EHS student gets preview of U.S. Naval Academy life
His ship might not have come in, but Gabriel Bennett certainly can see it on the horizon.
Bennett, an Elizabethton High School student, received the opportunity of a lifetime this summer when he was chosen for the U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar Program.
Bennett was one of approximately 2,500 students who attended six-day sessions that offered students a look at Navy life.
During the session, Bennett lived the life of a freshman at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I spent a week basically living the life of a plebe,” Bennett said, explaining that a plebe was what a true freshman was called at the academy. “It was tough, but it was worth it and enjoyable.”
Students attended academic workshops focusing on topics like information technology, naval architecture, mechanical engineering, oceanography, mathematics, history and meteorology. They also completed daily physical training sessions and seamanship and navigation classes.
Summer Seminar teaches prospective applicants about life at the Naval Academy. Each student attends a six-day session and experiences a glimpse of USNA life. Students lived in the dorm, ate in the mess hall and participated in daily physical training.
Bennett said his time in the academy helped cement his decision to join the U.S. Navy and apply to the academy after he graduates from high school next year.
“It was supposed to be a self-assessment of if the academy would be right for you,” he said. “From day one I knew I had made the right decision. It was the best week of my life.”
Bennett explained that his father, Marshall, had also served in the Navy, so he was familiar with the military lifestyle.
Now that he has been through the Summer Seminar, Bennett will be one step ahead of other applicants when he applies to attend the U.S. Naval Academy after graduation.
During the seminar, the students were taught basic Navy knowledge, such as the different parts of ships and submarines. They were also told about some of the careers and their duties, including nuclear engineer — the course Bennett plans to set.
When not in classes, students were usually participating in some form of physical training activities.
Bennett said the students completed sea trials, log training, where they completed activities while carrying or using a log; and running while in full gear along with the traditional physical training exercises. One of those sessions was led by a retired Navy SEAL, which Bennett described as one of the more grueling sessions.
Bennett said the students were placed into squads of nine who attended classes and other activities together.
“We got to know each other pretty quick,” Bennett said. “We are still in contact. There were people I didn’t know before this. We are good friends now. We worked together to do so much.”
As “plebes,” the only free time they were given was on a Saturday from noon to midnight.
“It is very structured,” Bennett said. “You get more free time as you move up through the academy. As a senior, you get the weekend free.”
Even though completing the Summer Seminar gives Bennett a boost over other freshman applicants, he noted he is applying to other colleges as well.
“You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “It is a very competitive program. Being good is not good enough. You have got to do more.”
At EHS, Bennett is a member of the cross country and the track team, the Future Business Leaders of America, the National Honor Society, the power-lifting club and is a lawyer on the mock trial team. He is also president of the chess club and the aviation club.