USNAvUSAFA -must decide which to attend in FOUR days - PLEASE HELP!!

2020candidate

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Jan 2, 2016
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Alright, so I am currently deliberating my decision between USNA and USAFA, which has to be made very promptly (5/1/16), and today is 4/27/16. I'll be honest in saying I'm still very in between on this. At this point I've figured out that my experience at either Academy will be great and I really need to focus on my options/opportunities post-graduation, so that if plan A doesn't work out, that I have a solid plan B, C, D, etc that interest me. I'm looking to major in aero engr AND/OR physics at whichever Academy I attend. I then hope to be academically competitive enough to be granted one year's leave to get my masters. Then I'll hope to be commissioned as a pilot, and once I leave the service my ultimate goal will be to become an astronaut w NASA or otherwise. Keep in mind that my ultimate goal almost all my life has been to become an astronaut, and while that's certainly not my only reason for going to an Academy, it will be something that I'm constantly working toward during my time at an Academy.

Side note: I understand "this is my decision", "I should go by my gut feeling," "I should research both Academies and services," etc. I've done all that, I need more information, particularly about post-graduation in each service, so that I can make the best decision.

Here's my thoughts for each Academy:

USAFA
Desired Major: Aero Engr AND/OR Physics
Post-grad desire:
-1st choice: pilot
-2nd choice: spec ops
-3rd choice: chaplain
-4th choice: unsure*
*I noticed you can be commissioned as a Physicist or Nuclear Engr in the Air Force, which I thought was very interesting. To me that seems like a physics or nuclear engr's dream because it would allow them to practice their field during their service, giving them the upperhand if and when they leave the service and try to make use of their degree. If anyone can provide insight on what all they do, what kind of research, etc, and if that would assist in my post-service goals.

USNA
Desired Major: Aero Engr AND/OR Physics
Post-grad desire:
-1st choice: pilot (either Navy or USMC)
-2nd choice: Spec Ops
-3rd choice: Marines (ground forces or chaplain)
Of course I'll serve wherever I'm assigned/needed, but whatever say I get in the decision, I will be strongly opposed to SWO and subs (no offense, just not for me).

Just to be clear, at this point my biggest concerns are as follows:
1. which Academy is best for aero engr and/or physics AND which service is better for pilot (might sound dumb -- "Air Force" -- but they're quite comparable as many of you know)
2. info on post-grad stuff

-->particularly the following:
a) USAFA options (physicist/nuclear engr officer, etc), I've researched the AF options and I'm still trying to figure out what would interest me besides pilot or scientist

b) Is there any truth to the "if you aren't a pilot in the AF, you'll likely get a desk job?" I don't mean it perhaps to that extreme, but if pilot doesn't work out (body can't handle it, eyesight, don't get the liberty of that choice, etc), what can I do that either pertains to my field of study (aero engr/physics) or makes me extremely useful and active (in other words, I'm given a lot of responsibility and frontline type work)...if that makes sense. I want my time to be more than just "filling an opening," but rather doing something where my time and energy will make the absolute biggest impact. I don't want to work in an office for 5 years, I want to be in combat protecting the soldiers I lead, risking my life so that others may live, and giving everything of myself day in and day out. I'm extremely passionate and I intend to serve in a role where I'm asked to put every ounce of effort in each day because my service is heavily depended upon. I hope that doesn't sound selfish, because I mean it in the most unselfish of ways. Sometimes I think I should've applied to USCGA because the Coast Guard is constantly on duty with missions that rescue and save lives. That's the type of work I want to be doing, the humble servant's.

c) what do AF Scientist Officers do? What kind of research? Are they highly valued by companies like say, NASA, Boeing, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, etc?

d) will getting assigned to SWO or subs in the Navy shoot my chances of astronaut? I understand "I'll still have a chance." What I'm asking is can the same person be just as competitive for the Astronaut Candidacy Program if they've been on a ship or in a submarine for their entire service vs in a jet. The Navy appeal is the idea of being a pilot, Marine, or SEAL, but I'm also faced with the reality that I DO NOT want to spend my time on a ship (I understand I'm in it to serve my country and I'll faithfully do so wherever I go, that doesn't mean I don't have strong preferences).

e) I'm interested in SEAL's, I also understand that for every 30 enlisted SEAL's there's 1 SEAL Officer. Does this make it practically impossible?

f) Take the top graduate at USNA and top graduate at USAFA (all hypothetical), and lets say they're both pilots, which looks better to Astronaut Selection Committee? If anyone has insight on that?

