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Nisswa teen begins journey at U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Sarah Fairbanks of Nisswa recently left the lakes area to begin her journey in the Army at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Fairbanks, who reported to West Point on July 1, said the road there was a long, learning process.

She began the application process in January 2012 when she applied to West Point’s summer seminar. This session is for high school students after their junior year, and it is the first step in the application process that included assessment in several areas.

“There are three main pillars of West Point, and that’s what their application revolves around and they are academics, leadership and athletics, in that order of importance,” Fairbanks said.

She explained that ACT scores, class rank, GPA and course rigor are strong factors in acceptance to the U.S. Military Academy, as well as leadership involvement in clubs and organizations.

The primary organizations that Fairbanks has been a part of are the Black Bear 4-H Club of Nisswa, which she was in for the last 14 years, and Civil Air Patrol, which she was in for the last two years.

“4-H is the organization that I give the most credit to shaping my leadership skills from a young age and providing me with the many opportunities I have had that have had a direct impact on getting me to where I am today,” she said.

Her leadership skills also played out in the Civil Air Patrol. Fairbanks began as a basic cadet in the summer of 2011, moved up in the ranks, served a term as the squadron administration officer and became the alpha flight sergeant.

Another part of the application process to West Point is the candidate fitness assessment that measures the prospective cadet’s initial athletic abilities. Fairbanks was involved in cross country running, nordic skiing and track at Brainerd High School.

Candidates must also request and secure a nomination to West Point. Fairbanks was nominated to the academy by former U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack of the Eighth Congressional District, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Fairbanks learned she was accepted into the U.S. Military Academy on Feb. 22.

The next step for Fairbanks is Cadet Basic Training, or CBT, which began July 1. CBT is parallel to boot camp for enlisted individuals.

After six weeks of CBT, the academic year will begin. Cadets attend four academic years at West Point, which are interspersed with military training.

Fairbanks plans to major in civil engineering, and she will graduate in the class of 2017 as a second lieutenant.

Following graduation, Fairbanks is required to serve a minimum of five years of active duty followed by six years in the reserves. As of right now, Fairbanks plans to stay active as long as she can, beyond the required five years.

“I am most looking forward to bettering myself and becoming the best leader and learning as much as I can to benefit the Army,” she said.

Fairbanks is the daughter of Mike and Lynn Fairbanks of Nisswa.