JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., March 26, 2011 - Soldiers from the 800th Military Police Brigade conducted a joint training event here March 25-27 with nearly a dozen midshipmen from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The Soldiers shared their expertise in weapons maintenance and marksmanship with the midshipmen, who may be considering a career in the Army Reserve as a commissioned officer or warrant officer.

"(The USMMA) is the one service academy where the people, after they complete their course of study, have an eight-year military commitment to any branch of service," explained Chief Warrant Officer Five Winfred Hill, command chief warrant officer, 99th RSC. "We are competing with the other branches of service to get the midshipmen to command vessels in the Army Reserve."

While each branch of service gives the graduating midshipmen the opportunity to serve their country, the Army Reserve offers something the other services cannot, according to Hill.

"What the Army Reserve can offer them is commissioning as a warrant officer one, and if they truly want to operate vessels throughout their careers, we provide that opportunity for them," he said.

"On the other hand, if they decide at some point in their career that they would like to be a traditional officer, they can still take that route also," he added.

The midshipmen who attended the joint training event were given a small taste of Army life as the Soldiers shared some cold-weather gear along with their knowledge of the M16 and M4 rifles, M9 pistol and M203 grenade launcher. The Soldiers and midshipmen also had the chance to spend some time discussing what's it's like to be an Army Reserve commissioned officer or warrant officer.

"The main focus was to give (the midshipmen) a small amount of tools to put in their tool box," explained Maj. Kevin Branch, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, 99th RSC, who spoke to the Soldiers and midshipmen during the weekend event.

"Three things I covered were competence, candor and compassion," he said. "Those are the three tools that I think are very important for a company-grade officer to grow into the profession, gain the respect of the Soldiers, and effectively lead."

Branch said the midshipmen seemed to integrate easily with the Soldiers.

"They were able to intermingle very well, they asked a lot of questions, they were very interested, and their curiosity was extremely high," he said. "Once they got a chance to be immersed in our culture, they saw the professionalism of our non-commissioned officers, and of our officers and warrant officers as well, and it sparked a genuine interest in our branch of service.

"The criteria they use for admission (to the USMMA) is such high criteria that you're getting very intelligent young men and women; they're well-rounded," Branch continued. "You've got leadership, athleticism and intelligence, and that is directly proportionate to maturity, so you're getting a very high caliber of student when you're dealing with a student from a service academy."

Like the other federal service academies - the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), The U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis), the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy - a congressional recommendation is required for appointment to the USMMA, and its midshipmen live a strict, regimented four years of training and academics.

The academic year is divided into three 13-week trimesters that last 11 months. Graduates earn bachelor of science degrees, as well as either a U.S. Coast Guard third mate or third assistant engineer license.

"By us reaching into that pool of candidates to gain and develop Army Reserve officers, it's bringing another pool of talent into our overall spectrum within the Army Reserve," Branch said.

The midshipmen team was led by 2nd Lt. Ryan Perruquet, a USMMA graduate who is scheduled to attend Army flight school in May.

"I'm pretty much just showing (the midshipmen) the options that they have available, what the Army has to bring to the table," Perruquet said. "It's an opportunity to serve and do what you want to do."

"This weekend was surprisingly educational and very informative," said Midshipman Cody Schwab. "I feel like this gave me a better view of the Army Reserve.

"This event has made my interest in the United States Army a lot stronger," he added.

The relationship between the USMMA and the Army Reserve began in 2005, when two midshipmen branched Army. In 2010, 20 midshipmen chose to serve in the Army - three as warrant officers in the Army Reserve and 17 as lieutenants in the active component, National Guard and Army Reserve.

"As this program develops, we're going to get a lot more highly qualified candidates from the USMMA to become Army officers and Army Reserve officers," Branch concluded.