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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 23, 2010

Naval Academy recruit eager to start summer boot camp

 •  U.S. reconsiders weapon


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kristina Byrne will leave her home in Old Greenwich, Conn., in July for a six-week boot camp, then it's on to the Naval Academy as a plebe.

HELEN NEAFSEY | Greenwich Time

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GREENWICH, Conn. Forget about a job or internship. Greenwich High School senior Kristina Byrne will get a different kind of work experience this summer: military indoctrination.

On July 1, the 18-year-old leaves her civilian life behind to begin a six-week, boot-camp-style Plebe Summer introduction to military life as a first-year student at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

For her and about 1,200 of her fellow "plebes," the experience will mean often rising before dawn for grueling fitness, riflery and seamanship training.

"I can't wait," Byrne said. "I'm a little nervous, but I'm also really excited."

Though military service runs in her family her grandfathers served in World War II and her brothers were Naval Sea Cadets in high school Byrne hadn't until recently expected to follow in their footsteps. "I always figured I'd end up at a civilian school and do the regular college thing," she said.

Byrne got hooked on the military after attending the academy's weeklong camp for high school students last summer. Among other things, students had to memorize the ranks of dozens of military officers. They also endured a 10-hour fitness drill that included swimming, obstacle courses and "rolling around in the sand like Navy Seals," she recalled. "It was a blast."

Graduates of the academy must serve for at least five years as naval officers before they can return to civilian life. Byrne said she might like to train as a jet pilot at the academy, though competition to get into that program, one of its most popular, will be fierce.

"Everybody wants to be Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun,' " she joked.

Getting accepted to the academy is no small feat. More than 17,000 people applied for about 1,200 slots this year, putting the academy on a par with some of the nation's most selective colleges.

On top of submitting their grades, test scores and college essays, applicants must pass rigorous fitness and medical exams, and land a nomination from one of their representatives in Congress. Byrne was nominated by Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Applicants must also be recommended by a "Blue and Gold officer" who helps screen candidates.

Local Blue and Gold officer Jim Carrier said he was impressed by Byrne's academic record, her success as a varsity athlete and her leadership roles in community service groups, such as the GHS Cancer Awareness Club.

"She hit a home run on all fronts," Carrier said. "She is one of my young heroes."