Honor, courage, leadership and duty to country before self are characteristics the U.S. Navy looks for in those who wish to serve as officers.

Ural Thompson III has those and was commissioned as an ensign one day before he graduated Prairie View A&M University. The Waxahachie native has achieved much in a short amount of time.

“What made me join the Navy is that I was randomly walking through the school fair at Waxahachie High and there was a Navy guy sitting there. I was thinking about how I was going to pay for college. I had been accepted to Baylor and TCU and I couldn’t really afford to go there,” Thompson said.

“But the first thing he said was, ‘How would you like money to go to college on?’ So I was like, ‘All right, I’m listening,’ and that is when he told me about the Navy’s nuclear program.”

Thompson applied for the officer candidate school program, but at the time of his application the program was full. Instead of waiting, Thompson went ahead and enlisted. After completing boot camp in Chicago, he was sent to Charleston, S.C., for naval nuclear power training.

While in Charleston, room became available in the program and, after a series of phone calls, Thompson found himself a part of the program at Prairie View. He was reassigned and arrived one day after classes began in August 2004.

“Anyone who is in college knows it is not the same as high school because you are doing your regular college stuff, but then, when you tack onto that waking up every day except for Thursday to do PT and drills in the morning, it can be difficult,” he said.

“So, aside from your normal life as a college student, a lot of your free time is dedicated to military duties. The weekend events involve doing security at Texans games to working with all of the Junior ROTCs and judging their various events on the weekends to doing special events such as going to the commission of the USS Texas down in Galveston.”

As a part of the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Prairie View, Thompson was tasked with several different assignments, including serving as the fitness-training officer for his unit. He was responsible for getting others into shape and keeping them there. Out of the 67 people he trained that year, he only had one who failed the fitness requirements.

Unlike most college students, who go home for the summers, Thompson and the other members of his ROTC unit were assigned to bases in San Diego or Virginia or attached to an aircraft squadron.

“If you got lucky, you got attached to a ship that would travel around the world. A few of us got to travel around to other countries. I got to spend four days in Italy and got to see Naples and Rome. From there we went to Greece and I got to spend almost a whole week there,” he said. 

“I know a few guys that went to Japan, Korea and Australia,” he said. “There was one summer that I thought I would be part of an exchange student program, but I took summer classes instead so I could graduate on time.”

Thompson graduated from Prairie View on May 16 after majoring in electrical engineering and minoring in naval science. His next duty station will be in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for the next two years. He will be attached to the USS Port Royal, which is a guided missile cruiser.

After he completes his assignment in Hawaii, he will be sent to the Naval Nuclear Power Program to become a nuclear propulsion officer. He will then be assigned to an aircraft carrier or a submarine.

E-mail Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com