U.S. Navy: Diverse Opportunities to Lead and Serve
Jensin Weng Sommer
Scribe: Ann Chen
Jensin is a retired Navy Commander and a 1991 graduate of the US Navy Academy. She was born in Shuilin, Taiwan (雲林縣水林鄉, 北港附近), and immigrated with her family to Baltimore when she was seven. In the 1970s when the U.S. still had official relations with Taiwan, her parents were working in Shuilin on a maternal nutrition study being conducted for the U.S. Navy Medical Research Unit. Her father was a research assistant who impressed the Americans so much that they offered him a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University for a master’s degree in bio-statistics. After her parents left for US, she and her brother and sister lived with her grandparents and uncles in a small house in ShiTsi (汐止).
After first grade she and her siblings joined her parents in US. She experienced some harassment and fought back by pushing a boy off a bike. Her family assimilated into the Taiwanese/Chinese network in the Baltimore/DC area: a Taiwanese-American church, the Baltimore Taiwanese Association and Chinese School. They even took a trip to cheer the Taiwanese team in the 1978 Little League World championship.
As a teenager, she enjoyed being a leader and being involved, and she wanted a college experience that would really change her life. The Naval Academy mission appealed to her because the school seemed to offer everything she was looking for. The entire four years was all about challenging each midshipman mentally and physically and training them to be future naval officers. The most difficult part of the Naval Academy experience was the first year. Freshmen have to go through summer training which was like boot camp, followed by challenging academic trainings.
At the Academy, there was constant focus on moral development and the importance of integrity and honor. Physical development was equally emphasized. During the academic year, each midshipman must participate in sports. The biggest challenge for her was the “40 year swim” which involves swimming 1000 meters in uniform in 40 minutes or less without touching the sides. She needed to
pass that to graduate. Fortunately, she did, albeit barely. She also had to jump off the 33-meter-high tower at least once before graduating. Quite nervous and scared, she jumped, pretending she was jumping from a burning ship!
There are 25 majors in the Academy, 19 of them in technical disciplines. She was one of the few who majored in Economics. She also minored in Chinese and the A’s in Chinese helped balance the C’s in all her electrical engineering classes.
The admission to the Academy is tough. On top of good grades, community involvement, and leadership work, a nomination from your senator or congressman is required. So, less than 10% applicants got selected. E.g. for the class of 2017, only 1206 got admitted from 17654 applicants. But once one is admitted, the benefits are good: free tuition and board, monthly pay of $1000, world class education, guaranteed job, and a chance to serve the country.
The demographics of the Academy is still lopsided, 80/20 men to women (90/10 in her days). However, the midshipmen come from every state and US territory, as well as foreign countries (currently 59 from 30 countries, including Taiwan). Regardless of differences in personal background, all are judged on merits of their performances.
Her years in the Academy were a mixture of hard work and fun. She was a member of the Women’s Tennis Team. Her membership in Women’s Glee Club allowed her to travel all over to perform, including annual Christmas performance for the First Family.
After graduation, she served from 1991 to 2012. The career was very rewarding, she travelled all around the world, met her future husband in Japan, and met some dignitaries, like Jimmy Carter, Taiwan ambassador to Japan. Because of her work, even her kids travelled all over. Now her 16 – year-old daughter is going to Navy summer camp, hoping to follow her steps. Jensin graciously offered to counsel people who are interested in learning more about the Navy or Naval Academy via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jensin is grateful for being born in Taiwan and treasures the memories of her seven years there before immigrating to America. She’s eternally grateful for all the blessings that Taiwan, the United States and the U.S. Navy have given her.
Jensin with her parents
摘自 NATWA 2014聯誼通訊 第51期