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SERVING OUR VETERANS: U.S. Service Academies

By Staff | Oct 25, 2019

Earlier this month the United States Naval Academy celebrated its 174th anniversary. It was founded on October 10, 1845. This got me thinking about our other national service academies.

The United States service academies, also known as the United States military academies, are federal academies for the undergraduate education and training of commissioned officers for the United States Armed Forces. There are five U.S. service academies:

– The United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York and founded in 1802.

– The United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland and founded in 1845.

– The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado and founded in 1954.

– The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) in New London, Connecticut and founded in 1876.

– The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York and founded in 1943.

Service academies can be used to refer to all of the academies collectively. However, in popular usage, this term is more often used for academies of four branches of the military: those of the Army, Navy, and Air Force (under the Department of Defense); and that of the Coast Guard under the Department of Homeland Security (but during war time it can be placed under the Department of the Navy). These are the only four academies whose students are on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States from the day they enter the academy, with the rank of officer cadet or midshipman, and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). However, students at these academies cannot count this active duty time towards military active/retired pay and allowances, nor can they claim the time for years of service for retirement. In the case of the Merchant Marine Academy, midshipmen may elect to receive active duty or reserves commission in any branch of the uniformed services, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Public Health Service. However, most are commissioned into the Navy Reserve, Strategic Sealift Officer Force.

Applicants to all service academies, except the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, are required to obtain a nomination to the schools. Nominations may be made by Congressional Representatives, Senators, the Vice President and the President. Applicants to the Coast Guard Academy compete in a direct nationwide process that has no by-state quotas. The admissions process to the U.S. service academies is extensive and a very competitive process. The average acceptance rate is between 8-17 percent for each of the schools.

Students at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, and the United States Coast Guard Academy are cadets. Students at the United States Naval Academy and the United States Merchant Marine Academy are midshipmen. All cadets and midshipmen receive taxable pay at a rate of 35 percent of second lieutenants and ensigns who have served less than two years of service, which can be used to pay for textbooks and uniforms. Students also receive free room and board, and pay no tuition or fees.

Upon graduation and the receipt of a Bachelor of Science degree, the former students become second lieutenants or ensigns and must serve a minimum term of duty, usually five years plus another three years in the reserves. If the student’s chosen occupation requires particularly extensive training (such as aviation or special operations), the service commitment may be longer.

So, let us as American citizens be thankful and supportive of the men and women of our service academies. Whether in times of war or peace they have often demonstrated themselves to be our finest leaders, both while they were on active duty or in their civilian status. They have, and continue to provide, a vital link in defending and preserving our liberties today. Three of our Presidents are graduates of our service academies. Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Jimmy Carter graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Please encourage any young person you know, who you feel has the potential and desire to serve our country as an officer in our Armed Forces, to visit with their school guidance counsellor on the application process.

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