Hawaii grads heading to military academies get luncheon salute
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
Kamehameha Schools senior Justin Chock has a 4.0 grade point average, and he's taking three credits of honors classes and two credits worth of advanced placement courses.
He's on the speech and debate team, and he and a fellow Kamehameha student took first place in the state in varsity policy debate. He plays trombone in the band.
He was accepted at Stanford University, which offered to cover $40,000 in tuition costs.
So the 18-year-old's next challenge will be ... the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
"I saw what the Navy has to offer," Chock said. "Not only is (the Naval Academy) one of the best colleges in the nation, it's also providing me an opportunity to join the armed services and serve my country."
Ten Hawai'i students representing a larger group headed to the Defense Department's three prestigious military academies — Army, Navy and Air Force — attended the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii's annual military recognition luncheon yesterday and received a round of applause from 750 people in attendance.
In a page taken from sports athletes, they also donned ball caps with their chosen service branch emblazoned on the front.
Retired Army Gen. David Bramlett noted the commitment, including the college time followed by active and reserve duty service.
"Ask yourselves where you were when you were about 18 or 19," Bramlett said at the Hilton Hawaiian Village gathering.
The decision to make that military college commitment is on the rise.
In 2005, while the Iraq war raged and the economy was good, the Defense Department's three military academies — West Point in New York, the Naval Academy and Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs — saw shrinking applications.
Last year, by contrast, the Naval Academy experienced a 40 percent increase, with about 15,300 applications for about 1,230 positions, The Associated Press reported.
Deborah Goode, a Naval Academy spokeswoman, yesterday said the academy received more than 17,400 applications and it expects to admit about 1,200 into the class of 2014.
A $400,000 EDUCATION
Experts say the reasons for applying to the Pentagon's three military academies are many and complex, and the desire to serve the nation and the state of the economy are two.
"We attribute the majority of (the Naval Academy's) significant increase to the comprehensive and focused marketing outreach effort," Goode said in an e-mail.
There's no getting around the potential appeal, however, of a high-quality college education, room, board and other expenses, paid for through service in uniform.
Each of the three services calculate that four-year education to be valued at more than $400,000.
"You can't deny, I think, some of the applicants look at what the academy has to offer (relative to economic conditions)," Lt. Col. Mila Lietzke, an admissions liaison officer for the Air Force Academy, said yesterday. "But when they raise their hand, they are there to serve."
Last year, all three service academies reported a surge in applications.
In Hawai'i, there's been more interest as well in the military academies and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs such as the Air Force program at the University of Hawai'i.
Six are entering West Point, seven were appointed to the Air Force Academy, and five were selected for the Naval Academy.
Competition is keen and the quality of selectees has increased from the previous high standards, officials said.
"You kind of have to have it all," said Navy Capt. Alma M.O.L. Grocki, area coordinator for the Naval Academy program.
The Air Force ROTC program at UH has seen an enrollment increase from 82 cadets in 2006 to 94 currently, said the unit's commander, Lt. Col. Joe L. White Jr.
He expects the fall freshman class to push into more than 100 cadets.
UH had two high school scholarship award recipients this past academic year, and five cadets earned 3.5-year and two-year in-college scholarships, he said.
"The number of scholarships available has been fairly consistent," White said. "However, the level of competition for scholarships has risen, making the competition extremely keen."
DESIRE TO SERVE
Several of the Hawai'i military academy appointees yesterday said they wanted to serve the country, and that was an important reason to apply.
Chock, the Kamehameha Schools senior heading to the Naval Academy, said his grandfather, Allen Nakamura, was part of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which served with distinction in World War II.
"I'm real proud of him," said Chock, who was born and raised in Pauoa Valley. He said he plans to consider intelligence or information warfare in the Navy.
Josh Mossman, 19, said he wasn't accepted to the Naval Academy the first time he applied. He went to Northwestern Preparatory School in California for a semester and then Windward Community College, earned a 4.0 grade point average, and has now been accepted into the Annapolis, Md., academy.
Mossman, who was home-schooled, said he's ready to be pushed mentally and physically at the Naval Academy and he wants to go into the Marine Corps or be a SEAL commando.
"I think I just have the motivation," he said. "I want to do well at the Naval Academy so that I can better serve my country. It's a really good education as well."
Jaime Gutierrez, 17, who is about to graduate from Campbell High School, will be heading to the Air Force Academy with hopes to be a pilot.
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye nominated the 3.6 grade-point-average student to the academy. Gutierrez, who was a Junior ROTC participant in high school, said he also was accepted to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
His grandfather was a first-generation immigrant from Mexico and served in the Air Force in World War II.
Gutierrez said attending the Air Force Academy has been his goal since he was a freshman.
"I like to think of myself as someone who takes challenges and always goes for the best," he said.
Immediately after that he couldn't resist adding to his comment.
"Go Air Force!" Gutierrez said.