Applying to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is a long and arduous process that starts junior year of high school,
or even earlier.
Applicants are required not only to have stellar test scores, but to be in top physical condition, show outstanding character, and come carrying a letter of recommendation from a U.S. Senator or Congressman.
Acceptance alone is an impressive feat, but these 14 students go above and beyond the call of duty and show what it means to be a student at America’s finest military academy.
Ahmad Nasir founded a group that supports veterans' reintegration into civilian life in his home state.
Class of 2014
Ahmad Nasir founded and heads the Alaskan chapter of Team Red, White & Blue, a national organisation that connects veterans to their local support communities through physical and social activities.
An American Politics and Arabic double major, Nasir has worked as a congressional intern and participated in a cultural exchange with the Sultanate of Oman. He is a native Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi speaker.
This year, Nasir was named one of two West Point students among the 62 recipients of The Harry S. Truman Scholarship, valued at approximately $US30,000. He plans to pursue a Masters in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government -- preparing him to be a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer in the Middle East or South Asia, or an elected official.
Alexandra Deets was named Best New Cadet of her training company and performs daring stunts as a member of the Parachute Team.
Class of 2016
Upon entering West Point, all cadets undergo rigorous test of mountaineering, marksmanship, and 12-mile ruck marches known as Cadet Basic Training, and Alexandra Deets came out as the Best New Cadet of her training company.
Still, it was February 3, 2013 -- the day she made the Parachute Team -- that Deets calls her proudest West Point moment. The Geospatial Information Science and Human Geography double major said the allure of jumping out of aircraft drew her to the team, but the other cadets and instructors gave her a whole new perspective.
This year she ascertained her B-licence, logging 72 jumps and more than 97 minutes of free-fall time. She is the Public Affairs Representative of the team, and the editor of the Black Knights Bulletin, a monthly newsletter she designed that connects current and past Parachute Team members.
Deets plans to branch into aviation during her first few mandatory years in the Army -- 'I'm leaning towards (flying) an attack helicopter such as the AH-64,' she said -- and hopes to continue her grandfather's legacy of military service long after.
Alexandra Sutherland is breaking down barriers to get more women into all branches and positions in the military.
Class of 2014
Alexandra Sutherland wants to break the 'brass ceiling' for women in the military, and is starting at the college level. The Academy's goal is to recruit a class of 20 per cent women for the class of 2018 -- up from the current 16 per cent -- and Sutherland partnered with the admissions office to help them achieve that mission by analysing data from previous classes.
Trends in application rates among various populations can inform their understanding of why certain ethnic and gender groups apply, given the current events context. Sutherland is now writing her thesis on the issue.
A Systems Engineering major, Sutherland captains the track and cross-country teams and serves as the Brigade Logistics Officer, in charge of logistical movements and supplies for the Corps. Sutherland has an interest in cooking, and was initially deciding between attending West Point and the Culinary Institute of America, but after participating in an exchange program between the two schools, she knows she made the right choice.
The Houston, Tex. native holds a GPA of 4.40, the highest of the 366 West Point athletes who placed on the Patriot League Academic Honour Roll. She plans to work towards her dive master certification in Malaysia during her 60 days of leave, branch into aviation, and compete for the Rotary scholarship.
Class of 2015
This spring, Andreas Kellas competed at the Patriot League Indoor Track and Field Championships, completing the one-mile run in an astounding 4:13 minutes -- only 30 seconds away from breaking the current world record. A D1 athlete, Kellas won the 4 x 800-meter relay at the same conference, and also anchored an All-East Distance Medley Relay team.
The Computer Science and Arabic double major was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and emigrated with his family to Fort Lee, N.J. in 1999. While in high school, he interned at the NASA Langley Research Center focusing on the crash test facility's 3-D photogrammetric capabilities.
Kellas hopes to join the Army's military intelligence units and use his knowledge of information systems and networks to better understand movement of information through conflicts around the world.
Class of 2015
This past summer Welch deployed to Panama on a humanitarian relief mission to provide desperately-needed medical care in rural villages. All cadets are trained in tactical field care and basic first aid, but Welch received further training directly from trauma surgeons and nurses to help treat the patients they met in Panama.
In addition to basic medical care, Welch, who is fluent in Spanish, learned elementary optometry skills to issue glasses to patients in need. Welch also vaccinated animals in the villages to prevent the spread of debilitating diseases, something he calls 'an eye-opening experience.'
Welch has served on similar missions trips in parts of China, Africa, Mexico, and Europe.
The Business Administration and Management and Spanish double major was selected last year to be part of the Positive Psychology Project, an elite group of second-year students who take on projects that further our understanding of the psychology of life. Welch collected and raised money for classic novels to be donated to inner city schools in Detroit.
Welch hopes to serve as an Apache Attack Helicopter pilot in the Army after graduation and, at some point, attend graduate school.
Ben Ficke is the youngest person to complete the treacherous 48-mile, 13,000-foot climb through the Grand Canyon.