3. Additional
-Also, I understand that their is cross-service commission, aka if I graduate from USNA I can be commissioned in the Air Force by special request. I'm curious, how difficult is it to make this happen should I later on find the opposite service to have something that I strongly want to be a part of?

Feel free to load your response with tons of relevant info including links, personal stories, insider info, etc. If you have questions about any of the above ask away and I'll try to respond promptly. Sorry if I sounded demanding or upfront, very stressed with this. Thanks :)
 

NavyHoops

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I think you answered your own question with 1 line , 'I do not want to spend my time on a ship.' You know most Navy pilots and SEALS will spend time on a ship right? Heck as a SEAL, you could go on a sub for months. If you cannot stomach a 6-8 month cruise on a ship, cross the Navy off the list.

Also, I think you are looking to make some major decisions on very extreme if these 7890 items line up, what is best. I don't have stats to support it, but what I have seen over the years, best path to astronaut in uniform is... Pilot, have a tech Masters, TPS, apply for NASA. What service has aircraft you are most drawn to? If you can't fly, USAF ground options vs SWO/subs/Marine options. You say you want to be 'in the fight.' Well every job is important or the military wouldn't have it. Some may 'seem cooler' or 'be more ground combat oriented'. If you can't fly then join the Marines and be an infantry officer or Spec Ops 'to be in the fight.' I hope you never have to see combat, I wish that for every future officer or service member I meet. Chaplain realistically won't be happening unless you complete some years in service and apply or complete service, attend seminary and then return to it.

USNA has ~30+ SEAL spots a year. It's competitive and hard to get. You need to be realistic if you have the physical capability to take that path. Take a look online at the training path and physical aspects and really think if you have those traits. Don't worry about ratio of officer to enlisted, focus on number of available spots from USNA and how competitive it is to get. You aren't competing against enlisted sailors for that spot.

The Air Force does have many more options of scientist, acquisitions, etc. out of USAFA than USNA does. I believe there is a female USAFA grad who chimes In on this Board working these areas and would have some insight. For USNA do some research on engineering duty option.

It's very difficult to cross commission. Do not rely on this path as there are too many variables involved. It does and can happen, but you need a compelling argument and amazing performance and support to make it happen.
 

Capt MJ

Ancient Mariner
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I think I saw "chaplain" in OP post somewhere under Marines.

Navy Chaplain Corps, similar to Navy Medical Corps, looks after Navy and Marines both.

I believe all Navy chaplains are direct commission, not from USNA, NROTC or OCS. I have known many who served as warfare officers, got out, went to seminary, received permission from their faith group to apply for a commission, came back in Chaplain Corps.
 

raimius

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1. USAFA is going to have an edge in Aero, but USNA might have a better nuclear engineering focus.
2. (a) Pilot, Scientist, Developmental Engineer, Special Tactics Officer, or Combat Rescue Officer are careers that might interest you. (The last two will likely make you non-competitive for NASA though, as they tend to be AFSOC/CSAR jobs, not piloting/hard science.)
(b) Every officer position is at least part desk job. As a helicopter guy, I'm lucky if I get 5-10 hours of flying per week. More of my time is spent on additional duties. That said, some career fields get 100% desk time and zero flight time!
(c) Sorry, can't help too much. Many are project managers. Some companies love them.
(d)If you don't want to spend lots of time on ships, USNA might not be for you.
(e) (not navy, no idea)
(f)Probably a toss up.
3. Cross commissioning is pretty difficult. Don't count on it.
 

Blondie1

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DS has the opportunity to receive advanced degree in physics/nuclear after academy graduation--paid for by the navy. If he takes the offer he will most likely end up subs working nuclear (I think). He is wavering--thinks he might want to go aviation. And with navy there is always the possibility of being drafted subs (sometimes doing too well at Navy may limit your choices?!?). Choose wisely based on what you want to do after graduation. DS never consider anyplace but navy--he felt there were more career opportunities.
 

glithfire

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D) SWO or Subs will greatly reduce the chance of being an astronaut (1% to .0001%). This is because most astronauts with military background are test pilots. No SWOs or Subs in test pilot school. That being said, a Navy SEAL was sent up as a mission specialist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Cassidy. It is possible from other military communities, but nearly impossible.

E) Being a SEAL officer is doable from the Naval Academy. Not an easy path, but doable.

