At military school, Obama's Afghan policy is personal

At military school, Obama's Afghan policy is personalAt military school, Obama's Afghan policy is personalDeborah Wright can't remember the exact moment, but her eyes sparkle when asked about her ambition: "I have always wanted to fly planes."

For Jon Huntsman -- son of Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to China and former Utah Republican governor -- the spark came during family vacations to Coronado along the California coast near San Diego.

"Watching the Navy SEALs train all day and just wondering, 'What drives those guys out there?' You know? And it's just, serving your country."

To reach their goal, they spend what amounts to their freshman year of college in military uniforms, mixing a stringent class schedule with mandatory physical drills and other military-style training. And they do this far away from home and family, in a remote high desert town: Roswell, New Mexico, better known to most Americans for its UFO museum than as the home of the New Mexico Military Institute.

The sprawling campus has a mix of high school and college students, all required to wear uniforms and accept military-style discipline. In exchange, they get what the school bills as a top-notch education and a proven track record of graduates who move on to leadership roles in the military and civilian sectors.

"My entire faculty -- everyone has a master's degree, and more than half have a doctorate degree," says Maj. Gen. Jerry W. Grizzle, the NMMI superintendent. "And they're teaching ninth-graders as well as teaching freshmen and sophomores in college. And so the quality and value of that education is what people seek, and they accept the fact that we do that in a military platform."

Just shy of 20 percent are here as a steppingstone to active-duty military service: Some are commissioned into the Army from the institute's ROTC program; others, like Wright and Huntsman, are here for a yearlong curriculum designed to help them get into the country's military academies.

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