Four years ago – four men from Niceville loaded their bags and made their way to King’s Point, New York, to embark on a seaward life at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
The Niceville High Class of 2019 Grads, Christopher Loffer, Gavin Wilson, and Samuel Scholl, will graduate again on June 17, 2023. While there, they learned all the ins and outs of sailing, maritime law, celestial navigation, logistics management, economics, marketing, business and contract law, and brokerage insurance. The midshipmen get a degree in a hybrid between business administration and sailing.
The trio experienced COVID-19 and its effects on their four years of college. But they also got to experience the world abroad, America’s sailing vessels. During their second semester of sophomore year and their first semester of junior year – the midshipmen get on a boat and see what life is like in the United States Merchant Marine.
During his sophomore year, Loffler visited ports in Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, Dubai, and Oman. He visited Guam, Japan, and South Korea during their junior year. He served on a Sealift Command ship resupplying and refueling US Navy Vessels and heading back to port to grab more supplies for hundreds of vessels at sea.
It’s a fun life, Loffler says. “It’s a unique college experience. There are state maritime academies, we’re different, because we go out on commercial ships, we can go into any of the armed forces branches as an officer if we want to. We get free college, too. That’s a big one. All tuition paid. Room and board. There’s great sports teams and a bunch of cool events to go to. You’re 20 minutes away from New York City. You meet some of the best friends of your life.”
The world is the midshipman’s oyster after graduation. Because the college is a Federal Service Academy – they all graduate without student loan debt. They can choose which branch of the military they want to serve in, should they decide to do so. They can fulfill their service obligation in a wide variety of other ways. Wilson, for example, has plans to work in Panama City after graduation.
Loffler and Scholl still have their options open. “I’m currently looking at going to law school to continue my education in maritime law,” Loffler said, “I’m also looking at other options – like looking at OSPs in the Gulf of Mexico. I might go to Military Sealift Command. I’m keeping all options open.”
The United States Merchant Marine Academy is Located in King’s Point, New York. The town is on the northwestern portion of Long Island. The average hottest day of the year, around July 21st, is around 90º. The average low, near the end of January, is 26º.
Students who want to be considered for the USMMA have to do the following to be considered for acceptance.
According to the USMMA class profile – the student body is 87% male and has a ‘Diversity Representation’ of 19.7%. The SAT composite average for the freshman class entering in 2021 was 1268. 1850 candidates applied for admission to the school – and 411 were accepted. A total of 279 freshmen reported in on the first day of class.
The USMMA boasts a total of 18 different NCAA Division III sports teams. Their archrivals are the Coast Guard Academy Bears.