DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — The contrast seems stark. For two weeks in the summer, Marble Falls High School senior Marshall Jett found himself deep in the northern forest. The first week, Jett, who earned his Eagle rank in 2013, helped work on wilderness trails as part of an Order of the Arrow crew.
The next week, however, he and a handful of other Boy Scouts and a guide loaded up three canoes and slipped deeper within the 6 million acres of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota and the Atikaki Provincial Park. The only connection they had with the rest of the world was one radio — only in case of an emergency.
“The rest of the world could have been wiped out by Ebola, and we wouldn’t have known it until we stepped back out of there,” Jett said.
The weeklong paddling adventure forced Jett and the other scouts to rethink how they handled situations. There was no looking up directions on cell phones, sending out for pizza if they got hungry or playing hours of video games.
“You really learned to look for simple solutions,” Jett said.
The idea of canoeing and trekking in one of the most isolated spots of the lower 48 states and part of Canada appears to contrast with Jett’s lifelong goal of becoming an astronaut — a career that relies heavily on technology. Yet, both endeavors require many of the qualities Jett possesses such as problem solving, independence, team work and perseverance.
While he can scratch the wilderness canoeing adventure off his life list, on Dec. 16, Jett took a big step toward his pursuit of becoming an astronaut when U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (R-Weatherford) surprised the senior in his calculus class. Williams, joined by Jett’s parents, Chris and Michele Jett, announced that he was nominating the Eagle Scout to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“That’s huge for getting in the academy,” Marshall Jett said of the nomination to the academy, something he’s been working toward since he was 10 years old. “It was one of the toughest parts, too, because it’s not something I really had control over.”
Jett first dreamed of becoming an astronaut when he was 3. Though many people spend years trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, Jett has held tight to becoming an astronaut. He’s not sure what first captivated him about space travel, but he never wavered in his determination. As he made his way through elementary school, Jett learned what it took to becoming an astronaut and found a strong path led through one of the military academies — particularly the Air Force Academy.
“So I just started planning on going there,” he said.
Throughout his academic career, Jett challenged himself with the toughest classes (as a senior he’s taking engineering as well as six Advanced Placement courses.) But landing a spot in the Air Force Academy isn’t just about being smart, it’s about being a part of the community — both in school and in a wider context.
“You need to be active in extracurricular activities as well, and good at them,” Jett said. “You can’t just be there.”
As he began the application procedure for the academy, Jett knew a congressional nomination was a must. So he applied through Williams’ office. After a review of his application and essay, Williams invited Jett to an interview by a board that included many retired military officers. This, for Jett, was one of the most daunting steps because he found himself in a room in Killeen for several hours along with many other students seeking the coveted nomination.
“The hardest part was sitting there waiting,” Jett said. “I waited for several hours, and the interview didn’t last very long.”
Whatever Jett said there and wrote in his essay must have resonated with Williams and his staff because the Marble Falls student was one of only a few the congressman nominated this year.
“Marshall possesses all the important qualities the academies are looking for, and I was proud to nominate him. He is an outstanding young man and did very well throughout the application process,” Williams said. “Nominating students in the 25th Congress to the nation’s prestigious military academies is one of the greatest honors I have as a member of Congress. These students are exceptional leaders in their schools and communities, and they are going to be exceptional leaders of the free world. I am proud of these young men and women for choosing to receive a top-notch education along with a commitment to serve their country.”
Jett believes his years as a Boy Scout, especially attaining the Eagle Scout rank, was a big part of the reason behind earning the congressional nomination. It’s something he highly recommends others interested in an appointment to a service academy consider.
“Start early,” he advised students considering an academy or similar university. “Work hard, keep your grades up and be patient. And don’t give up.”
While the nomination is a big checkmark in the academy application process, Jett now must wait (remember that ‘be patient’) to see if it, along with all his other achievements, lands him a spot in the fall 2015 class at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
He anticipates finding out one way or the other in March. But between then and now, Jett’s not idling away. He’s part of a Marble Falls High School team that is building robots for a January competition, and once that’s wrapped up, he’ll help with the engineering class’ rocket, which the students are planning to launch this summer at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Ranch in New Mexico. The goal: build a rocket that can reach 100,000 feet.
Though he’s earned his Eagle badge — the highest rank in the Boy Scouts — Jett still remains active in his troop, but he’s assumed more of a teaching role, sharing his knowledge and skills with younger scouts.
It’s skills and knowledge he’s used in his own life and will likely utilize in the future — including when he aims for the stars. While being an astronaut and camping in the wilderness appear far apart, the outdoor adventures require similar characteristics that will benefit Jett in aeronautical engineering and space flight. During part of the canoeing adventure, Jett and the other scouts found themselves facing a long paddle on a Canadian lake. But realizing they had a tailwind, the ingenious scouts lashed the three canoes together, fashioned a sail from a canvas, secured it with their paddles and sailed on.