Dear Mrs. Brandenburg,

I know quite well most of who I am. One thing that I know for sure, though, is where I plan to go in life. This goal has been mine for over a year, and I'm confident I can reach it. Of course, it has to have a beginning.

"You're going to fly one of those one day, Amanda," my dad had told me. He pointed at an F-22 Raptor as it soared above our heads at Point Mugu Air Force Base. I chuckled nervously as I saw the Raptor buzz the aircraft control tower. It was 2007, and I was still a little seventh grader with an uncertain future to plan. Joining the military was a slightly terrifying idea to me at the time. Boot camp, drill sergeants, and just military life in general was definitely not something that I would have wanted to be part of back then. I was the tomboy of a family of three girls and a stepbrother, and even though my stepbrother had been helping to command jets in the Navy, my dad was kind of expecting me to outdo him and actually fly a jet.

Throughout the day, my dad pointed at jets and told me what they were, but the Raptor was the main jet that he would point out.. Every time we heard the roar of its powerful engines, we would look up to see the gray jet zooming by for another round above the base. His eyes would light up each time we saw that jet, and I slowly began to find the idea of flying a jet enjoyable, especially when the Thunderbirds came out.

The Thunderbirds are an elite group of pilots and their agile jets. The red, white, and blue paint on the jets gleamed in the afternoon sunlight as the pilots prepared to climb in the cockpits of their patriotic aircraft. It was almost like a perfectly choreographed dance as everyone moved together, saluting and marching like it was second nature to look exactly the same as the person next to them. I gaped in wonder as the jets finally took off and began their show. The most daring pilots were the two solo pilots. They flew within inches of each other, narrowly avoiding crash after crash by turning at the very last second. My dad smiled as he watched the show, and I could tell what he was thinking. It wasn't the Raptors that he wanted me to fly anymore, it was a Thunderbird. Of course, it couldn't just be any Thunderbird, it had to be a solo jet. It didn't trouble me anymore, though. In those few hours that I had spent at Point Mugu I had realized that even though I might be terrified of military life, I could overcome it to achieve my goals. I could become a Thunderbird pilot if only I could get over my fears.

The amazing show ended after about forty-five minutes. My dad had bought me a Thunderbird jet toy and I actually got it signed by the #3 pilot. It remains on my special shelf among other unique items that have some sentimental value to me. After all this, though, the Air Force is not where I plan to go in the future.

When I was in the eighth grade, I had gone to the high school's college fair fully expecting the Air Force to be there. They weren't. As disappointed as I was, my spirits were instantly lifted at the sight of one college booth: The United States Naval Academy. A Blue and Gold Officer, Michael Kromm (hopefully my future Candidate Guidance Officer), told me enough about that wonderful academy that I forgot about the Air Force. I was going to join the Navy, like my stepbrother, but I was going to fly.

I did go to the Navy table, too. They chuckled as they told me that the Air Force will admit that the Navy does have better pilots. I was a bit skeptical. My dad reasoned with me the rest of the night about it. His big reason was that the Navy Pilots have an extremely limited amount of space to land. If they don't make a good landing the first time over the aircraft carrier, they have to go back into the air. The Air Force doesn't normally have to deal with issues like that. Even though I was still skeptical about the whole Navy pilots versus Air Force pilots debate, I was certain now that I would join the Navy. My stepbrother had been part of it, and now I would.

Now that I look back on all of these events, I realize that this would be the perfect area for me to work in. Discipline is my life. I love controlled environments where everyone knows what they should be doing and when. Also, having my mind and hands working together is absolutely wonderful for me because I am focused. If my mind is allowed to wander, I usually won't learn much. Flying an aircraft will give me the opportunity to focus and work in a highly disciplined environment. Basically, I know this career is right for me while I'm in the Navy, and I'm already working towards that goal. Hopefully, in the future, my dream will become a reality, and instead of hearing my name as a Thunderbird pilot, I will become a Blue Angel pilot, one of the most elite in the Navy.

Your student,

Amanda Baker