- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Skye Isaac, 17, gave up her favorite pair of gold velour pants to go to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. She donated two garbage bags of shoes and five filled with clothes. Last weekend, the teen-ager from Upper Marlboro traded in her trendy threads for good. She was issued her first sailor suit.
She was among the 1,251 plebes sworn into the academy on Friday. They began Plebe Summer, six weeks of rigorous training.
With a wake-up time of 5 a.m., they train seven hours each day. Ten percent of the group will drop out by summer's end, said Lt. Patrick Benito, a spokesman for the academy.
While other teens laze away their summer days at movie theaters and malls, these young men and women are slaving away. And the question many of their parents and friends ask is: why?
"I think she's crazy," said Skye's best friend, Randy Baden, 17. Of the new recruits, 197 are female, said Ensign Brian Donovan, an academy spokesman. Eighteen of those women, including Skye, are black.
"It's not something I'd want to do. Not being able to go out or see movies," he said, shaking his head in disbelief.
"One of the biggest things is that they really have the ability to look at what they want to do in the long run. They sacrifice a lot of partying and social life, but the academy offers a lot more exciting opportunities," Ensign Donovan said.
Skye is very much a teen-age girl. Her bedroom walls are plastered with posters of the Backstreet Boys. Her cell phone is like another appendage. Her finger nails sparkle blue.
Skye is very much an academy recruit. She practices karate and tae kwon do. She speaks Japanese. She scored a 1370 on her SATs. At age 3, she started swimming.
But new recruits must do more than swim. They'll run, they'll jump, they'll fall hard and be expected to get right up. They are smart and determined. They were chosen from more than 11,000 applicants.
Andrew McCaffrey, an 18-year-old from Dunkirk, has worked more than a year for this. He applied his senior year of high school but was rejected. So he stopped eating junk food and soda and started working out. Now 75 pounds lighter, he applied again and was accepted.
Mr. McCaffrey's room is stocked with academy stuff: Academy pennants and photographs hang on the wall, and books tell stories of Navy pilots, which is what he wants to be. He earned his pilots license last year.
He became interested in the academy his freshman year of high school after researching his family tree. Five of his ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Knowing that made him more patriotic, he said — a trait he thinks most teens lack.
"Most of my generation has a lot less respect for what their ancestors did," Mr. McCaffrey said. "They haven't seen real conflict. They don't have much to inspire them to join the cause."
He sheepishly admitted, though, that movies influenced him, too. "Top Gun" — a rah-rah, testosterone-fueled movie in which Tom Cruise saves the day and gets the girl — is his favorite film.
The night before the swearing in, Mr. McCaffrey sat down to a final home-cooked meal of filet mignon and fresh corn with his proud, nervous parents.
"It's absolutely fantastic," said his father, James McCaffrey, a sales associate. "The academy offers an unique opportunity for any man — or at least to become a man."
Andrew's mother, Linda McCaffrey, was equally proud, but less enthusiastic.
"What mother in their right mind would want their child to go into the military? I don't want to see my son on the front line if we go to war," said Mrs. McCaffrey, a grade school teacher. "But he wants it for himself. When I say goodbye, it will be like, 'Goodbye, you're going to the bowling alley.' I need to divorce myself from it."
Nevertheless, Mrs. McCaffrey helped Andrew prepare. He has been memorizing "Reef Points," a book of naval codes. New recruits must repeat them to officers who try to break their concentration by shouting in their faces.
"I get in his face and start calling him names. But he just laughs," she said.
"She's not intimidating, just funny," Andrew McCaffrey said.
Skye's parents, Harvis Macon and Deborah Macon, both wanted her to go to a "normal college," with routine calls home and the occasional visit. At the academy, Skye won't talk to them until July 14, when she's allowed to make a two-minute call home. She'll see them when Plebe Summer ends Aug. 9.
On the day of the swearing-in ceremony, they were in the car to Annapolis by 5:30 a.m. Skye, who plans to pursue a career in surface warfare, spent the day taking oaths and tests. They cut her chin-length bob even shorter and shaved her neck. They didn't see her until after the 6 p.m. swearing-in ceremony.
"Some of the kids were exhausted," said Mr. Macon, a radio astronomer for the Navy. "One father, whose son looked tired, asked me, 'How is your son taking it?' And I said, 'My daughter loves it, she's taking it just fine.'"

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