Oak Grove grad's appointment worth $260,000


Long before graduating from Oak Grove High School last month, Paul Anderson had decided that he wanted to go into the military. His father, Chuck Anderson, is a U.S. Army major at Camp Shelby.

He also wanted to go to one of the nation’s five service academies, but he wasn’t sure which one.

“Which branch was not the most important part of the decision,” he said. “I wanted to serve my country, and I thought that a service academy would propel you to the next level.”

Anderson decided to visit the academies.

“I had already toured the Air Force Academy because I went for a soccer camp there and I really liked it,” he said. “I went on tours of the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy. Everyone knows about West Point and the Naval Academy, but Coast Guard and Merchant Marine kind of fly under the radar, especially Merchant Marine.”

The Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., made an impression on Anderson.

“I toured the Merchant Marine Academy and the lady there said, ‘It is the nation’s best-kept secret,’” he said. “I really understand that because there are so many opportunities that nobody really knows about.”

As with all military academies, Anderson had to have recommendations from his U.S. Senator and his home U.S. Representative from his home state. At the time he graduated, the family home is in Tennessee, so he was nominated by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and received the principal nomination of Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee.

“If you get a principal nomination, you are almost guaranteed to go into that academy,” Anderson said. “That really helped me for the Merchant Marines. With the Merchant Marines, there are so many possibilities. It is kind of overlooked. I kind of overlooked it too until I learned more about it and I saw how vital it is for our economy.”

Anderson is one of about 280 appointees selected to attend the academy from around the nation and the world, out of more than 1,900 applicants. He will report for initial training on June 29. An appointment to the academy is the equivalent of a scholarship worth more than $260,000 over four years.

The academy’s mission is to educate and graduate leaders of exemplary character who are inspired to serve the national security, marine transportation and economic needs of the United States as licensed Merchant Marine officers in the Armed Forces.

Anderson said the opportunities at the academy include traveling to all parts of the world. The intensive four-year regimental and academic curriculum includes three trimesters at sea on U.S. Flag Merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships, as well as an internship. Completion leads to a bachelor of science degree, a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer’s license as either a deck officer or engineering officer, and an ensign’s commission in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Anderson will have 100 days abroad during his second year at the academy, while in his third year, he will have 200 days abroad. He is expected to see 17 different countries during his four years.

“I have always wanted to travel and study abroad,” he said, “so this is perfect.”

At Oak Grove High School, Anderson was National Honor Society president, Beta Club president, president and founder of the school’s Table Tennis Club and a member of the math and Spanish honor societies. In addition to soccer, he participated in varsity track and cross country.