Students serve at service school

Military school is the primary choice for several Cal students


Anvi Kataria

Senior Oliver Smallridge has enlisted in the Navy and reports to basic training next month.

Many of us have seen the smash hit movie “Top Gun: Maverick”, which was released last summer.
It includes stunning graphics, a vivid plot, and most importantly to me, brief mentions of “the academy.” The academy in question, for those who do not know, is the United States Naval Academy. It’s where young people from all across the nation go to become officers in the US Navy or Marine Corps upon graduation.
I will be one of these young people attending the US Naval Academy starting June 29. I will literally be living out the plot of “Top Gun: Maverick”.
Located in Annapolis, Marland, the US Naval Academy (USNA) is the undergraduate college of America´s naval service. The goal of the school is to foster an environment that pushes young Americans to become leaders in all capacities of their lives.
So far, it has been pretty good at doing that as the USNA has produced 54 astronauts, 29 members of Congress, and a president, among many other scholars and political leaders.
You may be asking me what exactly was running through my head when I applied.Why would someone like me even be interested in an opportunity like this?
Truth be told, I didn’t really think. I just did.
From day one, I have always wanted a ¨cool career¨. My dad’s best friend, who I call my uncle, did the same in India when he went to the Armed Forces Medical College of Delhi. He went to war, saw some really scary stuff, left the Indian Army, and now is a successful surgeon in New Zealand. Just this past summer, he was awarded by India’s Prime Minister for being one of the only members of his platoon alive after narrowly escaping an enemy bunker after being shot in the knee during the Kargil War of 1999 in Kashmir.
Pretty cool career, right?
Obviously, my third-grade self did not hear all the graphic details, but I did hear about the opportunity. He managed to make it out of the slums and work his way up to having a water slide in his backyard.More importantly, he managed to make an impact on the country that did so much for him.
I even have it written in my third grade diary, “Maybe I wanna do something like that so I can have a water slide in my backyard.” Truer words have never been written. Eight-year-old me knew what was up.
This little goal of mine took a backseat as I entered middle school and high school. Top 20 schools such as Stanford and Harvard became the goal because of their great resources and name recognition. I worked hard and did everything I could to make this goal a reality.
But how did I learn about USNA? It was the end of junior year and I was done with the hardest part of high school. The only hurdle between me and my goal of a cool career was college applications.
I was fielding questions about college and careers at a friend’s graduation party when they brought up UNSA. I had seen emails from them and watched the Insider video about it on YouTube, but that conversation changed the entire trajectory of my life.
I could now achieve the goals similar to those of my uncle in India through UNSA. Suddenly, I had the means to make a direct impact on the society that has shaped me to be the person I am today.
Any fatigue from the school year prior was now gone and quickly replaced with the energy I needed to get started on making this goal a reality.
That same day, I went home and started the application process, which requires multiple essays, an interview by a representative of USNA, a nomination from either a senator, congressman,or vice president, a stringent medical exam, and a physical capability exam.
Due to the low 7 percent acceptance rate, combined with the fact that the applicant pool is incredibly competitive, I did not think I would make it. There are kids out there that dedicate years of their lives to attending a service academy like USNA, but I was going into this blind.
I learned I was accepted on Jan. 6, when I got a physical letter back from Congressman Eric Swalwell´s office. It informed me I was their principal nominee, which meant I had a seat saved for me at USNA.
The amount of relief I felt at that moment is probably unmatched. Then came the fear. It sounds scary to say that I am joining the Department of Defense in six months’ time. But it is an exciting challenge.
On induction day, more commonly known as I-day, I will be transformed from a civilian to something bigger than myself. I will leave my life as I know it on June 29 to become a plebe, and I have never been more excite. I know a couple of my friends feel the same way because they are also in the same boat.