A Pentagon Division Sea Cadet returned recently from an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at what his dream will look like if he is admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Daniel Grigg earned admission to the Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar, a highly-competitive, six-day program that introduces promising young people from around the country to the academics, athletics and professional training that epitomize the academy.
“The goal is that we did everything a midshipman would do,” said Grigg, an incoming senior at King George High School. “We slept in Bancroft Hall, we ate in King Hall [and] we went to academic workshops and classes. It was a very immersive experience.”
The participants’ days during the seminar developed a familiar rhythm: wake up at 0530 hours begin extended sessions of physical training. “They did stuff that was hard but also intended to be fun,” said Grigg. “You had to bear crawl across a football field.”
One novel exercise, dubbed “Bravehearts,” saw a midshipman stand in the middle of the field playing bagpipes while seminar participants ran sprints and shouted. “It was motivating,” said a smiling Grigg, who credited his experiences in the Sea Cadets and King George Junior ROTC for preparing him for the physical challenges.
After PT, participants attended lectures on academy life, “invaluable” question and answer sessions with admissions officers, and “amazing” academic workshops, said Grigg.
The workshops included time in a guided missile destroyer simulator and several physics experiments. “I made tunnels out of smoke in the air,” he said. “We fired lasers. Using nothing but a sheet, we stopped an egg that was going almost 200 miles per hour. They were demonstrating that if you increase the surface area and decrease the force of deceleration, it distributes the force evenly and you don’t break it.”
Another, perhaps more unusual series of experiments examined how chemistry can control “unpleasant” odors, an important consideration in the close confines of a ship. “Otherwise your job stinks,” said Grigg.
Grigg had some difficulty choosing his favorite event at the seminar, but settled on the sea trials at the end of the week. They featured intensive, prolonged PT sessions. “It was amazing,” he said. “We had to run and do pushups and sit ups; we rolled around in the sand and carried boats and paddled through the surf.”
That might not sound like much fun to most people, but Grigg found inspiration from both his family and his squad mates. “I grew up in a military family and it’s always been instilled in me, that military mentality,” he said. “Even in those times when you’re going through something tough, you know that you’ve trained physically, you’ve trained mentally to get through it. And you forge a very strong bond with the people in your squad, just in those six days.”
While the seminar was overwhelmingly fun for Grigg, he also recognized it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to continue along a path he began even before he joined the Sea Cadets and JROTC. “It was very humbling to be accepted in the first place,” he explained. “Entry is very competitive. My dad is an academy graduate and that is what gives me so much motivation to go. My dad has been a big inspiration for me wanting to do this and my family has been very supportive of everything I want to do. It’s very rare when you achieve something all on your own.”
While Grigg is working diligently to make his dream of attending the Naval Academy become reality, he isn’t entirely sure about how he’d like to serve. “If you get into the Naval Academy, you have an opportunity to experience everything,” he said. “My favorite part was the tradition and values you feel walking through the halls, the same halls Nimitz, King and Halsey walked through. We were given the right to sing ‘Navy Blue and Gold,’ the alma mater. It’s hard to explain how significant that feels.”