First State Military Academy program ranks high

First State Military Academy senior cadets receive their class rings from Brigadier General Michael R. Berry, second from left, on Sept. 20. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

CLAYTON — Some day, perhaps, a cadet will make the cut into a service academy.

The odds improve each year that First State Military Academy thrives in molding student leaders.

For the second straight year, FSMA has been saluted as a Naval Honor School. The institution was ranked third among 70 schools in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States region.

With the recognition, Senior Marine Corps instructor Col. Robert Wallace, USMC, retired, can now nominate as many as six cadets for entrance into the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy. Col. Wallace said the nominations “are considered equal to a nomination from a U.S. representative or senator.”

The school’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program was evaluated through several criteria, including an Inspector General’s evaluation, number of cadets involved, community service and public affairs events attended by cadets along with their academic awards earned and money awarded for all scholarships and enlistments.

Drill team, physical fitness and marksmanship competitions were factored in, along with developmental field trips.

The Battalion marches on at the beginning of the induction ceremony at the First State Military Academy in Clayton on Sept. 20.
(Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

Said Commandant Pat Gallucci, “Naval Honor School is a reflection of hard work, commitment, and performance over a range of MCJROTC program areas …

“It is an all-encompassing evaluation of our program and each year we climb the ladder of success a bit more.”

Also, Col. Wallace said, “Leadership and character development are the focus of our MCJROTC program at FSMA. There are several different paths a cadet can navigate while here, but it all boils down to the individual cadet’s desire to step out of their comfort zone and embrace a culture of high expectations.

“And knowing that when – not if – they fall short or have a bad day they are guided through that disappointment as a learning/growth event and are stronger because of it.”

Now in its fifth year, FSMA has established a continuity of older cadets setting an example for the new entries. There are 90 seniors this school year, 120 juniors, 130 sophomores and 133 freshmen. There’s never yet been a waiting list for applicants to enter the school.

“We’re at the point to where the younger cadets witness the older cadets struggle, persevere, and over-come all sorts of challenges and that serves as both a personal reinforcement and confidence that each cadet has what it takes to measure up to the task at hand and that task is: be the best you that you can be,” Col. Wallace said.

Cadet Major Cole Pope, a senior from Milford, serves as the battalion’s commander and has already begun the enlistment process to join the U.S. Marines upon graduation.

“Being at the academy has made me much more disciplined and confident, and more sure of what I want to do,” he said.

Second in charge Robert Andrews, the battalion’s executive officer, said he “didn’t understand what I was capable of” when beginning at FSMA.

Now, the Andrews youth is striving to become an officer in the armed services, with the Army and Navy academies the preferred destinations.

“This opportunity has shown me that through hard work I have a great capability to succeed,” he said. “It’s made me more confident and willing to believe that I can reach my full potential.

“Everyone is a lot more capable than we realize.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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