U.S. Service Academy Leadership Expeditions

Credit: Emma Erwin

U.S. Service Academy Leadership Expeditions

Every day, you prepare to lead others in times of adversity and uncertainty. Becoming the leader you're meant to be requires repeated practice, experimentation, risk-taking, and failure.

NOLS leadership experiences for United States Service Academies are field-based leadership practicums and emergency medical trainings that support and complement the leadership curriculum at your institution. On a NOLS expedition, you will learn to lead amid uncertainty and stay calm and positive in the most challenging times. You will try new things, learn from mistakes, and receive feedback from mentors and peers. No prior experience in the outdoors is necessary to take advantage of this opportunity. All you need is a desire to step out of your comfort zone and realize your potential.

These courses are available to cadets at service academies and ROTC midshipmen and cadets. Please contact Patrick Mettenbrink at NOLS with questions about participating if you are not a member of a United States service academy

In summer 2019, we're offering our U.S. Service Academy Alumni Denali Expedition! If you've taken a NOLS course, scroll to the bottom of this page for more information on the unique application process. Applications for Denali are due on January 22, 2019.

Enrollment Procedures and Deadlines

  1. Explore training options with NOLS-Service Academy Alumni Representatives or contact NOLS with questions.
  2. Explore financial aid options such as scholarships and 529 College Savings Plan. Check out our scholarship application. To express interest in a ful scholarship this year, fill out the scholarship application, and email patrick_mettenbrink@nols.edu.
  3. Complete online course and scholarship applications and submit with $300 enrollment fee by January 30, 2019 (though if you apply earlier, you are more likely to get your top choice course). You will be notified via email of program acceptance in early February. NOLS will place applicants on preliminary rosters for their first or second choice expeditions. Applicants whose first or second choices cannot be honored will be contacted and other options will be explored. There are four conditions under which the application fee would be refunded:
    • Financial constraints for scholarship applicants when NOLS is informed of withdrawal within 21 days of award determination.
    • Conflict with mandatory training
    • Athletic excellence
    • NOLS is unable to assign you to your first or second choice course
  4. Submit required student paperwork on your online student dashboard by April 1, 2019.
    Your academy will notify you of your specific course assignment through summer training orders in late March to early April, 2019. Cadets at other academies or NROTC students will be notified by NOLS.
  5. Attend your academy's mandatory course briefing in mid April.
  6. Pay tuition balance and equipment deposit.
    • April 14, 2019 for Block 0 and 1 expeditions
    • April 30, 2019 for Block 2 and 3 expeditions
  7. Any late registrants can contact Patrick Mettenbrink for more information on registering and paying for a course.

NOLS Cancellation Policies 

Rocky Mountain Backpacking

In the remote and rugged Rocky Mountains you will master skills as a backcountry traveler, leader, and team member. You will work with your team to navigate mountain terrain and live with only the essentials you carry in your pack amid the rugged alpine beauty of Wyoming or Montana. You'll take an active role in leading your team, fishing alpine lakes and streams, and will have an extended opportunity for independent student group travel.

Naval Academy Mountaineering course participants cross a stream while backpacking.

2019 Dates

Block 1: May 28 - June 21, 2019
Block 1 Tuition: $5,840
Block 2: June 24 - July 19, 2019
Block 2 Tuition:  $5,125
Block 3: July 22 - August 12, 2019
Block 3 Tuition: $5,125
Course Location: Lander, Wyoming
Fly in/out: Casper, Wyoming

Yukon River Canoeing

Northern Canada is a land of unpredictable weather, unnamed peaks, turquoise glacial rivers and few human inhabitants, making it an ideal classroom to explore and learn a broad spectrum of skills. The Yukon’s rivers twist through an incredible wilderness and offer opportunities to develop basic paddling techniques on flat and moving water. You may encounter up to Class II-III rapids, and will learn the skills to assess these rapids responsibly. Successfully negotiating this territory in a tandem canoe demands the highest level of communication and teamwork skills. This dynamic medium requires you to make in-the-moment decisions, assess risk, and execute risk mitigation strategies.

Two course participants whitewater canoe on a river bounded with pines on both sides.

2019 Dates

Block 2: June 24 - July 19, 2019
Tuition: $5,650
Course Location: Whitehorse, Yukon
Fly in/out: Whitehorse, Yukon

Alaska Backpacking

Teamwork and leadership will play crucial roles in your group's development on this expedition that hikes in the remote mountains of south central or interior Alaska. You will be challenged to lead yourself and your teammates effectively and creatively with only the essentials you carry in your pack. At this time of year in Alaska, sunlight will be ample and you'll have an opportunity to hone your skills on days that are active and long.

Students standing on a green grassy hill in Alaska - while out backpacking - and looking off to snow capped mountains in the distance.

2019 Dates

Block 2: June 24 - July 19, 2019
Block 2 Tuition: $6,150
Block 3: July 22 - August 12, 2019
Block 3 Tuition: $5,350
Course Location: Palmer, Alaska
Fly in/out: Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska Mountaineering - Early Season

As you travel through Alaska's remote mountain ranges, a brilliant world of snow and ice will challenge you to increase your competence and confidence as a leader and team member. Through classically Alaskan routes that involve long, arduous approaches through vast valley glaciers, breathtaking scenery, and wintry weather conditions, you will learn how to manage challenging terrain, assess risk, and work together as a team.

