Charlie Johnson's love of the water started with his dad, who brought his son on dive boats before he was 5 years old.
Johnson was certified to dive when he was 10, learned to sail and began competitive swimming as a fifth grader.
There was little doubt the Lakeside High School senior would accept his appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where he will compete on the Midshipmen swim team.
"Everything I've done in my life just points to the Navy," said Johnson, who was honored during a ceremony at Lakeside on Friday.
Johnson visited Annapolis, Md., on a recruiting trip in December. The Midshipmen offered him a spot on the team as soon as he received his appointment.
Johnson was one of 11 area students recommended by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun for appointments to service academies. His Service Academy Board, a committee of primarily military personnel, gave Broun its recommendations after considering the area's applicants.
The service academies offer appointments after receiving recommendations.
"The kids who are admitted into the service academies are the best-of-the-best of America," Broun said. "I expect tremendous things from (Johnson), both athletically as well as academically."
To earn his appointment, Johnson had to prove he was misdiagnosed with asthma two years ago. Johnson said the chemicals from the pool where he worked as a lifeguard created symptoms similar to asthma and that he returned to normal after leaving the job.
Johnson also had to pass the candidate fitness assessment in September. The test involved a two-mile run, basketball toss, sit-ups and pull-ups.
"It was tough for me," he said. "I was in swimming shape. I wasn't in beast-mode shape."
Johnson had been spending a lot of time in the pool to make up for a two-year hiatus from the sport. His primary instructor always has been his father, Doug Johnson, who had no swimming background before his son started at the suggestion of a friend.
"Going fast, that's what we really worked on," Doug Johnson said. "He was easy to work with and had a desire to swim."
Johnson and his wife, Kristy, also took their son on their diving expeditions, which they try to plan twice a year. The family has been diving in Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Belize, Mexico and the Florida Keys.
"It's kind of like every time we can rub two nickels together, we go scuba diving," Johnson said.
Charlie Johnson also participated with the Columbia County Rescue Dive Team.
He plans to study ocean engineering when he starts classes in the fall. After graduation, he will be commissioned as an officer and start a four-year service commitment.
He said he plans to make the Navy a career, with the goal of eventually becoming a Navy Seal.
Before then, Johnson said, he will continue to focus on swimming. He is competing in Orlando, Fla., at the National Club Swimming Junior Nationals, which started Monday and end Sunday.
After that, he will begin preparation for "Plebe Summer," the Naval Academy's seven-week physical and mental training program that starts July 1. He also plans to take boxing lessons to prepare for the boxing that is required of all plebes.
"I'm going to go to Augusta Boxing Club and see if I can get a coach so I can go in there with heads up," he said.
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