Former Flathead High Student Graduates from Naval Academy

Andrew Obst is a Libby native and 2015 Flathead High graduate

By Justin Franz
Andrew Obst meets with Sen. Steve Daines last week. Courtesy Photo.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question that is posed to nearly every middle school student in America, one of the oldest tricks for English teachers trying to get an essay out of their pupils. The prompt undoubtedly provokes a wide range of responses, some realistic and some not, like being an architect, an engineer, an astronaut or president. Rarely, it seems, do any of those childhood visions come true.

But Andrew Obst isn’t like most students. The Libby native and Flathead High School graduate of 2015 remembers writing back in middle school that he wanted to go the U.S. Naval Academy.

And, with the help of friends and family, he did just that. Last week, Obst graduated from the Naval Academy with a degree in mechanical engineering. Later this year, Obst will enter a Naval intelligence program.

Obst, 22, said he doesn’t remember exactly what prompted his desire to attend the Naval Academy — if he had to guess, it was probably watching a movie when he was a kid. After he wrote the essay, one of his teachers took notice and encouraged him to do well in school and participate in extracurricular actives that would make him a well-rounded candidate. He later moved to Kalispell, where his teachers still pushed him to chase his childhood dream.

“They kept pushing me to keep up my grades so that I would eventually be accepted,” he said.

In high school, Obst kept busy, participating in football, wrestling, shooting and track. Around his junior year, he started the long process of applying for the Naval Academy. In order to even have an application reviewed, a candidate must have the backing of a U.S. senator or congressperson. Obst applied and went through a number of interviews before getting letters of support from Montana’s entire congressional delegation, including Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines and former Rep. Ryan Zinke.

In the summer of 2015, Obst arrived at the Naval Academy for his “plebe summer,” which consisted of seven weeks of intense physical and mental training that began at 5 a.m. each day.

“After that, life gets a lot better,” Obst said of those early months at the Naval Academy.

While at the academy, Obst was a battalion commander, the SCUBA club president and ultra marathon captain. He focused on mechanical engineering and worked on a project to create a robotic arm that will be used to maintain nuclear submarines. This summer, Obst will be going to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to continue working on the robotic arm before entering a Naval intelligence program. He’ll also be simultaneously working on a master’s of engineering online from the University of Delaware.

Obst said the last few years have been an incredible journey and that he’s excited to see what’s next. He said none of it would be possible, however, without help from the people back home.

“My teachers and family are why I’m here today,” he said.