Class of 2015
When Ben Ficke was 16, he and his father completed the Grand Canyon Double Cross -- a treacherous and physically-trying 48-mile, 13,000-foot climb through the Grand Canyon. The run took over 15 hours, but he broke the record, previously held by a 19-year-old, for the youngest person to do it.
Ficke's accomplishment at the Grand Canyon was the catalyst to his love of extreme competitions and challenges; since then he's competed in countless ultra-marathons and thrives on backpacking in harsh terrain.
This October, Ficke and a team of three other cadets finished first at the Tough Mudder Tri-State 2013, a 10-mile obstacle course race which benefited the Wounded Warrior Project. Ficke plans on doing it again, this time at 'The World's Toughest Mudder' in November.
In addition to his athletic pursuits, the San Antonio native manages 25 other cadets as a platoon sergeant and maintains a 4.0 GPA, earning him the prestigious Dean's Pentathlete award.
Ficke majors in Psychology with Honours and takes Life Science Courses to get into Medical School and become a surgeon in the Army Medical Corps.
Class of 2014
The captain of the baseball team, Connor Love is a leader on and off the field. This 6'4' player started 11 games last season, and in March, Love and his team had the pleasure of hosting the New York Yankees at Doubleday Field, a tradition nearly a century old, for the first time since 1976. Though West Point ultimately lost, the final score was a not unimpressive 10-5.
Currently, Love serves as a Battalion Commander, charged with all the physical and military training and development of the 400 cadets he leads. It's a huge responsibility, and only 12 cadets in the entire Academy are given the honour.
A Management Sciences major and Applied Statistics minor, Love also serves as the president of his academic fraternity, Omicron Delta Kappa, and interned as a data analyst for Team Red, White & Blue, creating a comprehensive information management system to improve the operations and effectiveness of the organisation.
After service, Love hopes to enter the Army as a Cavalry Reconnaissance Platoon Leader, and eventually pursue a Master of Social Policy in the U.K. His goal is to build his own global, community-oriented non-profit that provides veterans from all over with high quality education.
Class of 2014
Erin Mauldin, a Truman Scholar and double major in International History and Environmental Science, spent several weeks at a primary school in Uganda testing the Bio-Gas Digester -- a system she and a team of four other cadets created that uses waste and food scraps to create methane for cooking and fertiliser. The system could exponentially limit the effects of deforestation, especially in developing countries.
Mauldin has been an instrumental part of West Point's energy and environmental initiatives since her first year at the Academy; she volunteered to be the brigade energy and environmental noncommissioned officer her sophomore year, heavily involved in promoting energy and environmental awareness and stewardship on campus.
An avid mountaineer, the Albuquerque, N.M. native represented West Point at the annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition and is the first female cadet to complete French Commando School. It's an intensive four-week course in Mont-Louis, France, where she endured 'no sleep and a foreign language combined with a mission that involved rappelling and land navigation in the middle of the night.'
Although Mauldin would like to branch Infantry, she will likely go into Engineering. After her service, Mauldin plans to pursue graduate studies at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs so she can help bring green consciousness to the military.
Class of 2016
Yan, who speaks Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, and English fluently, was selected to spend three weeks at the National Security Agency working on a classified application of Chinese in computer programming. Yan was the top choice for a position like this; her Computer Science and Chinese double major is a rare match-up at West Point, given the already heavy course load for general education requirements, but Yan proved that she could handle the responsibility.
Yan said her greatest accomplishment is reaching the high score on a sling load assessment, the hardest test to pass at Air Assault School. It challenges students to identify deficiencies in the set-up of an A22 Cargo Bag, M149A2 Water Trailer, Cargo Net, and M1097 HMMWV in a short time allowance. Yan was among four of 160 students to ace it.
In high school, Yan spent a month studying abroad in Tianjin, China, where she trained in volleyball with the youth province team. Some of those players later competed at the Olympic level, and when Yan returned to the States, she was heavily recruited for college volleyball programs. But Yan, a second-generation immigrant with zero military background, chose West Point.
Yan hopes to work with cyber security in the Army Cyber Command, complete an MBA and Master's in computer science, and further her Chinese studies at the Defence Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey Bay, Calif.
Jocelyn Lewis is a nationally-ranked collegiate female boxer, and an inaugural member of West Point's first women's boxing team.
Class of 2014
Jocelyn Lewis, a Sociology major, is an inaugural member of West Point's first official women's boxing team. After entering the ring for her first fight in February, she quickly leapt onto the national stage, taking second place in her division at the U.S. Intercollegiate Boxing Association's national championships. The team has begun to influence other service academies into starting their own teams as well.
Jocelyn Lewis' path to West Point was an unconventional one, and full of hardships as she often independently pulled her friends and high school classmates in her low-income El Paso, Tex., neighbourhood back into school, off of drugs, or away from prostitution rings.
'I can't pinpoint what aspect of my life, aside from my single mother's influence, has allowed me to be the exception,' Lewis said, referring to her background. 'But because I have been given this opportunity, I have never had a moment in which I did not appreciate being a member of the United States Military Academy.'
