SALEMBURG — After having success in JROTC at Lakewood High School, Bryan Baranowski and Austin Ezzell are looking forward to becoming a part of a prestigious military program.
The cadets enlisted in the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program. It includes training, which include running and maintaining nuclear reactors to power submarines and aircraft carriers. After graduation, they are expected to ship out with a goal to become “NUKES” — a term used to describe someone with a job in the Navy’s nuclear field.
“I’m very excited,” Baranowski said. “I always wanted to go into an engineering and science job. When this was presented to me, I was ecstatic.”
Baranowski is the son of Micheal and Robyn Ruffin. He began his JROTC career at Western Harnett High School and moved to Sampson County last year. Originally from Michigan, the Lakewood senior served as a Company 1st Sgt. and played a major role in setting up the Military Ball, one of the most important events in JROTC. Baranowski was successful in military drill and ceremonies. He recently served as captain of the drill team. Since, the start of high school, Baranowski was determined to join the armed forces, especially when he did well on tests.
Like Baranowski, Ezzell is ready to begin the journey with the Navy.
“I think it’s a great honor to be a part of it and to be able to serve my country,” Ezzell said. “I was always science and math driven. Since middle school, I looked at it and I said that was going to be my job.”
The cadet is the son of Jimmy and Michelle Ezzell. In JROTC, he excelled in all aspects of being a cadet including key leadership positions in the battalion. He currently serves as the Leopard Battalion Commander. Ezzell competed in the raider and rifle teams and served as the captain last year. He enjoys the leadership and maturity aspects of the program.
Sampson County Schools Board of Education honored the students during a recent meeting. Member Telfair Simpson, the husband of scholarship coordinator Rosemary Simpson, said he learned a lot about the students, from his wife. The couple are both excited for the students and the accomplishment.
“I’m very proud of you,” Simpson said. “Thank you for serving our country and we wish you the best of luck.”
They were joined by Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Douglas Koser, Army JROTC Instructor who also recognized their math and science skills.
“Obviously, we’re all very appreciative of any young man or woman who chooses to serve their country these days,” Koser said. “But what these two high school senior committed to do, in my opinion, is the most prestigious enlisted job in today’s military.”
The Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program is very difficult to qualify for since operating the reactor requires stringent guidelines for safety purposes.
“It took effort and it was something you could just do,” Baranowski said. “It was something you had to work for.”
An applicant must score very high on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and they must report to the Military Entrance Processing, where they are given a thorough military entrance physical. Next, they must take the Navy Advance Programs Test, before agreeing to a six year enlistment.
“For a 16- or 17-year-old, that may seem like an eternity,” Koser said. “Although what these guys learned in JROTC will help them. But their true accomplishment and the reason that I asked that they be recognized is for core academic achievements. Their ability to score as well as they did, is a reflection of their hard work and the hard work of the teachers that have taught them along the way.”
There are 300 federally and commercially owned nuclear reactors in the United States, which provides about 20 percent of electricity. But it was also noted that the Navy owns and operates more than 100. Finding people with qualities is a challenge, but Petty Officer Class Michael Waters, local Navy recruiter, spent time at Lakewood High School and was able to find two candidates.
“I’m honored to have been a small part of their young lives so far,” Koser said. “I’m 100 percent certain that they will both make great sailors.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.