CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charlie Hageboeck was on a cruise ship a few years ago when he looked out at the choppy water and had a thought.
"I was just wondering, how does all this work?" he said of the mechanics of the boat around him.
That's when someone aboard the cruise told him about maritime academies.
Three years later and Hagebock, a graduating senior at George Washington High School, is set this fall to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy -- a prestigious federal service academy that educates Merchant Marine officers.
Graduates leave the school with a bachelor's degree but also a few merchant marine-specific distinctions: a U.S. Coast Guard license and an officer's commission in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The school is highly selective. To be accepted, Hageboeck had to attain a nomination from a congressperson: He was nominated by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller. He also sat through a grueling round of interviews with a panel.
Hageboeck acknowledges that his career path is different from what he'd envisioned for much of his life. Until early in high school, he thought he'd be a pharmacist. But he's on the swim team at GW and has always loved to sail, so the decision to become a merchant mariner seemed natural to him.
"It's random," he said. "But the water is my friend."
Hageboeck will be honored in a ceremony today at GW for students entering the uniformed services in the spring of 2013.
He'll be joined by several other students: Lauren Bramble, Michael Sloan and Brandon Wilcher, who will all attend Army basic training in the fall.
The ceremony will be administered by city councilman John Miller and Col. Monroe Warner, who graduated from West Point in 1978.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.