Though graduation is months away, Naval Academy seniors learned this week whether they'll fly jets, serve on submarines or work aboard ships when they become officers in May.
As happens every January, dozens of midshipmen emerged from the "service assignment" process, which ends tonight, dejected over being denied entry to the military venue of their choice.
Among the dejected were 14 Mids who wanted to join the Marine Corps. Only 16.67 percent of each year's graduating class can be admitted to the corps. Almost every year -- except for 1995 and a few years during the Vietnam War -- the academy has an overload of aspiring Marines.
Gen. Charles C. Krulak, the Marine Corps commandant, asked the Navy recently to meet the demand by increasing the academy's output of Marines to 18 percent and, eventually, 24 percent.
Krulak, an academy graduate, has been pushing for greater Marine Corps representation at the academy. Last year, he lobbied for a Marine general to replace the departing academy superintendent. To date, Marines have reached the No. 3 post at the school -- deputy commandant, held by Col. Norman G. "Dutch" Schlaich.
The Navy says it is reviewing Krulak's request for more academy-produced midshipmen.
The service assignment process inevitably douses the dreams of a few aspiring Marines each year.
"Some of them, their hearts were broken," Schlaich said. "There's some people who really, really, really wanted to be Marines and were really qualified to be Marines. It's tough."
Past years have been worse. Last year, 31 midshipmen were denied a job with the Marines; in 1997, it was 15; and in 1996, 80 Mids were turned away.
Some Midshipmen aspiring to fly Navy jets or to perform special operations with the elite SEALs, the naval special forces group, also were denied.
In early January, midshipmen list their top six choices for military service. Most choose to serve aboard ships, as so-called surface warfare officers. But midshipmen also can ask to fly, serve on a submarine, perform special operations or join the Marines.
This year, 93.6 percent of the midshipmen got their first choices, up from 90 percent last year and a huge increase over the 82 percent of satisfied Mids in 1996.
"I think the Navy and Marine Corps are well-served if people get what they asked for because they'll be more motivated," said Maj. Tim Murphy, who runs service assignment.
But because of ceilings on the number of midshipmen allowed into certain fields, not all Mids get what they want. This year, 5 percent got their second choice. Two or three Mids got their fourth choice. A female Mid -- who had hoped to enter the Marines -- got her fifth choice.
"I've been planning to do this since I was a kid," said Midshipman Luke Watson of Columbia, who was among 148 chosen to become a Marine. "But there are a bunch of other guys here who wanted to do it, too, but didn't make it. You work hard, but it's not guaranteed."
Watson learned he had made the cut Wednesday, when his company officer brought all seniors on his floor into a room, handed out envelopes and had Mids open them at the same time.
The room erupted in cheers, except for one midshipman who didn't get what he wanted.
J. L. Reppert of Lutherville, another Marine-bound midshipman, said he had been pretty confident he would be among the 16.67 percent but fought off occasional doubts in recent days.
"It was a big relief," he said.
Pub Date: 1/29/99