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Case will soon take off for Navy officer school

Brookhaven’s Collins Case has one month to prepare himself forthe experience of a lifetime, and he’s using those 30 days tocondition his body and mind by practicing push-ups, sit-ups andbeginning every sentence with “Sir.”

Tuesday, Case, 22, raised his right hand in the presence of aU.S. Navy recruiting officer in his living room and officiallydevoted the next eight years of his life to the service.

On Sept. 21, he will leave his parents – Richard and BeverlyCase – behind for Naval Station Newport in Newport, R.I. for atleast 13 weeks of Officer Candidate School. His aspirations tooperate communications and radar equipment on a surveillanceaircraft 30,000 feet above Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever thePresident may send him must first be tested physically andacademically by a team of U.S. Marine Corp drill instructors.

“On my acceptance letter, it says to immediately start swimmingand running and physical conditioning,” Case said. “I have amembership to the Human Performance Center, and I’m going to get myheart in shape and ready to pound pretty good.”

Case could have simply enlisted in the Navy and been sent tobasic training in a week’s time – instead, he has been working withhis recruiting officer since March to secure a spot in OCS. Thepurpose of OCS – and there’s such a school for each branch of themilitary – is to use intense academic, military and physicaltraining to teach candidates how to make decisions in a stressfulenvironment.

Basically, the school creates leaders. If Case successfullycompletes OCS and the following Naval Flight Officer and othertraining, by the time he is deployed to the fleet he will be alieutenant with men under his command.

But one cannot simply walk into OCS. Candidates are required tohold college degrees – Case has a bachelor’s in finance fromMississippi State University – and pass the Physical ReadinessTest, as well as undergo an extensive background check of personaland medical records.

Case’s interest in the Navy stemmed from a love for the air,which he gained at the age of 9 when a family member let him takethe controls during a vacation flight in a Cessna. Even though hiseyesight is not up to naval aviation standards, Case is determinedto get airborne by eventually serving as a RIO (Radar InterceptOfficer) onboard any of the Navy’s surveillance aircraft.

And Case always has the option of corrective eye surgery and ago at becoming a pilot. But right now he’s keeping his optionsopen.

“I think I’d have to get my hands pretty wet before I know if Iwant to do that,” he said. “I don’t have anything specific and I’mglad, because if I were to get shut out it might make it easy toquit the whole thing. I’m ready to be led, and lead, and do what Ithink I can do.”

Case is unbothered by the possibility of a combat deployment,even though it is likely in America’s current overseasinvolvements. He is willing to cruise over Iraq or Afghanistan oranywhere else that needs naval aviation.

“Since it’s our country’s main focus right now, I’d like to havesomething to do with it,” Case said.

War or no war, Case looks forward to the Navy’s ability to keephis body tuned and his brain in motion.

“I’ve always kind of been hands-on, and I like the security themilitary will provide,” he said. “It will help my career, whether Imake a career out of the Navy or go on to do something afterward. Ithink it will be a real good step. I’m excited about it – I thinkyou have no choice but to get psyched at this point.”

Navy Recruiting District New Orleans Chief Donnell White, whoall year has helped Case gain acceptance to OCS, said there werefew – if any – Mississippians scheduled to report to OCS.

He said OCS would be the fastest way for Case to achieve hisquest for a “hands-on” career.

“When you graduate and get a job, they start you out in theoffice in a cubicle, all by yourself,” he said. “Now, after OCS,when he goes to the fleet on day one he will have people reportingto him. He will be in a leadership position right away.”