KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- An ordnance technician from Marine Attack Squadron 214 "Black Sheep," Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, has been selected to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., later this summer.
Hailing from Hamden, Conn., Cpl. Thomas Fortuna, applied for the United States Naval Academy in February of this year and was deployed three months later.
"I really wish I could have been able to finish my deployment, but this has been a goal of mine since I was a little kid," said the 21-year-old.
Fortuna is scheduled to report to NAPS in late July for 10 months of instruction in English, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics before beginning four years of education at the Naval Academy.
"I have the determination to get my goals accomplished," said the 2006 Hamden High School graduate. "I think I've been endowed with the tools that will allow me to succeed."
Before Fortuna reaches his goals, a tough road lies ahead. The academy has a 25 percent attrition rate, and he will need to adapt to a student lifestyle.
"It will be frustrating for [Fortuna] to transition from a fleet environment to a rigid training environment," said Capt. Anthony Guidry, VMA-214 pilot and USNA graduate, speaking from personal experience. Like himself, Guidry believes Fortuna will not only make this adjustment quickly, but will also excel at the school like he has in his Marine Corps career.
"I would like to come back to the Marines as an [intelligence] officer," said Fortuna, who is scheduled to graduate in 2014, once he completes the rigorous curriculum.
Fortuna has already demonstrated an ability to excel by earning meritorious promotions to private first class, lance corporal and corporal during his Marine Corps career and has also completed three college courses.
"He's got all the qualities of a sergeant and he's only a corporal," said Master Sgt. James Carver, VMA-214 ordnance chief.
Although Fortuna has a challenging road ahead to accomplish his childhood dream, he has already shown a desire to excel and has made an impact as a positive role model for his fellow Marines.