Making the grade at West Point

A year at the U.S. Military Academy has taught Port High grad Kendra Strohm that she has what it takes to meet school’s demanding physical, academic requirements

WEST POINT CADET KENDRA STROHM is pictured with her parents, Lisa and Roger Strohm, outside the Fredonia Government Center where Roger Strohm works as the village’s public works director. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Kendra Strohm doesn’t know yet if she’s all she can be, but after one year as a cadet at the  U.S. Military Academy at West Point, she knows she’s more than she thought.

“I really have learned about myself. I have learned that I can always push myself further than I think I can,” the 2017 Port Washington High School grad said last week. “A lot of times people will feel like quitting and get down on themselves. And through talking with my friends and peers and digging deep into myself, I have found that I can push myself further than what I would have defined as my limits before.”

Strohm is entering her second year at the Academy. Second-year students are known as “yearlings.” First year cadets are called plebes.

She didn’t set out to go to West Point, but she was interested in going into the military. So as a junior in high school, after she turned 17, she told her parents she wanted to enlist.

She said her mother, Lisa Strohm, at first had mixed feelings about her daughter pursuing a career in the military. 

Her father, Roger, who is public works director for the Village of Fredonia, said he was surprised but he “was much more on board with her joining the military. Kendra and I had several discussions on how that would be a good way to pay for college,” he said. 

She first talked with a recruiter from the Marine Corps, he said, “but she doesn’t like swimming in the ocean. So somewhere along the line she talked to an Army recruiter.”

Because she was only 17 at the time, she needed her parents’ approval to enlist.

“Lisa was a little hesitant at first,” Roger Strohm said. “She didn’t want her fighting but also was worried about Kendra being in a male-dominated environment at such a young age.”

Kendra said her mother came around.

“My mom wasn’t too crazy about the idea but when I got the opportunity to go to West Point they got really excited about that and urged me to apply,” she said.

As part of the enlistment process, she took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, test, an aptitude test  developed by the Department of Defense to measure a person’s strengths and potential for success in military training. 

“I scored really high so my company commander and admissions people from West Point reached out to me and urged me to apply” to the Academy, she said.

Unfortunately, when she first applied, she was not accepted. But she was accepted to the Academy’s Preparatory School, located next to the Academy in West Point, N.Y. It is designed for high school graduates or current military personnel to prepare them for the academic and physical rigors of being a West Point cadet.

The former Port High volleyball and basketball team captain and soccer player was able to handle the physical challenges. But the former National Honor Society member, who scored 32 on her ACT, said she was more worried about the academics.

“I already had some military experience through the Reserves and had been through basic training,” said the 5-foot-10 Strohm.

Every new cadet endures Beast Barracks, a seven-week basic training process designed “to turn civilians into cadets.” “I felt competent in my ability to do it but it was still a difficult thing,” she said. “A lot of people really struggle. I was more worried about the academic side of West Point. Academically, I had to buckle down and do it. I ended up doing well. I got a 3.2 grade-point average.

“I was pretty happy with my results,” she said. 

After completing her year at the prep school, she was nominated by her congressman, Rep. Glenn Grothman, and was accepted into the Military Academy.

Only about 10% of those who apply are accepted.

When she graduated from the prep school and was congratulated by the school commandant, “that was a proud moment,” she said. 

“I had worked for a full year and felt I had finally reached my goal,” she said.

Her major is engineering management . As part of her training, she is exposed to the Army’s 17 branches. She wants to focus on the medical services branch. If she pursues that, then after graduation she would be a platoon leader of a medical team.

“For a long time I’ve been interested in being a nurse or doctor. As an officer, that’s the closest I could get to doing that, short of going to medical school,” she said.

She just returned to Port Washington for a short visit following completion of her Cadet Field Training, which is the official transition from a plebe to a yearling.

It involves living in the field, enduring “rucks”— long hikes carrying heavy packs and loads of equipment, and parachuting out of an airplane, among other things.

West Point has been the nation’s military Academy since 1802 but it didn’t admit women until 1976.

It still is a male-dominated environment, with about one fifth of its 4,395 students being women.

“As a woman, it’s a little difficult to be seen as an equal there because physical fitness is such a big thing,” she said. “It’s really hard to prove that you are good enough to hang with them. I had to prove myself more than a male would have to. But I feel I did prove myself.”

Since going to school there, her appreciation for West Point and the nation has grown, she said. 

“In your first year they teach you about a lot of the things that happened there,” she said. “It’s such an amazing place. It’s beautiful.

“Sometimes I’ll get down and I think my life is so hard. But hearing about some of the amazing things that other West Point graduates have done helps put things in perspective.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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