Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Ford

BREMERTON, Washington – Since 1845 the United States Naval Academy has been preparing the Navy’s future officers. The esteemed academy is located in Annapolis, Maryland, along the banks of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay. Those hallowed grounds host over 4,000 aspiring officers, and this summer one of them will be from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

Culinary Specialist 3rd Class James Wells, from Sacramento, California, realized his goal of being accepted to the United States Naval Academy by remaining persistent and heeding the advice of mentors aboard John C. Stennis.

Wells, a third-generation Sailor, began developing persistence at an early age, and has used that skill to advance his perspective on life.

“Growing up, I attended four different elementary schools and three different high schools as my family moved frequently to support my father’s job,” said Wells. “I learned early on that being able to adapt to your environment and maintaining an open mind is a key component to success when interacting with varying personalities.”

Wells would rely on that persistence again after discovering he was denied entry to the academy out of high school.

“In my senior year of high school my application to the academy was denied due to not having competitive SAT scores,” said Wells. “But I stayed persistent and enlisted after graduating from high school with the same aspiration of having the opportunity to graduate from Annapolis. Obtaining a commission from the United States Naval Academy has been at the pinnacle of my desires since I was mature enough to recognize the unique sacrifice my father and grandfather partook in by serving in the U.S. Navy.”

Wells enlisted in the Navy in January 2016 and arrived on John C. Stennis five months later after graduating culinary specialist “A” school at the top of his class.
Chief Warrant Officer Robert Compton, John C. Stennis’ food service officer and Well’s division officer, from Pell City, Alabama, supported Wells throughout the application process.

“I helped him put his package together to ensure that he met all of the requirements on the documents he submitted,” said Compton. “I tracked his progress each week for items he needed to complete.”

Ensign Brett Enlow from Coral Springs, Florida, one of the officers who interviewed Wells for the program, complimented Wells’ approach to completing his application process.

“He was very organized throughout the process and always had specific questions. It was easy to help him because he was helping himself,” said Enlow. “There are many wickets you have to make it through and the process for applying is not an easy one.”

The 219-page application instruction would intimidate even the most motivated of Sailors, but Wells used his persistance and chain of command to navigate the lengthy instruction.

First, Wells reviewed the basic eligibility requirements: applicants must not have passed their 23rd birthday on July 1 in the year of admission; applicants must not be married or have children; no violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; must have no visibile tattoos; and must pass a litany of medical screenings.

Next, Wells needed to prove himself as a scholastically-qualified candidate by providing a competitive high school trancript and by scoring higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) than he did when he applied for the academy in high school.
Wells’ high school transcript met the requirements. When he re-took the SAT, Wells surpassed the required score of 550 in math and 500 in critical reading skills.

Finally, Wells needed to secure a recommendation from the ship’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Greg C. Huffman, and Compton was there to help with that task as well. Compton wrote several evaluations and letters of recommendation to assist the commanding officer and his department head in their assessment of Wells.

Huffman responded by endorsing Wells, and was the first to congratulate him after his acceptance to the United States Naval Academy.

“It is with my absolute pleasure that I congratulate you and your acceptance to the United States Naval Academy. This is quite an accomplishment and you can be justifiably proud,” said Huffman. “On behalf of the officers and crew, we send our best wishes for continued success. Keep up the good work and job well done!”

Only time will tell how successful of an officer Wells will be, but one thing is for sure, there are plenty of officers aboard John C. Stennis that see great potential in him. Due to his tenacity and positive attitude, he has secured admission to a prestigious institution and has a chance to become an officer in the Navy. Wells realized his goal, sought out the information he needed to attain it, and relied on his chain of command to help him achieve it.

For more information on applying to the Navy’s various commissioning programs, Sailors should seek out OPNAVINST 1420.1B