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Each year, I have the opportunity to nominate students from our state to our nation’s service academies. Four of the academies require a nomination: the Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy. Nominations are not required for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. In 2018, I was able to nominate 27 South Dakotans to the various academies.

The U.S. service academies are among the most elite educational institutions in the world. The young men and women who graduate from a service academy are commissioned as military officers. After receiving a top-notch education, they will serve our country as active-duty military members.

Students interested in attending a service academy go through a rigorous application process. Because the academies only accept the best of the best, students must meet eligibility requirements in leadership, physical fitness, character and scholarship. The young people joining the military directly from the academies are among the highest caliber our country has to offer — a result of the challenging training and education they received.

If you or someone you know is thinking about applying for a service academy, I’d encourage you to reach out to us. The process can be confusing, and we’re here to help make it as straightforward as possible. It’s our goal to get South Dakota’s best students placed at an academy where they will thrive.

Students must first apply directly to the academy of their choosing, and if they meet the requirements of the academy, they can contact my office, or Sen. Thune’s and Rep. Johnson’s, for a nomination. Our nomination advisory committee will review applications and interview prospective nominees before I make a final decision on who to nominate. I have a set number of nominations I can make each year to each academy, depending on how many openings they have available. After the nominations are made, the admissions office at each academy make the ultimate decision about who will receive an offer of appointment.

Our office is available to assist students — and their parents — who are looking into the academy application process. Each year, we hold “Academy Day” events in different towns across the state so students and their families can hear firsthand from academy representatives and meet with our team to help answer questions.

This year, we will hold Academy Day events in Rapid City on April 6 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, and in Sioux Falls on April 13 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Prairie West Branch Library. For more information on these Academy Days, or for other questions related to the academy process, please call my Sioux Falls office at (605) 336-0486 or visit the academy page on my website, www.rounds.senate.gov.

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Mike Rounds represents South Dakota in the U.S. Senate.

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