GALLIPOLIS — Gallia Academy High School 2015 graduate Stephen Blake Wilson chose to visit Gallia students over his recent break from attending the United States Military Academy, commonly referred to as West Point, and share his experiences as a second-year student with the institution.
Wilson is considered a cadet corporal. As such, he is responsible for himself and a cadet private, a first-year student. Wilson said he is majoring in environmental engineering. When he graduates he will serve a minimum of five years in the US Army and leave the academy as a 2nd lieutenant after four years in the school. Wilson is in his second year at the institution.
“I always knew the military was for me,” said Wilson. “I always knew I would go an officer road. I forget how I heard of the academy. I think it was mainly because of (other students) who had both gone to the Air Force Academy. They were good friends of my family so I knew what the academies were. I didn’t see myself doing the Air Force though.”
Wilson said Congressman Bill Johnson nominated him as a student for the institution.
“With the military experience itself and being in harms way, at the same time, commanding and leading other soldiers and men, that leadership quality itself is a big thing that carries weight along with the whole West Point name,” said Wilson. “To show that you have the capability to lead men and women and be successful.”
Wilson said that while being in the school was a rewarding experience it was also a humbling and challenging one. His schedule is filled with drills, academic coursing with a military focus, tactics training, marksmanship, dedication to a sports team and more. A packed day is meant to instill a sense of time management in cadets. He grapples as one of his chosen sporting activities at the institution. He said he takes the equivalent of around 20 hours of credit classing, on top of his other expected activities and training.
“Based on my class rank, we put in five preferences for what we want to do in the military,” said Wilson. “My number one is infantry. My number two is field artillery and number three is armor. Fourth is the engineers and fifth was probably air defense artillery.”
“I’m not even done with my second school year,” said Wilson, “but even from the day I reported to now, in those two years, I’ve already had a complete character developmental (change). Like confidence and personal skills development. West Point is already inculcating military (philosophy).”
Wilson said he could more easily speak in front of large crowds and activities like rappelling down a height no longer brought up an instinctual response of fear but a trained response.
“You just learn to get out there and get the job done,” said Wilson. “Then you bring other people with you.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.