AL ASAD, Iraq -- The U.S. Naval Academy recently accepted a Marine deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom into the military institute of higher learning.
Lance Cpl. Michael J. Laws, an aviation information systems specialist with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), received his acceptance letter in a formation Oct. 19, recognizing his hard work and dedication.
Like many Marines and sailors that have been accepted into the military institution, Laws has proven that his dedication to education has earned him a place in the academy, but his exceptional academic achievements have set him aside from many of his future classmates.
Laws, unlike most prior-enlisted students, will not have to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School. His previous academic accomplishments and SAT score gained the confidence of the admission review board. He seemed more than capable of continuing his education without it.
“It is rare to see a prior-enlisted Marine or sailor go directly into the academy,” said Maj. Thomas A. Lenhardt, operations officer, MALS-16. “Most go to the Naval Academy Preparatory School to help cement a stronger academic basis: offering them a higher chance of succeeding after being removed from high school for a few years. Due to the combination of his high academic grades in high school and an outstanding SAT score, Laws is the exception. Based upon that, I believe the academy feels that he is already set up for success.”
Instead of graduating from a traditional high school, the Whippany, N. J., native was home schooled by his mother, Linda, and excelled academically.
When Laws finished high school, he took college courses and later joined the Marine Corps, and attended recruit training at Parris Island, S.C., in January, 2005.
“I joined the Marine Corps to serve my country,” the 20-year-old said. “I didn’t join to earn money for college. It wasn’t even a thought. Serving my country was all I wanted to do.”
Although Laws joined the Marine Corps to serve his country, he found that continuing his education was something he still wanted to do. During a counseling session with his officer-in-charge, Laws received additional support to further his education and apply to the academy.
“He mentioned in his initial counseling session that he had a desire to enroll and finish college, while in the Marine Corps,” said Lenhardt, a Mesa, Ariz., native. “At that point I went more in depth into his counseling session and discovered that he had a desire to apply to the Naval Academy in the past. I asked him if he wanted to apply while deployed and offered my mentorship as his officer-in-charge and as a prior-enlisted Naval Academy graduate.”
With the support of his supervisor, Laws began retrieving the documents and information needed for his application. The final portion of his application was submitted to the U.S. Naval Academy admissions office the first week of September.
“The Fleet Coordinator responded on October 11, stating that Laws had a guaranteed acceptance complete with a Secretary of the Navy nomination,” said Lenhardt. “That is the quickest turnaround on a Naval Academy application that I have ever seen. Most applicants are not offered appointments until January or later.”
“When the chance to go to the Naval Academy came up, I went for it,” said Laws. “I didn’t go into the process with any expectations. I thought if I get accepted, outstanding. If I don’t, I’m okay with it.”
Since Laws received his acceptance into the U.S. Naval Academy, Lenhardt has advised him on what to expect at the academy from academics to everyday life.
“As a graduate myself, I can definitively state that every individual that attends the academy has some form of challenge that they must overcome,” Lenhardt said. “I sincerely believe that Laws is of the highest caliber and has higher qualifications than most midshipmen that were classmates of mine. It is my assessment that he will not only do well at the U.S. Naval Academy, but he will excel.”
Laws will enter this next stage of his career with the support of the officers appointed over him, who will one day welcome him into their ranks as a Marine Corps officer.
“I have already informed him that failure is not an option when he gets to the academy,” said Lenhardt. “He will succeed and I fully intend on standing in the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to watch him graduate as a member of the United States Naval Academy, Class of 2011.”
Disclaimer -- Photos associated with this story can be found at the following links:
1 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/200611610911
2 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/2006116101154
3 - http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/image1.nsf/Lookup/2006116101510