This past weekend, Tyler got the chance to shadow a freshman at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. The physical challenges and muddy clothes were a preview for what his life will be like starting June 26. It is experiences such as these that reassure Tyler that he will love the Naval Academy next year. Though he will be far from home in Annapolis, his family’s ties to the Navy will bring him comfort.
Tyler was caught up in the massive size of the dining hall as he sat down with members of his company for lunch on Friday, Jan. 27. Unsuspectingly, he carried his chicken strips and mashed potatoes to his seat and began to pour water into his cup. Water splashed against the clear Saran Wrap and doused the table and within several seconds he realized what had happened.
His fellow company members cracked up as water sloshed across the table; they recognized one of the classic pranks from past experience. Laughing hardest of all was the senior who had pulled the practical joke. Tyler good-naturedly laughed along; he had heard about the pranks that older students loved to play on the “Plebes,” the Academy’s term for freshmen. He was happy to be included and didn’t mind the teasing, which will be common for Tyler next year as a Plebe.
“You’re pretty much controlled by your superior officers, which is almost everybody,” Tyler said. “Yeah we’ll just say everybody.”
As a Plebe, Tyler must memorize quotes, keep his room clean, salute every upperclassmen in the hall and eat square meals. Square meals are a form of hazing where the Plebes take one bite, put their fork down, and then chew. The hazing builds camaraderie and it is a phase that every Academy student must go through.
These Plebe routines, on top of the rigorous academics and physical activities and workouts, make for an unreal amount of work.
“They give you 26 hours of work in a 24 hour day,” Tyler said. “You learn from your failures and you have to make decisions like, okay, I need to make sure I have these things memorized so I don’t get my butt kicked tomorrow or I don’t have to do any push ups, and then I’ll do my Spanish homework if I can get it done.”
The goal of this overload of work is for the students to prioritize what they need to do. They are meant to fail as a growing experience. The idea is that the Plebes will learn from their superior officers how to be in control, and by the time the Plebes are seniors, they have been groomed to be leaders and officers in the Navy.
Tyler’s goal is to work towards a degree in aerospace engineering, political science or economics so that by the time he’s a senior he will be in the final stretch of his schooling and have experience to teach the underclassmen. After his senior year, Tyler hopes to continue to the aviation branch where he would become a Navy aviator.
The hours of work piled onto the physical exercise and the hazing may seem unbearable, but Tyler’s desire to be in the Navy outweighs them. He knows that his sense of patriotism and his desire to protect his family and those he loves will give him strength on days packed with running, drills and engineering courses.
Tyler got to catch glimpses of the physical workouts and classes at the Naval Academy during his weekend as well. He participated in the obstacle and endurance courses, guided along by his company. They showed him how to best maneuver swinging between bars and they taught him the best technique to climb a 50-foot tall rope using only his hands.
Next year, he will be timed in these courses on the weekends, and participate in at least an hour and a half of physical exercise every day.
Since his acceptance to the academy in late December, Tyler has been preparing physically. Four mornings of the week, Tyler is pulling into the Prairie Life parking lot in his blue Pontiac by 4:55 a.m. Spandex clad business men and women focus on their early morning workouts as Tyler steps on the treadmill for his daily three mile run.
Long before he began waking up at 4:30 a.m. and running his life via military time, Tyler began the process of applying to be in the Navy. He started in Jan. 2011, and after writing several in-depth essays over his aspirations, sending in test scores and anxiously waiting, Tyler’s application process culminated in Abilene, Kan. There, he was quizzed by Senator Jerry Moran’s Selection Board, who would choose which candidates they would nominate for which Academy.
“What is your greatest weakness?”
“How are you different from other applicants?”
The final question they asked was the easiest. How is he different from other applicants? He knows the lifestyle; he knows what a career in the Navy means. Tyler’s father, Matthew Germann, is in the Navy, so Tyler knows the effect it has on a family. While other 10-year-old boys were going to baseball games with their dads, Tyler’s was in Iowa, and Tyler was in Kansas looking out for his younger sister, Mattie, and his mom. As he grew up, Tyler drove his sister to soccer practices and took care of his mother who was fighting breast cancer.
“If there was car trouble he was of course the one coming to help me,” Kristen Germann, Tyler’s mother, said. “If there was anything that interrupted our lives, he had to be a part of that and help me problem solve it.”
According to Senator Moran’s Press Secretary Lindsey Trent, the Selection Board recognized Tyler’s confidence and determination after interviewing him. They could see the drive in Tyler, the passion to pursue his goals. Moran’s Selection Board chose Tyler as their Principal Nomination, which meant that Tyler was their number one selection overall and he would be able to attend the Naval Academy the following year. This Principle Nomination is one of the reasons that Tyler was invited to visit the campus the weekend before last.
In the two months since Tyler’s interview, his excitement for the coming summer has only grown. He has gone from hopefully day dreaming about the Academy to mentally and physically preparing for life next year. His glimpse of what the Naval life is like on campus finalized his decision to attend the Naval Academy, and fueled his excitement for the next four years.
“It was hard to leave because the school is an amazing place,” Tyler said. “It’s like I got sucked into it and I was like this is where I want to be, this is where I’m going to be and I’m already here, so why leave?”