Service Academy Board Blues

After an absence of several years, I was back to serve on my congressman’s Academy Selection Board.  This group of ten or so volunteers is made up of service-academy graduates, several of whom are retirees, and a few who are still on active duty.  All of them have links to West Point, Annapolis, or the Air Force Academy.  Occasionally, there will be a “nongrad” board member who had previously been assigned to one of the academies as an instructor or staff member.

The board’s purpose is to interview the candidates applying to the U.S. representative or senator for an appointment, and to review their transcripts, College Board scores, and letters of recommendation.  The process takes about 30 minutes per candidate.  Afterward, we submit to the congressman our recommendations as to whom among the young people should be considered for appointment.

I met with other board members on a Friday afternoon in the representative’s office for the purpose of winnowing down the field of applicants to the academies.  I was paired with Mike, an Annapolis grad and retired Navy captain.  Our roster consisted of six young men, applying for West Point (2), Annapolis (3), and the Air Force Academy or West Point (1).

Reviewing our first candidate’s file, we were struck by both his verbal and math scores on the SAT—410 and...

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