Because of the terrain encountered on these courses, there may be fewer opportunities for independent student travel days than is common on other Service Academy courses.

Naval Academy students on a NOLS Custom Education course prepare for a day of mountaineering in Alaska.

2019 Dates

Block 0: May 16 - June 14, 2019
Block 0 Tuition:  $6,870
Block 1: May 28 - June 20, 2019
Block 1 Tuition:  $5,740
Course Location: Palmer, Alaska
Fly in/out: Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska Mountaineering - Late Season

As the snow melts in Alaska’s high peaks, new challenges and opportunities present themselves. This crash course in alpine travel will test your ability to lead in an ever-changing environment, and adapt plans to changing conditions. While melting snow limits the opportunities to live solely on glacier, these conditions expand opportunities to build anchors and ice-climb, scramble through rocky glacial moraines, and travel independently on tundra. This on-your-toes course offers unique opportunities to experience a variety of terrain all in one course, leaving with new skills in adaptable leadership, and a diverse set of alpine travel skills.

Like the early-season mountaineering course, the diverse terrain encountered on this course may limit opportunities for the independent student travel days that are common on other Service Academy courses.

Students cross a glacier river in Alaska with towering snow-capped peaks in the distance.

2019 Dates

Block 3: July 22 - August 12, 2019
Block 3 Tuition: $5,330
Course Location: Palmer, Alaska
Fly in/out: Anchorage, Alaska

British Columbia Sea Kayaking

Explore the lush, wild coastline of British Columbia, Canada, on this sea kayaking adventure. Paddle between densely forested islands and through backcountry fjords. Spend your nights camping on remote beaches and watch the sun rise over the ocean while you savor breakfast you cooked on a camp stove. As you master the basics of paddling, you’ll learn about reading tides and currents as well as minimizing risk on the ocean. You will learn to make decisions and support your team amid dynamic and challenging conditions.

A course participant crests a large wave with a sea kayak in the waters of coastal British Columbia.

2019 Dates

Block 3: July 22 - August 12, 2019
Tuition: $5,000
Course Location: Conway, Washington
Fly in/out: Seattle, Washington

Alaska Sea Kayaking

Managing the unpredictability of the sea and the various forms of life within it adds a new dimension to leadership. While paddling the dramatic coastline of Alaska you will hone your skills as a leader and develop technical skills and techniques for navigating this magnificent environment. You will learn to assess risk, make decisions, and support your team amid dynamic and challenging conditions.

Naval Academy students sea kayak near Alaska's Princeton Glacier during a NOLS Custom Education course.

2019 Dates

Block 1: May 29 - June 21, 2019
Block 1 Tuition: $5,230
Course Location: Palmer, Alaska
Fly in/out: Anchorage, Alaska

Gender and Leadership Expedition

Selections for this course are in progress! Please contact patrick_mettenbrink@nols.edu right away if you're interested!

While backpacking in the rugged and dynamic Rocky Mountains, explore the role of gender in leadership. During the course, you will observe the leadership styles of men and women in same-sex and co-ed environments. You'll develop an expertise in this relevant and important leadership topic by discussing gender stereotypes and expectations, while developing your self-awareness as a leader. 

Service Academy faculty and NOLS instructors will facilitate in-town curriculum before and after the expedition, then facilitate deeper understanding of this fascinating topic on course. 

Students backpack down a rocky slope amidst towering, jagged mountain peaks in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

2019 Dates

Block 1: TBD
Block 1 Tuition:  TBD
Course Location: Lander, Wyoming
Fly in/out: Casper, Wyoming

Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician

Learn wilderness medicine and urban medical care practices in this intensive, month-long program. After four weeks of classroom education, practical skills instruction, scenarios, and full-scale mock rescues, you'll be empowered to act during medical emergencies, in the wilderness or in town. You'll become eligible to earn both your EMT and your Wilderness EMT certifications upon completion of this course, and prepared to pursue a career in the Medical Corps.

NOLS Wilderness Medicine students participate in a scenario in Red Canyon at the Wyss campus.

2019 Dates

Block 1: May 27 - June 21, 2019
Block 2: June 24 - July 19, 2019
Tuition: $4,015
Course Location: Lander, Wyoming
Fly in/out: Casper, Wyoming

Prerequisites: Students must have a current healthcare provider level CPR certification (most commonly called CPR for the Professional Rescuer or BLS Healthcare Provider CPR) and a TB test completed within one year prior to the last day of the course. Please see course description for more information.

Denali Alumni Expedition

The highest peak in North America—known as Denali or “Great One” by Alaska Natives—is the site for this expedition designed for qualified NOLS-Service Academy graduates.  Denali offers extremely challenging glacier travel and some of the most difficult weather in the world. This NOLS-Service Academy alumni course allows the opportunity to apply the leadership lessons you’ve learned at NOLS and at the Academy to one of the most physically and mentally demanding experiences NOLS offers.

Apply here, choosing only the Denali option, then fill out this questionnaire to complete your application. Participants on this course will be chosen based on outdoor skills, and proven ability to work well on a team, among other factors. Please submit your application for this course by January 22nd. 

Members of the Expedition Denali team pull gear sleds across a snowfield.

2019 Dates

Block 1: May 27 - June 21, 2019
Tuition: $8,900
Course Location: Palmer, Alaska
Fly in/out: Anchorage, Alaska