Defense Media Activity
Before Napster was a bad word for the music industry, it was a term of endearment for students at the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), in Newport, Rhode Island.
Napsters spend a year there with the core mission of strengthening themselves academically to prepare for an appointment to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
|NAPS students line up to start the induction process into the U.S. Naval Academy.|
"Out in the fleet there are probably a lot of people who don't even know that NAPS exists," said Capt. Mike Doherty, commanding officer of the prep school.
NAPS was started back in 1919 when president Franklin Roosevelt was the secretary of the Navy. The Naval Academy had slots for enlisted applicants but they were required to take an entrance exam and a lot of times they wouldn't do very well, said Doherty. So out of 100 available slots there would often only be a handful of Sailors that qualified to fill them. So the Navy decided to create a formal prep program, and NAPS was born.
"It was designed to give Sailors some formal education, especially since most of them had been away from formal schooling for at least a couple of years," said Doherty. "That's the roots of NAPS and that is still what we do today for a mixture of fleet Sailors, fleet Marines and direct accessions from High school."
For enlisted Sailors and Marines, their services see in these Sailors the ability to be a very good officer, but maybe they are not quite ready for the Naval Academy based on academics, age, maturity, or whatever, said Jason Phillips, and English instructor at NAPS and a commander in the Navy Reserve. So they can come to NAPS, work on their academics and experience the military lifestyle and discipline that will be required at the Naval Academy.
"We are a prep school, so we are not expecting our students to come in here college ready, we want them to come in here ready to become college ready," said Karen Chang, Chemistry instructor at NAPS. "So we do more hand holding, but that's the whole point of NAPS."
"It's pretty stringent," said Luca Bielenda, a former ET3 and current Napster.
A normal day at NAPS looks something like this:
Reveille is at 6 a.m., and then students march to chow in waves. Morning formation is at 7:35 a.m. Right after that it's class at 7:40. Typically there are three classes that each run 75 minutes with a five minute break in between. Then march to lunch in waves. After lunch they come back for their last class. Then there is an extra instruction period. After that there is a sports period from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., which is time for physical fitness. After that there is some down time from 5:30 to 7 p.m. That's when students can eat dinner and take care of personal things. Then from 7 to 10 p.m., it's time to study and do homework. After that, students clean for a half hour, then there is an hour of personal time, and then it is lights out by 11.
"At first it was weird because you are used to having all of this freedom and then you go to having essentially no freedom, especially in the first marking period," said Bielenda. "In the first marking period you have to go to all three meals together. You march everywhere. The hardest part was taking a step backward, going from being treated as an adult and able to do what you want, and here it's kind of like being treated like a child, but not, I don't know how to explain it. However, you learn a lot. You can sit back and observe and see what you like and what you don't like and there is really an opportunity to mold yourself. And I like that aspect of it."
"It was hard at first to adjust," said Nicholas Fortune, a fleet returnee. "The first indoc period, they bring in detailers to teach us about military discipline and give us basic instruction about military life and those detailers were as old, or maybe even younger than I am, so it was tough at first to get used to that, especially since I had been in the fleet for a while, but overall I think fleet life definitely prepared me better than anything else for this place."
NAPS happens to be located in Newport, which is also home to the Senior Enlisted Academy, Surface Warfare Officer School, Navy Officer Candidate School, Supply Officer School among others. It may be intimidating for Napsters to be surrounded by so many of the Navy's senior leaders.
"There is some culture shock," said Doherty. "There is a shock and awe affect to any starting of military life. I don't think that's as applicable to fleet returnees, but there is a shock affect for direct accessions. However, I think having senior leadership here is a positive. We have a sponsor program where families out in town can open their home to one, two or three of our students, and a lot of the staff at these other schools are the ones that open their homes and provide that mentorship, so they really help with breaking down those barriers."
It's not hard to believe that militarily fleet Sailors and Marines are better prepared for NAPS. But academically, it makes sense that direct accessions from high school would have the upper hand. However, that isn't the case.
"Fleet Sailors and Marines that do apply and are offered appointments to NAPS are high caliber," said Doherty. "They are smart people. Right now nine of our top 10 students are fleet Sailors and Marines. 25 of our top 35 are fleet Sailors and Marines. They are knocking it out of the park - they are leading the battalion militarily and leading the battalion academically."
But just to be clear, there is no application process for NAPS. Sailors, Marines and civilians all apply as candidates to the academy and the academy decides who to accept, who to reject, and who to send to NAPS. The basic requirements for eligibility to the academy are: United States citizen; good moral character; at least 17 and not past their 23rd birthday on 1 July of the year they would enter the academy; unmarried; not pregnant; no dependents.