F) Does not really matter. USAFA and USNA both have long track records of producing astronauts. The difference in how each academy will be perceived to the NASA selection board is infinitesimal. Your GPA, your success at flight training, whether you get selected to test pilot school are much more important. Nothing will be looked at in a vacuum by NASA, you must consistently excel throughout your whole life. Choose the service you will be more passionate about. There's gonna be a lot of speed bumps along the way. Competency, passion, and grit will get you past them.

Most importantly... What branch do you want to be in? What community do you want to be a part of? Where will you excel the most?

These are the questions to ask yourself.

Good luck!
 

DevilDog

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Do you want to be one of the world's best fixed-wing aviators? Or do you want to be in the Air Force?
If you decide to go Ground, who would you rather lead, a group of highly motivated, truly dedicated rough tough US Marines, or a group of people that barely made it out of HS, and had a 6 week bootcamp, the Green Berets used to come to PI for training how to shoot accurately at 500 yards, that is basic training for every Marine. You chose Navy, it could have been worse, you could have chosen Army.
 

scoutpilot

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If you decide to go Ground, who would you rather lead, a group of highly motivated, truly dedicated rough tough US Marines, or a group of people that barely made it out of HS, and had a 6 week bootcamp, the Green Berets used to come to PI for training how to shoot accurately at 500 yards, that is basic training for every Marine. You chose Navy, it could have been worse, you could have chosen Army.
And now MARSOC (snicker) comes to USASOC to be trained. Guess which we know which way the quality of organization is trending! :rofl:

You'd think with all that "basic training" the MARSOC guys would shoot better. Oh well. Myths die hard. ;)
 

forumjunkie

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My husband likes to say..Hope I get this right

"The Air Force teaches you to support the Mission, The Navy teaches you to do your Job, and the Army teaches you to be miserable and like it!'

Yeah yeah he's Army so don't fuss at me.
 

DevilDog

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Messages
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Just a few quotes from some of your more famous brethern:

And now MARSOC (snicker) comes to USASOC to be trained. Guess which we know which way the quality of organization is trending! :rofl:

You'd think with all that "basic training" the MARSOC guys would shoot better. Oh well. Myths die hard. ;)


Why in hell can't the Army do it if the Marines can. They are the same kind of men; why can't they be like Marines.
Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, USA; 12 February 1918

I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world!
General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur; Korea, 21 September 1950

We have two companies of Marines running rampant all over the northern half of this island, and three Army regiments pinned down in the southwestern corner, doing nothing. What the hell is going on?
Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., USA, Chairman of the the Joint Chiefs of Staff
during the assault on Grenada, 1983

I can't say enough about the two Marine divisions. If I use words like 'brilliant,' it would really be an under description of the absolutely superb job that they did in breaching the so-called 'impenetrable barrier.' It was a classic- absolutely classic- military breaching of a very very tough minefield, barbed wire, fire trenches-type barrier.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, U. S. Army
Commander, Operation Desert Storm, February 1991

The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.
Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, U.S. Army
Commander of American Forces in World War I

The American Marines have it [pride], and benefit from it. They are tough, cocky, sure of themselves and their buddies. They can fight and they know it.
General Mark Clark, U.S. Army

If I had one more division like this First Marine Division I could win this war.
General of the Armies Douglas McArthur in Korea,
overheard and reported by Marine Staff Sergeant Bill Houghton, Weapons/2/5

and now a quote from the enemy:

Do not attack the First Marine Division. Leave the yellowlegs alone. Strike the American Army.
Orders given to Communist troops in the Korean War;
shortly afterward, the Marines were ordered
to not wear their khaki leggings.

We definitely are a bunch of glory hounds, but we earned it, in blood.

Semper Fi, Scout Pilot
 

forumjunkie

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I have sworn for years that the Marines have the Best Marketing People in they world civilian or Military. Don't know if they do it in house or contract it out but it is incredible when a darn billboard makes you well up!

I do think the actual fighting force and attitude is awesome. Never has so much been done with so little!

I laid a bet with my Husband when Son went to USNA that he would get recruited to go Marines, Guess who may be doing leatherneck for summer block this year ;)
 

scoutpilot

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Apr 29, 2010
Messages
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I agree, but when you are the best, you can say anything you want because it is all documented.
The Marines are definitely the best at being Marines, that's for certain. As for the comparisons, it's all in how you gloss over failures in the name of mythos. Chosin, etc.
 
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