Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Jan. 14, 2002

Barry Kyllo now helps students interested in attending Naval Academy

By Julie Yurek

Barry Kyllo is providing a valuable service to Lester Prairie and the surrounding communities.

He volunteers as a US Naval Academy information officer, otherwise known as a blue and gold officer.

He talks to area junior and senior students and their families about the opportunities the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. has to offer.

Kyllo grew up in Askov, Minn.. His grandmother encouraged him to apply to the academy.

"It's a very competitive process, and many kids are vying for a small number of spots." Kyllo said.

"'Just apply. What can it hurt?' Grandma asked me," he said.

Kyllo served eight years in the Navy, 12 if you include his time at the academy.

His family lived in Roseville for four years, before moving to Lester Prairie in 1994. He and his wife, Merri Lea, have two children and are housing an exchange student. Merri Lea is originally from Lester Prairie.

He works as a database administrator at Fingerhut in Plymouth. He has been on the school board for six years. He also taught the ROTC program at the University of Minnesota for two years.

Kyllo knows first hand what the academy is all about. He is a 1982 graduate with a bachelor of science degree in economics. He knows what the application process entails and how challenging and rewarding the four-year program is, he said.

Kyllo's job as a blue and gold officer is to meet and discuss with the student why he or she is interested in the academy. He is not a recruiter.

"I try to get a feel for the student's reasoning. I want to know if he or she really wants to go, of if it's his or her parents," he said.

So far, he hasn't had that response, he said.

He also talks to the parents to answer any questions they might have.

Kyllo has been a blue and gold officer for two years, which is unpaid and done on his own time. He is unable to be a reservist because of a bad knee, but he wanted to give back to the Navy and the community, he said.

It's a great way to help both groups, Kyllo said.

Kyllo went to local schools to let guidance counselors know he was available to students if they were interested in a military education. The students have to take the initiative.

"I would go to the high schools to talk to students if they asked me," Kyllo said.

Students are encouraged to begin the application process as a junior. A student's curriculum should reflect the highest level of math and science possible at his or her school.

If there is a college preparatory class or a post secondary class offered, the student should be taking it, Kyllo said.

Students need to show leadership and initiative in their educational choices to the academy, Kyllo said.

Most accepted students are athletes, at the top of their class, and are in some kind of school activity that reflects leadership, he said.

The preparation in high school helps students get ready for training and education at the academy. The academy prepares midshipmen (students) morally, mentally, and physically to be professional officers in the naval service, Kyllo said.

To start the process, students must go to the academy's web site at to fill out a questionnaire. Then the questionnaire is routed to the area's respective blue and gold officer.

Kyllo, being the officer for Lester Prairie, Winsted Holy Trinity, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Hutchinson, and Watertown-Mayer, would be contacted if any students from those schools applied. He meets parents and student at his house, usually, and interviews the student.

Kyllo's recommendation is a factor in whether or not the student is selected as a candidate.

"If I feel that this student would not be a good candidate, or that the academy would not be the right institute for him or her, I put that in my report," Kyllo said.

The academy wants to see all its students succeed. They don't want a midshipman who doesn't want to be there, he said.

Candidates must also obtain a nomination from their congressman or senator. Each representative has five spots per academy to fill. There are academies for the Air Force, Army, and Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Academy does not require nominations.

"The nominations are a way to make sure that there is a geographic spread of students," Kyllo said.

All Naval nominations are sent to the academy for final selection. The academy annually receives 10,000 to 12,000 applications for 1,200 positions, Kyllo said.

The academy offers 18 majors, small class sizes, NCAA Division I varsity sports for men and women, full federal funding, a monthly stipend, complete medical and dental coverage, and an education worth about a quarter of a million dollars, for free, Kyllo said.

Upon graduation, midshipmen become officers in the US Navy or Marine Corps.

"If kids want a challenge, need the financing, and have those capabilities and desires, the academies are a great place to go," Kyllo said.

For more information on applying to the Naval Academy, call Kyllo at (320)395-2779, or talk to a high school guidance counselor.

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