From Cadet to Eagle: An Officer’s Journey to the USA Rugby National Team

By Staff Sgt. Michael HunnisettSeptember 5, 2023

Capt. Jacob Lachina, a Field Artillery Officer assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program as a Rugby 7s Soldier-athlete, participates in the 2023 RugbyTown 7's Tournament, Glendale, Colorado, August 25, 2023. The competition, which...
Capt. Jacob Lachina, a Field Artillery Officer assigned to the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program as a Rugby 7s Soldier-athlete, participates in the 2023 RugbyTown 7's Tournament, Glendale, Colorado, August 25, 2023. The competition, which includes teams from all branches of the Armed Forces, competed in the Armed Forces Championship, with All-Army taking Gold. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Hunnisett)
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Hunnisett)

Growing up in Thousand Oaks, California, not many people knew about the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Capt. Jacob Lachina was one of the few who did. From a young age, mentors in his life told him he should contemplate attending.

“Once I got some background on the school, it was the only goal I really had,” Lachina said. “Throughout junior high, and high school, my mind was just on getting to West Point.”

Lachina received an appointment in 2014. He initially wanted to play basketball, but he discovered rugby later in his plebe year.

“I was offered a walk-on tryout for the academy team for basketball,” he said. “I figured that a basketball schedule wouldn’t jive with what I wanted to do, and it would be tough to visit family, so I attended a trial for rugby.”

Lachina fell in love with rugby, and it fueled his love for the Army even more. Rugby became a Division I sport at Army in his plebe year, and athletes were given the privileges of an NCAA sport, even though rugby was not yet sanctioned by the NCAA.

Through his years at West Point, Lachina started garnering attention from the USA Rugby National Team. As a plebe, he was named an honorable mention All-American. In his sophomore year, he became an All-American. He was later invited to attend a national team camp, which was an opportunity granted to him from his leadership at West Point. He remained on Team USA’s radar throughout the remainder of his college career, making early sacrifices such as missing large class events to be able to train and compete.

After turning down opportunities with rugby to focus on his military career, Lachina attended Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, serving as the assistant training officer (S3). With rugby still on his mind, Lachina made an agreement with his battalion commander in order to try out for the USA Rugby National Team: If he made the team, he’d be able to apply for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program. If he didn’t, he’d attend U.S. Army Ranger School.

Lachina attended more camps with Team USA Rugby, and he was eventually named to the Men’s Eagles 7s team, accomplishing his goal of earning a spot on the national team, and in turn, being accepted into WCAP.

“It’s an honor to be able to live the best of both worlds,” the captain said. “Being able to serve, and play rugby, representing the USA in both the military and in sport.”

The U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program gives Lachina, and Soldier-athletes competing in other sports, the opportunity to train full time, while still serving in the Army. The program has awarded him the valuable opportunity to compete at competitions which in turn helps Team USA qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games. With the Men’s Eagles team having already qualified, Lachina is now training diligently to be named to the 2024 U.S. Olympic team.

Lachina hopes to continue to inspire the next generation of rugby players within the United States. At every competition, he interacts with as many fans as possible, most recently, after playing on the All-Army Sports Team and winning gold at the RugbyTown 7s Armed Forces Championships, he gave a young boy his medal to serve as a lasting memory of the event.

“I want to give people a good impression of the Army,” he said. “I want to be remembered as someone who was always doing the right thing.”

Lachina is also excited to continue his Army career after recently graduating from the captain’s career course.

“The options are somewhat in the air right now, but I’d be excited for the opportunity for a command position, or even for something unique,” he said. “I really enjoy mentorship, so even the possibility to make my way back to my roots at West Point and impact the next generation would be fantastic.”

Being all he can be encompasses Lachina’s mindset as he continues to outperform his expectations.

“I never thought I would be in a position where being a potential Olympian was even an option,” the captain said. “My goal was to get to this point, my entire life.”

Having achieved his goals of graduating from West Point and being named to the USA National Rugby Team, Lachina’s advice for the younger generation is to always do the best you can in any situation.

“Once you’re given an opportunity for anything, give it all you can because you never know where it’s going to lead you,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am today without giving it everything I could to get to the first door, which in turn opened other doors.”