Riverside County has history of sending grads to elite military academies
In 1944, Admiral Jesse Oldendorf commanded a task group of U.S. battleships and cruisers that defeated the Japanese Southern Fleet in Surigao Strait. He won this classic naval engagement by employing textbook tactics he learned as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, Class of 1909.
Today, that’s worth remembering because Admiral Oldendorf was one of ours. He was born in Riverside in 1887, and he is at the forefront of a long line of Riverside County youth who have attended West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy, or the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies.
Because congressional nominations are usually a requirement for admission, congressional offices are the gatekeepers for applicants. Riverside County’s gates are busy. The offices of our Congressional representatives have sent more than 40 students to the academies in the past 5 years. For graduating high school seniors nationwide, these academies are much soughtafter.
On Newsweek’s latest list of the “most desirable colleges” in America, Navy, Air Force and Army all rank in the top 15. They typically rank among the nation’s best engineering institutions as well. At each school, the education, generally valued around $400,000, is free. But that’s free with an asterisk: It is repaid with military service.
The academies are highly selective. Army, Navy and Air Force typically draw some 17,000 applicants a year. But when the freshman class forms up, it’s only about 1,250 strong. A majority of those who are admitted finished in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. Ninety percent of them won high school varsity athletic letters. Most also displayed leadership, community service and strength of character.
What does all this say about the communities that produce these students? It speaks of strong families, and values. It speaks of the dedicated support of members of Congress, and efficient congressional staffs which help guide the truly committed candidates on the admissions quest. It signals the presence of strong Junior ROTC programs, and the professionalism of counselors, at many schools.
Perhaps most of all, this is irrefutable evidence that a truly high-quality education is available in Riverside County’s public schools. Our schools are producing young men and women who can succeed is such a rigorous environment, all with the confidence, tools and encouragement they acquired in Riverside County’s public educational system.