JOPLIN, Mo. – After getting accepted into not one, not two, but all three of the top military academies in the country, a Joplin High School graduate is headed to the U.S. Naval Academy.
It’s absolutely head-shaking: Wyatt Satterlee was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and the Military Academy at West Point – the only schools he applied to.
Satterlee never considered applying to any military academies until his sophomore year in high school, when he says he grew immensely dedicated to exercise and fitness. And it was the motivators he followed on social media – Navy SEALs and Green Berets promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles – that served as his inspiration to follow their path.
“I didn’t always have a desire to go to a military academy, but when I started considering college options, I was inspired by these people,” Satterlee told The Heartlander. “I’ve always wanted to serve my country, and what better way to do it than to go to an academy where I can also receive my education?”
The rigorous application process for each prestigious academy takes nearly 60 hours to complete. In addition to university admission requirements, the process includes securing nominations from elected officials, a strenuous test of physical fitness and a medical exam.
The academies are three of the top institutions in the country for postsecondary education, and few applicants actually get in: With admission rates of 9.1% at the Naval Academy, 8.6% at West Point and 13.4% at the Air Force Academy, the Joplin native knew his goal wouldn’t be easy.
During his junior year, Satterlee began applying for the academies’ summer programs that allow aspiring students to visit the campuses and get a feel for the atmosphere. Although the pandemic interfered with the full experience, he was able to visit West Point and the Naval Academy in the fall of 2021.
“The visits really had an influential impact on me,” he said while discussing factors that helped make his enrollment decision. “I really just connected with the midshipmen at the Naval Academy. They were compassionate, and there was just this sense of community there that I connected with.”
Satterlee also gained a mentor through the application process: a two-star rear admiral and graduate of the Naval Academy. Satterlee credits the admiral’s help and guidance with solidifying his decision to attend school in Annapolis.
But one of the best parts about the entire process, he said, is that Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt – one of the elected officials who nominated Satterlee for the academies – personally called him to deliver the news of his acceptance to the Naval Academy.
“It was really, really cool and humbling to get to speak directly to a United States senator. I didn’t even know what to say. It was extremely nice of Sen. Blunt to reach out in person.”
“Wyatt Satterlee is an impressive young man with a very bright future ahead,” Blunt told The Heartlander. “His leadership skills, work ethic, and accomplishments in the classroom have prepared him well for the U.S. Naval Academy. I wish him the best as he continues pursuing his goal of serving in our nation’s armed forces.”
As for preparing himself for the lifestyle of a military student, Satterlee says that while he knows it will be a challenge physically and mentally, he believes he has already put himself on the right path.
“The military academy already fits my lifestyle to a T,” he said. “I’m up every morning at 4:30. I have a real passion for fitness and get my workouts done in the morning. I kind of model my life after what I think a military academy would be. Not quite at the level that I will be when I’m there, but I thought that would be a great way to spend the younger part of my life.”
Satterlee acknowledges the mental obstacles he’ll have to endure as well, and is already chasing opportunities to get out of his comfort zone and psychologically adapt.
Running, Satterlee says, is categorically outside of his comfort zone. Not because of the physical endurance aspect, but because of the mental toughness to keep doing a monotonous activity.
So, how did he decide to overcome his hatred for running?
The 18-year-old ran a full marathon.
“One day I was just coming home from working out and realized I was getting too comfortable lifting,” Satterlee recalled. “It was like I had an epiphany and I told myself, ‘I need to challenge myself in some other way.’ I decided to do a marathon because I hate running with a passion. I hate it and I always have.
“So I thought, ‘Why not just throw myself in the fire and do something I hate?’ I needed to make sure I was always getting better and accepting challenges. I struggled, and it sucked. But because I struggled, now I have a reason to go do another one at some point and get a better time.”
He even went as far as to tell his entire family about it in advance for the simple reason of keeping him accountable. “I knew if I let them know, I wouldn’t want to let them down and I was going to do it.”
Satterlee is considering the degree he’ll pursue and says it’s between mechanical engineering and quantitative economics. In either case, his ultimate goal will be to serve in the Navy Special Forces.
Induction day for the Naval Academy is on June 30, so Satterlee plans to ship out a few days early to get settled in. He will complete a standard four-year degree path, and then serve a minimum of five years in the Navy.