"The prior-enlisted Sailors and Marines at NAPS provide critical leadership to the direct-entry midshipman candidates." said Donahue. "The priors earn the respect of their direct-entry classmates through showing mutual respect to all in the NAPS Battalion."
Midshipman 1st Class Derek Moorehead, 1st Company executive officer, detailed from Annapolis to NAPS, noted that while peer leadership can be stressful, there's a lot of prior-enlisted who step forward. He should know. He's a graduate of NAPS himself.
On the other hand, prior-enlisted candidates who have sea or deployment time may have a difficult time being told what to do by midshipmen who haven't had that experience, according to Moorehead.
"On the midshipmen side, you're trying lead them and get their respect and have that credibility with them. We need to do that by illustrating that while we may not know necessarily what the fleet is like, we absolutely know what the academy is like, and we know what it takes to succeed there. So that's where our source of expertise comes from and that's what we try to help them with," he added.
In the process, they forge tight bonds. Donahue noted that in many ways, the NAPS connection transcends even the Naval Academy connection. "Napsters" have been referred to as a fraternity within a fraternity because most direct accessions to the Naval Academy don't know any of their new classmates.
There's only about 270 of us creating that family before we get to the academy, and they're going to be people that I'm going to be in the fleet with who I'm going to really connect with because we shared this place together." -Toni Melton
This deep camaraderie between classmates has been responsible for propelling many distinguished NAPS graduates to the highest levels of personal accomplishments and civil service.
For example, the prep school has graduated three Medal of Honor recipients, and 15 current flag or general officers are former graduates. Captain Chris Cassidy, current chief of the NASA Astronaut Office, is also a NAPS graduate.
So is retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen (NAPS '72), former commander of Central Command. He once told Donahue that "NAPS gave me all I needed to not only succeed at the Naval Academy, but also to become an officer of Marines. My NAPS experience would not only sustain me through the four demanding years of Annapolis, but would be a touchstone of values for many years thereafter. I cannot commend the program strongly enough."
Editor's note: To learn more about the U.S. Naval Academy and how to become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps, visit http://www.usna.edu/Admissions/index.php. For more information about NAPS, visit http://www.usna.edu/NAPS