Lewis is also an accomplished singer and dancer as a member of West Point's first Salsa Team and Glee Club, performing in prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops and the Grand Ole Opry with Trace Atkins.
Lewis hopes to serve as a platoon leader in the Quartermaster branch, which encompasses general supplies provision, mortuary affairs, distribution management, and field services such as parachute packing, rigging, sling loading, and aerial delivery. After
attending post graduate school, she wants to become an Army clinical psychologist so she can help soldiers and their families overcome challenges she similarly witnessed in El Paso.
Class of 2014
Lindsey Danilack is the fourth female in the history of the Academy to be given the title Brigade Commander, the highest position in the cadet chain of command. Her role as First Captain holds her responsible for all 4,400 cadets in the Academy, and requires that she implement a class agenda and act as a liaison between students and the Officer Leadership.
Keenly aware of issues with sexual assault and sexual harassment in the Army, Danilack is making prevention and response her number-one priority as Brigade Commander. Last year she launched Cadets Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (CASH/A), a grassroots initiative that trains and educates the Corps to affect change and raise awareness.
CASH/A distributes monthly newsletters to the Corps, which have been forwarded through Congress and read by the Chief of Staff of the Army. Programming includes 'Sex-Talk' briefs, a summit organised in cooperation with the Army's SHARP initiative, and a certification course to become a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
After graduation, Danilack plans to attend flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala. and fly an Apache. Her goals include attending Harvard Business School, becoming CEO of a major corporation, and being appointed Secretary of Defence.
Luke Schumacher is a published author and research assistant, analysing war and peace in the Middle East
Class of 2014
Luke Schumacher's involvement in U.S.-Middle Eastern relations is vast. The college senior, who speaks both Modern Arabic and Jordanian colloquial Arabic, has been twice published in academic journals, writing on the contemporary Islamic doctrine of jihad, and the effects of Egyptian regime change on the country's prospects for war and peace. He plans to write his senior thesis on domestic, political, and economic determinants that encourage the deployment of U.S. military force abroad. And he tutored Jordanian children in English and maths while studying abroad in Amman.
Schumacher is also the project manager of an initiative aimed at improving the lives of residents at battered women's shelters, the team captain and fundraising assistant for Relay for Life events, and a Special Olympics coach.
The American Politics major serves as Battalion Executive Officer, making him responsible for leading a unit of 374 cadets and assuming command in the Commander's absence.
The former Army football player plans to continue his studies of research methodology, war, and constitutionalism at graduate school in the UK in order to pursue a career as an Army strategist. He also hopes to get a PhD in political science and teach, and eventually serve in elected office.
Meghan Wentz started a rogue Habitat for Humanity chapter, broadening community service opportunities off-campus.
Class of 2015
Most cadets conduct a significant amount of community service before coming to West Point, but according to Meghan Wentz, 'the bureaucratic red tape makes it difficult to get proper authorization to leave (campus) as a cadet, even if it is to do community service.'
So Wentz built them an outlet: an unofficial Habitat for Humanity club. Since its inception, cadets have collectively done more than 500 hours of volunteering in partnership with the Habitat for Humanity Organisation in Newburg. The club is on its way to being recognised by the school and the national organisation.
An International History and Economics double major with a GPA greater than 4.0, Wentz also serves as the Assistant Cadet in Charge of the Parliamentary Debate Team, the Vice President of the Cadet History Advisory Council, and a member of the Positive Psychology Project -- a cohort of cadets dedicated to spreading optimism in the Corps.
She plans to fly Blackhawks for the Army, study economics at either Harvard or Yale, and increase the effectiveness of community-oriented programs like Habitat for Humanity by teaching them to harness the passion and strength of young people.
Trent Reece is paving the way for a career in developing low-cost prosthetic limbs for amputee soldiers.
Class of 2014
Trent Reece serves as the First Regiment Adjutant, placing him accountable for roughly 1,100 other cadets, and is currently working on a secret project for Raytheon and the Defence Threat Reduction Agency of the Department of Defence.
But Reece has made his desire to tangibly help wounded and incapacitated soldiers the focus of his academic interests and extracurricular activities.
As an intern at the Institute for Creative Technologies, Reece researched human physiology and human-computer interaction, studying the effects of wearing weighted loads on a solder's gait. His intent was to conduct the same study on an amputated soldier wearing a prosthetic, compare the gait alterations, and create a model for a more 'natural' prosthetic that would resemble the functioning of a normal leg during a weighted march -- a task that soldiers are regularly required to do.
'If we could create a prosthetic that would allow the soldier to complete their required Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, then they could potentially have the opportunity to remain in the service if they chose to do so,' Reece said.
After graduation, he hopes to commission as a Medical Service Corps officer and serve as a platoon leader of combat medics. He plans to study business and neuroscience in graduate school, and use his research to develop a low-cost prosthetic hand capable of sensation.
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