“I knew I wanted to give back and serve my country, so I decided that I would join the military,” says CHS senior Connor Suess as he reflects on his decision to commit to four years in the United States Naval Academy and five years serving in the military.
Perhaps it is the free tuition, the job security after college, the sheer desire to serve his country or a combination of the three, but Suess is not the only 2017 CHS graduate heading toward military service shortly after hanging up his cap and gown.
Already enlisted in the Army, expected 2017 graduate Paul Krayniy leaves for 10 weeks of boot camp Aug. 21 before embarking on 21 weeks of Advanced Individual Training to become an operating room specialist tasked with assisting the nursing and medical staff during surgical procedures.
Required to serve in this position for a minimum of six years, Krayniy plans to take online courses during the time that he is not working in pursuit of a degree as a nurse practitioner. Any additional college that Krayniy may need to obtain this degree will be taken care of financially as a result of his time served in the Army.
Krayniy made the decision to enlist not only with the financial security it provides in mind, but with his family in mind.
“I want to make my parents proud. That’s always a factor,” Krayniy says. “I know they will be proud of this decision.”
Similar to Krayniy, Suess was attracted to the military in part because of its security, financially and otherwise. Continuing his family legacy at the Naval Academy, Suess will be the fifth in his family to graduate from the academy after hearing about its benefits from each of the other four family members to have graduated.
“The academy provides you with great experiences in leadership,” Suess adds. “It’s mentally stimulating, and you get to be stationed all around the world, not to mention the guaranteed job after college.”
Suess knows, however, that the next nine years of his life will not be easy.
“I am dreading how difficult it is going to be,” he says. “It is six classes a day, we have to wake up at 5:30 a.m., there is a mandatory sports period and a strict curfew for first-year students. It will be mentally and physically straining. It’s not going to be an easy four years.”
Despite the expected hardships, Suess is confident it will work out in the end.
“There will definitely be less freedom than a normal university, but it will pay off in the long run,” Suess continues. “In my opinion, college is where you go to prepare for the rest of your life and the Naval Academy will do that.”
Leaving about two months earlier than Krayniy, June 29 marks the beginning of Suess’ journey in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for four years. Following these four years, Suess will be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy.
Krayniy and Suess are not the only two CHS students who have chosen the military route after graduation. According to CHS counselor Jeff Schatz, on average, three students a year go into the military or a military academy.
“Almost no one has ever participated in ROTC in our 10 years at CHS,” Schatz says.
With that statistic, graduating senior Parker White will be among the few planning on joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a group of college-based officer training programs for training commissioned officers of the U.S. Armed Forces following a month of military training.
“I was awarded an Army ROTC scholarship to Texas A&M,” White explains. “They will pay for my tuition, and in exchange, I will owe them eight years—four active and four reserve. I hope to contract as an Infantry Officer after college.”
Bill Schrier, AP Government and Politics teacher and former Judge Advocate General’s Corps for the Navy, and Tom Dooner, AP Biology teacher and former intelligence officer in the Army, can testify to the valuable skills gained through this experience, but both firmly believe that enlisting after high school graduation is not the right choice for everyone.
“It takes a high level of maturity and physical readiness and a complete understanding of the seriousness of what you are doing,” Dooner says. “If the student is ready, there is no limit to the valuable skills.”