BOOST: Fair Winds & Following Seas

I remember the first time we came into formation on Preble Field also known as the grinder. The Drill Sergeants couldn’t believe we didn’t how to do an about face. It was a long battle, but we bumbled along begrudgingly and eventually yearned to hear “at ease” and “fall out”.

Photography by PH2 Mike Flynn, US Navy

This wasn’t the most challenging part of BOOST. There was lots of studying – six classes a day over the next nine months. We started with algebra then geometry, trigonometry then pre-calculus. We also loaded up on chemistry and physics. And we took college prep english boosting our vocabulary and research writing skills.

The instruction was provided under contract by the San Diego Community College District with 25 faculty members, half having PhDs. We also had former military members provide tutoring such as Admiral Dietzen, a distinguished WW II vet.

Since the majority of the student body were minorities, most were not provided college-level curriculum in high school. BOOST was here to bridge the gap so we would succeed in college or the Naval Academy. My favorite advisor was Ada Hunt who cared about all 300+ of us students as if we were her own children. She would always stay late to answer any questions we may have so we could succeed, graduate and hopefully gain our commission.

Photography by PH2 Mike Flynn, US Navy

But sadly, BOOST was established to have an attrition rate of 33%. Who can forget the first time we all gathered in the auditorium.

“Look to the left, Look to your right. One of you three will likely not be here next year.” This was honest and crude, but the statement was so true.

With our location in sunny SOCAL, there were lots of extra curriccular diversions, but we obviously didn’t have much free time to partake in the fun and festivities. There was lots of home work and studying, even on weekends, and the quiet and peaceful living in the barracks and the substantial chow at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot next door kept us happy and satisfied. Since the Naval Training Center was located right next to the San Diego Airport, there was aircraft noise all the time, but we persevered.

I’ve never worked out so much in my life. We were at the best shape of our lives and we would be forever changed.

Photography by PH2 Mike Flynn, US Navy

Graduating from BOOST was the best thing that has ever happened to me. If it wasn’t for BOOST, I would surely have never have received my commission and my Naval career would have never been the same.

Thanks to BOOST, I received a five-year scholarship to the University of Florida (Go Gators!) The academics that BOOST provided gave me a leg up over my classmates who come straight from high school. I labored and toiled through an arduous Engineering curriculum from and in 92 was commissioned a surface warfare officer, yearning to explore the high seas.

In 1994, BOOST moved from San Diego to Newport, RI., to collaborate with the Seaman to Admiral program. And in 2008, I was dismayed to hear that BOOST would cease to exist.

Plenty of academically-deprived Sailors like me would not be given the opportunity like we were in the 80s, 90s and into the 21st century

The Seaman to Admiral program is distinctive but it’s way more selective and is not an affirmative action program needed to bridge the gap between minority recruiting goals and the number of high school seniors who are qualified to enter the NROTC program or the Naval Academy.

OS3 Chito Peppler congratulating a fellow Booster
86-87 BOOST Class

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