Thursday, December 27, 2001

Students aim for military academies

Published in the Current

At a time when there has been a spike in patriotism, across the country, four local young men are applying to take the long road into military service.

They are aiming for admission to the country’s elite service academies, and if they get in and make it through, they will come out as leaders – officers in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines or Merchant Marine.

Dan Shevenell and David Greenwood of Cape Elizabeth, and Matt Reichl and Ben Tourangeau of Scarborough, have been nominated by Maine’s congressional delegation to attend U.S. military and service academies next year.

Nomination is not the final step in applications to the academies, but neither is it the first. In addition to multiple pieces of paperwork beyond a standard college application, there is a physical exam, questioning by nomination boards and interviews at the academies. Each is a key step, and nomination by a U.S. senator or representative is the most common way for civilians to enter the academies.

It is an introduction to government bureaucracy and teaches an important lesson: Despite the piles of paper, “it doesn’t take all that long,” according to one applicant.

Two from Scarborough
Scarborough resident and Cheverus High student, Ben Tourangeau, is applying to the Merchant Marine Academy after being approached by the soccer coach there. The academy’s was but one of several recruitment letters Tourangeau has gotten from schools around the nation who want the star Cheverus player on their team.

He looked at the experience, including traveling while in school, and was impressed when he visited the campus. He also considered what would happen after graduation.

“The job acceptance when you graduate (from the Merchant Marine Academy) is really high,” Tourangeau said.

He also thought about his dream. “I want to be a Navy Seal,” he said. He said a lot of folks might be expecting him to play a lot of soccer and even get involved in a semi-professional league. But he said it’s time for a change. He’ll still play and enjoy soccer at the academy, he said, but it won’t be his primary focus.

“This is going to be a big challenge,” he said. And if he doesn’t get in? He’ll probably go to the Naval Academy Prep School and aim to go to Annapolis from there.

Matt Reichl’s father was in the Navy, and he’s following in those footsteps by applying to the Naval Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy. He also takes inspiration, he said, from Red Sox star Ted Williams, who said he felt his time in the military was among his most valuable experience.

The Scarborough High senior sent out his applications two months ago and is hoping to hear back from the schools before New Year’s. He is also applying to civilian schools, and hasn’t decided about whether he’ll get involved in ROTC or not.

“I run to the mail every day,” Reichl said.

He said Sept. 11 hasn’t changed his mind about the military, and he accepts the risk of war.

“It’s something the country has to do,” Reichl said.

Reichl said the country needs graduates from the military academies even more now. “What they really need now is leaders,” he said.

He said his parents also support his decision. “My parents are 100 percent behind me, whatever I choose to do,” he said.

The local students have been nominated to one or more of the following schools: the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy at New London, Conn., does not require applicants to be nominated.

Cape Elizabeth’s nominees
Cape’s Dan Shevenell has been planning to apply to service academies for four years. “My decision to apply to a service academy started freshman year,” he said.

Shevenell, who is nominated to the Naval, Merchant Marine and Air Force academies and will apply to the Coast Guard Academy as well, said terrorism made him more certain of his choice.

“Sept. 11 made me definitely want to go to a service academy,” he said.

He is not a hawk, he said, and is concerned about risking his life in battle, but sees a greater good he can serve. At the academies, he said, students “train for war and they thank God that they don’t have to use that training very often.”

He wants to become a leader, and the quality of education – not to mention getting paid to go to college – makes the academies more attractive Shevenell said.

He also sees an important element of the system of checks and balances at work in the nomination process. “The Congress gets to nominate all their officers and controls their funding,” he said.

Shevenell’s eggs are not in one basket, and he is applying through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to civilian colleges and universities. He is not choosy about which service he ends up in, but he does have a goal.

“I’d like to be a pilot,” he said.

So much so, in fact, that he has already started working on his private pilot’s license. He thinks flying with the Coast Guard would be particularly challenging, since they do a lot of their work in bad weather.

“You can’t argue with a storm,” Shevenell said.

David Greenwood of Cape enlisted in the Marine Corps back in August, and is applying to the Naval Academy and to West Point. He wants to be in the infantry. He said he has a lot of family in the military, including a brother in the Marines now.

He hasn’t questioned his enlistment, even in light of recent events. “When Sept. 11 came, I knew I’d made the right choice,” Greenwood said.

He was in the Naval Cadet Corps for four years up at Brunswick Naval Air Station and is also applying through ROTC to various civilian colleges.