Three students heading to service academies

An attraction to military service comes early to some, like Kylor Kiesewetter and Trent Sipes.

Others, like Eli Wood, didn’t consider the armed forces until later.

Regardless of when each decided on time in uniform, the trio has been accepted to three of the nation’s service academies and will begin classes in August. Service academies are highly selective: Prospects must be nominated by a member of Congress and accepted by the academy to secure an appointment.

“It was probably one of the hardest processes I’ve ever gone through,” said Wood, who will attend the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

All three received congressional nominations from U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District.

“It is my honor to have students as bright and talented as these representing the 9th District,” Shuster said in a press release. “These young men and women exemplify the highest ideals of commitment and service to their country.

“I am confident that they will do a fine job serving our nation and keeping America safe upon graduation. I am extremely proud of each one of them, and congratulate them all on this important achievement,” Shuster said.

An average of 40 to 50 applications are received each year from high school students throughout the 9th District, according to Shuster’s office. Two others nominated by Shuster, Benjamin Hockman of Greencastle and Madeline Slagley of Indiana, were accepted to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Service academy graduates must serve an eight-year commitment as commissioned officers in the military after graduation, with at least five years on active duty. Kiesewetter, a 2014 graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School, said he plans on serving all eight – and then some more – as an active duty officer. He plans on making the Army a career.

“Since I was very young, I always wanted to serve in the United States Army,” Kiesewetter said.

Attending the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., would be the best way to serve, get a quality education and prosper through the ranks as an officer, Kiesewetter said.

Kiesewetter said he felt most connected to the Army because his father served in the Army Reserves. Several instructors at the Altoona Academy of Tae Kwon-Do, where Kiesewetter practices martial arts, are also Army veterans.

Athletics are required at service academies, and Kiesewetter said he plans to continue martial arts and to try out for the soccer team or play club soccer. Kiesewetter played various positions for the Marauders squad. Bishop Guilfoyle soccer coach Alan Gburek said Kiesewetter displays qualities expected of an officer, describing him as “highly motivated and a natural leader.”

These extracurriculars, as well as academics, were all done with West Point, and being an officer in mind, Kiesewetter said, and has spent years, not hours, working toward his goal.

Kiesewetter said he hasn’t decided on a major but will pursue a degree in either nuclear or chemical engineering or biology. After graduating from the academy, he plans to serve as either an engineering, medical or infantry officer.

Kiesewetter leaves in July for cadet basic training and starts classes in August.

Service to country was also on the mind of Sipes for a long time. As a kindergartener, Sipes was asked to draw a picture of what he wanted to do when he grew up. He identified the military as a possible option, mother Janice Sipes-King said.

As a sophomore, he decided on the Air Force Academy to serve in a specific role.

“I wanted to receive the best education I could get and also to serve,” Sipes said. “I want to fly jets.”

If accepted to flight school, Sipes will have an additional year of schooling and will serve a 10-year commitment as a pilot.

Sipes, a Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School graduate, plans to major in political science, economics or foreign-area studies while at Colorado Springs. A shortstop and second baseman on the Hollidaysburg Area team, Sipes also hopes to walk on to Air Force’s baseball team, the Falcons.

Baseball and preparation for the academy made for some early mornings for Sipes, who routinely went to the Hollidaysburg YMCA gym on mornings before school, said his father, Phil.

“I don’t think reveille at 5:30 is going to rattle him,” Phil said.

Although he would not rule out a military career, Sipes said his long-term goals are to enter the legal field or become a U.S. congressman. Sipes heads for Colorado in late June for six weeks of basic cadet training before starting classes.

Eli Wood, also a graduate of Hollidaysburg Area, said he didn’t consider the military or the Naval Academy until last October.

Both parents are Penn State alumni, and a brother attends Bethel College in Indiana, so he said he thought he would apply to those schools.

While exploring other options, his mother, Cynthia, suggested looking into the Naval Academy because she knew people who attended the academy and the emphasis on academics, character and leadership there.

After researching Annapolis, Wood said he liked the quality of education, traditions and values taught at the academy, and he resolved to attend.

A history of military service in the family – particularly naval – was made more apparent after discussing the Naval Academy, Wood said. A grandfather, great-grandfather and several uncles had all been in the Navy, he said.

Wood said he will most likely pursue a degree in chemistry at Annapolis but is unsure of what job he will seek as a naval officer.

Although captain of the swim team at Hollidaysburg, Wood said he would not pursue swimming at Annapolis and instead play club sports. He plans to pursue another interest, theater, by auditioning for the glee club in the summer.

Sipes leaves for induction in July and begins classes in August.

“There are so, so many good things about the academy,” Wood said. “I’m super excited to go there.”