Greenbrier High School students Tim Trout (from left) Nathan Beene and Nathan Whitelaw attended summer camps at both the Naval and Air Force Academies.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Nathan Beene, Nathan Whitelaw and Tim Trout didn't spend the summer before their senior year in high school hanging out at the pool, watching daytime television or sleeping late.
All three rising Greenbrier High School seniors decided to explore what they will do after high school by signing up for one-week summer adventures at both the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The boys attended the Naval Academy summer seminar, which they all described as physically trying, June 5-10. The seminar is meant to give upcoming high school seniors a chance to try out the academy and experience what the plebe (freshman) year at the academy is like.
"They treat you like what they would treat a freshman there. They yell at you," said Beene, 16, who wants to major in aerospace engineering and someday fly Tomcat jets from an aircraft carrier.
He has spent the past three years in Greenbrier's Navy JROTC program as a cadet lieutenant and operations officer.
"This is what the Naval Academy is about," Beene said. "This is what you're going to do, what life is like."
Their days began at 5 a.m. with daily runs and nearly constant physical training, team-building exercises and introductions to courses the academy offers, said Whitelaw, 17, who wants to study aerospace engineering to research and develop new propulsion systems.
Tim, 17, said the Naval Academy focused mostly on the physical aspects of training including daily jogs at least a 1 1/2 miles and workouts with a Navy SEAL to push their physical limits.
"They drill in your head that it is all mental," Tim said. "You are sitting there (after) jogging feeling like you are about to throw up ... but, by the end of the week, when they are pushing you this hard, your mind stops thinking about the running and you just do it."
Whitelaw has a little military experience as his school's Navy JROTC class commander and as a second lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol. After a week of intensive training at the Naval Academy, he took only one day of traveling before heading off to Colorado Springs for its Summer Seminar June 12-18.
"The Navy and the Air Force were really different," he said. "The Navy was a lot of physical and based more on how a cadet's life would actually be. The Air Force was more how the academics would be and was a little bit easier on the candidates. They were both really, really good and I learned a lot."
Tim joined Beene in Colorado Springs for the June 19-15 session.
"I'd like to go into aerospace engineering. Either academy would be fine for that major," Tim said. "I just want to fly. I'd probably prefer flying jets, something fast and cool, but flying anything is awesome."
Along with the numerous physical tests, the classes at the Air Force Academy actually educated the potential cadets as opposed to introducing the classes offered, Tim said. His favorite was the Lasers and Optics course during which the professor actually created lightning.
All three teens said they would like to attend one of the two schools, but all admit the experience was one they'll never forget.
"I got to meet a lot of new people from around the country," Beene said. "It gave me a good idea of what academy life will be like."
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