service academy education. Military training will come in all forms.
Daily, as a cadet or midshipman, you are expected to wear your uniform and hair properly according to military guidelines. You must keep your room neat. You follow the orders of your chain of command, taking orders from your superiors. Cadets and midshipmen attend classes, including military science, strategy and history along with earning a Bachelor of Science degree. None of this is optional!
Weekly, you will experience different "inspections." Saturday morning inspections (SAMIs) and any morning inspections (AMIs) during the week are conducted routinely. Parades and in-ranks inspections (IRIs) are also conducted on Saturdays. Your Friday evening, unlike other college students, may consist of cleaning your room, preparing your uniform and shining your shoes.
Annually, your will receive more intensive and extensive training. Summers consist three training 'periods' of three weeks each. One of these periods is typically reserved for summer leave. However, the other two periods will be used for various military instruction, including combat training, serving as cadre for the entering freshmen, survival courses, etc. Typically, in the fall and in the spring, cadets and midshipmen will participate in a week-long military exercise and instruction session.
Of course, all of this training is to prepare you to become a commissioned officer and to fulfill the five-year commitment you have made to serve in the military after graduation. Many service academy graduates will make the military a career and serve twenty years, or more, as a leader in our armed forces.
As a candidate, do the research!
First, I recommend visiting the service academies that interest you. Summer seminars, summer sports camps and other opportunities will allow you to 'see' the school up close. My blog, Make a Visit, discusses this topic a bit more. Your admissions officer will want to understand the research that you have done. As a former ALO, I was often surprised by the lack of knowledge that some candidates had about USAFA and the lifestyle of an AF cadet.
Second, research the military career paths that interest you. Becoming a pilot, a surface warfare officer, or an infantry officer are just some of the paths available to cadets and midshipmen. You should be educated around the paths you prefer by reading, interviewing and inquiring about the career. Also, be prepared to discuss your desired career path during your interviews.
Embrace the lifestyle of a cadet and a military officer.
If this way of life is not for you, then it is best to find out now as a candidate. Choosing this path will be rewarding, but tough. The good news is that you will have the support of your classmates and military colleagues. It is easier when you share the work with others that you trust. Many of my best friends are also my classmates. You'll never meet better people, all sharing your desire to serve our country and be their very best.
"Embrace the suck" is often heard when it comes to tough training and difficult conditions. Soldiers, seaman, airman, marines and guardians are expected to be prepared for any circumstances in order to conduct operations, do their jobs and win the battle. You must be able to make the same commitment
You will adapt to the lifestyle, as I can attest, and you will find ways to relax and enjoy your time as a cadet or a midshipman. However, you must recognize, research and embrace the military training that will be an integral part of your life as a cadet or midshipman. Now, as a candidate, is the time to learn!
[I would welcome a chance to discuss details with you. I offer coaching services to pace and prepare you (and your parents!) for the entire Academy application process, including working with you to "recognize, research and embrace." Contact me at email@example.com and/or 503.515.7406]