Naval cadet seeking out potential recruits
Published 10:49 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Paul Spalding hasn’t entirely been free of his academic duties this Thanksgiving break. As a senior cadet at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he’s been assigned to do something akin to recruiting, and it’s an honor for him and other midshipmen to reach out to potential servicemen and women.
This week Spalding has been visiting Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, Lakeland, Windsor and Southampton high schools, the latter of which he graduated as valedictorian in 2014. In all four places, students could hear of his first-hand experiences as well as the opportunities that await them in the military. His hope from this interview is that his testimony can reach an even wider audience beyond the schools.
“The Western Tidewater area has a lot of potential. Students from Southampton, Windsor, Isle of Wight and surrounding schools go on to great schools [colleges, universities,] but few even apply to service academies,” he said. “The Naval Academy and the military in general needs intelligent, athletic and moral leaders to fill the ranks.
“The Naval Academy sends midshipmen each Thanksgiving break, all over the United States, to spread the word about service and school in hopes to attract the best possible students to apply and join the military.”
“There’s a lack of information about the Naval Academy, and I’ll be bringing information [about it] to future students and get them interested in the military,” the cadet explained during his interview. He also said there are a lot of summer programs that can introduce potential recruits to their possibilities. Those include STEM and a summer seminar, which he described as a “Naval Academy crunch in one week for juniors. They live the life of a midshipmen,” he said. Reportedly, there have been a lot of students to apply afterward. Sports camps for baseball, et al, are another option.
During his own time at Southampton High, Spalding said, he became a member of the National Honor, the Beta Club as well as the Leaders Club of the YMCA. In athletics, the student lettered in baseball and basketball, winning in district tournaments and once or twice in all regionals for the latter game.
His skills in baseball got him recruited to play for the Navy a couple of years, but a shoulder injury later scratched out further play.
On finishing SHS, Spalding enrolled in the renown academy for different reasons.
“It was a combination of things … it’s a really good school, and I want to serve my country. I didn’t want the traditional university route … I needed a challenge,” he said.
A son of Dr. Harry and Rebecca Spalding — dentist and pharmacist, respectively, he’s also the younger brother of Harrison, who’s in graduate school. Military background comes from the parents’ respective fathers. The paternal grandfather was an Army paratrooper, and the maternal grandfather served 22 years in the Navy.
Like all the plebes, sophomores, juniors and fellow seniors, Spalding is up early each day for fitness and academics. On average, he’s taken 17 to 18 credit hours, but has also done 19 credits several times. As an upperclassman, leadership of the younger classes is also expected. All told, it’s been the desired challenge.
“Something is always going on,” said the cadet.
Following graduation, he’ll go on to becoming a Marine Corps pilot; approval for training came last Thursday.
He continued. “I really like that technical aspect of what’s needed to fly — the math and science,” Spalding said, adding that he imagines being up in the air will be exciting and rewarding.
Learning to fly and the required service will mean several more years of commitment, and he’s quite prepared for such. During his junior year at the Academy, Spalding was among those cadets who signed out “2 for 7’s,” which he explained: “We sign a contract saying we will finish our last two years at the Naval Academy and serve five more years in the Navy or Marine Corps. Aviation is technically seven years of mandatory service, but it takes roughly two years to get your ‘wings,’ so its actually nine years of service.”
For those students who won’t get to hear Spalding, he invites them to visit To learn more about the Naval Academy at www.usna.edu.