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Midshipman Visit Georgian Military Academy

Posted on: May 14, 2013 08:00 EDT by Naval Academy Public Affairs

Midshipmen 2nd Class Forres McGraw, Nicholas Szczepaniak and Austin Price recently visited the Georgian National Defense Academy in Gori, Georgia. Here, the share their experiences:

It is strange after living at a military academy that has existed for more than one hundred and fifty years to visit one that was created less than five years ago.

The Georgian National Defense Academy was built in 2011 but boasts an impressive complex for that short history.  It was built in Gori, one of the main Georgian cities occupied by Russian forces in 2008, and that recent history is palpable throughout the entire facility.

One interesting difference between the U.S. Naval Academy and the Georgian NDA  is the security differences. Our campus is enclosed by a wall, with guards posted at every entrance and several patrol cars around the yard. At the NDA, security is taken much more seriously. The wall that surrounds the facilities is no less than 10 feet high, and topped with towers and armed guards. There is only one entrance to the complex, and to reach it, one must nearly circumnavigate the entire compound.

After finding the entrance, we entered and were immediately surrounded by fifteen Georgian cadets, a few of whom spoke to us in near-flawless English. We were ushered into one of their nearby administrative buildings where the cadets gave us a brief presentation about their academy. We were told about the NDA’s short history and its plan for expansion, including the conversion from a two-year to a full four-year program.

We learned that some of the Georgian cadets had spent a month training at West Point last summer alongside a few of our midshipmen. Following the cadets’ brief, we gave a presentation about USNA and were peppered with questions from the cadets. They were interested in everything, from the different career pipelines and our academic majors to physical training and what we like to do on the weekends.

The most interesting part that about this question and answer session, was that every answer we gave about life at USNA was answered by the senior cadet’s feverish scribbling in his notebook. After a few confused minutes, I realized that he was taking notes on what we said, so that he could help shape the budding Georgian National Defense Academy into an institution similar to the U.S. Naval Academy. Whether his notes are actually used to benefit the NDA or not, it is still humbling to think that we may have played a tiny role in their expansion.

After the presentations, we made our way to the mess hall. There we divided up at different tables, with each one of us sitting with three Georgian cadets. During this time, we learned that all of the cadets, not only their unofficial spokespeople, spoke excellent English, and we continued to talk about our respective academies. It was fascinating to listen to the links that bond together students at all military academies. Both the gripes of living the military lifestyle in college and the pride of serving one’s country seem to be something that we all have in common.

After lunch, we toured their new workout facilities and noticed their emphasis on infantry training. This became especially clear after seeing their rooms, which are utterly bare besides a small cabinet closet, two bunk beds and full ruck kits and infantry gear for each person in the room.

At the bottom floor of each building, they have an armory with either a rifle or machine gun for each cadet. The armory also housed several rocket-propelled grenades and thousands rounds of ammunition. This kind of weaponry is logical, and even necessary for the NDA, considering its facilities are located no more than two miles from the nearest Russian checkpoint leading into the militant semi-autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Upon entering their classrooms, we immediately noticed how modern and organized they appeared in contrast to many of the Georgian universities that we had toured, and how each student had a modern textbook and laptop.

At the end of our visit, we met with their commandant and their rector, who is the highest academic member of the academy staff. Again, they were very interested in the differences between our academy and theirs, and we told them how impressed we had been by the cadets who led us around.

It was truly a blessing to have been given this opportunity to interact with all of the people there. We all thoroughly enjoyed our time, and hope that in the future our academies can develop an expanding relationship.

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