Q: How can interested Iowans apply for admission to a U.S. military academy?
A: As a U.S. Senator, it is a privilege to nominate young Iowans for admission to our nation’s prestigious U.S. military service academies. The highly competitive process is a testament to the tremendous pool of ambitious, gifted individuals to rise up as our next generation of leaders. Based on many years of reviewing highly qualified applicants, these candidates represent the cream of Iowa’s crop. Society owes a debt of gratitude to the legions of parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, employers and neighbors for their guidance as role models and mentors to the next generation.
Over a given four-year period, my office is allocated five vacancies at three of the nation’s five military academies, including the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Each year I make 10 nominations for each of these academies. Of those, the Military, Air Force and Naval academies select at least one qualified individual from my nominees, respectively. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, N.Y., confers appointments based on each state’s representation in Congress; Iowa currently is allocated four vacancies. Each year I am able to nominate 10 Iowans for consideration at the Merchant Marine Academy. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy, located in New London, Conn., does not require a congressional nomination. The nominations process for potential candidates often begins during their junior year in high school as it requires a hefty amount of paperwork, including referrals and forms to complete.
Iowans who are interested in seeking a nomination from my office can download and complete an application from my website: https://www.grassley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/Academy%20Application%2001-17.pdf  The deadline to submit fully completed applications this year is Oct. 6, 2017. Mail or deliver application materials in one packet to my Des Moines office: U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, 721 Federal Building, 210 Walnut St., Des Moines, IA 50309. I plan to make the nominations no later than Dec. 31, 2017. I work closely with the entire Iowa congressional delegation so that we are able to advance as many qualified Iowans as possible for consideration to the service academies.
In addition to seeking a nomination from their members of Congress, the Vice President or President, potential candidates also should contact the academies of their choice, requesting a pre-candidate file be opened on their behalf. Again, the selection process is highly selective, as candidates reflect exceptional credentials in academic achievement, including STEM curriculum, athletics, extra-curricular activities, community service, school leadership positions, and job experience. Candidates must pass fitness exams and meet the requisite physical requirements outlined by each academy. For consideration, applicants should have a minimum ACT score of 26 or higher in math and science and 22 or higher in English. Candidates must be at least 17 years old and younger than age 23; a U.S. citizen, unmarried and a resident of the state or congressional district of the member of Congress making the nomination. The U.S. service academies have earned a reputation of excellence since the first one was founded at West Point, N.Y., in 1802. The rigorous admissions process reflects the rigid acceptance rates, ranging between 8 percent to 18 percent. Without a doubt, the bar of expectations is set high and will require a high degree of discipline and dedication from those who receive an appointment. With that in mind, I encourage all interested Iowans who meet the eligibility requirements to explore this honorable opportunity to receive an outstanding education and serve our country as an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Q: Why is the selection process so competitive?
A: Keep in mind that the nation’s military academies are grooming the nation’s up and coming corps of U.S. military officers and members of our intelligence communities for public service. The federal government’s most fundamental job is protecting national security and providing for the nation’s common defense. Maintaining a strong military requires strong leadership at the helm of the U.S. Armed Forces to effectively lead our men and women in uniform, at home and abroad, by air, sea and land. Every taxpayer ought to appreciate that the federal government is making the right investment in those who attend our nation’s elite service academies. Cadets and midshipmen who receive and accept the appointments at the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard academies are on active duty upon entrance and receive an advanced degree and higher education valued at $400,000 for tuition, room and board, pay, benefits and training. Areas of study may include engineering, economics, science, and government. In return, the students make a commitment to serve in the military for five years upon graduation, becoming second lieutenants or ensigns. Preparing the next generation of Americans to lead the U.S. military is vital to national security and strategic efforts to combat terrorism, beef up cyber security and protect the land of the free and home of the brave from our nation’s enemies, both foreign and domestic.