By EARL KELLY, Staff Writer
The Naval Academy yesterday debuted its newest recruiting tool __ a
graphic novel called "Bravo Zulu," which is Navy-speak for "Well Done."
The 16-page, comic book-style publication is designed to get middle
school and early high school students interested in attending the academy.
The short novel tells the story of five plebes who have become
exhausted and discouraged during Plebe Summer. They talk about
dropping out of the academy until they find themselves in the
basement of the chapel, where they see the crypt of John Paul Jones.
The naval hero's ghost visits the mids and shows them how the nation
and the world will be a better and safer place if they continue to
serve. If they resist the temptation to give up, Jones shows them,
they will play big roles in fighting terrorists and pirates. Some
will go on to serve as a diplomat, a Navy doctor and an astronaut,
Jones shows them.
Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler described the
publication of the booklet as "trying to get the attention of young
people" in today's fast-moving world.
The academy printed 100,000 copies of the booklet at 40 cents apiece.
"We are trying all media," Fowler said.
Fowler, the former head of the Navy's recruiting command, said he is
trying to reach more young people in a wider variety of communities
across the country.
"My No. 1 goal for the long term is increase the diversity in the
Brigade (of Midshipmen) to reflect the fleet," said Fowler, who is
halfway through his four-year tour as superintendent. "There is still
a lot of work to do."
African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, and about 21
percent of the men and women in the Navy are black. But only about 6
percent of the Naval Academy's 4,300 midshipmen are African American.
Applications, overall, are way up this year, reaching a 21-year high,
Fowler said. Close to 15,000 students applied to become midshipmen,
and Fowler said the academy received more minority applications than
ever - about 4,400.
Speaking to the media at a news conference, Fowler delivered
something akin to a state of the Naval Academy address. He said he
was especially pleased that the academy this year won the Navy's
Meritorious Unit Commendation for the first time since 1997.
The admiral said that academy midshipmen this year participated in
international study programs in Senegal, Malaysia and France, and the
Glee Club toured Chile and Argentina.
Knowing as much as possible about the world will make midshipmen more
effective leaders, and exposing the world to Americans can help
promote world peace, he said.
"I want them to go to places that are not just like America," Fowler said.
He said that the Naval Academy continues to be a leading center for
scholarship, and the Class of 2009 has two Truman Scholars and five
members who will be studying in the United Kingdom - four as Marshall
Scholars and one as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.
Looking ahead, Fowler said the academy has some significant
renovations planned, including a $51 million modernization of the
academy's galley, or kitchen. No information is available yet as to
the contractor or when work will start.
Much of the equipment in the kitchen is 40 years old and difficult to
maintain, Fowler said.
"The area will be gutted and we will start over," he said. The
project will include installing up-to-date cooking and chilling facilities.
Meals are cooked now "just in time," which is labor intensive, but in
the future the more modern equipment will allow meals to be prepared
in advance and stored until serving time.
There will be less reliance on deep-fat frying, he said, because
"that is not how we cook anymore."
The $51 million renovation has been planned for years, but will be
funded with federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and
The school recently saw a $53 million renovation of the dining
facility, King Hall, and the daily food allowance per midshipman was
increased from about $7 two years ago to nearly $11.
Fowler also discussed the life of midshipmen at the academy, saying
he continues to look for ways to reduce some of the time-consuming
demands on students.
"If I have anyone, even senior to me, tell me one more thing that
midshipmen need to do, I ask: 'What can we take away?'"
"Bigger is not better," Fowler said.
Fowler used the Forestal Lecture as an example of how he looks for
ways to save time. In the past, if a speaker canceled, the academy
looked for someone to put in the slot. Now, Fowler said, the school
has mids spend that time studying.
He said he is making some training exercises - such as Sea Trials,
which are scheduled for Tuesday - more like the actual military.
Unlike the past, this year the plebes will begin the course soon
after midnight, so they will experience what it is like having to
perform difficult tasks in the dark.
Sea Trials stations typically include patching high-pressure pipes
that burst, crawling through a barbed-wire obstacle course, and
making a beach landing.