Deciding whether or not to pursue a military career with the United States Naval Academy (USNA) was a worthwhile experience for graduating senior Sarah Colebrooke, the first OCS female student to be accepted by the academy.
She joins the ranks of six other OCS male alumni who have also gone to the USNA, including Thomas Kephart, Class of 2022, who ran track with Colebrooke while at Oaks Christian.
Colebrooke will start the academy on June 29, induction day, also known as I-Day. During the six-week boot camp at Annapolis, Maryland, she will undergo basic military training, including how to drill and sail.
Originally, Colebrooke was not interested in applying to USNA or any military school. What put the school on her radar was when the Navy's cross-country coach contacted her since Colebrooke created an account through Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), a recruiting site for colleges, and that is where the Navy coach found her!
They met on Zoom, got to know each other better, and the meeting went great! However, Colebrooke was stuck on the fact that it was the military, where being in the trenches and making sacrifices was expected, along with many challenges and difficult situations. Still, the opportunities that coincided with the decision were not something she had considered.
Fast forward a few months after meeting the coach, and like many senior students, Colebrooke went on visits to other private universities. However, something was missing from the other schools that the USNA had: the discipline and structure that she craved. Colebrooke contacted the Navy coach to express her interest in pursuing the Navy, and the application process started from there.
"It was very emotional, very exciting. The application process is not common to other universities. It is pretty unique. You have to get a nomination from the local congressperson [Rep. Julia Brownley for her] or a senator, take a physical, and other medical exams, “she said.” There was a lot of stress in my mind going through that. I wanted to make sure that I would make it through each part. So, when I passed the medical examination, I was like, ‘Alright, here we go!’"
In addition to reaching out to Kephart to learn about his experience as a first-year naval plebe, Colebrooke also talked with OCS Director of Alumni and Family Engagement Karen Coyle about her experience as a naval officer. Coyle went to the United States Naval War College and served in the Navy for 20 years, reaching the rank of commander.
Coyle has been a tremendous mentor, giving helpful advice and encouragement.
"I am so excited for Sarah! She has everything she needs to do well at the Naval Academy! This adventure will be life-changing for her - and her influence will change the academy for the better. Congratulations, Sarah - and I wish you “fair winds and following seas!” I will be praying for you!" says Coyle.
While at Oaks Christian, Colebrooke has been involved in cross country and track & field, where she was a part of the distance events like the mile, the 1600, and the 3200. Besides running, which will take up much of the year in USNA, given that it is two different seasons, Colebrooke wants to volunteer. She is excited to learn about the military drills, but immersing herself in the community is another top priority.
Colebrooke believes that volunteering is a tangible way to help people. She volunteers for Food Share of Ventura County through her Girl Scout troop, packing food and supplies for homeless shelters. In doing that, she feels the immediate impact it has on the people she helps.
Naval Academy graduates are commissioned as Ensign (ENS, O1) officers, and from there, they go into the fleet and advance. The academy's different options are to commission as a Marine Corps or a naval officer. Colebrooke finds it exciting to be commissioned as a naval officer and then go to flight school, taking the aviation route like Coyle, but she is open to seeing where the journey will take her.
Colebrooke's advice for future OCS students who want to pursue this career is, "Talk to Mrs. Coyle: you will get so much helpful advice and guidance. Start your application early because it is a long process. Keep your grades up. Get involved with the community. You must have that leadership component, for sure.”
Even though it may seem like too big of a challenge, she advises: “At the end of the day, the experiences that will be the most valuable are the challenging ones. The ones that scare you. So, take the leap!"