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Students explore academy options

Mar 29, 2018
In The News

Nearly 100 parents and youth learned how to apply for a congressional nomination to a military academy, as they packed the City Hall Council Chambers in Lacey Monday night for the first of two annual U.S. Service Academy Information Nights.

The second took place at Lakewood City Hall Tuesday evening.

“It is a given that we are seeking the best and brightest, and I am confident that the best and brightest are here,” said U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, 10th Congressional District, host of the event.

“This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had,” Heck said, at the Lacey event.

Heck talked about what it takes to earn one of the coveted nominations. He is allowed five nominations to each academy at one time.

That means if five of his nominations are accepted, each must complete their studies at the academy before their slot is re-filled. However, there are “other ways around that,” he said. “We get in as many as we can.”

In addition to Heck and representatives of each of the five military academies, members of the District’s Service Academy Nominating Board were on hand to answer questions.

Greta Buccellato, chief of the Resource Management Office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is a member of the nominating board and spoke at the event.

“As you embark on this journey, think really hard on three things,” she said. “Why do you want to serve and lead America’s armed forces? What do you personally have to offer? And, what is the service academy of your choice going to offer you as a scholar and a warrior?”

Buccellato spoke of difficulty involved in applying for a nomination.

“It’s complex, bureaucratic and challenging — and in part, that’s to make sure you have what it takes to succeed in the Department of Defense.”

The U.S. Military Academy, Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy and Coast Guard Academy each had representatives at the event. The Coast Guard Academy doesn’t require a nomination; however, Heck writes recommendations for applicants to that academy when requested.

So, what’s it take to receive a congressional nomination?

“A lot of things,” Heck said. “It’s important that to be a leader in the Armed Services, you be a well-rounded individual.”

He suggested applicants get involved in multiple community service and extracurricular activities.

It’s not important applicants plan to make the military their career, but they must be open to that possibility, Heck said.

“If you’re not open, it won’t be a good fit,” he said.

To apply, students must complete a packet including test scores for various physical and scholastic requirements to Heck’s office, 420 College St. SE, Lacey, by Nov. 21.

Heck said he looks forward to Service Academy Information Nights because of the enthusiasm and aptitude of the young people who attend.

“People worry about America’s future, but if they came to one of these events they could stop worrying,” he said.

At the end of the evening, 16-year-old Douglas Peecher, a sophomore at Olympia High School, talked with Bruce Clark, representative of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Peecher is the son of retired Naval and Marine Officer Carl Peecher and hopes to follow in his dad’s footsteps as a military pilot.

“I don’t want my career to be on land,” the youth said.

Peecher asked Clark what kind of letters of recommendation are required.

Clark suggested Peecher get a recommendation letter from his Boy Scout leader, as he’s currently working on his project to become an Eagle Scout.

Sixteen-year-old Bethany Comstock, a sophomore at Shelton High School, is in JROTC, Girl Scouts, drill team and Civil Air Patrol.

Comstock’s dad is a Marine veteran, and she wants to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I want to be a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps,” she said. “I want to make a difference.”

Retired Lt. Col. Tom Morgan, West Point representative, spent time promoting the academy to Wyatt DeMers, a sophomore at Tumwater High School, and his dad, Dan DeMers, an Army veteran.

“The military is in my blood, and I’ve always liked strategy, so I want to go into military service,” Wyatt said. “I think it would be a good opportunity.”

For more information on congressional recommendations, contact Heck’s office at 360-459-8514 or visit