By Becky Jane Newbold,
For six days, Phoebe Barber was awakened at daybreak by up to 20 people screaming “why aren’t you up yet?’” The high school junior then, along with 800 other willing victims, ran a half mile to perform 45 minutes of a grueling workout.
“It was amazing,” she said.
Some summer vacation, huh?
Part of the Echo Company at summer camp, Phoebe’s experience at Annapolis, Maryland with the U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Seminar was insight into what she could expect if her dream of entering the academy post-graduation comes true.
“I have always had a passion for the military. This deepened that. To have a more realistic, face-to-face contact with people doing something greater than themselves was really inspiring” she commented.
The selfless attitude was a huge part of the attraction.
“One thing I absolutely loved about the academy is that you want the person next to you to do really well. You are only as fast as your slowest person. You are doing something greater than your self,” she said.
Youth leaders from across the nation attended summer seminar. The entire field of applicants was comprised of high school juniors who excel in athletics and academics. “Everyone there is just as qualified as the next person,” Phoebe explained. “And 80 percent played varsity sports. I don’t. That was intimidating,” she added.
Training for Phoebe began with her acceptance in March 2016. Because she has raced motocross competitively since she was a youngster, she welcomed the challenge.
Day one found them in the midst of CFA (Candidate Fitness Assessment), a key component of the experience. Phoebe passed her portion completing 50 push-ups in two minutes and 90 sit-ups in the same time period. Her time in the one mile run was 7.08 minutes. Other activities, a one-arm basketball throw while on her knees, the flexed arm hang which she completed in 36 seconds and pull-ups (she admits she completed zero) rounded out the CFA.
“No one in my family has been in the military. I had to get used to the highly military structured life.”
Steeped in history, the hallowed grounds of the academy taught Phoebe lessons in her nation’s past. “This was my first experience at a [military] historical place. Every square inch is covered in history.” Phoebe is now considering a major in history thanks to a squadron leader who “obviously loved history. He described every battle, knew every grave,” she said.
Academic workshops for the week included both astronautical and aeronautical engineering, physics, leadership, history and time spent learning through an aircraft carrier simulator.
Phoebe learned the importance of having the ability to work as a team. “It was hard to ‘shine’ as a leader among so many other leaders,” she noted.
“It’s not about you,” was perhaps the greatest lesson learned.
Inspired by the story and words of Travis Manion, a fallen Marine who died in Iraq in 2007, “If Not Me, Then Who…,” Phoebe plans to take the summer experience into her senior year at Lewis County High School. “I want to be someone who will be in the midst of what’s going on, not just barking orders.”
“As student leaders, we can work together to accomplish more. People often settle and do not reach out to reach their full potential.”
During sea trials, academy participants started the day by plunging into freezing water wearing compression shorts and sweat pants. They were then instructed to roll around in the sand and then perform push-ups in the edge of the water, submerging their face each time.
Sprints carrying a lifeboat, shoulder presses with same lifeboat, uphill sprints, relay races and obstacle course runs, all performed wet and sandy, were part of the endurance test.
“Team motivation keeps you going. It pushes you to push yourself,” she said.
As to her perspective on leadership, she said, “I’ve looked to my dad and the role he plays in his businesses and in city government. He has been a big influence on me. Helped me to challenge myself.”
Stepping out of her comfort zone, Phoebe Barber is working hard to become a leader. With a goal of attending the Naval Academy following high school, Phoebe has already begun the application process. A six percent acceptance rate means her chances may be slim.
“What do I have to lose?” she said with a smile.