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Navy Taps Four UK Students for Elite School

By George Lewis

 

“It’s extremely rare for four applicants from the same recruiting district to go to the same interview, and I know of no other instance where all four applicants at the interview were attending the same university. This may be a first in Navy history.”

-- Cmdr. David Fuson, commander of the Navy Recruiting District Nashville

 

March 5, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Four University of Kentucky College of Engineering students may have made U.S. Navy history.

Mike Carter, Merritt Johnson, Matt Major and Robert Sellin, all students in the UK College of Engineering, have been selected for the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) Program. Johnson and Sellin are from Lexington, Carter from Nicholasville and Johnson from Franklin, respectively. All have requested duty in the Navy’s fleet of attack submarines.

The Navy selects about 200 NUPOC applicants each year. The 22 students in the current NUPOC group came from schools with top engineering programs like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech University, Princeton University and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Only UK placed multiple students in the program.

“It’s extremely rare for four applicants from the same recruiting district to go to the same interview, and I know of no other instance where all four applicants at the interview were attending the same university,” said Cmdr. David Fuson, commander of the Navy Recruiting District Nashville, which includes Lexington. “This may be a first in Navy history.”

Following graduation from UK, the students will be commissioned as ensigns and attend the Navy’s 12-month nuclear-power school in addition to three months of Submarine Officer Basic School prior to reporting to their commands. Once aboard, these officers may be responsible for the safe operation of the vessel’s nuclear propulsion plant.

The students were selected for their academic achievements and their performance in a series of Navy-administered tests and personal interviews, which culminated in a meeting with Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, director of the Navy's nuclear program.

“The competition and academic standards required to be accepted into this program are extremely high,” Fuson said.

Officially in the Navy now, each of the students received a $10,000 signing
bonus and began drawing about $2,600 a month Navy pay. They also got full military benefits, including medical and dental coverage. When they are commissioned as naval officers, their pay rate will start at about $43,000 a year.

Sellin, the son of a retired Navy medical officer, is the only married student in the group. He said the bonus will enable him to quit his job as a server at Lone Star Steakhouse and concentrate more fully on his studies.

All of the students said they expect their experience as Navy nuclear-power officers to propel their careers, should they decide to leave the military following their initial five-year enlistment.

“It’s nice to know that after the Navy my resume will be written,” Sellin said.

Major said he wished he had applied for the program in his sophomore year, rather than waiting until he was a senior.

Students in their sophomore year in college who have met certain academic criteria are eligible for NUPOC.

For more information about the program, call (859) 224-8335.


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