Army veterans among nearly 1,200 reporting for West Point's class of 2016
July 5, 2012
When cadet candidates report to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for Reception Day, most will experience the military for the first time.
Of the nearly 1,200 candidates who arrived July 2, to start their military careers, 106 are U.S. Army veterans.
Two of those Soldiers, 21-year-old Spc. Valerie Coe of Chatfield, Minn., and 20-year-old Cpl. Rahul Sawhney from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., are beginning their four-year experience at West Point, but have their years of military experience to draw upon.
Coe, who was a medic with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Fort Stewart, Ga., started her military career by taking Reserve Officers' Training Corps courses at the University of Minnesota--Twin Cities. After one semester, she knew the Army was for her and that becoming an officer one day would be her goal.
"I decided that I wanted to have the experience of being enlisted active duty to really get an idea of who I would be leading one day," Coe, who joined the U.S. Army in 2010, said. "I felt like someday as a leader I wanted to be able to say that I had been there ..."
As a medic, Coe feels that she received great training from the moment she entered the military, earning the Expert Field Medical Badge.
"Our time was spent training so that we were prepared to deploy," she said.
While she has not deployed, she feels that her active duty experience will help her to be able to assist other candidates who have never been in a military environment before--"basic things like marching, getting your personal equipment together, preparing uniforms, dealing with addressing people based on rank and following the chain of command."
Also drawing on his years as a Soldier is Sawhney, a military policeman from the 724th Military Police Battalion, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Sawhney wanted to be a Soldier since the events on Sept. 11, 2001. Two months after his 17th birthday in 2008, he enlisted in the Army Reserves and attended North Georgia College and State University.
He feels the extra years of maturity and the discipline he has attained over the years in the military and while deployed helped him to understand the importance of good leadership that both battlefield and strategic commanders must possess to accomplish any mission successfully.
Having served on a Personal Security Detachment team in Afghanistan, Sawhney, deployed as an individual augmentee, has experiences that not many of his counterparts here have.
"My duties as a movement noncommissioned officer-in-charge included coordinating movements throughout Kabul, including reading daily intelligence, briefing the movement team on daily threats, briefing the routes, coordinating communications with the base and our convoy, and pulling security," he said.
Sawhney served with the Combined Joint Inter-agency Task Force--Shafafiyat and had the opportunity to serve with some of the brightest and influential leaders of our military, many of whom graduated from West Point, he said.
"The ice breaker was a colonel I had the utmost respect for, who encouraged me to apply," Sawhney said.
In October 2011, he received an appointment to the Class of 2016, but says he was skeptical during the application process about turning his life completely toward the military.
"Once I realized what I had accomplished (in the military), I couldn't let such a great opportunity down," he said. "I felt it was my duty as an NCO to go forth and become an officer with the opportunity to lead troops the way I believed they should be led. West Point is definitely the institution to shape me into that leader."
Both Coe and Sawhney, along with the other new cadets, will learn fundamental Soldier and cadet skills, receive a foundation for understanding and acceptance of the Army's Professional Military Ethic, develop self-discipline, duty motivation and a commitment to service and teamwork, as well as become members of a team during their first year as plebes.
"I'm a very goal-oriented person and do well in a structured and scheduled environment where people are pushing you as well as you pushing yourself to excel," Coe said. "I feel that the additional military structure in addition to a college academic environment will make me a success. I do not like to let myself or others down and I have high expectations and goals."
Sawhney believes he will succeed at West Point "because I have the drive and determination to become the best person and leader I can be. I live up to the Warrior Ethos, with the third line stating 'I will never quit.'"
He feels that there is nothing too big or too hard to accomplish and says that with the right mindset and effort, anything can be achieved.
From being enlisted Soldiers to one day becoming leaders, both Coe and Sawhney feel they have what it takes to excel.
While Coe plans to draw upon her organization skills and decisiveness to mold herself into the leader she knows she can become, Sawhney will draw upon his deployment experience to transform himself into a leader.
"I believe great leaders must possess the ability to take care of their Soldiers … and also instilling trust between themselves and their troops," Sawhney said. "A great leader must communicate with his troops to give them a sense of purpose in any mission being conducted."
Sawhney said after seeing the destruction of corruption and lack of ethics in Afghanistan, there is no path to success without good morals and values.
"A good leader must stand up for what is right and for what must be done to take care of his or her troops, despite any pressure from other leaders who may oppose it," he said.
He also feels that a great leader must possess the ability to adapt to any situation, knowing that the unexpected will and can be encountered, and as a leader, he would have to react accordingly without hesitation.
"I have learned a lot about leadership just by being a follower, and I feel merely with my experiences, understandings and drive, I can transform myself into a good leader with the help of West Point and my peers," Sawhney concluded.